I love my 168! I drive it direct to amps. Unlike other digital VCs, I notice little loss at low levels, BUT all music has a right volume to sound as recorded; they are rarely at low volumes
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I run an Opus direct.
I've heard $30k+ digital playback systems and all I can say is... I love my Opus!
I'm sorry I have not made a direct comparison with the 168. It does seem to have a large and dedicated following. That alone says something.
My observed gain (on the Opus) is generous when run balanced to a Pass Labs X150.5 driving modest efficiency speakers.