Off-Ramp Converter Reviews
"I have to take my hat off to you and Empirical Audio for a well lets just say, "Magical Product" in the OR-5 with Turboclock and Hynes Reg upgrade via I2S driving to W4S DAC2. As I sit here listening I am simply blown away by the detail, overall resolution, and deep wide soundstage I am experiencing making this front end combo the 'Best" I have ever owned in my lifetime."
Dynamo power supply:
"Right off the bat the sound stage got taller, more detail is unmasked, better transparency and a greater sense of ease. A more significant improvement than I expected and a great value."
"I just got OR-5 back from Steve with OT Mod and his new BNC-BNC cable. Still settling in but it's a huge improvement. Sound is 3D and wide open with lots of new delicate realistic detail. Less artificial, more real. Great!"
"When I installed the modded OR4 I could immediately hear a dramatic improvement. It is particularly noticeable on high quality recordings like Madeleine Peryoux Careless Love (44.1/16, on the fly upsampling to 88.2 in Audirvana).
I would describe the improvements as consistent with what the standard offramp does, but taking it to a new level. There is a significantly improved soundstage, and overall a more realistic, natural sound. The improved realism of piano notes is quite noticeable. Seems like the new OR is capturing the transient of the piano notes better."
"the I2S connection between them is wonderful, and much better than the S/PDIF. Music as opposed to HIFI."
"Is the Off-Ramp 5 better than the Off-Ramp 4? The answer is yes.
Does it kill the Off-Ramp 4? The answer is no.
Could I go back to the Off-Ramp 4 after living with the Off-Ramp 5? The answer is no.
Was it worth the extra money? The answer is yes."
"When I installed the modded OR4 I could immediately hear a dramatic improvement... I would describe the improvements as consistent with what the standard offramp does, but taking it to a new level. There is a significantly improved soundstage, and overall a more realistic, natural sound."
“Until now, the output to the PW DAC has been spdif or aes/ebu, which is pretty remarkable anyway. But via I2S it is stunning. The sound is more dynamic, voices are better delineated, everything is more vibrant. And the bass is better. That's what surprised me most. Bass seems to be tighter, crisper. I also have a bridge and felt that the Off-Ramp 5 via I2S bested the bridge in sheer dynamics and transient attack. With the Off Ramp 5 via I2S and the upgraded PW DAC, this is the best I've ever heard from my system.”
“The SQ even improved with the S/PDIF cable connected, though I believe I preferred the I2S cable connection... In a very short time, I concluded that the OffRamp5 was different better. And when it was time to return the OffRamp5 to Empirical, I suffered through withdrawal. With counseling I am recovering and the prognosis is good.”
“Now this one [Off-Ramp 5] was indeed just as Steve advertised...the best to date! This said, we are talking about an already beautiful sound with the OR4 and taking it that next step into transparency/detail/soundstage/etc.”
“The improvement from the HiFace to the Off Ramp 4 was very clear. Literally, I noticed the difference while walking back to my chair, with my back to the speakers! It just sounded another step closer to what live music sounds like, with real musicians in the room (I am a professional musician). Once seated, the imaging improvement was clear, particularly the improvement in depth and additional 'disappearance of the speakers'.”
“In the right system, the Off-Ramp 4 will give the best sound quality I have heard from an outboard USB converter, and will operate successfully at up to 192kHz sample rates... there is no doubt that the Off-Ramp 4 is a well-engineered product that can give superb sound quality from your PC.”
“When I used Empirical Audio’s Off-Ramp 4 for USB translation duties I finally heard the iDac’s capabilities when fed a low-noise low-jitter signal. Wow! The soundstage grew noticeably in size from what the iDac was able to produce with either the V-Link or its own internal USB converter. Along with the expanded soundstage size, dimensionality and image solidity also improved. Spaces between various instruments and the edges of individual instruments were better defined by the Off-Ramp than by other USB solutions. Whatever the reason, the Empirical Off-Ramp/iDac combination turned out to be the best sound I got from the iDac, competitive with the best digital front ends I’ve reviewed, regardless of price or connection type.”
The Absolute Sound
“The difference is the increased detail and better more controlled bass in the WFS with the Off-Ramp 4. It seems to have reduced the sibilance and cold top end of the WFS”
“The Off-Ramp V4 with Ultraclock is not a subtle upgrade in my system. The soundstage is wider with much greater depth. I no longer hear the occasional high frequency harshness with previous computer-based transports. The sound is relaxed, natural and analogue. It is also fun to turn on the Monolith battery PSU while listening to music to hear the difference that it makes.”
“Even with the latest state-of-the-art DACs, such as the Weiss Minerva and the Empirical Audio Overdrive, the Off-Ramp produced an audible improvement in the overall sound.”
“Full resolution files had more of everything-micro and macro dynamics, harmonic complexity, top end air, bass extension, three-dimensional depth, soundstage width, and lastly, the ability to involve the listener more completely.”
The Absolute Sound
“Not that the standard Off-Ramp wasn’t getting one any of this sonically, it was—read my comments about it in an earlier issue, I loved it so much that I bought it for USB—but with the UltraClock, shit man, this thing is stellar.”
“With it [Off-Ramp 3] in the chain, I hear more ambient information, more air, and more of that subtle subtle stuff... you get more information in way that is more involving, but with no stress, hype, or any of that overly-analytical crap that calls attention to itself [...] the music becomes quite sublime and alluring. You get it all in way that is more there there.”
“This is one terrific "transport"... With the SRC upsampling to 24/96 the Turbo 2 now handily beats the Meridian 800. There’s more air, more space, and a more "relaxed" gestalt to the music. It’s obvious within the first few seconds, and it’s very seductive.”
“I have been VERY happy with the new Off-Ramp Turbo 2. It has really helped define my soundstage.”
“I have read some good feedback about empirical audio and his work in mods of pc audio.
After some emails (Steve from Empirical is also a nice person to talk with) and spending some $ a new black box comes to me, the Off-Ramp Turbo from Empirical Audioand......Before I go on, I want to tell you that I live in France and have nothing to do with any of these companies or guys , i don’t even know what they look like.
Now I can say that a pc based source is better than cd drive source.. in many ways, definition, peaceful sounding, finest treble and incredible deep and tight bass. It’s a better sound than I have ever heard with my audio aero. (my Off-Ramp goes on battery)
My conclusion is:
If you believe you have a good dac, don’t be afraid to try this magic box from Empirical Audio ($990) and use it with a battery pack if you can.”
“Today, using Foobar, ASIO, Flac on my laptop-->Empirical Offramp Turbo (or Freeway), comparing same songs, I feel PC audio as transport competed full-on successfully with UDP-1 as transport. This is actually quite an accomplishment b/c IMO UDP-1 makes a better transport than a CDP. It had outperformed Empirical Modded Sony 7700 as transport previously. There were subtle differences between PC and UDP-1, but I wouldn’t call either "better." With both, there was unhyped, superior detail resolution. UDP with maybe a hair more natural treble control but PC with better bass control IMO.”
“Between Offramp Turbo and Freeway (no superclock3), there were differences but not that large. Offramp Turbo has a bit more focus to images and precision, which made images a bit more compact and denser. Freeway has a bit larger, less focused images that some actually commented sounded more "natural." I personally could live with either.”
“The big surprise came when I hooked up my DIY 12V SLA battery PS with reservoir caps and nice wire instead of the supplied separate PS to Offramp Turbo and Freeway. The improvement with battery PS was a lot huger than difference between Offramp Turbo and Freeway and was immediately and unambiguously obvious. Music just emerged from incredibly serene, calm background sounding both crisper and more natural at the same time, which is usually mutually exclusive.”
“When EA DAC1 was fed by Offramp Turbo or Freeway with battery PS, however, I felt we had the best sound of the day. Music was simply delineated, resolved, with extreme refinement and power at the same time. Especially with the battery, I had the "after-the-rain fresh-air" feel.”
“I’ve heard: squeezebox, u24, brick , ... and they all sound good , sometimes very good like the BRICK from wavelength audio, but for the moment the best result I have found was a PC based system with foobar and ASIO plugin with Offramp Turbo USB-S/PDIF converter to my chord 64 dac.”
“This is a quick review of Empirical Audio’s Off-Ramp USB converter, with "Turbo" upgrade. The Off-Ramp is used to get a superior digital audio stream from PC hard drive storage. In my configuration, the Off-Ramp Turbo sits between a PC used as a media server and a Benchmark 1 DAC. The DAC in turn goes to a Sonic Frontiers Line 3 preamp, Manley Snapper monoblocks and Joseph Audio RM25si speakers. I have tried various ways of retrieving digital audio. Started with a simple Chaintek PCI audio card, then an RME Digi96/PAD audio card, then the Empirical Audio Off-Ramp after hearing it in Vegas in January at either CES or THE Show. Each of these changes was an "order of magnitude" improvement. If the RME got me to the equivalent of a good transport, the USB Off-Ramp is actually better. I have compared: CD Player audio out (Marantz SA-14), CD Transport to Benchmark DAC1 (coax) (using the Marantz as transport) and PC to Empirical Audio Off-Ramp (TurboMod) to DAC1. The Off-Ramp is the "clear" winner. Soundstage is wider, there is more separation and air between instruments, vocals are more present, detail is almost scary. Truly the best CD based sound I’ve ever heard. Kudos to Steve for an excellent product and pioneering work in realizing the potential of PC audio.”
“About 3 weeks ago I began breaking in an Off-Ramp Turbo, and have over 500 hours on it. I have just finished comparing this USB input to SPDIF input on my system. Overall, I wouldn’t call it a contest. But here are some thoughts.
Cyrus Chestnut - Revelation - Lord, Lord, Lord
The USB passes more low level information, with background sounds easier to identify; there is some humming in this track. The piano note attack is cleaner and there is more resonance to the note, a better sense of the sound as it progresses through the note - beginning, middle, and end. Instruments are more clearly defined and separate. There is more texture to the bass strings.
Bill Frisell with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones - Outlaws
The soundstage w/USB is much deeper and wider, with much more instrument resonance. The bass lines are cleaner and the cymbal sounds hang in the air.
Roy Hargrove - Public Enemy - End Of a Love Affair
Off-Ramp provides a rounder trumpet sound, and more texture is evident in the fine brush work.
Eagles - Hell Freezes Over - Get Over It
Noticeably more impact to notes and a more authoratative floor to the music. The tom-toms in the middle of this track have more air around them and more reverberation. USB provides a more enveloping sound.
Dallas Wind Symphony - Pomp and Pipes - Vikings From Finland Suite
Much more hall realism, soundstage width/depth, reverberation, more immediacy. There is greater bass impact and it is easier to discern the note attack on brass instruments.
Ray Charles - Genius Loves Company - Fever
The Off-Ramp version is more involving with more drive from the rhythm section. Voice inflection is more apparent for both Natalie Cole and Ray Charles. A more tangible presentation.
Gene Harris - Best of the Concord Years - Captain Bill
Cymbals come in early in this track in the background, and are less fuzzy w/USB and more clearly cymbals rather than just a high frequency sound. The intonation of notes for the sax is clearer.
There really isn’t a quality that wasn’t improved going from SPDIF to Off-Ramp. It’s easier and more enjoyable to listen at low levels because the sound remains clear, and easy to listen at high levels because the sound isn’t irritating or grating. The SPDIF is not harsh either and sounds fine until you make a comparison, then it seems you sucked out much of the life of the music.
I was worried when I first hooked up the USB. The sound was harsh, edgy, and all over you. It was better at 200 hours and better at 300 hours. The V-Caps must want a lot of time to settle in. So far, I prefer to have Foobar set to 16bit with no resampling, and the Transit then set to 16bit. SPDIF out was clearly better than the Meitner CDD transport that I was using before, but the USB is a hands down winner to digital cable.
I don’t think you would be disappointed in the performance of the Off-Ramp. It provides an involving, clear window across different types of music.”
“How do I like the Off-Ramp? It--insert appropriate f-word--rocks. The soundstage is huge with pinpoint imaging. Everything sounds utterly natural and accurate. I was listening to Einsturzende Neubauten--a band that uses everyday items in their music, ie twigs, drills, and cigarettes. In the song I played they use some sort of stick for the drumbeat. It sounded like the drummer was standing in my living room tapping against my wall. Every micro-detail of the music was present in all of its glory. The music takes on an amazing texture I’ve never experienced before. It’s as if the sound is filling up every atom of space in the room. The music’s in front, behind, above and below. I felt completely submerged in it, or what I imagine being submerged in music would feel like. Kind of like sitting at the bottom of a pool’s deep end, minus the annoying ear pressure. It’s hard to do justice to how 3-D everything is. And the bass, oh the bass. It has intense slam and is so tight my eyes well-up just writing about it. The vocals sound like the singer is whispering in my ears. It’s like some sort of intimate reality hidden in the 0’s & 1’s of the cd is revealed with the Off-Ramp. It’s that special. Is it a religous experience? No, but it does give me the chills.
I a/b’d the Off-Ramp against the Modwright CI DAC/Sony 7700 combo. Everything I described above is completely lacking or painfully diminished with the 7700 setup. It sounds good, but the magic is gone. The cold harsher world of digital emerges. Bass-lacking. Detail-blurred. Soundstage-muddled. Vocals-coming from another room. Do I dare keep this playing? No.
I never had the chance to directly a/b the Off-Ramp against the 999es so take my comparison with a grain of salt. I really did love my 999es--might of just been the glowing tubes. I haven’t read a bad thing about it, and I’m not going to be the one to write the 1st negative comments I’ve seen. Does the 999es compare with the Off-Ramp? Probably, but like I said above, I’ve never experienced music like I have with the Off-Ramp/CI DAC combo. And it’s a <$1500 package. I honestly believe that no CD playback system can compare with the Off-Ramp PC audio setup. They’re 2 different breeds, and I bet you won’t have a hard time guessing which one I’m sticking with.”