Hi Onhwy61; --like your name. You've really nailed most of the important "other stuff", but one I would add is component features, eg when I found out that Levinson's M37 CD transport had a permanent program track memory for 1,000s of CDs, in addition to excellent music quality, reputation, manufacturer support, etc. etc., I KNEW I had to have one. Also, in a second system, I really needed (wanted?) remote control and tubes in a pre-amp-- the Sonic Frontiers Line 1 filled the bill perfectly. But you're right it's definitely a balancing act and a mental exercise to weigh all the things you mention-- along with cost to make livable decisions. Still on features, Levinson's 360S DAC has 6 (I think) different inputs, and I use three of them (CD Recorder, 2nd CD player, and 1st CD player)-- so, on this basis alone, it aced out some other good DACs. In addition to superb sound quality, this feature, and many of the factors you mention above went into my final decision. I have found that I WILL give up some perceived sound quality for some of the things you mention. Also, I would never buy a pre-amp that did not have some kind of balance control-- it's not important to many, but it is to me, and as you know many manufacturers pre-amps no longer have balance controls. You may get a big argument on this topic from vinyl junkies, as they seem even more masochistic than the average CD junkie-- but even VJs are usually constrained by cost, if nothing else. Interesting thread. Cheers. Craig.