Thanks for the feedback. The XLR's are of course the louder cable and that being factored in they, to my ear, still sounded worse in my system/set up; back they go.
The point I was making about making an educated decision was addressing the difficulty in finding out more on the science of metallurgy on sonics. I realize that beyond the science there's a multitude of other variables but at least it's some place to start. It's all well and good to "just pick what sounds best", but without a reference based in some sort of scientific reality, there's no foundation for rational assessment.
For example, sonics are a combination of art and science, creating sound waves in real time. Visual art forms, which are sometimes created with science, are usually static and are generally assessed on aesthetics. Even in visual art there is study and education that helps an educated viewer or buyer to understand the value of a piece based on it's relevance, whether it's truly original or derivative etc. besides just deciding that you "like it". So I figure the more we know about the "how's" and "why's" the better. There is so much big talk about cables, and as anyone with a system that's resolving enough to hear the difference, it's totally obvious that they make a huge difference. Sorting through the hype and trying to justify the costs is a whole other issue. That being said there's probably more hype and b.s. in the art world then in audio since there's so much more money in it, but there you go.
Also, I do have some pretty decent, at least to my ear, cables and am living with them. I almost always buy used here on Agon so experimenting is an option since a decent used cable can usually be sold for close to it purchase cost if it doesn't work out. I'm in no big rush to change for changes sake. However, besides loving music I enjoy the audio gear hobby, hearing how different things sound and working towards a system that keeps sounding better and better.
So far it's working out pretty well and I really appreciate the opportunity to interact with others that share the appreciation of the hobby and their love of music.