Traditional Brands vs. "Audiophile" Brands

I've visited some traditional brands websites and seen items like Yamaha A-S700, Denon DRA-CX3, Onkyo A-5VL, Onkyo A-9555, Sony STR-DA1500ES, etc.

These are all around $500 and up (MSRP).

Then you have more "audiophile" brands like Cambridge Audio, Marantz, NAD, Music Hall, Adcom, with their own integrated amps in a similar price range.

Questions to ponder:

So what is the difference here?

Can one assume that an audiophile brand of more or less the same price is superior to these "traditional" brands?

Are there advantages in scale, such as say, access to latest technologies before smaller manufacturers, that the traditional guys have?

If units from audiophile group aren't always better, what makes them "audiophile," or are they even that (or just my mis-categorization)?

Your cogitations welcome.

Don't worry about labels,go with what sounds good to you.
Often the products from large companies are designed with priorities other than sonic quality in mind. Are you familiar with the Yamaha "EAR" speaker, the speaker shaped like a human ear? In point of fact I cannot remember a case where the large companies have been in the forefront of sonic advancement. True, they did develop the CD, and have made a mess of it from the word go. There are divisions of companies like Sony which offer very good products from time to time but they have very limited distribution. I was in the past a dealer for Technics, Hitachi, Sansui and some other Japanese brands as well as "audiophile" brands. In general , if you do not want to spend too much brands like Rotel or NAD will give the best sound for the money. While the big companies COULD make good products and have economies of scale this does not , in fact , occur. The marketing division rules , and perhaps they do know the market. There are many like the electrical engineer I once knew who bought his equipment solely on the basis of how many lights it had on it.
Go with the "blue" lights. The red ones work on a frequency which attract flies. The fly's wings flap at a frequency which counteracts super tweeter frequencies. What you want to do in that case is flip the fly upside-down...and change the phase. Simple aint it? Cheers.
No, you cannot assume that an audiophile brand of more or less the same price is superior to these "traditional" brands. Try the traditional brands first. They usually come with better return policies, so if you don't like the sound, back it goes. I've heard some great traditional stuff and some bad 'audiophile' brands. Keep Onyko and Interga on your list. They present great sound and value. Don't be con'd by the 'audiophile' label. Its meaningless, your ears are the decider.
can't speak for all traditional brands, but the new yamaha 2 channel line is outstanding value.
$500. is not audiophile no matter the brand. BUT: the audiophile brands do have a different philosophy than big names. Big brand names are trying to incorporate their own 'expensive' options: that is 'bells and whistles' user options. Whereas audiophile brands may(?) try to keep 'audiophile' philosopy options such as 'good sound', and leave off the standard bells and whistles.
So, as one poster said, use your ears, but if you can't just go try a bunch.. I would buy an audiophile brand. Even though scale of economy says the audiophile brand will offer less for the money.. The stuff left over may be just what you are after!!
PS I have a Denon 4806 reciever, so I bought the big name.. because that particular rec was made for idiots like me)
Aptquark, you had me laughing out loud for five minutes!
Interesting opinions. I would say that for pure music listening, the quality of the sound is pre-eminent, but when you get into HT, there are codecs not available to the small guys that the Denons of the world would get first. I wouldn't put a price floor on what is considered "audiophile," since the term itself is vague, and, at least to me, if the argument is "whatever your ears tell you," then adding "as long as it is expensive," or "as long as it came from a boutique audio store," weakens the one core notion of being an audiophile that matters, which is loving the sound. I think we need a new term for some in the community, which I hereby coin, as "gearphile," one who yearns constantly for new gear, supposedly in a quest for the perfect sound.

***Can folks think of brands that you would absolutely trust and those that you would absolutely flee from?*** It is important to note that unless you live close to bigger cities, listening possibilities for a variety of equipment is impossible, and brands then matter very much indeed. The only guidance is forums such as these and reviews. Next question. ***Whose reviews do you count on?*** I tend to like whathifi as they are mercifully brief.
Details will vary but in general, at a particular price point "traditional Brands" will offer more features which may come at the expense of pure parts and build quality, and possibly, but not always, resulting sound quality.

"Audiophile" brands in general will offer less features and focus more on aspects designed for better sound.

That's not to say that one group categorically always sounds better than the other. YMMV. Its all in the overall execution and how well any particular device fits your needs.
"Aptquark, you had me laughing out loud for five minutes!"

Mitch, I had you beat by laughing an additional five minutes!
NAD is the brand that will stand above others in the same price range. If I were looking for a second system, NAD would be the amplifier part of the system, Marantz would be the CD player and the B&W speakers that would fit my budget.
Any opinions re good reviews?