No question is stupid. With my pre-dac (preamp+dac in one like Nad and others now do it), I don't "hear" a "sound". I have two pre-dacs, both by the same designer, one tubed, one transistor, one with CS4398, one with AD1852, experimented with Sabre ES9023 (very good diy design btw) and I hear ZERO differences. Someone would have to point them out for me. I mean, I could say Sabre had bit more treble, bass, but it also seemed to have more "gain" somehow so if I put more gain/turned volume up on other dac, sound would be no different. Anyhow, with a pre-dac, at least, I can toss in ANY dac module and MHO is the linestage is dominating 99% of what I am hearing with the dac section only in there as a means to get a digital feed to a source.
Why am I saying all of this? Because in some cases, or maybe many cases, people have separates, and they can hear the difference between a complete/fully built d to a converter+preamp or whatever they use for volume+amps, etc. etc. etc. where I cannot hear this difference with how my equipment is setup. Also, I believe most people have a "mix" of components, so each component is "tailoring" the sound somehow...so naturally, insert this or that and you get a different sound. ALL of my components were done by the same designer, so same exact house sound, same transparency in and out. Even the tubed pre-dac would be difficult to pick out vs. the transistor pre-dac in an a/b switchbox (not abx) test. Much the same as when I heard the designer's tiny transistor amp vs. some tiny tubed monos I bought from him at the time...only difference was SS amp had more bass (rocket science no?:)).
Why do I continue to ramble on?:)) Because with MOST people's systems out there as I've already stated, they have a ton of different things in the mix to tailor/color/do whatever they want to get "that" sound. So if they put ANY USB converter, Sound Card, you name it, into their system, they will hear some kind of DRAMATIC difference. I, on the other hand, do not. Subtle would be the best word. Like this thing is doing something like this and that thing is doing something like that, but I don't exactly hear any "dramatic" differences to say one is necessarily superior to the other=go with whatever is most convenient. But with other's systems, that so called dramatic difference that I do not hear may in fact eliminate ANY source selected, period. In other words, one may thing the Off-Ramp is just not doing it for them and they want something that is better tailored to make some sound change they can hear. I don't think it has one bit to do with clocking, but the design. Off-Ramp is an INCREDIBLE design, but it is also designed in a way that many may not like, just as they will not like X DAC, just as they will not like Y amplifier, and so on.
In my own system, I hate to say it, but the tricked out OR4, especially using Steve's Shortblock (I can post my review about it, but expect to pay $200 more AND forget about linear power supplies when you hear the difference it makes by comparison to ANY power supply...guaranteed!) is the very best computer sound I have ever heard. Is it the clocking? I honestly don't believe so. Others will argue this, but "good enough" clocking is all this "design" implementation requires. That Steve does use world class clocking obviously doesn't hurt;), but I think he could use even older school Audiocom clocks he used to use or just "basic" custom clocks that probably are "standard" equipment on the OR5, and you are 99%+ the way to a fully tricked out clocking type Off-Ramp. In other words, adding turbo clocks, sure you will hear something, but IMHO, it won't take it much further...again, others will entirely disagree here, but that's their own golden .02 cents worth of ears I guess...I'd rather have the $200 shortblock than turboclocks...
Anyhow, why I believe the Off-Ramp is all about implementation vs. clocks and jitter and all that bs is because I can "hear" the signal extremely well with my setup. It's excruciatingly transparent (to my own probably-totally deaf ears). This is the "signal" we're talking about here. My speakers could use some custom Tad 8" coaxials in place of my Seas Excel Magnesium based coaxials, sure, but other than that, it's more than enough to hear the level of transparency "through the pipeline" as I call it. What makes this thing so special to my ears is I cannot hear it "doing" anything. It does not "extract" more resolution or "pump out" this or that...it is not giving me all this amazing black background and super crazy detail...no...it's keeping my signal VERY LINEAR, and by doing so, the sound simply comes "through" as it should.
I have heard both Off-Ramp 4 tricked out and the beta based OR5 w/Hynes only, and OR5 is indeed what I would say is the FINAL STRAW:)) Sure, he can keep going on and on with these things and do whatever he's doing "right", but to me, the OR5 makes a true statement where OR4 comes VERY CLOSE and for the majority out there, even myself included, I may not even noticed such a difference...but it does indeed nail things down to the final, and add in shortblock, and that is, at least for me, good to the point that I would not question doing anything else with my system even if we were at OR10000000000:))) This is super nit-picky stuff here, but again, OR5 is a final and last transport if I were to choose ANYTHING out there for computer use and wanted every single last %%%%% of sound "transparency".