I like Naim's mil-std level of build quality.
For me, the object of design is accuracy - however, this may or may not be a 'nice' sound. I''ve listened to quite old stuff which measures not so well, but sounds 'nice'. Is this hi-fi? Nope. Hi-Fi is by definition as close as possible to what the mix-down engineer put on the master tape. It may not sound as 'nice' as a coloured, gently distorted version in a domestic setting.
I prefer to aim for as accurate as possible and throw the ball back into the recording engineer's court. One can always go some way towards correcting a duff recording, or making the sound more palatable for a domestic setting (the 'in your face' sound you describe isn't always welcome) by use of tone controls, but IMO you should always start with as near perfect a transcription as possible.
Naim's philosophy used to be similar, not really sure what their latest gear is like. Other than 'expensive' - though they did pander to the hifi press by leaving out tone controls. Are they saying they couldn't design a decent variable filter? I doubt it - that's marketing men for you.
"Two very small men cutting steps in the roof of the world"