A lot of questions swirl around the notion that a ripped CD sounds different than one played live. If the bits are identical, how could that possibly be true?
I think one of the missing elements in this question is how a digital data stream and a DAC work, but first let's verify something.
Are the digits the same between a ripped file and a played file? The answer is simple. Yes. Are there exceptions? Rarely. None worth worrying over.
So, what would account for differences in sound quality between a CD transport and a computer? Noise, timing, and delivery.
Each of these sources of digital music supply the master clock to your DAC. And each one is likely to have differing levels of noise, timing accuracy, and jitter—hence, they all sound different.
I would rank most computers as the worst sources, next best would be most streamers, and the best, dedicated sources like CD transports with the right design.
Which is why in our products like the AirLens or SACD transport we pay so much attention to the output Digital Lens. It produces a rock solid, low noise, low jitter output regardless of how the bits are delivered.
The bits themselves are the same.