what type of dog is that
For me it is more of a "I know it when I see it" vote. I prefer Daiwa TDZ, PX68,and Steez reels. I don't know if that is generally considered "enthusiast" gear or not, but I'm pretty enthusiastic about it. For example I might buy a used TDZ for $200 and over time put another $200 or so into refurbing/upgrading it until I have what I want.
It's not a money thing. I have a couple of PX68's that I bought for under $200 that I consider enthusiast gear and the $300 SS SV's that I do not, though by the time I upgrade them to 11/12 bearings, Carbontex, handle, spool and etc., I will.
One has to be an enthusiast these days to even keep the old TDZ reels on the road. Parts are almost gone and the work-arounds have exceeded my skills to do my own maintenance. But for me the TDZ is the best reel ever made, bar none, and that is what makes it enthusiast gear to me while for someone else, that same just makes me a stubborn idiot who is throwing money away on old junk instead of spending it on the latest and greatest tech gear made with the newest materials. But then I'm the kind of guy who would rather have a mint '57' Corvette than a new one.
I think that rods are a lot like Hi-Fi gear. You are happy and even proud of your own system...until you hear something markedly better, at which time your system instantly and irrevocably becomes an aggravation every time that you listen to it.
My first fishing rod was a Tru-Temper telescoping metal bait casting rod given to me by my father in 1964. I now tend to buy St Croix and Abu Villain rods in the $200-300 range. Is that enthusiast gear? I know that I am happy with it as it is and will go out of my way to avoid trying out your Steez AGS or $500 Loomis rod. Why? Because I know that as soon as I would, my own gear will no longer make me happy and I cannot afford $15,000 to replace them.
On the auction site recently I saw somebody trying to sell a huge pile of old Penn Spinfisher "greenie" reels for $15,000. I can't imagine anyone wanting them, but I think it would be difficult to argue that both the guy who collected that pile and whomever buys them is not an enthusiast.