I find it fascinating that a skilled designer with a good ear can make a cheap set of speaker drivers and a bang-together box sound great, while the opposite doesn't appear to be true.
Take for example the work of speaker designer, Andrew Jones, and Elac. Decent low cost hardware put together with a great deal of skill and an experienced ear makes for some excellent sounding speakers—which often sound better than far more expensive brands.
I would put forth the notion that skill outweighs hardware in almost every case.
You see that idea in electronics more than speakers.
As designers, we all have access to the same integrated circuits. An ESS DAC chip placed in an iPhone can be the same IC as in a high-performance brand's DAC, yet the two don't compare in sound quality.
In the same way food chefs make significantly different tasting meals using identical ingredients, it's the skill of the designer that really matters.
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