An extra 10 grand!
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It is simply something that you accept as a standard against which other items are compared. One might infer that such a standard is superior to all else but the term does not directly imply that.
However, many do use that inference in using the term and, of course, many manufacturers attach the term to a product with the intention of implying the superiority of the product.
Basically it's a marketing term that may or may not have any real meaning. Anyone can stick "reference" on their product as there are no rules, regulations or criteria (that I'm aware of) for its use or meaning.
However, I believe most audiophiles would agree that true "reference" products have existed in the past and currently exist. But I think what was once a reference product, say in 1965 or 1980 is probably not one today.
It seems like reviewers also use the term "reference" to refer to their own gear and the system into which any item under reviewed is being inserted.
For some reviewers, this reference system is designed to be as neutral and transparent as possible, to better aid in evaluating the equipment under review. Some reviewers also choose to have versatile equipment as their reference (for example, both XLR and RCA inputs and outputs). I have also read reviewers write about choosing well-known brands and gear for their reference system, so that experienced listeners might have an idea of the potential influence of the rest of the system.
On the other hand, some reviewers buy what they love, regardless of obscurity or potential coloration, limitations etc.