These two category labels have very broad, often contradictory, connotations. So broad, in fact, that I've seen instances in which our wheels have been put into each category. The two labels are so inconsistently applied that I'm not even sure which category into which our wheels best fit.
Our basic parameter for a wheel set is its performance. We've invested a lot of time, money, and brain cells into learning about how to achieve certain characteristics - durability, handling, stiffness, weight, aerodynamic speed, brake performance, and compatibility with specific types of tires.
We don't build wheels to fit any price point without their having first cleared the bar of requisite performance against any of the criteria above. The DT R460-based builds are a bit less expensive, and we like having them as a wheel that slots in where they do in the relative cost spectrum, but if they did that without having the performance that they do, we wouldn't sell them. Having just spent several days and several hundred miles having one of my best friends harass me all over the roads of the greater San Diego metropolitan area while using a set of our DT-based builds, their performance in all respects is further confirmed. They happen to do it in a cost-effective package.
Nor do we seek to achieve any given aesthetic. As cost follows function, so does form. The big aesthetic thing that a lot of people look for is spoke count. Spoke count often gets conflated with aerodynamic performance and weight. We've learned a lot in our work in the wind tunnel, and we know how to use scales pretty well. A wheel weighs what it weighs, whether there are 16 or 28 spokes in it. All bladed spokes are not created equal.
On the other hand, we do offer a lot of choices in terms of different hub and spoke types and colors. You're not forced to march lock-step with everyone else in how your wheels look, that's for sure. Our prices for these choices reflect an accurate assessment of our costs in bringing them to you, and are as low as they can be. While some of our builds cost more than others, none of them are expensive in any absolute sense, given the inputs going into them. We may not be the absolute lowest cost option out there for any build, but we're also certain that our prices are very good relative to the general market, and our build quality and service.
While we definitely don't fit any accurate factory built definition, our somewhat "walled garden" approach probably precludes us from inclusion in the broadest sense of what hand buily might mean - even if each and every one of our wheels is absolutely 100% built by us, by hand. We just won't build or sell what we don't want to ride ourselves, and the maintenance of expertise within that domain demands that we respect some limits. While we actually fulfill that romantic ideal that the people building your wheels are actually very committed bike riders and have your best experience squarely in mind, we think it's more important to you that we're skilled and committed wheel builds who have your best experience squarely in mind. Beyond those, other artificial distinctions count for very little.