I’m not sure if this is the place for this reply, but @Torq can always move it, if needed.
In this hobby there is not one goodness, but there are many. Also many opinions and directions and decisions. When you start working with reasonably good stuff, many of the choices are equally good, and are all fine choices, just slightly different balances until you finally arrive at the high end after having formed a good idea of your personal preferences.
For example, formats. I like to be able to use MQA, not because it’s any better, but because the ablums using MQA have generally been crafted with some degree of audio care. MQA’s upside is that when the MQA indicator comes on, it’s one set of things that I can’t change anymore. I have to live with the engineer’s and artist’s choices, but it will be consistent for that recording. I can’t really hear it, but MQA does have very slightly less resolution than a high-res non-MQA recording of the same bit-rate. On the downside, MQA is a proprietary format, and is therefore evil. It encourages labels to not release their very best non-MQA recordings.
Tubes vs non-tubes. Class A vs Class AB vs B amplifier operation. Single-ended vs balanced. Again, people in both camps. Good solid state is good and can have more sophisticated circuits and correction than most tubes. Not all tube setups self-bias - you may need to be OK with a multi-meter and plastic screwdriver to get the best out of tubes. And tube rolling (trying to change the sound with different tubes) is truly a rabbit hole that never ends. It’s worse than craft beers.
I am very happy with my Lyr 3. I would never have bought it if my Headroom Standard hadn’t been fried. Tubes are esthetically pleasing, and I lived in a time when tubes were still around and transistor (solid state) was pretty new, and there were a lot of bad transistor designs - and solid state sounds BAD when driven to clipping levels - which we heard a lot in college in 1972-75. It’s much rarer now.
We can’t always do an A/B test. We can always do a price test. You’re right, it always pays to listen to what you have. That TEAC is pretty old now - it’s not a bad unit, but many others use Burr Brown (Now Texas Instrument makes them) chips.
The Santana album is very good, has nice sound, but is busy on many tracks. The percussion is very complex, and sometimes gets in the way of listening to the rest of the recording. Other tracks are more laid-back and just gorgeous. I’m fluent is Spanish, which helps with the songs. The Spanish on this album seems a touch Africanized at times - sort of like bees. :