Interesting take you have…
I never really thought of the signal path the way you have described.
I don’t look at it as listening to the Anthem’s DAC. Of course that’s true in a literal sense.
On the other hand, the musicality of the PSA DSD Sr. is not lost in the Anthem. What I mean is, the Pre-pro with ARC has been a consistent member of my 2.1/7.1 system for years and the genius and musicality of the Sr., including its various progression of fourteener’s has shone through all along the way.
I concede my signal is not pure, but I would not agree that you end up hearing the Anthem’s DAC instead of the Sr.'s DAC output. If that were true, my Denon DVD 2900 digital or analogue output fed directly to the Anthem would should just as good as (theoretically identical?) my DS Sr., no?
I guess I would have to say that you get ARC on top of the Sr.'s output. I don’t view this as though the analogue output of the Sr. is somehow downgraded by going through the Anthem w/ ARC.
But, as you note, it is of course no longer the same output that would be fed “direct” from the Sr. A thought: How is that different from the fact that you would not be hearing the same analogue signal from the Sr. if you sent it to a pre-amp first before your amplifiers? Is that an “apples and oranges” observation?
I can bypass ARC through high-quality “audiophile” analogue inputs and I have played with running the Sr. directly to my amplifiers (monos). Still, ARC in the signal path wins (to my ears) in my system/room.
Again, good point about the lack of purity on your part – but I think I still get to hear and enjoy “the analogue output of that special machine.”
Despite having said all of that, I am using the ARC on vs. ARC off as a sort of litmus test. I make changes intended to make the system and room sound better without ARC. I keep pushing the quality of components and room set up, with the theoretical goal of getting to the point where the sound quality is as good as or better without ARC. A goal that I have not yet achieved.
I think all of the above could be a long-winded way of saying, I agree with you (?).