New DAC Not a Dramatic Improvement?

Ok, So after much thought and asking questions here on audiogon as to whether I should get a new cdp or DAC, I decided on a DAC because I plan on implementing a music server with a Mac Mini. I got it last week and hooked it up so that I could do A/B comparisons with my cdp as is, and through the DAC. My cdp is a 1-2 year old Onkyo dv-sp405 dvd/cd player. At first I was impressed. The bass and vocals were more defined, and there seemed to be more space. Not a lot more space, but just a little bit more openess. The vocals were also moved forward in the soundstage and had more thickness. The thing is, none of these things were very dramatic. THe more time I have sat and listened and done comparisons on many cd's I find the results vary. On some cd's there is significant improvement, and on others, hardly noticeable. In a blind test, do I think I could reliably say whether I was listening to the cdp directly or through the DAC? Let's just say I wouldnt bet my life on it. I probably wouldnt even bet 20$ on it, unless I could hear the two back to back, and on some recordings, not even then.

Now I know about diminishing returns, but I would think the difference between a 150$ dvd/cdp and a 2K$ DAC would be pretty obvious. On top of that, My DAC is hooked up with Transparent Cables (MW Super) and my cdp with 50$ Monster Cables.

Continuing.. I expect some people with say that a good dac needs a good transport. Some will probably say that the dac is being held back by the onkyo as a transport. I have also compared the cdp through the DAC against apple lossless files played from my computer through USB. They are identical.

What could be the weak link? I do not want to say what DAC I am using but lets just say it is a very recent one and around 2K. It is from a very respected company and very well reviewed. My other gear is a McIntosh MA6450 integrated, gallo ref 3.1 speakers, transparent cables. Could it be that my amp is not very revealing? I am thinking about selling the DAC and getting a cheaper one (DAC MAGIC, PS AUDIO DL3) since I will need one for my Mac Mini anyway. Honestly, I just dont think I can justify having 2K in my current DAC for the minimal difference.

Thanks for any insight you can provide.
Apple lossless is exactly what the word says: Lossless. Period.

It is like a zipped file. When you unzip it, nothing is lost.

Next thing we will start a discussion about whether the earth is flat or not.
It is observations like Farjamed's that cause people to leave the hobby or non-audiophiles to think we are all nuts. You spend thousands of dollars to get something that cannot reliably be said to be much better than what you had before you spent the money. So why bother?

I am in no position to tell people to buy this or that. I am not familiar with enough equipment or swapping to confidently say what might happen. I'm more of a single system that doesn't change much type of person.

However, I can give some cheap advice. Cheap in the sense that it won't cost anything, or not much. It is this. Ensure that you room is properly set up or treated. I find that something as simple as opening or closing drapes can affect sound more than spending thousands of dollars on certain types of equipment changes.
Markphd, to comment on your point compared to Newbee's earlier. Newbee nutshelled that the OP's system may not be good enough to hear differences, and/or that the differences are there and he just doesn't/can't appreciate them.

You state that the nature of the OP's question goes to the heart of what I read as the difference between an experienced listener and a non-experienced one. Your point about room treatments I won't argue with.

I think where many of us newer to the game (not impying the OP is a newbee) may think long time audiophiles are 'nuts' is the point of the OP's question -- that money spent is very real (and usually a lot) but the perceived improvement is nowhere near the level consistent with cost. To that end, we invariably ask ourselves "what am I supposed to be listening for, since any improvements or differences aren't immediately obvious?" Because what we reasonably think is – THE DIFFERENCE SHOULD BE OBVIOUS – and hopefully, system-willing, a very real improvement. If this doesn’t happen, the only logical course of action is to continue the feverish quest, thinking perhaps ANOTHER upgrade elsewhere in the system will give us the ah-ha moment. Reviewers and their lingo only add to the confusion, as I have never, ever been close to my jaw hitting the floor from any upgrade. Neither do comments like Newbee's, where for some reason he gets it and we don't, even though we may be listening to the same exact thing.

Seems to me audio can be many things to many people but with one goal -- to move one with the presentation of music. That a major equipment upgrade doesn't improve the sonics immediately and obviously is counter intuitive to what one reasonably expects to experience -- a major and immediate sonic upgrade. If it's about degrees, then I feel that there should be a disclaimer on all equipment packaging stating so, and/or we all need an Audio Appreciation 101 class before we get into this hobby so we know what to expect, what to look for, and more importantly what not to.

if there is a thread(s) on this I'd love a link to it as I realize this isn't really the thread for this discussion. Apologies to the OP, hope you're not mad at my post, though I have a feeling you can relate to it.
I did not catch which external DAC you are now using and comparing?

Assuming jitter is not the problem (since you say you have two sources that sound similar, this may not be a bad assumption, but an assumption nonetheless)just using any external DAC does not guarantee better results. That DAC may be better, worse or just different sounding than the built in one. Cost alon eis not an indicator. It depends on exactly which two DACs are being compared.

I would expect, in general, less differences could be heard between most SS DACS than if comparing a SS DAC to a tube DAC, like the mhdt's. A tube DAC will surely make a bigger difference.

Frankly, as lower cost DACs go, the only ones that I would consider for possibly making a clear big difference is the Benchmark for SS, due to its reputed jitter immunity and highly detailed presenation or one of the better known tube DACs.

IS the Mac amp really a likely culprit at this point?

It would help to know what DAC we are talking about for $2000. PRice alone does not guarantee a difference when it comes to digital processors.

I changed to the paradisea tube DAC from my Denon's internal DAC using a lowly Carver pre-amp at first and heard a clear and huge difference despite the fact that that pre-amp was still not letting everything shine through. i even heard a big difference just using different tubes in the Paradisea.

Then, when I finally changed to the ARC pre-amp everything finally seemed to come shining through!