Caesar, how would you describe the process of investigation I have gone through the last year with my experiments with room treatments, isolation products, speaker positioning, the mass loading of my equipment rack, and the various comparisons of power cords and signal cables? The result was a complete rethinking of my entire room/system set up. Does none of that count as intellectual curiosity? Was my reporting on my experiments not done with a modicum of integrity? My whole approach to set up and what I listen for and how I describe it is changing. And I do not think I am alone in what I am doing.
Simply looking at the different systems belonging to my friends and even more so to those on this forum, I do not see the herd to which you keep referring. Sure there are some brands which have strong followings, but I simply do not see this mass herd behavior you keep discussing. I even let my Stereophile and TAS subscriptions lapse.
Sorry, I have no idea. I don't find any realism in box speakers. I find them dynamically constrained and tonally bleached. Just plain boring.
So I haven't followed your thread.
This is a hobby, but a rational decision making approach is to identify your preferences, identify as many alternatives as possible, and hear as many different things as you can, think about the full consequences of each alternative, and think about the tradeoffs of the choices...
It is not easy to apply this approach, as time, money, access to dealers' and to fellow hobbyists' systems is an issue, but I believe it is a better, more rational approach that can achieve better results and more happiness.
From what I understand, since I haven't followed all of your steps is that you are primarily using the internet forums instead of actual experiences to find your way. The internet forums are just one source of seeking to understand experiences, and it's dangerous to generalize only from that single source...
Like I said, this is a hobby. if that works for you, great.
Cable-wise, getting a bunch of stuff from the cable company is another option, if that is something you want to pursue.