OK. I'm going to jump in here and make a fool of myself
(feel free--all you shoegeeks--to rip into what follows). All of this is from what I have learned from many posts on various forums, along with, in most cases, my own experiences. I'm considering dress shoes in what follows.
First, Loake (even the 1880s) are barely on a par with A-E. From what I've seen, I'd rate them below. Next, in my own personal experience of owning both, Alden are of no better quality than A-E; they're equivalent in both concept and quality of leather and construction. A step up, we find C&J Benchgrades and Grenson Footmasters (forget about the Feathermasters; they're low quality and much like Loakes in my opinion). You can get C&J Benchgrades online from PLal for about $325 with inexpensive shipping. Grenson Footmasters may be as good, but they're no better. Alfred Sargent--in their top couple of lines--are equivalent in quality to C&J Benchgrades and cost about the same from Pediwear. Trickers--in their top line--are at about the same level (Pediwear again). (Church's and Cheaney I have no experience with.) At about this same quality level and at about the same price, there are good Italian shoes to consider: Martegani (which I have), Gravati, and Borgioli--all available from Franco's--run around $350-$400. These are good shoes--at about the C&J Benchgrade level in quality in my experience--and are superior, I believe, to A-E. Moreschi and Magnanni also make good shoes in about this same price bracket. You could also probably get the lower-line Santonis for about that, although I can't comment on their quality.
Once you cross the $400 line, your best value, in my opinion, is the C&J Handgrades--available from PLal for about $410 plus shipping. Pediwear sell them too, and the price must be fairly close. For that price, these are the best shoes available in my opinion. The Grenson Masterpiece--of equivalent quality--is, unfortunately, no more as its own entity, being available only through Paul Stuart now (as Stuart's Choice), but for $625 except when on sale. So I wouldn't count on Masterpieces in the future. (It's possible some other retailer of whom I'm unaware has them too.) Oh, there's the Ferragamo Tramezzas too--about the same quality as the C&J Handgrades, in my opinion--but costing more at retail (and not available economically online, as far as I know) at around $500+ (although often on eBay for around $340). They're very nice shoes. (Can't comment on the Fenestriers mentioned by Andrew, except to say that Ian Daniels has them at his online ShoptheFinest.com.)
Once you hit the $500 boundary, other possibilities open up, with better-quality Santonis, Sutor Mantellassis, Carmina (Sky Valet), Weston (Sky Valet again), and, if you time it right, RL Purple Label (EG) shoes on sale for under $600. One very good buy, in my opinion, is the Sutor Mantellassis from Lance Hughes at Virtual Clothes Horse, which can be had for $300 to $400 for some extremely nice shoes (although sizes are, understandably, limited). So there's lots in the $300 - $500 range to consider.Edit:
Within a price range, the choice may come down to the British vs. Italian esthetic. At about the same price, my C&J Benchgrades look quite different from my Marteganis. The good British shoes convey solidity along with a certain degree of elegance; the Italian models are racier (sometimes too much so), usually sleeker, and generally lighter. I have a place in my shoe rack for both forms. Many of the Italian shoes in the price ranges noted above are not welted (as virtually all the British shoes are, as too are A-E and Alden), but constructed by the Blake/Rapid process. Although welting is often portrayed as evidence of superior quality, I'm convinced (largely by Ron Rider and my own experiences) that Blake/Rapid-constructed shoes are every bit as good and as durable as welted, and as easily re-soled. Some would say that Blake-constructed shoes are definitely inferior to the methods noted above, but this isn't always the case either. I have a pair of Brioni Blake-stitched shoes that are as well-made as anything in my possession (including EG and JLobb). Although not as sturdy as a welted shoe, they are a pure delight on the feet, weighing just 10 oz. each (vs. about 18 oz. for my C&J Benchgrades and A-Es), and if I were worried about sole life (which I'm not because I wear them infrequently), I could have them Topy'd. Another factor is choice of leathers and finishes. I must admit that, for me, one of the attractions of Martegani was their heavily-antiqued Radica calf. So there are a lot of factors that guide our choices, but, in the end, I think, any of the shoes mentioned above in the $300 - $500 price range will be of at least good quality, and your choice in the end will come down to these other factors.