How to tame a bright system?

Hi all,

I have been facing a problem, the brightness of my system:

Bluesound n130  --- Chord dave ---- audioquest fire (xlr) ---- Etude  ---- copper wire ---- B&W 606s2.


The brightness shows up, particularly after I upgrade the cable from the chord company clearway (RCA) to the AQ fire (XLR).  AQ fire really improved everything. However, the high frequency is too cristal to my ears (especially the "ding, ding" sound from the piano, I believe most of the people would love it but not me .... ).  I like the cheap clearway, but it does not have the excellent bass and the dynamic offered by fire. I also tried with AQ Mackenzie (copper) which gives a proper sound but lacks space. I also found the vocal of fire is a bit forward (I am not really big fun of forwarding vocal).

Can someone help to recommend a cable that has everything of clearway but more dynamic and extension at the low end? I think this would be an ideal cable for my current system.


If possible, please help to focus on the cable rather than the other components. I know there is a lot to improve, but not at the moment.  Thanks a lot guys!  ;-) 





If possible, please help to focus on the cable rather than the other components.


IMO, you pairing bright sounding amplifier to bright sounding speakers, my suggestion is save your money on cable and go try some speakers with soft-dome tweeter like Dynaudio...  

Treat the cause, not the symptom!

Not familiar with your amp, but I auditioned the B&Ws you have and found them headache inducing. I think trying to remedy with cabling is merely damage limitation, and isn't going to solve your problem, especially if you're sensitive to those HFs. Some people love the 606 S2s, and I could see their appeal for some, but would need careful equipment matching. Sorry ☹️

Funnily enough, I did see a YT video the other day by GR Research who supply speaker kits for some brands/models of speakers. They supply a kit for your speakers which are claimed to tame that top end and some other idiosyncrasies of the 606 S2s. From memory, I think the kit was $250. Assuming you're in the States

I think cables are the wrong way to go, but if you must, mid-range Wireworld cables generally are pretty warm sounding.

You may find listening on the woofer axis to be more pleasant, as well as reducing the toe-in.

Finally there is room treatment. Taming the mid/highs will help the bass bloom.

If you can wait until you are in your 60's, the problem will solve itself, otherwise I would look into replacing the speakers.

Not the wire. Change the speakers. First find some with at least 92dB sensitivity that have the warm sound you are looking for. 92dB because this will give you a lot more amplifier choices, especially in your price range, that will also have the warm sound you want. Then you will find the Fire sound just fine.

Finally, put everything on Nobsound springs. Real nice improvement and with the added bonus they will allow you to further tune and refine to get just the balance you want. Nothing else out there even close, certainly not for the money.

I'd try some Kimber PBJs and some lower line AudioQuest Type 4. If that doesn't get you there, it's speakers or preamp time but I'd give the softer cables a try first.

Sounds like a pairing that could easily come off as too bright or fatiguing in many cases. Are the tweets firing directly at you? Try playing with toe-in/out perhaps so not direct exposure to tweets. Also you might be able to easily attenuate the tweets as an experiment by covering them with various loosely woven fabrics. If bare floors a rug in front of speakers is usually a good idea. Sound absorption at first reflection points on wall and ceiling another option.

Quit listening to recordings that are too bright.  I went through a time thinking my DAC was too bright.  But I realized it was 1% of the recordings that sounded too bright and the rest of the time it was awesome.  Some recordings are just recorded that way--maybe to help the sound on consumer quality systems.  

If this isn't your issue; if your system is bight all the time, then I understand.  But I thought I'd throw this out there.  I don't have any equipment overlap with you so I can't comment on that.

Yes, change the speakers.

Or spend a lot of time and money in frustration.

No cable on earth can make that kind of magnitude of difference.

And even, even if one could, then what would that say about the rest?

For what it's worth I use Chord Odyssey speaker cable and have never seen any reason to change it.

Its your speakers. B&W are well known to be extremely bright. To some....literally nails on a chalkboard.

Easy fix.

What everyone else said, "change the speakers".  I was in your situation once, I changed everything from all electronics to all the cables, and guess what?  The brightness was still there.  I finally "got it" and replaced the speakers but that arrogance I had not considering the speakers cost me upward of 40K+.

Chord + Chord + B&W.  There you have it: a recipe for brightness.  I don't think even previous generation Cardas (e.g. Golden Cross) would ameliorate that.

A DSP would be another option, but that assumes that the speakers (tweeters) do not have a lot of distortions that are creating the effect of brightness.

One can certainly get the frequency response shaped however they want with a DSP.

Or sell the B&W and get a used pair of Vandersteens and call it a day.

Well, any tone control is an option.  :)

I have noticed many years back that I am very sensitive to the high frequency sound, specifically the violin and soprano.  I think the response to the frequency spectrum can be very individually dependent.  B&W speakers are very respectful brand with many ardent followers but I could not handle it.  Later on I noticed I could not handle any speakers of which the tweeters are made of metals or ceramics after I auditioned about close to 15 brands with more on the different lines of the products.  At the end, I chose Dynaudio, which has a soft dome as a tweeter, and have sticked with the brand close to 20 years.  However, the tweeter material is only part of the equation.  Electronics makes difference as well.  After settling with Dynaudio, I still had the issue with high frequency, even though much improved.  The next thing I did was to acquire a tube pre-amp.  With the hypothesis that I could be more sensitive to the high frequency, I started to pay attention to the frequency response of different brands.  I paid close attention to my experience to the highest frequency a pre-amp has before its db drops.  Amazingly, I found those pre-amp with narrower frequency at high end, likely deemed to be an inferior design in common wisdom, works for me the best.  In another word, I need to avoid the pre-amp which has an extended frequency beyond 24KHz.  After about another auditions of 10 different brands, I noticed the positive correlation between the level of my listening fatigue and the highest frequency a pre-amp can reach before it drops in response.  Stereophile publishes the frequency response for pre-amp.  I noticed for a specific brand, the frequency response curves are similar for different lines under that brand.  So in case, the frequency response curve for a specific product is not available, the other products under that brand could be a reference.

Go and get integrated tube like Willenston r88 not expensive and have a good review. Your speaker intend to be bright if you didn't match your gear like amp or integrated. Even if you keep changing or try different cables it will come out bright sound. Good luck and hope you resolve yourr6looking for.

Fix your source first that is where you issue is coming from.

Having over 20 years in system upgrades or mods.

upgrade your loudspeakers Xover unless you spend over $20 k 

 90% of the time the Xover has average parts at best .i hav3 called out personally 

several high end mfg and in a few instances hung up on for telling the truth .

just go to Humble homemade Hifi capacitor test.which you can literally taylor the Sonic character through your speakers, another  Vacuum tube amp, or preamp , In digital R2R dacs  sound very analog ,as well as vacuum tube dacs .even cables can tune your system  tweaks high end fuses ,and power cords.

I had the same problem with my B&W speakers. I purchased acoustic panels but the order was cancelled, so I took those funds and purchased a new preamp. It was the best decision I ever made. I don’t need the acoustic panels now and the system sounds amazing.

Also, why are you using such expensive XLR cables?


I don’t know if changing your speakers or front end is an option. Revel speakers can correct this due to the wave guide on the tweeters. Especially if you go to the BE series. If you do not want to do that then I would talk to Straightwire. They specialize in helping with these issues. I think the Expresivo 1 or 2 will help with your concerns. You should give them a call. Another idea is to change the power cables. If you go to solid core or a pretty thick gauge like 9 or 10 that should mellow out the sound a little. Also up the gauge to 12 gauge or larger especially on the preamp. Straightwire Black Thunder will do nice. If you can afford the pro Thunder for the amp pull the trigger.  You will be amazed how good this sounds. I hope some of these ideas will help. 

Tuneful Wester Electric speakers cables 

Belden 8402 rca

Natural sound!!!


Yeah, the latter 600 series tweeters are not terribly well received. I’ve got an original pair of 684’s in my second system, the tweeters on those are very nice. As others have mentioned, cables are not the answer. Your best bet is DSP, or god forbid, an EQ until different system changes are possible. Or, just take back the AQ cables and stick with the ones you like, at least until you can justify bigger changes.

Unfortunately that's the fault of your BMW speakers in that diamond Twitter it's very bright change your speakers to monitor audio Platinum much better

Also using OCC single crystal wire which is been proven now to be the best for audio for over 40 years would probably help as well

DSP maybe...but the potential for 'brightishness' could still be apparent...esp. if one has lived with the equipment for awhile....'closeness' can breed contempt as well as affection....*s*

Digital eq's are pretty quiet, and some can be very precise is used with a DSP with a light touch... When I 'hear' "bright in a comment,; I think 'crisp', but that's what I prefer.  Overall, 'flat' is my average 'D2D'.

HO: Speakers.  Amp is what 'processes' the signal, the speaker recreates.

Moral: DSP+eq might 'damp', but speaker swapping is costly+hassle.

Your move, good luck, J

You have a great DAC, amp, speakers, but based on my experience the streamer is causing the issue you describe. Try something like a Bricasti M5 with good Ethernet RFI filtering and you’ll get a much more analogue and musically involving sound, with improved detail, dynamics and soundstage.


I would advise you to take painter24’s advice and contact GR Research about their upgrade kit for the 606S2.  Then I’d focus on speaker placement, make sure you have properly damped stands, and treat the room for early reflections, if that applies. Theses are low cost steps to take before diving into electronics upgrades.

Transparent Cable Music Wave is also a cable that won’t exacerbate a rough treble.

IMO, you pairing bright sounding amplifier to bright sounding speakers, my suggestion is save your money on cable and go try some speakers with soft-dome tweeter like Dynaudio...

Treat the cause, not the symptom!

IMO, 2nd. And the Fire is not exactly lush sounding, if my very minimal experience has any merit.


I admit also, to placing very little faith in significant differences between ANY cables, digital ones especially, so long as the basics of impedances, clean connections, yada yada are maintained. Since the industry has standardized on a 50 ohm connector for 75 ohm interface, .... but i digress down a rabbit hole.

My two cents: you don’t really like your speakers.


One very practical solution would be to tailor a low pass filter (gentle rolloff)and program i into a DSP like Roon’s. Its why its there. I have a switchable, gentle low pas filter* (one insanely good PP capacitor) on all my amps. Most recordings too, err on the bright side. Nothing good happens above 20 kHz!


*say, -3 to -5 dB at 20 kHz. Sounds big, but is very subtle.

Insteresting...your pairing a $12k dac with $1kish speakers. I would sell the speakerrs personally.

@aniwolfe  +1

Wow, i had missed that. Yeah, given the quality of your other stuff you should be in the $10K range on speakers… typically just for a highly generalized rule of thumb I would be looking at 30% of my investment on speakers. I have effectively had much less but not in the price category of what you have.

$600 streamer with a 12k dac...I would really serious rethink this WHOLE SYSTEM. You have much bigger issues than finding a cable to bandaid things up.

brightness is a signature to many B&W speakers. Across all the forums with similar threads the common denominator is that they are using bowers and wilkens.

I dont own a pair myself but a B&W system came with my bmw m5 and some songs are unlistenable and pierce my ears. Fortunately there is eq but when i lower treble too much it just sounds lifeless

It doesnt help that you use the chord dave which can have a clinical (analytical) sound to many and doesn't complement that speaker brand


Cables?  It sounds like you need to change toe-in / toe-out of your speakers and the distance between your speakers and distance between the speakers and listening position.  That seems to track closer with your description and is more likely the root of your problems.  Spend the rest of your budget on room treatment (like a forest of artificial Ficus trees).

I have the same problem in my system so I changed the preamp to the old ADVENT 300 until I can afford a Schitt Freya plus tube to smooth the top end. 

I use Mosfet amps like Adcom and B and K, etc.. so not there. 

It is hard to sell speakers you like and have so long. I know. I need to do it with at least one pair!

Good luck, do it sooner than later, is worth it to enjoy the sound. 

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If you stream and use ROON or JRiver you can try some DSP via Convolution files. This guy is a pro that can do it remotely for you.

I have some older ears, and generally feel I need to compensate for issues, including older vinyl (dull mids and highs) and recording issues of some first generation Cd recordings (too bright). So, in order to deal with real world issues such as these, I have the option of system bi-pass from my balanced throughout to a Schiit Lokuis tone control. The tone control is the best answer for my specific issues when source material is in need of +/- to a limited degree. I use a Mapletree router to help navigate the various components when not using my direct system.


Don’t try any new Gear make use of room correction software like mathaudio room eq for free with foobar2000. Atleast do a measurments apply room eq an listen to the result with an without room eq it could be that you have horrible room acoustics. You could be in for a shock. There is no hardware that can compensate that.

Hi all, Thank you SO MUCH for your reply/comments. As expected, most of the comments are on the speakers.... 😂

Here is the story of 606s2. I went into a local store and tried almost all speakers within 3k including Dynaudos/KEF/Sonus Faber/B&W, and ended up with the 606s2. Among all speakers, 606s gave me everything I wanted, the subtle dynamic, sparkles in instrument music and deep bass.  I am afraid I can't agree on the negative comments on the "12k DAC+ 0.6k speakers is a poor combination". Cost does not mean everything. 606s are very revealing and a good DAC can make them shine. (but now just a bit dazzling 😂).

Why it is not working so well these days? I think I have lost the balance between "revealing" and "forgiving". I used to have a pair of KEF R3s. I love them but I cannot feel the emotion in the music when listening to KEF, meaning that they are forgiving and relaxed. Nothing will come out from the speakers to attack me but at the cost of emotion. Thereafter I "upgraded" to 606s2s and got everything I wanted. It went on well for quite a few months until recently I stayed more at home (COVID working from home) and started to feel the attack/harsh from some specific music (only ~ 5%) while most of the time, I am very very happy with the 606s. 

Here is a  youtube link to a piece of fantastic music (cello&Piano). I can enjoy the music till 2:30 . There is a harsh at 2:39 - 2:42 (an attack to my brain/ears). and a lot of harsh afterward. I am not sure if I should call it bright or harsh or edge. please help to correct me if I described it in the wrong way. Or maybe it is just the poor record. Such kinds of things are also heard from some other records mainly at the high-frequency part of cello/piano. 



I have tried several changes from home. Cables tried:

Audioquest Mackenzie (XLR)

Chord company clear way (RCA)

QED reference (silver speaker cable)

Audioquest XTRM split (copper speaker cable). 

Audioquest Rocket 44 (copper bi-wire speaker cable)

and some other cheap DIY cables.

Among all of them, XTRM split cables did magic work that reduced the harshness a bit. The cable seems to push all music into the wall and the harsh cannot easily reach me. Therefore, the "harsh" is not as obvious as before. Unfortunately, all others did not improve the situation. 

So this is the story. As I just started two years ago in Hifi, I believe many mistakes wrong conclusion are made in my post. I apologize for that. 

The cable approach seems doable but not a kind of day/night change. 

Speaker change could be a solution. Maybe something a bit more relaxed and forgiving. I am looking into Dynaudio Evoke 20 or maybe I just pick up a pair of R3s again. I do not consider any other speakers as I don't have them in the local store and 2k is the current wife-friendly budget. It is not wise to pay without listening first of course. I will visit the store on Saturday.  

All in all, thank you all for helping me out. I did not expect so many replies. Your kindness is more hifi than anything.  😜

Did you try the toe in/out suggestion?   Easy to try and nothing to lose. 

Yes, I tried toe in/out. Toe-in works a bit but not as much as the xtrm cable. Yet, the cable is not day/night. Thanks a lot for the suggestion. I can enjoy more than a few days ago. ;-)


I give you a example of my room accoustics.

The Grey line is the measured frequency response. Do you really think you could compensate (sometimes in the higher frequencies a 14db difference) that with any cables, dac, speakers etc etc forget it it is an endless quest that you go into. My or other speakers sounded extremely bright by using the white target curve my sound became completely balanced. If you have a room without any room modes thats another situation but in 90% of the rooms that is not the case. Measuring is knowing.


Thank you for the room eq suggestion. I tried a YAMAHA ypao long time ago not for the 606s, but for another setup. What I heard was proper response but at the cost of a lot of details. Thereafter, I dare not try anymore. Could you help to comment a bit more on the room eq while maintaining details as much as possible? Should be something added between the DAC/pre and the AMP?

Sure. First off all it is not only software but also hardware that you can add like an carpet, absorption pannels, bass traps. But for practical reasons it is for lots of us not practical. The current room correction software is these days quite good like Dirac, Lyngdorf, REW, Minidsp an mathaudio for instance. Mathaudio is the only free software in combination with Foobar2000 where you don’t need lots of knowledge. For practical use an to find out if Room EQ works for you (an to avoid spending lost of money) connect your DAC to your laptop an connect the DAC to your Amp.

Download the Foobar Mathaudio Room EQ add inn an use Foobar2000 on a windows or OS apple system.

Buy a measuring Mic for instance an UMIK-1 Mic with a Mic standard for best an stable results. Do a multiple measurment as describe on the site Vertical.

Listen to the result as you can see in my picture use Room EQ or Bypass.

Decide from there what to do. Most important thing is that you Know what sort of frequencies are amplified or not. When buying a measuring mic atleast you know from than on which speakers to choose from comparing with your room acoustics.

Good luck.





I agree on evaluating your speakers.

B&W has a great reputation and the diamond tweeters irritated my ears.  I think you may find an eager buyer to change the outcome versus 'changing' the signal from the source to the speakers.

Room EQ is a horrible answer. Always ruins detail as you have noticed. Another unavoidable problem with EQ it is impossible to alter frequency response without also altering timing and timbre. It is just an awful "solution" but it hangs around because it does make for nice charts, and some audiophiles are way more in love with their charts than their music.

Everyone knows your problem is your speakers. But you insist on not doing the one thing that will make the most difference. Instead you are determined to focus on cables. Even though you know you already have an excellent cable that makes everything better. Synergistic Research will get you the excellent bass and dynamics you like. There are a lot of used ones out there at great prices, and Ted has been making them so consistent for so long you can rely on that consistency and shop by price. Don't know if that will solve your speaker problem but kind of painted into a corner here on options.

This was as close to Unanimous advice as I have ever seen on Audiogon, a clear majority identified the culprit right away. Yet OP defends the sound of his overly bright B&W speakers, which he “tested”?  Then at home he heard what those speakers really sound like, but rejects the evidence of his own ears.    and the op’s system resource allocation is absurd, as several people pointed out.

It’s an old story.  Pearls before swine.