My thinking is that Ken and other boutique cable manufacturers offer a product that allows consumers to buy a product at a price point that suggests a certain level of quality and service.
While I don't buy into that end of the cable market for various reasons, I don't think Ken is doing anything wrong, and I don't think his customers are wrong. Their values are just different to mine.
I do believe though that people interpret quality through appearance and through its ability to perform its task - form and function. The example of fast food joints has been mentioned here a few times, but once I eat the hamburger, I **know** it doesn't look like the one on the ad any more. If I really objected to the look of it when I first opened the box, I could ask for a new one I suppose. But as long as I don't object too much, I will probably just eat the hamburger and get on with my life. I'll probably not remember that hamburger specifically at any point in the future. The point here is that the experience and perception of quality was transient.
The experience with hifi goods is not transient. This guy will look at that cable everytime he uses it and either think "I can't believe I paid $160 for that" or "I can't believe I only paid $160 for that". The experience is enduring and reinforced each time you use the product.
We all want to feel that we got a quality product for our money - my perception of quality is my reality.
Why do headphone manufacturers employ industrial designers and enagage customer focus groups in their design phases? Because they know that customers want a stylish product that looks cool, and they can be proud to own and to tell others that they own. OK, styles change and some older cans look a "bit" dated, but the initial desire was there to make something stylish.
Whiel I am not at all being critical of Ken or any other boutique manufacturer, it is their business decision as to how far they will go to support their cusomers' perceptions of quality and value.