I'm in agreement with most responses and things said here. I just have a personal issue with brand bashing when;
1) one hasn't heard that particular piece personally or more importantly,
2) one hasn't heard that particular piece in their system directly comparing it to another piece.
As I said, if you change more than one thing and then listen, you can't really tell if you are hearing that particular piece or a combination of pieces and equipment.
There are hard working people that work for Parasound, Audio Research, Atmosphere, and many other companies, where most of them are hard working, honest people that produce good products. They has families to take care of.
Bashing is non productive.
WC is correct in that he cannot try everything or may not even want to. He has a level of costs, performance and expectation and doesn't want to really go down in quality just to satisfy someone else's curiosity.
I typically let things ride until I hear someone bash a company or product they haven't tried personally. Even bashing is too strong for me. Some gear is better than others, but bad? terrible? horrible? crap? come on!
different, yes. not as good in certain ways as another piece? possibly.
I can put Sony or Yamaha gear with Martin Logan Neolith speakers and if they can handle the impedance of the speakers, they will sound pretty good. Better than Audio Research? probably not. So what else could be making this sound not so great? hmmm? lets think about that a minute.
I've demo'd equipment that initially sounded not good at all. Come to find out that the piece wasn't really designed to be matched with the other piece at all. So, there. That was the reason. the piece wasn't bad at all, I just didn't read the owner's manual. My mistake.
When WC gets a new piece, removes an existing piece and inserts the new piece, plays his music and returns to the existing piece and compares, boy, that's what I look forward to. But you can screw with a piece by changing some cables also and totally mess up everything. Cable rolling can be a real mess.
anyway, I'm enjoying the ride.