i purchased an early front loader, a maytag neptune, way back in 1996, because it was the quietest washer consumer reports magazine had tested that year. the washer & dryer were inside my house, in the kitchen, and the machines that came with the house were so loud i left the house during their operation.
as "the neptune twins" were the first thing one noticed when entering the kitchen side door, the "wow" factor was considerable in '96. i bought them for quietness (and because of my mother's love and admiration for anything with a magtag name on it); never counted on them being a "status symbol"
i have tried many, many different detergents in the last 13 years..powered, gel, liquid, hard pills.
i now buy the cheapest "HE" labeled detergent that i can find. all the "HE" labeled ones seem to work about the same to me.
now let's talk about fabric softener......