can't speak for any of the jap stuff until the 80's, which is when I started with stereo stuff(just personal) and their headunits were on par with any american made stuff. The china products are not only cheaper but seem to hold up far better than any of my american product I sell....by far. Which is really sad. One of my venders tried to bring their product back to the usa, but not only was the cost higher, but they were coming back to the stores by the truck load, they moved back to china and been there since.
In 1968 I was looking for a low end stereo rig (not the typical RCA console, etc.). Sherwood, Fisher, Marantz, McIntosh, etc. were the decent brands of the day, but the new Kenwood brand seemed about the same quality (except for maybe McIntosh) at a lower price, so I bought the TK-66 (I still have and use it) for $239, quite a bit less (especially on my very limited budget) than the more widely known brand names. That was, of course, the early part of the Japanese going to a higher quality of products. I knew it was pretty good because, in addition to listening to it and trying it out, Julian Hirsch of Stereo Review
magazine had given it a decent mark.