After reading this pinned thread I am amused and frustrated at the same time to find how silly some assumptions have become. All of my responses will be regarding the computer as a front end. Before I do so let's use history as a guide. When CD players first came onto the scene we were amazed at the relative compact size an album could fit into. Then we were just as amazed to realize that digital music sounded different than analogue. Worse too. Piercing highs and dull midrange. Over the following years vendors created beefier power supplies and fancy capacitors and highend companies integrated them into their circuit boards for the sake of making "Perfect Sound Forever" sound more perfect. A whole slew of tweaks soon emerged in order to get that last iota of pleasure from the compact disc player. Though bits were always bits, not every bit sounded the same. How could this be? Maybe if the DAC were to be separated from the transport those bits would sound better. Afterall, 1's and 0's were best in their own little cozy home, away from cross contamination. Then along came jitter. We were told that timing, and the transmission and recovery of bits mattered.
Now we have computers as transports. We also have software that coordinates the transporting. Those 1's and 0's feel right at home. Just like the CD player/DAC combination (which also is a computer) the desktop/laptop/headless top/streamer top would send data/music files to a DAC and eventually it came out of our speakers/headphones. This coarse digital waveform resembled analogue though not as pretty.
Now here is the part that bewilders. Those with experience will tell you that mechanical transports have a unique sound signature. An identity. So do S/PDIF cables. Things like impedance matter too. Yet, according to some knowledgeable people and even some posters here, software apparently does not matter as long as' bits are bits'. Somehow we are led to believe that finally, after all the previous decades of trial and error, that the transportation mystery of bits, also known as binary 1 and 0, has now been solved. Their quality and integrity is intact. Whew! I am glad. That's what they tell us anyway, as long as we use a bit perfect software program. Being as such all of these types of programs will sound the same considering everything else being equal. If we hear something different between a mechanical transport, software transport or whatever transport then we are only fooling ourselves.
Yet, I still hear a difference between transports of any kind. I don't know if that is due to the influence of power supplies, skin effect, slew rate, rise time, bed time, jitter, or special secret memory buffers doing their magic via special secret agent software - telling bits where to hide. Eventually it doesn't affect my perception. For my perception will tell me what I hear. One thing I do know is that if I hear it. It exists. Whatever it is.
No matter how hard they tell us that the mystery of bit transportation has finally been solved I would like to think that, just perhaps, they missed something. That very something they all missed (and maybe deceptively attempt to portray) may very well be in their own perception. As for mine. Bits are bits and they all sound different.
Next, I wonder if they will tell us that the secret of storing those bits has been solved too and how you store them does not matter. Afterall, bits are supposed to be bits. Right?