Why do my new Transparent cables make my system sound muffled?

My system is a Rotel 1590 amp, B&W 804S speakers, a Marantz SR8500 AV receiver used solely as a pre-amp in pure direct mode, and an Integra dbs 50.3 Blue Ray/CD player.  My speaker cables are QED XT40s, and I use two sets for each speaker to biwire the B&Ws using the dual speaker connecting posts of the Rotel amp, one cable set going to the bottom and one to the top connections for each speaker. 

Based on all the reviews I have read, and I admit, reputation, I bought some Transparent Musiclink Plus cables to replace my Audioquest Evergreen and fairly high-end Monster cables. Before I installed the Transparent cables, my system had incredible mid-range and highs, and tight, deep, fast bass. The 350 watts per channel of the Rotel amp really make the 804s work, I think the way they are meant to. (Frankly, anything I tried in the 200 watt range just did not seem to really drive the 804s.)  But, the system had just a tinge of harshness or distortion when multiple voices were laid over. For example, Lorde’s Melodrama, which is a great CD for testing, I think, sounded amazing, but for just a few places where I could hear a little fuzziness when her voice tracks were laid over each other. All else, especially the piano and bass, sounded simply perfect, to my ears. After installing the Transparent cables, I could definitely hear each individual voice in multiple-track voice sections, with no more of that distortion or fuzziness. But, the bass became muddy, warm, less punchy, and seemed to spill over into the mid-range. And, the mid-range became less clear, present, and realistic sounding. The voices, which were more "in your face" before, now seem more in the background with more accentuation in the lower mid-range than before also.

Honestly, I am disappointed. I would appreciate any advice I can be given on whether this may be how the Transparent cables are interacting with my system, or whether I should just sell them and try different cables. Yes, the Rotel sound is a bit "brighter" than some. I actually really like that about it. But, I don’t want any harshness either. The Transparent cables did not just remove the brightness; they seem to have made the whole system sound muddy, for lack of a better description.

In a few days, my new Rotel RC-1580 stereo pre-amp arrives. I am hoping that will open things up again. But, I have a hard time imagining it will completely undo the muffled sound I am getting right now with these cables. I have the Transparent cables connecting the Blue Ray/CD player to the pre-amp and the pre-amp to the amp.  Once I get the new pre-amp going well, I plan to get back into Vinyl.  Damn my ex-wife for dumping my old record collection.  It would be worth many thousands now.  Thanks.
Wait until the new Rotel preamp arrives! No sense making a hasty judgment!
Did you let the cables burn in long enough?  Most cables need to be played a number of hours before they sound their best.  This includes speaker cables and also interconnects.  That has been my experience.
Transparent cables are directional cable, make sure they are hooked going the right way amp to speaker
I had a home audition of Transparent Reference speaker cables a few years ago. My wife and I thought they ere muffled and bloated. I returned them to the dealer and he said something was wrong with them and he wanted me to try another pair. I never tried Transparent again, but that may explain your problem. 
Trust your initial response as most cables will break in but not that much. It's the same with speakers: you have a really good idea of how they'll sound pre break in. If you're within the return policy, give it some thought.

All the best,
I've had Monster, PS Audio, Nordost, Mapleshade and now, finally, all Transparent cabling in my system (interconnects, digital coax, HDMI, and speaker cables). The Transparents win hands down over all of them. Directionality is critical, as is burn in time.
Because they have boxes on them! Get some cables that dont use networks, let the power of your system come out!

Matt M
Because resistance is the issue that gets in the way, more pure copper  cable to see is less cable to hear.
Vive 10awg.
I initially had Transparent cables with B&W/Rotel equipment. It sounded the same as yours ... lifeless. After going through a number of different cable brands, I've settled on Cardas Golden Reference. The sound is wonderful. You may wish to give Cardas a try.
I presume the Transparent cables have RCA connectors, since the SR8500 does not appear to provide balanced inputs or outputs. And I see that the Rotel amp has a very low unbalanced input impedance of 12K (while having a much higher balanced input impedance of 100K).

While it’s difficult if not impossible for anyone to provide a definitive answer to your question without knowing what is in the network that is built into the cable, my guess is that the 12K input impedance of the Rotel is too low to be a good match to the network.

If you happen to have a multimeter, one thing I would suggest is that you measure the resistance of the cable between the center pin of the RCA connector at one end and the center pin of the RCA connector at the other end. If you measure an open circuit (i.e., an essentially infinite number of ohms) it would suggest that a capacitor is in series with the signal, which would be very likely to account for issues in the bass region when the load impedance is as low as 12K.

And while you’re at it, if you have a multimeter, also measure the resistance between the ground shells of the two connectors, and between the center pin of each connector and the ground shell of the same connector. If you are able to do that, let us know what all of those measurements are and perhaps it will suggest additional possible explanations.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al

P.S: If the guess I provided in my previous post is correct, a solution might be to simply connect the cables to the amp’s XLR inputs via RCA-to-XLR adapters. That would probably result in the cable working into a 50K impedance (half of the balanced input impedance) rather than 12K.

-- Al

(((I bought some Transparent Musiclink Plus cables to replace my Audioquest Evergreen and fairly high-end Monster cables.)))

The Rotel Pre with internal DAC should give you a smile.
If you can hook back up with Audioquest Interconnects and Solid core Speaker wires I think you will nail down what you are looking to accomplish.

The Transparent cables are more on the dark side and while some folks prefer this I agree with your assessment of the AQs cables better clarity or ability to get out of the way of the music.

If I were you I'd try some Audioquest Rocket 88 with DBS/ AQ Mackenzies interconnects it should rebuild on what you had but better then evergreen and focus without the shrillness.

Many a component has been blamed for what those other brand multistrand cables do.  Hey, at least you were halfway there.
 AQ, Rotel, B&W dealer
Thank you, Everyone, for your input.  Before I give up on them, I will get a multimeter.  I need one anyway to work on my motorcycles.  Once I get that, I will have a look at those measurements, Al.  Given that the 12k input impedance may be an issue, and that the ratio of the output impedance of the pre-amp and input impedance of the amp has some importance (from what I've read), maybe the Rotel pre-amp might make a difference?  I know I checked the specs on the Rotel pre-amp as compared to the amp, and they didn't seem to be too bad with respect to that ratio.  But, I have no idea what the output impedance is from my Marantz right now.  The Rotel pre-amp comes tomorrow, and I'll have a listen to it tomorrow night. 

I didn't even know they made adaptors for RCA to balanced.  I will also check those out.  I do like the clarity and separation of the voices, piano notes, etc.  But, I was listening to it again tonight, and it seems like the low mid-range is just way accentuated (louder) than the rest of the music.  Tones like mid-frequency organ notes tend to overwhelm the rest of the spectrum a bit. Interestingly, Miles Davis sounded amazing on it last night.  Just not much else.
Given that the 12k input impedance may be an issue, and that the ratio of the output impedance of the pre-amp and input impedance of the amp has some importance (from what I’ve read), maybe the Rotel pre-amp might make a difference?
If my guess is correct that the root cause of the issue is the interaction of the amp’s 12K input impedance with the network in the cable, changing preamps won’t solve the problem since the cable would still be between the preamp and the amp. Although the preamp change could very well help in other ways, of course.
I didn’t even know they made adaptors for RCA to balanced.
The adapter shown at the following link should suffice, and costs very little. Cardas also makes such adapters, as do many other suppliers, although the Cardas adapters cost considerably more.


Also, while that approach might resolve the cable-related problem, it would of course mean that you would be using a different input circuit in the amp. Which in turn might result in a difference in the sonic character of the amp itself to some degree, for better or for worse.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al

As a former Transparent owner I have a story to tell. I owned the original Transparent Reference back in 1996. Balanced throughout. It was the most incredible sound I've ever heard. Speakers were Snell Type B with a Krell 20i CD player. Amp and pre were Threshold T2 and T400. I was in heaven and I swore I would never change a thing----until; trouble! My preamp malfunctioned three times and had to go back for service. My amp needed to go back three times for service also. Once, my Snell drivers melted because of direct DC current that made its way to them. I fired up (literally!) my system one day and I could smell something burning! It was the drivers in my Snells. Threshold paid for all repairs. I was blaming Threshold for all my woes at the time. A tech from Threshold did think that the network boxes on the Transparent were confusing the amp. I think he was right. I sold everything after it was fixed as I went through a divorce and I needed money. As I rebuilt my system back over the years I decided to give Transparent a try again. (I didn't think Transparent was to blame yet at this point). I bought another pair of Snell Type B's and Transparent Reference 5 speaker cables. I have a Classe amp. At times the Classe bought go into standby or protection mode. I had a pair of Analysis Plus speakers cables on hand. I was pleasantly surprised by the result. First off, no amp shutting down. Secondly, where I set my volume control to 11:00 position for most of my listening, I now needed it to be at 9:00 position for about the same volume level. I see that Transparent asks their potential customers to summit their entire system information in order for the company to "match" the proper cables for best results. I surmise that troubles like mine prevailed and this is Transparents answer to the problem. I never talked with them as I buy everything used (I even married a woman with three kids!). I don't have the glorious sound I once had in 1996 but it doesn't melt down on me either. Joe 
The Rotel RC-1580 preamp arrived, and I hooked her up. I cant say the sound is perfect (is it ever?), but for some reason the preamp did make a pretty big difference. I will have to listen to more and different music to evaluate more. But, now it is just a bit like the range around 500-1000 hz is just too accentuated, maybe. The bass is clear and well defined now. I will give it to the Transparent cables on detail. Like the cliche goes, I can hear so many little things I never noticed before. It is quite fun.

By the way, if you are considering this preamp, all I can say is that it does only one thing - pass stereo analog sound. No DAC, no digital inputs, etc. But OMG does it do that one job well.  I practically hate myself for putting up with using the AV receiver (albeit a good one) as a preamp for so long. Preamps make a huge difference, more than I expected. I am sure there are better preamps. But, this one is very high quality. What Hi Fi? was right about it.
A little bump in that range could also be a room issue that now you can actually hear. You may check your speaker placement and toe-in...

are your Transparent the original (MM1), MM2 or the newer Gen5?
Good information above. Check the direction of all cabling and a few hundred hours of break-in. Transparent is a sonic match for Rotel, B&W and Classe' gear.  I found the Super MM2 interconnects and speaker cables to be a sweet spot within the entry level to top level chain.
Happy Listening!
IMO Transparent cables are over priced and are not musical. I was going to purchase so a few years back and decided to go with Tara labs. Tara labs make great cables you should check them out. Very neutral and natural sounding cables.

I want to thank everyone for their great advice. I have tried much of it. Finally, i tried some Chord Clearway cables between the cd player and the pre, and even with just my Evergreens between the pre and amp, they sound better to me than any combination I have tried with one or both Transparents. I have some Mackenzies coming next week to replace the Evergreens. I am hoping they will give me any fulness I am still missing. Maybe it is just my old ears. But, to me, in my little system, the Transparents just dont sound as lively as I prefer. I think the experiment is over.
By the way, bluesy41, which Tara Labs would you recommend for someone who has to save up for even budget (but decent) cables? Thanks
(((I have some Mackenzies coming next week))))
((((By the way, bluesy41, which Tara Labs would you recommend))))
Both Tara and Audioquest are excellent cables.
I would suggest you follow the engineering blueprint of either one but stay the same brand all the way through.
There is no one magic bullet and you also stand the chance to zig into brightness if not careful
 As long as the AQ brand of Solid core interconnects to match the same brand Solid core Speaker wire you will likely find the components are working well together.  
 Now that you have the matching Rotel PRE and AMP TOGETHER.
((( Mackenzie's on the way )))I would sample AQ speaker wires like Rocket 88 DBS or on up to AQ Aspen DBS very cohesive dynamic and big balls.
Thanks, Johnny. I will probably end up with all one maker. Right now I have QED XT40 speaker cables that impress me quit a bit for the money. They beat the comparably priced Type 4 AQ cables in one review. Super strong and fast bass with clear highs with lots of definition. So far, they do not seem like the limiting factor. But I think I still have some experimenting to do before I settle on one brand and type. It is expensive to experiment, but I am looking for the right sound for me within a small budget. The Rotel do make a great pair and also seem a ways from limiting. Right now, it is the interconnects.
   It’s funny how a system that would blow some people’s minds still has flaws to me. Today I just turned off my system ears and listened to Melony Gordot’s Live in Europe cd. It blew me away how good it sounded.  Great cd.
The Rotel 1580 amp is quite a step up in SQ from the 1075 it replaced, by the way, not just in power, which it certainly has with 350 watts per channel, but in speed and range as well. I am not sure why, but it is a higher quality amp, not that the 1075 was bad. Bi-amped to my 804S speakers, the 1075 was pretty amazing sounding. Without bi-amping, it was flat.
Good Lord, listening to Lorde is hardly justification for rejecting an interconnect!  Try playing some real music for more than a few hours and then decide.  Everything matters in the chain...power, power cords, outlets, room placement etc... 
Yes, thank you. I have tried everything I could. I am sure on a different system the Transparents would be perfect. But, my Mackenzies came today, and on my system, they sound vastly better in every way. I have really varied music tastes. Yesterday it was Daft Punk, Miles Davis, St. Vincent, and Foal. Today it is Neil Young, Pavarotti, Father Thomas, and Led Zeppilin.  Lorde has some pieces that are challenging for my system. So, i use her music sometimes to listen for flaws, among others, and I like some of her songs. I ignore the artist’s personality most of the time and just listen to what makes me feel something I like. But, I must admit that I think I would really enjoy a long road trip with Neil Young. Seems like such an interesting person.
I had a similar experience with TA.  Muddy bass and lesser resolution until you move into the higher-priced models (XL or higher Gen5).  I find it fundamentally wrong when a mfr requires you to spend $10K+ on a single cable to get the same resolution and tight bass that other mfrs provide for much less.  Lots of posts here where people say "but if you move up the line it gets better."  So TA couldn't get it right for under $10k?  Another example of high-end audio gouging IMHO.
Thanks. I dont pretend to know all the factors that go into the sound produced by different cables with different systems. I just know what I like and can afford. If I had $10k to spend, it sure as hell would not be on interconnects, especially when I spent $100 on used MacKenzies that sound better on my system than the TAs, which were not cheap.  Maybe there is some crucial piece I am missing. But, at some point, you have to shut off your critical ears and just enjoy the music, or you will go both broke and crazy.