What's in those boxes? Wouldn't you want to know! Well, I have seen a few Transparent boxes on the inside but it is hard to get in because they're usually either compress-sealed, or screwed together with screws that had their hexagonal surface drilled out. I can tell you however, that for the insides that I have seen, the impression is of disappointment, because there's actually very little inside. Still, no matter what, and the reader is free to think what he/she wants, but I love the sound of these cables, regardless of what's inside those boxes.
Reference XL XLR interlink
All Reference series interlinks have two boxes, supposedly one for the plus- and one for the minus side. If this is so for the Reference XL XLR interlink I cannot confirm because one of the boxes (the one with the label) is sealed in a blind manner. The other however I could open. Be prepared to be surprised...
Yup: a whole lot of nothing. The white wires seem to connect the shielding and inside the shrink sleeve there is a hump that suggests that there is a capacitor in there, but not a whole lot more... remember though that this is only one of the two boxes and I have not a clue what could be in the other. It may well be filled to the max... nah, probably not.
Reference XL SS speaker cable
Pictured above are the Reference XL and Reference XL SS speaker cable's boxes. I couldn't open any of the actual network boxes but could get inside the XL SS's cable splitter boxes.
It looks like a capacitor, soldered between the + and - signal carrying cables. But this doesn't say a whole lot as it is only the cable end splitter box. What's inside the actual network boxes? Alas, these are sealed in a blind manner and I'm not prepared to take clutch and pliers to hand...
Transparent Filtering Technique
First goal of the network box is to eliminate the antennae effect by attenuating frequencies above 1mhz. According to Transparent this reduces noise ad hash and removes hardness from the sound. Additionally the cable can be calibrated to matchelectrical values regardless of cable length. For example, a long cable will have identical filter characteristics to a shorter cable, so they sound essentially tha same. Networks also help maintain a common family-voicing. Finally, the network will add some inductance which benefits the frequencies below 2kHz.
Additionally, the network boxes lower the natural roll off of the cable at low frequencies. The result of this is best heard when using Reference series cables: the bass will go lower and have more power at the lowest notes. Don't confuse this with bass slam though, or the sound of some cables that have a peak in the midbass. We're talking subwoofer-low frequencies. Interestingly, the Ultra interlinks sound very fast and not very bassy (not lacking bass though). The Super interlinks however sound very bassy, almost having too fat a bass character. The Reference series is just right for bass balance: the articulation of Ultra and the depth of Super.
In practice, what happens is that Transparent cables have a very distinctive house sound which is probably a result of not only the network boxes but perhaps more so due to the fine copper stranding and type of dielectric used (PVC). The older Transparent cables use very fine stranding but the more recent MM types use thicker strands, almost like a bunch of solid core conductors. This housesound is characterized by a fluid, smooth presentation and a wide soundstage with impressive layering that I happen to like a lot. This all could very well be a side product of the filtering employed or a combination but regardless, I feel that the result is impressive. The filtering as used by Transparent doesn't result in softened transients or rolled off highs. In fact, I feel that Transparent cables have better air than many other cables. It's just that the midrange and lower highs are so free from grain and aggression that some people feel that the cables have rolled-off highs. But I disagree. I do think that Transparent cables are best used in well-balanced and open sounding, detailed setups.
However, Transparent cables are not universal in application. In my experience it really is a matter of matching with the right components. Some combinations work magically and synergistically, others don't work so well. From experience it seems that components with weak output stages or having a very high output impedance, don't work well with Transparent cables. There are also exceptions: Wadia for example. The 861 CD player may use opamps but it has a proper output stage with low impedance. Still, it doesn't match well with Transparent cables. I tried Ultra XL and Ref XL. But friends also experience the same. In this case I think the characters of player and cable just don't match very well. Cardas Hexlink Golden 5C always works well with Wadia by the way, but that's for another article.
The latest MM generation employs solid core copper and for the first time the house sound is modified somewhat. The new cables sound faster, more dynamic and less creamy rich than the older generations. You can read more about the differences between the various series here (XL vs XL SS) and here (Ref vs Ref XL).
The directionality of Transparent interconnects is a very important design feature. The cables must be hooked up so that the audio signal flows in a specific direction from source to destination. Each of the interconnects has a module that is positioned closer to one end of the cable. Always hook up the cable so that the module is closest to the signal’s destination. For example when hooking up an interconnect from a preamplifier to an amplifier, the module should be closest to the amplifier.
The name plates on the interconnect modules can also help determine directionality. The signal should flow in the direction of the print on the name plate when reading from left to right. For example, when hooking up a Reference RCA Interconnect between a preamplifier and amplifier, the word “Reference” will read left to right toward the amplifier.