As an Electrical Engineer I can tell you that any consumer product, no.......any product is always judged partially on subjective criteria.
Even circuit breakers, capacitors, resistors are designed with a little bit of visual style.
I'm sure the US military buys guns and armaments partially based on the subjective experience.
Someone has to pick it up and shoot it, carry it around, sling it over their shoulder. They may not admit it to themselves, but it just has to feel right.
It may only count for a few percentage points in the big picture, but it's always there.
Oh yeah you should really read John Boyd's biography, if you want a look at just how subjective the military acquisition process is. (Also he was one of the most brilliant, if damaged Americans of the last century)
People buy cars partially based on the fact that brand X, model G Mark III looks good and feels good when you drive it.
The "other leading brand" just doesn't feel right to the buyer, the seating or position of the steering wheel doesn't feel right. Obviously you can quantify all of this (or most of it) but ultimately "feel" has a bit to do with it.
And why should audio equipment be any different?
If don't like the way a piece of audio equipment sounds and feels, I ain't buyin' it.
As far as I'm concerned, a lot of audio people like a touch of distortion, a touch of colour, flavour.
The problem with objectivism (Sorry Ayn for the perversions around, using your vernacular for nefarious purposes) is it is only invoked in a subjective way. I choose either to be objectivist (emphatically not objective here as the two split ways ages ago) or choose to select my stuff due to any other number of criteria. If in fact we all had royer mic's for ears with no deviation in hearing and had the same taste in music and music was all recorded at the same studio under sterile conditions with the same eq and mix applied to the same instruments on every cut of every album by every artist, well then.........................objectivism still wouldn't work because each of our brains has been trained to perceive sound in very very different ways, that is impossible to replicate and is what largely determines our listening preferences. An opera singer will find listening to a rock track a very different experience from a 20 year old accountant with an audio hobby. Setting performance metrics is fine for baseline requisites, but to think that any deviation is blasphemy is akin to saying the Met is an unacceptable music hall because it does not sound exactly like the Sydney opera house or Beyreuth. The heart of the music lives in the differences.