I’ve used nothing but separate audio components for many years, but now have two different integrated amps, one from Luxman and one from T+A and both are exceptional sounding. The T+A Integrated amp, the PA3100HV, is truly phenomenal sounding.
However, neither have a built in digital section and that’s probably why they sound so good.
High-end audio is more separates than completes. You don’t see many all-in-one receivers connected to high-end speakers.
It’s not that it’s technically impossible to build a great sounding receiver. Plenty of companies from PS Audio to McIntosh to Devialet have.
Yet always a collection of their separate counterparts outperforms the all-in-one. Why?
One could easily argue the shared power supplies don’t help, nor the shared AC cord. Still others might argue the close proximity of noisy circuits within the same chassis, or the need to bring the piece in at a reasonable price.
Yet, speculation aside, I would venture to suggest it is probably not possible to put a digital source next to an analog output without significant compromise. That it is proximity and the inverse-square law that stands between success and failure.
Sometimes we just have to separate things in order to maximize their potential.