I think we often overlook an element that is a critical element of the true "cost" of an item. The intellectual component. It seems we agonize over the price of "raw components" as the true "cost" of an item and dismiss the engineering, design and talent required to bring something from a sketch on a napkin to finished form -- ready for public consumption. This is flawed logic in my opinion. We are quite used to paying for "opinions" and "expertise" in purely intellectual fields such as medicine, financial planning, law, and others. There are zero material costs attached to the total price of those services in many cases. Yet, we expect similar (and, perhaps even rarer talent) in the field of high performance audio to be served to us at no (or, little) cost.
To be reasonable and pragmatic about this, let’s just set a number for the "financial burden" of a top audio engineer at $200k as a cost basis. (May be low, may be high?). If a manufacturer builds 1M of an item, that’s 20 cents per item for engineering. If they build 10, that’s $20k per unit for engineering. This is a REAL cost of production, not a massive eqo attached to the piece. IF we want to drill down a little deeper, this represents the COST to the manufacturer with no consideration for profit for the manfacturer OR the dealer. Doing the math and factoring in manufacturer wholesale "mark up" to dealer, and "standard" dealer gross profit, this may represent something closer to $38k addtitional price of the item at "retail" for engineering.
Successful manufacturers look at the market BEFORE they throw considerable resources (and money) at it to determine if there is a good chance of success before throwing a "dart" at the market to see if they get close to a bullseye. There is no "luck" attached here. Just smart business planning, with minimal risk. The point being, if we see "finished goods" out there at a price (even those well above our pay grades) it’s more likely than not that it represents "fair market value" and will appeal to the right (target) customer.. We may not agree with that value. But, it’s up to us to adopt or reject it.
To keep this specific to the 22k preamp that the OP brought up, I have a Luxman C900u (one can buy it new in the US for between 15 to 20k) and a Yamaha C5000 (10k new). I was able to get the Luxman for half the cost (couldn't pass that up) and was lucky enough to snag the Yamaha for less than msrp. I would put either one of them up against any SS preamp at any price.
You open either unit and it is a work of art, i.e. if a guy understands anything about analog circuit design. It is has always been its own type of black art, that a considerable number of electrical engineers should be able to tackle (no problem there). The catch is....the sonics of circuitry which no electrical engineering coursework would ever talk about. This is empirical information w.r.t iterative design acquired over decades of dedicated listening by engineers who are also "sound experts". Am i willing to pay that guy in Yamaha and Luxman that much, a guy who is willing to slash his wrists if he did a poor job at work? Sure...that level of competence and work ethic needs to be rewarded.
But, there are certain "elusive" brands in the "high end" who get it designed/fab'd completely in China. Am i willing to pay that poor Chinese engineer that much for his pain? Sure.....But, am i willing to pay the deadbeat dude who brought it over here for pennies on the dollar, put his brand name on it and suddenly managed to charge 50k? I sure as flip have no intention of paying that deadbeat anywhere close to that amount.
On a similar note, brands like Luxman, Accuphase, etc need to go manufacturer direct and cut the middleman unscrupulous dealer completely out. The product sold itself, sells itself and will continue to sell itself on its own!! I am willing to pay that class of manufacturer for his hard work and expertise. Am i willing to pay that dealer who sent an email, answered a phone call here in God's own land and claimed 50% of msrp (He sits there and sucks on that 50% like a leach while doing a whole lotta nothing)....lol, not only no, but, hell no!
Pay the guy who's worth your hard earned cash. Don't pay the scoundrels and deadbeats.