The difference between sports and royal families couldn't be more stark. The first awards hierarchical positions based on merit while the second on birth.
In our world, we face a similar contrast. Do we choose the equipment in our reference systems by virtue of performance or brand?
I would think most of us would give first shot at making it to our system by brand. We trust a specific manufacturer or designer because they produce products we've enjoyed in the past.
Once the honeymoon's over it comes down to earning the right to be part of your HiFi reference rig.
It can be a bit daunting to figure out what works and what doesn't—to suss through the myriad of choices in any given category to discover what does and does not fit into your system.
I would put forth the notion that the only way to know is to actually try it in your home. The fact it works at a dealer's showroom, a HiFi show, or your friend's HiFi is a great starting point.
It can only earn the respect you demand by trying it at home.