There is no question that people’s tastes change over time. They tend to work their way from the obvious parameters like bass and overall detail to imaging, then tonal balance, midrange bloom… etc. as they learn.
However, with well established high end companies… Audio Research, Pass, dCS, Conrad Johnson, MBL… etc. They are on a mission and incremental changes are not lateral at all… they are walking straight down a line towards their objective sound. This is not to say companies don’t falter a bit occasionally. ARC really tried to do what they did with solid state and they just could not do it and reverted back to all tubes. They have a well defined objective.
But successive releases of products, reduce the noise floor, improve the sound quality across the spectrum. Take ARC and Pass. One from the tube side and the other from solid state. Over the 90’s and 00’s they incrementally converged on reality… one from the warm but not as detailed side and one from the harsh solid state side. Converging on reality.
Over the last twenty years, I spent a huge amount of time calibrating my listening skills, by attending hundreds of symphony concerts in the ideal 7th row center location, and acoustic jazz concerts… and listening to individual instruments. The same kind of things that top audio designers would do. I can hear them approaching and converging using different technology to do so.
So while the companies that have been around for a decade and are in lower tier high end may change this way and that. The companies that are serious long term players are moving in unison towards a very specific goal, with some individuality based on the technology they use, or which music type they want to sound the best.