I don't blame Steeophile for producing the Recommended Components, but they are dealing with a minefield of comparisons, approximations, and expectations in doing so. It should be read as a field guide, not a bible. Hopefully, all of us have been around the block enough to know you can't just buy the cheapest item in the same grade of each category and automatically expect great sound.
What I appreciate about Stereophile is that:
1. They do both an extensive subjective & objective analysis of the reviewed equipment.
2. The subjective testing generally includes direct comparisons to both reference & competitively priced gear.
3. Most pieces end up having more than one reviewer weigh in on the sound, as the measurement guys will also give their subjective assessment, as well as trying to correlate the subjective findings with the objective measurements.
4. The same reviewers are there for many years, giving the reader a chance to get to know their sound systems, choice of music, & listening preferences. Reviews by someone that you're often in agreement with on familiar gear are far more compelling on kit that is new to you.