I was in exactly the same position and have decided to get an external DAC. If I had the money, I probably would have gone for the EVS or a P-3 with the Dan Wright mods. However, I got a great deal on a used bel canto dac 1.1 with an Illuminati D-60. The unit should arrive today or tomorrow and I'll let you know how the combination works. Though your priorities correspond pretty well with the attributes that reviewers give the Bel Canto. The transport on the Alpha 7 is supposed to be very good (they don't modify it when you upgrade to the 9, they change only the DAC). I think the price of that internal upgrade is awfully high and with a good external DAC there is a real upgrade path left open.
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