I will say that I am not a novice and I took the Totaldac "deep plunge". For my wife and I, every moment spent listening now is an extraordinarily satisfying affair, one that we crave and can't wait to get back to every single day. Finally, after four decades of purchasing very expensive high-end gear, finding Totaldac is like having found our own "music time machine".
My suggestion to anyone with the means is to reach as high up the Totaldac ladder as you can, and then upgrade and add components later. You'll be amazed at what Totaldac has achieved with their amp and speakers and especially in their D to A technology. If you love to listen to music more than acquiring gear and reading specs, then Totaldac is the solution for the ages.
We can honestly say that our Totaldac system to us is totally priceless.
second part added later:
So I'm very upset with you. You did not prepare me for what would happen once I removed the ------ preamp from the chain. Lol.
I should have known better that removing my $20,000 preamp would make such an incredible positive difference. Tonight we listened for three hours. Each song brought more disbelief and curiosity. As we moved through some of our most familiar tracks the difference without the preamp set in more deeply and more profoundly.
I'm exhausted trying to find the words to explain myself. I am very curious as to why everything sounded so much more real, more detailed and yet refined if you care to comment. The low end was more riveting, bass notes were more precise yet transparent. The dynamic range and balance across each presentation was staggeringly perfect. Vocals were more alive with song and blatant passion. We found ourselves hanging on to every beat, word and note. Are we nuts or what? The very things I thought that ----- preamp did well were magnified magnificently without the preamp. We are simply overwhelmed with joy, praise and appreciation. I've said so many complimentary things already that I'm beginning to repeat myself. I apologize for these emotional outbursts, but I just needed to tell you before I went to sleep. I think I know what "being in shock" is now.