You don't provide much information. What components and system exactly did you listen to? If all were HQ components, wires etc., then go with the cheapest if you can't hear a difference. Good Luck. Craig
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I am not a techie, however, the 256 I believe is referring to the digital filter for the bitstream DAC (oversampling), not the sampling rate (Mhz) of the DAC chip. The 1 bit dac (bitstream) probably samples at the redbook standard of 44.1 Mhz. They call the 256X oversampling "continuous calibration"; the 256 is an estimate. The typical CD player with a multi-bit DAC may have a 8X oversampling digital filter, and the DAC can sample up 96 Mhz.
Generally, true 24/96khz (or 192khz) Dacs are considered supereior, although some Bitstream/ Delta Sigma Dacs are also very well made. Sometimes it is confusing because 1 bit units are not always labled as "bitstream" Many "24/96 Capable" DACs are actually Delta/ Sigma bitsream Dacs. SACD is also a type 1 bit DAC but this is a completely different technology that has nothing to do with convetional D/A conversion at all. This system is supposed to be theoretically superior to all other types of conversion, but alas there are not too many SACDs available yet.
In my many experiences with various digital equipment I've always come away with the impression that, to my ears anyway, Bitstream/Delta DACs have been slightly "softer" dynamically than the multi-bit DACs I've heard. I've always preferred the sound of the Burr Brown 18 bit chip sets to most anything else I've heard, but some of the newer 20 bit DACs aren't far behind. As-close-to-real-as-can-be-expected dynamics are something I strive for, and a soft dynamic presentation leaves me wanting more. I'm not talking about an "in your face" midrange, just something approaching natural dynamics. Real instruments are extremely dynamic - just listen to a live piccolo someday! - and it's rare to find a system that does them justice. I would love to hear some of the newer equipment that is spoken so highly of around these parts, but that's been my experience to date.
Still looking for the Holy Grail-