As long as you have a good d/a processor on board, the difference between CD and DVD-A is like AM Radio to FM Stereo. Not just a small but an undeniably huge difference! I have a standard 5.1 setup with a simple Onkyo receiver (TX-DS474). The DVD player is a new Panasonic DVD-CP72. Even at low volume you can hear the entire range of frequencies, this is not common with a CD source. By using the newer D/A processor in the DVD player and not the amp, I get an exceptional sound with DVD-A discs utilizing the 96/24bit process (Advanced Resolution). Just like CD’s there is a huge difference of quality between DVD Audio titles. Some are dynamic and full, others are mediocre at best. The good news is that there are going be a huge number of titles released this year (2003) and the price of DVD-A is going down. (Disturbed latest “Believe” DVD Audio for $16.99 at Tower Records)
The reason some people have a problem with Advanced Resolution is their receiver tries to accommodate the higher resolution by down sampling. Most DVD-A discs have a secondary 5.1 Dolby track. When the Dolby track is played the receiver uses its internal processor if you have the Optical or Coaxial digital input. However, if you use the 6 discrete analog outs on the back of your DVD player you will be using the onboard D/A processor. And yes, cables DO make a difference.
The biggest drawback to DVD Audio is, it makes the rest of my CDs sound compressed, dull and flat. It also seems that Warner Bros. is the only major record label releasing DVD-A. So I sit, hope and wait for the future of DVD Audio.