When you say “WAV file X burned on CD-R” then the question would be what was the source of those files? If you have a row source with some kind of A/D and if you intend to stay with 44 then 44/20 is OK format, do not stay with for 16 Bit. However, if source for your files are other ripped CDs then it is more complicated because it is severely compromised from beginning.
My transport (CEC-TL0) reads better quality then my CD-ROM. (The CD-ROM is selected among 22 of it’s competitors – do not ask me how it happed – it did happed). So, on the scale of quality I would put this hierarchy with the best atop:
1) Direct feed, A/D writing WAV files and then to play them
2) CD readers (from TL0)
3) WAV file burned from other CD
4) CD played directly from CD reader
Anyhow, if you have an abstract 16/44 file, regardless of the source, then what would be an optimum configuration to do it? I think the fist thing you need to decide how much hassles are you wiling to endure to play 16Bit files. Lynx AES 16 is fine and there are a number of other good external DACs out there but …it is still 16Bit! I presume that nowadays it would be possible to find a good 16Bit on-board DAC. I really do not know what it out there and I did not make my own research in the subject. I went for “big” external DAC because the “comfort” was not my objective. So, in my case it is a dedicated DAW with Lynx interface, externals DAC, grounds, ugly playing software and so on… I defiantly would NOT go for it is I use the ripped CD 16-bit CDs as a source….
So, after I successfully failed to say anything meaningful to your first question let go for the second one…
I do not know anything about any other lossless formats, I used only WAVs. I would refer you to Lynx manual (or to the manual of any other card you might pick). BTW, Lynx has very friendly and very knowledgeable support team and they are very nice on a phone… Lynx has also the same class card only with built-in premium DACs on it. They claimed that the DACs as very good but I personally do not know if it is correct. Ironically the card with DACs cost the same as a digital interface with no processing on the card.
Hence, generally I do not know what to answer. I had very limited exposure to the subject (well documented with this site). Still, even my extremely limited exposure was 2 years back and it is a LOT on digital world. I heard that nowadays even the head-held devices or laptops with premium audio cards could do good 16bit. I heard that some people use even consumer sound card or pro-video processing machines and get good 16Bit of them
Max, perhaps I wrong but I do not remember you as a me-like-psycho who has interest in “abstract” audio. I hardly feel that juts ripping CDs and play then from DAW would require anything “special”. At least it was my experience… General rule that I would follow is making DAW as “complex” in term of quality and extendibility as your CD playback… I think it would make sense…
Romy the Cat
"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche