Here are my thoughts on the subject: If the small guy is experienced, passionate and not afraid to risk his own money, then he will likely deliver more for the money than the big corporation that is focused on profits. They have to keep everyone employed and pay for those expensive ads in Stereophile and TAS etc..
The reviews tell the story. If the products get great reviews, then who cares whether its Krell doing it or Joe Audio in his garage?
There is also the matter of scale of production and ability to react to the customers needs. Large companies cannot do this. They design a product and then outsource the volume manufacturing to China. This means that they are building at least 1000, and sometimes 10,000 minimum. When you have this many in stock, you cannot afford to scrap them and do a tweak to the design. You are forced to get out there and hard-sell them until they are all gone.
Small manufacturers deal in 10's and 100's, so its much easier for them to change something or offer a new feature that customers have requested. I often order 25 circuit boards and only use 10 of them, and then do a new fab within a couple of months to improve things, imbed rework or add features. I prefer to do 100 at a time though.
Then there is the issue of parts selection. Smaller companies tend to use the bleeding-edge technology to achieve the maximum performance. These parts are often from other small companies that cannot source 10,000. There are also no second sources for these parts. Therefore, you will not likely find any of these in large company brand-name products. They go with the cheapest and the safest choices. Examples of these types of parts are Black Gate caps, silver wound transformers, V-Caps, OCC silver wire etc..
The fact is that most small audio business dont rely on money from banks to make the payroll or fund the next big project. This makes them more likely to survive, not less than the big boys. Look at what happened to Mark Levinson. They almost died on the vine. It was this cash-based business model that allowed my business to survive the downturn with no issues, in fact it gave me more time to develop more interesting products. This enables the small business owner to be here for the long-run.
There are also issues with ethics with bigger companies. With a small company, if you come to trust the owner, then you can rest assured. You are not going to be ripped-off. I have worked for really large corporations where ethics violations were a BIG problem. I left those companies.
There are also issues with support with large companies. Some are good, but these are in the minority. With the single entrepreneur, you are dealing with him directly and if he has a good reputation for customer service, you are better off IMO.
The fact is, that it is the people, particularly the designers that make the product what it is, not the company. When the key designer leaves the big company, beware. You better find out where he went and then buy their products now. Most people are under the illusion that a big brand names guarantee stellar designs. In fact, I believe it is just the opposite. When companies get big, they lose sight of the real goal of performance and focus mostly on profits. I have seen lots of instances of this. When their key talent leaves, what is left is the trainees, and they may know almost what the key designer knew, but they may not be as creative or skilled.