Thank you all for the helpful & detailed responses to my earlier posting. I really appreciate the various paths suggested & specific product recommendations you have all posted, as well as the links provided. I have looked at some of them already but still clearly have a lot more reading & learning to do before taking the plunge.
I am thinking that I should probably give a little more context to my original posting by stating the gear that I did listen to that impressed me so much. The digital gear that I listened to was the aurender N10 music server, backed by an Ayre Acoustics Codex DAC/headphone amp in a quality, but basic Parasound/Sonus Faber system. The music we listened to was previously stored CD flac files of various types ranging from Classical, Jazz, Blues, etc. & covering the full gambit of genres. My demo was by appointment & during the workweek, so I was able to spend quite a bit of time, on my own with the system & do some prolonged listening. I was also able to search & listen to some streaming audio via Tidal through the system & was very impressed as well. As I mentioned previously, this digital system was right in the price range of $5k.
When I expressed my considerable reservations concerning price & inquired about a more reasonable solution, I was shown a Bluesound music server & that was plugged into the same Parasound/Sonus Faber system for a listen. My salesperson was not a fan of the Bluesound & indicated that the unit we were listening to was not the latest model. However, he did allow me to spend a little time with it also & enjoyed it a lot, but found the the sound slightly brittle & the 3-dimensionality soundstage of the Bluesound a little flat when compared to aurender/ayre combination. But, we are also talking about the difference between a $5k & a $1.2k system.
In both cases, I really really liked the interface software & the ability of using an iPad or even my iPhone as a system controller. The Conductor software that comes with the aurender was really a great application & a pleasure to use. While I didn’t have the same amount of time with the Bluesound software, it too appeared to be a good interface as well.
So, in light of this great demo, I am still pondering which direction to go. Pop for a Bluesound or Sonus type of solution or buy a really good DAC to start with & use it with my existing CD player initially & then work up an old PC as music storage & then add the full music server technology later. I am also planning on setting up demos at some of the other high end shops here in the SF Bay Area to hear their recommendations, learn more, & spend some time with other gear as well.
As background info, my existing system is largely vinyl based & consists of a McIntosh C34V preamp, McIntosh 7270 amplifier, & either original Snell C, Dahlquist DQ-10, or Tannoy D700 speakers.
I would sure like to hear your additional thoughts on this! Thanks in advance for the feedback & suggestions!