I only have one pair of AE shoes, and it's hard to tell because they're shark skin! But from what I've seen, I'd say in simple construction terms, there's not much to choose between them.
Loake and Barker's Indian-made ranges are half the price of AE, but with that comes an occasional small finishing issue. However, I'd say the overall value is probably better. Especially when you go up to that $250-ish area, Barker's leather is pretty nice (always get the "calf", not the "polished" option - it's better quality for the same price, don't be fooled by the shine!), and I've had a couple of pairs of Loakes for 10-15 years that still look good.
To a point, you get what you pay for. But the returns diminish once you get past a certain basic level, which this is. The other thing I'd say about these makers over AE is that the lasts are better shapes. AE's lasts always seem a bit flat to me - low in the instep and a bit shapeless over the toe. But everyone's different. I'd say take a chance on a cheap pair ($150-ish) of Indian-made Loake or Barker shoes. Ask Pediwear some questions about sizing, and the worst you lose is a postage charge if they're not right. But if they are, the same last shapes on the cheaper lines are used on the more expensive ones, and you'll have a great starting point for your future orders.
Here's a pair of Loakes I got for around that price - some of my cheapest shoes, but also among my favourites - in action today! (I did change the laces - they are supplied with something more subtle!).
Now give me my three bucks for cancer research. Please?