Perhaps the quickest, most immediate test for Wire on Wire (on a 1m Experience880 cable, at least) is to determine if there is a change in air and space at the top end and increases in mid-band detail in any given system. This requires the listener to count back loops from the source component until you reach ‘tune loop’ 14 and add just one spacer in that position. It is a very convincing demonstration. The system’s performance is successfully opened up at the top-end with more ‘space around the notes’ at higher frequencies and more clarity in the mid-band. If your system benefits from that improvement, the sound just ‘pops’ into focus; if it doesn’t, you also hear the difference, but the system begins to sound too ‘wispy’, ‘tinkly’, and ‘ethereal’. In the former case, it’s time to move the spacer within its 14th loop until that sonic focus becomes even more precise. In the latter, the change is also convincing enough to try out the other two recipes with yet more spacers.
There tend to be three main areas of performance that are addressed by Wire on Wire; mid-band clarity and top-end air, soundstage size and precision, and bass weight and warmth. Systems can often come up short in one of these aspects of overall performance, and the Wire on Wire cable allows you to zone in on addressing that shortfall without either tampering with the sound elsewhere, or having to work through a store’s worth of expensive ‘almost’ cables in order to let your system find its mojo.
The degree of ‘pop’ seems to depend on the relative size of the impedance mis-match of the two devices, rather than price, but the change was audible in every system I tried. If anything, most lower-end products are more accommodating of one another’s input or output quirks, so the differences are often more marked in top-end systems, but this is as much an indictment of high-end audio’s ability to run roughshod over standard practices as and when it suits than it is of ‘windows opening wider.’