Great discussion!! And thanks to @soix for wrapping Kevlar around this thing before it got ugly(er).
I think we all enjoy our "David and Goliath" moments when we discover a hidden jewel that "defies the gravity" of a competitive market and meets, or beats, the performance of established brands. It happens in audio. And, tools. And, speed parts. And, wine. Etc. The "feel good" is there regardless of the category. I think we can list other examples.
It doesn’t mean that the established brands are the "bad guys". "Market value" means exactly that. If a product is producing at, or near, volume targets, market share, and (most importantly) satisfied customers at $5k, then the product is worth $5k. Period. The existence of a little known entity that "whacks it pretty good" for half the price doesn’t make the make brand product worth any less in the marketplace, nor should they huddle up and go into the panic mode. Or go into counciling to relieve themselves from a guilt complex. As with any other product category mentioned above, a well-reseached enthusiasts can, and will, bypass the "normal channels" and connect with a product or service that serves their needs are far less cost. That’s what they do. And, their lives are better for it.
"Fancy connectors" most often produce significant audible benefits. Yes, they add to the cost.
Just some comments about the "business" of the audio business:
I was fortunate to be invited to join a profession group of audio retailers. I say fortunate because were are in a small/medium market of a population of 180k who are normally "uninvited" to the group. Dealers represented the "best of the best" dealers from coast to coast. New York, LA, Dallas, Chicago, Miami, etc. We ALL looked at the same price sheets and were offered the same business programs. I can only speak of the audio industry, but the costs/markup is uniform from state to state. There are no major variations.
The net, net profit of these dealers averaged in the high "single digits" as a whole. I would have thought I died and went to Heaven if my lifetime net earnings reached 5%.
Michael Berger wrote a book: Emyth Revisited. The "E" represents "entrepreneur". The author’s premise is that it is a myth that people go into business for themselves because they are entrepreneurs. They go into business because they are "technicians" who love doing the work, and are discontent being managed by someone else. The dealer that goes into business to "save the world from bad sound" is often comprised with mediocre managerial skills and entrepreneural energy to make that enterprise a long-term success. Yes, I can can acknowledge other factors: bad customer service, non-competitive pricing, etc. to the demise of merchants, but just want to drive home the point that most dealers did not enter the business arena to get rich. It was to escape a working environment that was not particularly rewarding for them, or to provide an elevated level of service impossible under the constraints of their current employment.
The next time you’re in an audio store, ask the person serving you: "What brought you here?" The result will be a very human to human conversation that will, undoubtedly, elevate the relationship to a higher level and produce a more attentive and customer-focused response from the dealer or their representative.