I feel compelled to repeat, for those who haven’t heard it, what Wilma Cozart Fine, the guiding musical light behind the Mercury Living Presence classics, oft bespoke: Trust Your Ears!
Why? Because it isn’t the hotshot experts (including this one) who can tell how close you are coming to creating a realistic illusion of the music itself at home (unamplified, occurring in a real space), it’s up to you.
Keep in mind, it isn’t the components that are important; it’s the music, and getting the illusion of that music through your components.
I have come to this: If you can “hear” or “identify” a sound, the character (or overall coloration) of a component, then the equipment is wrong. Period.
What we must be looking for here is not “transparency” but rather a quality I call translucency – your ability to hear into the music and the placement of the musicians on the recorded soundstage and hear this both in a kind of three dimensional space.