Chesseroo, Bridgman, all,
When a group of reasonably well designed speakers are tested in a really controlled environment, with double-blind protocol like the tests I participated in for 25 years at the National Research Council in Ottawa, the cost of the speakers becomes irrelevant and does not correlate with "better-sounding". For all of us on the listening panel, the operative phrase became "comparably good, " which we used when there were slight preferences between different models depending on the type of music being played.
In such cases, the rankings we gave would seldom differ by more than a fraction--something like 7.9 out of 10 vs. 8.0 out of 10. This was statistically insignificant after many rounds of listening. Often the rankings would shift a bit if we moved into a different seat in the room.
During the years I edited Sound&Vision Canada, we did all our loudspeaker measurements and listening tests at the NRC, and regularly found floorstanding models from Axiom, Paradigm, PSB and Energy typically selling for between $800 and $2,500, which would match and often exceed the rankings of large very costly British and American tower speakers, including the B&W 801, the KEF 105, Thiel and others that in the early 1990s sold for up to $7,000 per pair.
If proper controls are in place, and you can't see the brand or know the price (speakers are simply numbered), there often is little or no correlation between price and sound quality. However, once you see the speaker and know the brand and/or price, even experienced listeners will become biased.
I'd also point out that we reviewed some very costly speakers that received terrible rankings, far below others that sold for as little as $300 to $500 per pair.
Axiom Resident Expert