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I've not heard the Off-Ramp but forum chatter consistently pegs it above the Audiophilleo. As one might reasonably expect at nearly thrice the price! This is no monetary complaint. It's to underline Steve Nugent's proven track record with digital audio clocking. More from the man:"How does the Synchro-Mesh compare to the Off-Ramp 5 digital audio converter? The Off-Ramp 5 is in another class entirely. This is primarily due to the resampler in the Synchro-Mesh. The chip used for this is the best currently on the market but it still adds a bit of its own coloration. For best possible results we recommend the Off-Ramp 5." So there. If you want best, take the USB Off-Ramp. The Synchro-Mesh is for (us) non-USB hicks.

Before tinkering at home with combinations of the aforelisted kit, I took the Synchro-Mesh to a friend's place. Could a less seasoned (read: less anally retentive) audiophile pick the differences between the Off-Ramp-saddled Squeezebox Touch and the Logitech solo? Laurence's system packs quite the budget punch: Squeezebox Touch, Emotiva XDA-1, Rega Brio-R and ATC SCM 11. Those ATC transducers don't hide so much.

Björk’s "So Broken", formerly a B-side but Laurence's favourite Björk cut, has now found a more permanent home as bonus track on the Japanese release of Homogenic. It's a thinking man's chick-with-guitar noise. Running Squeezebox direct into the Emotiva DAC, the hard-panned duelling acoustic guitars don't dance with such flair and beauty. It's a spring storm with each raindrop coated with an opaque film. It's an eye with the onset of a cataract. It's a camera lens nudged ever so slightly out of focus. The picture is softer. It's tougher to discern distant detail.
On the Rolling Stones’ "Under My Thumb", one of the most immediate improvements brought by diluting jitter is improved bass definition and punch. Often this can be quite arresting. Such was my experience when first hearing Philip Gruebel's Audiophilleo. Without the Synchro-Mesh, up goes a now familiar veil of obfuscation. The crisper edges of lead guitar transients get smeared. Bringing back the Mesh box, Jagger's vocal steps forward with more room to snarl. If this were copy for a dog food commercial, the Synchro-Mesh adds greater life and vitality to your pet DAC. Or in this particular case, it allowed the Emotiva to shine a torch into the darker corners of the recording.

But the Synchro-Mesh does more than turn up the resolving power of the DAC. It cleaves more space between stage players and loses several spoonfuls of tension. Reproduction with the intervening Synchro-Mesh appears more effortless. In my experience musical suppleness, elasticity and microdynamic startle factor are all reliable indicators of jitter reduction. Think of a well-trained gymnast. The performance appears effortless because of the self-discipline that takes place behind the scenes. (Binary) preparation and timing are everything.

Back at Darko base camp, another hifi buddy (Ben) had arrived with a Metrum Octave tucked under one arm. Ben has an Audiophilleo to do USB. He already knows the improvements a low(er) jitter transport brings. Would the Empirical Audio box be as convincing for this third party? A morning was spent to-ing and fro-ing with the Synchro-Mesh. This time around the system comprised an Audion EL34 Sterling amplifier feeding ProAc Tablette Reference 8s.