Not sure if this will be helpful but during the hot summer months I use a Marantz HD-AMP1 which has an ES9010K2M on board. (The DAC is a bit older and certainly not Sabre's flagship.) When playing lower quality streams from Spotify/Pandora/etc. I prefer it to my other DAC's which include an MHDT Lab Pagoda, Chord Qute EX, and dB Audio Labs Tranquility. Obviously, implementation is key but you might want to explore DAC's which use Sabre's technology.
SJEESJIE- That's the dilemma, though. Only about 30%(give or take) of my streaming with be from low-quality sources. The rest will be Tidal's Flac format or MQA when it's available. I don't want to go for a less capable DAC/streamer at the expense of the better quality sources I utilize. Need something that can play nicely on both ends of the spectrum.
If I was you I’d buy a Bluesound Node 2i. That would sound tremendously on your tube integrated. It costs half of your budget, so you can take your wife to a nice dinner and show her that Audio isn’t all that bad :-) If you’re still missing “something” you can add a nice DAC eventually (Chord Qutest, Mytek or RME-ADI 2) and you won’t get any better SQ wise.
Yep, you're right. The music quality on youtube sucks. The most even good quality videos have a 256 sound quality. Compared with music streaming platforms like apple music or Spotify, youtube has very bad sound quality.