There is a saying that the more revealing your setup is, the more difference you hear.
But from my personal observation it seems that the more expensive your setup is, the more difference you hear.
This graph will explain why it is so:
This is the graph of Sound Quality Index vs price - SQI is a complicated algorithm that takes into account diminishing returns in real measurable performance and exponentially increasing utility (also known as pleasure) attained from having better sound quality that results in a linear relationship against price which makes it easy for normal people to reference to. The blue graph is the theoretical maximum performance attainable while the red graph is the 50th percentile.
As you can see, while performance generally increases with price, so does the difference between the top and bottom performers. So you hear more differences between expensive setups because there are more differences between these setups, not because they are more revealing.
The experience with a few well-known expensive brands helped me come to this conclusion. Generally speaking, starter-level setups (the graph is the price of setup, not individual equipment) tend to sound the same - computer speakers below $200 sound the same, most soundcards sound the same too. Move on to entry-level, a sudden increase in overall SQ, but that's because of better bass and treble extensions, so they still sound the same too. But as the price increases further, I've come across a particular brand of portable lightweight DACs that always sound warm, dark, too bass heavy yet the bass is not well-extended nor controlled enough (a.k.a. boomy) compared to others, regardless of whether it is the brand's entry-level or flagship product. I've come across $400 (SGD) amplifiers that totally mush up the sound compared to starter $100 amps, and a $1000 headphone/preamp that just sounds wrong (hint: 1. It is popular/"popular", and 2. Many users sell it off after a while). Then there was this also popular/"popular" brand of (rebranded from Taiwan product) DAC that sounded totally off compared to others at a DAC shootout featuring DACs from $250 to $2500. Speakers that try to defy the laws of physics, expensive wood enclosures, you name it.
On the plus side, spending a lot is guaranteed to give you better performance than at least the $20 mark. But I'd rather stay close to the blue line then spend more and not reaching it.
*Note: Just in case you haven't realized and/or is unfamiliar with this blog, the above post is a work of non-science. So if you're offended by it instead of being amused, I can only offer my humblest apologies that you're an idiotic sucker who believes everything on the internet. Note again that I said non-science instead of fiction, because, unfortunately to some, my experiences written above are not fictitious.
W A R N I N G !
W A R N I N G !
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