Perceptions is differences between product A and product B can easily be attributed to volume levels where the louder of the two will appear to sound "better" (whatever subjective judgement that brings to mind) than the product that was tested at a lower volume level. To really understand what differences there are, one must have trained ears and consistent levels in order to compare apples to apples.
Take for example the cocktail party effect. Here, your brain for some mysterious reason will zoom in on someone saying your name across the room at a crowded party and let you hear it just as if you were joining in on the conversation. Once alerted, you can literally tune out other sounds and focus on what is being said about you. Interesting!
So what about your personal preferences? How does this impact what you "perceive" as better or worse? Does your brain play the same tricks on your impressions that it does at the cocktail party? Yes it does.
What you hear is what you are familiar with; what you do not hear is what your brain screens out. The only way to truly know what the sonic differences are between product A and product B is a prolonged listening test with familiar material from the same listening position at precisely measured and matched levels. Change one thing at a time only and nothing else. This takes time and patience, something in the world of instant gratification few do.
So the next time your first impression of a piece of gear is "that wounds awful," think for a moment about what you are familiar with and what truly "sounds different." Stop and remove your biases and get honest with yourself at a level that transcends money, prestige, color, whatever, and say to yourself, "which sounds more real?"
In hindsight, how many of you have purchased something on your first impression only later to realize that what you believed to be great was in fact not so much? Point made.