Alright; your (thankyou) post gives me some incite you your present system/useage scenario.
May I offer (a short) “two cents”? (rhetoric, and kinda ‘choose your own adventure from this point forward’; “No you may not!”=stop reading, “Sure!”=read on...)
HiRes isn’t all it is sold to us as.
The majority of ‘hi res(olution)’ stuff that is sold to us is so lame (by audiofool hifi standards) it really is just a way to resell us what we had decades ago. (hence the huge resurgence of vinyl and most new CDs my friends seem to be picking up nowadays being all GOLD PRESSED)
For casual listening/listening in a ‘non dedicated’ audio setup (including, generally ‘room treatment’).. the gains of going ‘better’ isn’t really a thing the average user will ever get.
It does make for bragging rights/a reason to rebuy whole catalogues/buy a whole new ecosystem of parts- the reasons are certainly there for the sellers, and most webpages that discuss this stuff will be aligned with a retailer or product at some level (advertisements pay).
If we were two people who met on a bus, and one of us was an ‘authority’ (subjective), and the other willing to listen wholeheartedly and trust the words of the other... my subject opinion could be pretty convincing.. and I am not even selling anything. Imagine if I was?
I could easily convince a user of the benefits of HiRes...
Decades ago it was accepted knowledge between people with kilobuck hifi systems, certainly those with an engineering degree.. that electrical circuits generally didn’t yield 22bit of info. (it may have been 21.3 bit, but somewhere in the ballpark of 21bit was the absolute that could be achieved) This is for a range of technical reasons, but in the real world it came back as this:
HDCD, a 20bit format, was as great as consumers would EVER NEED.
Mostly the sound engineer and mastering was the difference between great sound and average. This simple fact still holds true today.
(recorded garbage will still be garbage, at 24 bit, it will be the best garbage imaginable!)
There are great recordings made seventy plus years ago, and I’d still choose great music through a mono AM radio player, than the worlds best hifi playing music that doesn’t interest me.
Which simply means we should consider if HiRes has a catalogue of sound that interests us.
(I only ever bought a few SuperAudio CDs) Norah Jones and Sting were must buys, the remaster of War of the Worlds DID not get spun as much then, or even now, as older 16bit & Superbit pressings.. Some of the catalogues are yawn central to me...
Given most consumers do not own equipment that will render them better than what CDs gave us (back in the nineties, no less!), the notion of rebuying into a modern audio ecosystem is a silly prospect.
I would NEVER consider it. It generally takes me a few months/years to assemble killer rigs, for peanut pricepoints, but without spending 10-20x more money, most people would not find EQUIVALENT sound.
The exception are the few well selectable parts, at quite ‘spendy’ pricepoints, and feeding them ONLY HiRes media. Then the playing field equals quite a lot.
If you haven’t gone down the road yet of commiting money into building a playback chain; I would suggest, quite honestly, that buying better equipment, at lower pricepoints will yield vastly better playback ALL THE TIME.
In this instance, what is ‘BETTER EQUIPMENT’?
A confusing amount of info, sold by everyone based on their idea of Pinnacle systems/“summit-fi” exists.
Given the average user would love a 16bit, 44khz file (eg CD format) played into nice equipment.. I would start with the idea that we all own a potential transport (eg phone/computer etc), a nice/musical DAC (something to buy, as low as $50 cost), and suitable amplification to drive headphones is a super cheap setup.
Money spent trying to support an audio industry mostly disinterested in actual consumer enjoyment (first world problem, but money has to be made), is not what the poor should be considering.
Better headphones will yield better sound.
and just like the days of old.. speaker placement affected sound quality much more than the cost of the parts usually did.
The modern equivalent is choosing the right type of headphones for the music you wish to enjoy.
Given the pricepoints of headphones that yield all genres of music well is stratospheric (if they even exist), most audiofools (myself included) own several sets. Some open back units might give great sound stage and spacing, but not the sort of bass response that ElectronicDanceMusic requires.. as an example.
An easy way to greatly reduce the minimum cost to build a great audio setup is to consider ‘easy to drive’ headphones (that don’t demand an amp to remove congestion/sound ‘their best’ (amps to an audiofool are seldom about volume level, but rather the clarity of sound they offer at a level that drives equipment properly).
So what would make a great budget setup?
Super budget: an Echobox explorer and the remainder of the money spent on InEarMonitors.
I have found that even shitty MP3 files played through nice equipment sound great, and definately better than HiRes formats played from super mainstream equipment (eg a mobile phone).
Most people find that using their phone as a transport into a better DAC circuit (remember DAC playback is dependant on SO MUCH MORE THAN THE SPECS OF THE DAC CHIP ITSELF), that an outboard DAC is the first true hearing of ‘great sound quality’ for majority of the world considering the jump to ‘big $ audio’.
A large part of a system is matching components.
Too many people buy into HiRes nonsense only to bluetooth the data anyway (strips 3/5-4/5 of the sound information), and most people just don’t have the audio snobbery training to discern the nuanced ‘air’/last bit of echo information that better playback offers.
Combined with majority of the world listening in non ideal situations to make use of even ‘CD sound quality’... uneducated people arguing (based on rehashing others ALSO UNEDUCATED viewpoints) -hey everyone has an opinion, but 99% of people just haven’t heard good audio outside of, possibly, at the cinema, or nowadays, generally a great car stereo system.
Again I reiterate.. shoddy MP3s played through a ‘near entry level DAC’ sound better than uncompressed file formats played through typical consumer electronics.
Compressed music really lets down highly detailed genres (eg classical symphonic stuff), but can easily pass a double blind test for a simple three piece band.
The music we listen to is the biggest reason to choose a particular audio path, and people listening to classical music require ‘better headphones, generally requiring better amplification, and need better upstream equipment (Digital to Analogue Conversion, and source files).
The rest of us will find HiFi Nirvana in something as low priced as an EchoBox.