Sitting in a comfy chair in Gus Skinnas' mastering room, listening to Elephant Revival in DSD 5.1, my first thought was "this sounds great!" My second was, "This would sound good through almost ANYTHING!," because in this universe, software trumps hardware, every time.
What do I mean by that? Program material, the stuff we listen FOR is by far the most important element in the signal chain. Every time you improve the quality of the source you affect everything else down the line. Also, the only reason anyone buys a shiny box or new speakers is so they can enjoy the software that is supported by that hardware. Example - 3D without Avatar is just an idea, not an enticing format.
But sitting in Gus' studio, listening to a board mix recording from the Rockygrass festival, I couldn't shake the feeling that the lack of electronic artifacts and essential "liveness" of the Sonoma DSD recording transcended the legibility of any studio recording, regardless of format, I've heard. Gus gave me a couple of sample recordings to play on my systems at home and DANG! I said DANG! Using Korg's Audiogate playback software I listened to Gus' DSD recordings down-sampled to 192/24 and they had the same pristine "lack of extraneous stuff" sound in my system as I had heard at his studio. In point of fact, I think you could play back this recording through virtually any system and it would sound good. That's what a high quality source can do.
My holiday wish, for every audiophile in the world, is that they could have some playback material that was of the same quality as the recordings I heard at Gus Skinnas' mastering suite. Vinylphiles can hear an approximation on the LPs that Skinnas masters for Analogue Productions. But the LP's inherently limited dynamic range and resolution (compared to the master files) makes the LPs far less useful as a reference than the digital files.
Long live great software, which will always, always, trump hardware...