However, true timbre, touch, and texture, apparent soundstage (even in silence), and micro dynamic swings are so obvious when listening to music with, for example, Metrum, Holo, or Yggdrasil that I don't work at all to hear it. And when those characteristics are significantly reduced, it's just as obvious.
I could not agree more! Even comparing low end DAC's like the Dragonfly 1.2, Emotiva Big Ego, IFI and Grant Fidelity differences were immediately noticeable.
I use Bug Head music player and HQ Player. And they play a role in bringing out differences in DAC's. These a very detailed music players. I also have JRiver and it is low fi in comparison and homogenizes the sound a little but differences are still readily noticeable among DAC's.