I too had the cable revelation, subtle, but wow, who knew?
Since then, I like so many others, I have gotten sucked into an upgrade spiral. So I guess I recommend you do indeed try others (at gulp, more money) before you buy. I find a very unfortunate relationship between cost and sound quality. As of now I have not found an upper limit to this relationship, but in the interest of self preservation have stopped auditioning more expensive cables
Might I recommend either Cardas or Wire Worlds best? Yes, they are insanely priced even thought nowhere near the upper limits, but they can be found used, at prices near what you are talking about.
There seems to be somekind of misunderstanding, if I caused it I appologize. I have never seen either Cardas or WireWorld best for less than $350 (used, with questionable providence) and around $500 new if you shop very carefully for a sale.
I meant to say that the best $100 cables I've heard can't compete with the more expensive models from people like Cardas, Kimber and WireWorld. Like most people I have financial limits, but I've also participated in the upgrade merry go round where in the end I spent more than simply buying a very good product to begin with.
I can not find satisfaction with commercial cables in the $100-250 range (and no, I haven't tried them all), they still seem to have artifacts I find objectionable. I am also aware that cables that cost far more than the Cardas or WireWorld can be found. Based on reviews any additional improvements seem to be well down the diminished return slope.
I have had some success in making my own, I'm still improving the techniques. For homemade, I can make a cable for about $150 that seems very similar in lack of grain, noise or glare to the WireWorld Gold Eclipse 5, but maybe not quite as warm. It requires a fair amount of labor and tedium and probably isn't for everyone.
I admire the effort you have put into this test, I expect you will get a fair amount of heat for "subjectivist conclusions". Agian and agian in the various cable wars threads I simply recommend people to try alternatives, listen and then decide for themselves. I'm pretty confident that most will decide the mass market $50 cables with gold plated RCAs are in fact significantly inferior in the sound they produce.