I agree with this.
There's a disjoint between "high end" (which lacks agreed upon criteria) and "high performance" (which is based on measurements) - here's an example that'll ruffle some feathers:
Take the QSC RMX5050. Find me another amplifier that can universally out-perform it. Let's say you can even spend five times as much (so around $10,000 is your cap). And it must drive either two channels at around 2500W each (2 ohms too, and stable), or BTL/monoblock into 5kW (4 ohms). I'm not aware of any non-pro amps that can do that (EV and Crown probably have solutions though).
Accuphase makes a monoblock that can do 1200W into 4 (if you buy two, and bridge them) - they're $12,000 a piece though (according to AC2).
McIntosh makes a bigger monoblock that can do 2000W into an undetermined load (it may be invariant, I get that sense from it's product page - it has some spelling errors too, ugh), and it takes up half a room and costs something like $60,000 a pair.
So which is "high end" and which is "high performance" in this comparison? The QSC absolutely has more output power, is smaller, costs less, and doesn't require dealing with a boutique dealer (which, by itself, is a huge selling point in my opinion). But it also has cooling fans (and I'm sure you get something like ~45-50 dBA when its going full tilt), rack ears, and absolutely is not designed to "fit in" with a home environment. A lot of audiophile types will absolutely cringe at the mere mention of QSC or anything of the sort, but in terms of absolute performance, it's the clear winner (or at least a legitimate contender). A pair of 5050's will put you "on the deck" with either of these amplifiers (ahead of the Accuphase components actually), as long as the fan noise, aesthetics, and non-buzzword compliant specs don't bother you.
This isn't a condemnation of either perspective, just an illustration. The point is, performance and conspicuous consumption don't correlate. Something can be "high end" and perform like hell, or something can be "high performance" and generally panned/ignored by audiophile types. Recently I've noticed a very strong trend towards price as an indicator of quality and features, something that even a few years ago I would've expected a backlash towards (in other words "why pay $500 when I can pay $200 and get nearly the same thing" vs "of course it costs more"). I don't think this is really an accurate meter-stick; the super-duper fancy brands (like McIntosh) have just kept on doing what they've been doing since the dawn of time, and that means producing cost-no-object equipment that really satisfies everyone (both the audiophiles and the techies). Sure, they can now fund more expensive and ambitious projects because more people are jumping on the wagon, but where it's really scary is the so-called "midrange" that seems content to push out re-badged or re-hashed products at higher price points just to satisfy some people's (sick and demented?) need to spend more for the same bologna.
To your original question about Emotiva, Bel Canto, and Peachtree. I'd say that Bel Canto probably is "high end" depending on who you ask, Peachtree gets a lot of attention in "reviews" but doesn't strike me as anything exceptional - I see a lot of the "midrange" problem with Peachtree. Emotiva is the odd duck - they've had some really stellar products (like the XPA amplifiers), and others that just stink it up (like the UMC). Even in value-oriented circles, Emotiva has a weird position against brands like Onkyo and Outlaw, simply because of that duality. If we ignore their blunders, I think Emotiva fits into the "high performance" range quite easily - however their prices, badge engineering, and aesthetics are not up to the task of putting them into a real competition with a Parasound or a NAD - let alone an Accuphase or a McIntosh. The performance doesn't quite let them compete with a QSC or an EV either. Like I said, odd duck.
My take is towards "high performance" but I'm not so self-aggrandizing as to believe I'm impervious to aesthetic desires - fan noise is obnoxious! So there's always a compromise, and I don't think I'm alone there (in other words: sure, the McIntosh is great, but it's also HUGE and would be a pain to install - so do you settle for the fan noise then? or what about just moving the noisy amps into another room? or getting more efficient speakers and needing less power? or how about a class D design (like Bel Canto)? etc).
Originally Posted by estreeter
I guess it is more about semantics than anything - I can throw paint at a wall and call it 'art', but I might be the only one on the planet to feel that way about my 'masterpiece',