Being that a theory should be testable, why don't you simply connect a number of different transports to a specific DAC and see if you can hear a difference. If you hear no difference, then what does it matter what anyone else says? If you do hear a difference, then either your theory is wrong or your test setup is at fault. Why rely upon "experts" or other audiophiles when you can reach your own conclusions?
I trust my ears.
I can hear the difference when I use different transports with my external Dac, no question about it!
Wadia 20 v Parasound 2000 v Conrad Johnson Transports.
Rank them in order, which one do you think sounds the best?
I think with the evolution of hard disk drives being used as transports reinforces just how important a transport is. I think we have(Audiophiles,engineers,designers)have just began to realize how important the tranport is. With simple non-upsample dacs, no filtering and a very good computer hard disk drive, I think you would be shocked at how good digital (redbook) can sound. I personally think we've been barking up the wrong tree, not that DACs don't make a difference, just that transports I believe make more of a difference. So to answer your question yes, transports are very important!
In theory, you're missing the fact that the ones and zeros are encoded at precisely timed intervals. If the transport fails to convey the precise timing of the data to the DAC a phenomenom called jitter occurs. For credible evidence read the jitter specs published during transport tests.
In practice, you're missing the fact that the quality of design thought, the parts used, their layout and vibrational issues all affect any machine's ability to produce the results desired. For credible evidence test drive a corvette.
Or rely on anecdotal evidence: my CD player with digital out sounded like it was creating a gap between the sound of cymbals and the rest of the audio stream. They sounded disjointed and in that sense highlighted. Installing a dedicated transport eliminated the gap. The sounds of cymbals became seamless and integrated into the whole. Was this jitter or some other quality of implementation? Who knows for sure.
No question about it, makes a big difference, my CEC took things to a whole new dimension. Also, the choice of digital cable will play a part in this as well.
Ones and zeros. Once again a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. As with digital cables, transports matter greatly.
Rock Virgo has explained things well; it ain't just an issue of ones and zeros.
Also, if you scroll down just a bit on this Digital Forum, you'll find threads with people asking about which transports are best. There's an obvious inference you can draw from that, plus info for you in the threads too.
A great bunch of answers, a pleasure to learn from.
I've owned four one-box players, two transports and two DACs, and I've used one of the players as a transport. My most recent DAC was a clear step up, first with a player as transport, then with a pure transport once I had sold the player. The final configuration was much the best, I thought. In other words, the transport made a great difference, in speed, articulation and soundstage, in this case.
Digital cables also make a great difference, but if you limit yourself to considering ones and zeros then cables are voodoo too.
If differences can be perceived, but they don't show up on instruments, then we haven't learned what or how to measure yet. Just yesterday I read on Richard Sequerra's site a wonderfully lucid explanation of why and how "inaudible" frequencies, by intermodulation, affect what we hear.
Hi all.....not to go with the crowd, but the crowd is absolutely correct. In my experience, moving to a CEC transport for me changed everything. You have to hear it to believe it. Transports REALLY matter.
In my experience, the transport usually matters MORE than the DAC.
Changing from direct drive to a CEC made belt drive made an overwhelming difference. It was so much that Dan Wright has the transport as we speak for a very serious mod, including installation of a Bybee filter and a Furutech rhodium plated IEC.
Others have addressed the technical side better than I could, so I'll just add my voice to the chorus answering "Yes!", based entirely on my personal home auditioning experience. Though I don't know if I'd go quite as far as Drrdiamond and say the transport is even more important than the DAC, I do think it's as important, and that you cannot get the performance you paid for out of good DAC unless you supply it from an equally good transport. And that this remains true even if you are using a jitter-reduction box in-between - no free rides, sorry to say.
It gets even worse than that! I think the power cord that you use on the transport can also make a big difference.
I know the power cord makes a big difference on all equipment, but the positive effect is larger with the transport, Dac, (or CDP), preamp, amp (for me in that order).
I would agree with your ordering but would add that often a different pc works on digital than on analog.