This discussion sounds so 1980s ... I remember having lunch with two Philips engineers during AES in LA in 1988. I'll never forget what one of them said there: 'We've never really heard 16-bits".
Since then, we've had 20-bit conversion, 24-bit conversion, sample rates at 96K and 192k, and Sony DSD . I'd argue that
each of these moved us closer to accurately capturing the analog signal coming out of a recording console.
A final note: bits are not bits - they are data coded by the zero crossing point of the ongoing digital wave form, which can be significantly distorted by, among other things, timing jitter. Contemporary designers try hard to minimize jitter and are succeeding pretty well these days in the 16/44 world. So we are, in fact, getting closer to hearing what 16-bits sound like.
Let's leave these old arguments behind and move onto more productive areas of discussion - like preservation.