I once read about a speaker manufacturer who used to veneer both the outside AND the inside of the cabinets. He claimed that it made a difference in the sound. I can't remember the brand or the man....I will dig it up though.
In terms of sound quality, I don't think it will affect this. I never quite was convinced about the above claim.
But speakers have become more than just pieces of a musical system. Like it or not, they have become pieces that are intrusive to your living space. I value the time, energy and money I have invested in decorating my rooms. I do not like to simply place a speaker into the environment without ensuring it does not look aweful. Most designers pay attention to offering a range of choices (Axiom offers 3 I believe) to help this. Some offer one, take it or leave it.
When I am looking for an economy speaker, I would rather have the designer spend the money on the internals and designing the speaker properly. But, as you mentioned, there is a point where the cost needs to be reflected on the "entire" speaker.
I had the same impression you did - the fit of the vinyl was exacting. However, you could easily tell this was not real wood. The maple intrigued me, but seeing it up close, I would be unsure about a choice.
MacTac....yes I remember that!