Great thread! I've been a casual visual observer on and off for at least four decades now.
After a period of not owning any telescopes for a few years (I'd sold my Vixen made Celestron 80mm back around 1990) I decided to get a small refractor again. I'd moved to rural Idaho and had really dark skies but only so-so seeing (Magic Valley). I became intrigued with the TeleVue Pronto which was a current model from TV and found a used one with a TelePod on AM for $800-900. Over time, I added some TV and Pentax ep's.
Joining the local astro club, I went to a few local star parties and drooled over the big stuff people had. Eventually, I bought a C8 and was pleased with how well it showed globs but found it a PITA to use (I mounted it on a Vixen GP). Then, I came across a nice 4" f/5 Genesis and bought it too. I decided I preferred the design of TV's mounts more than EQ mounts so picked up a Gibraltar. When a nice NP101 came along, I bought it and sold the Genesis.
I figured I was in telescope heaven - a C8 for the fuzzy stuff, the NP for the stars, and the Pronto for travel. Decided I wanted a Questar, just because and got one of those too.
Then, one day at a star party at Craters of the Moon, I set up next to a guy who had a beautiful 18" DOB (Starmaster?) and I had my little Pronto. We both trained our scopes on M81 and M82. Now, without a doubt, his views were better and significantly brighter. But you know what? I could see them just fine in my 70mm Pronto. We both were pretty amazed how good they were in our side by side comparison. Next time I saw him, he'd bought a TV-85.
Back home, I found myself rarely using the C8 and the NP101. The Questar and I never really bonded even though it was a beautiful piece of equipment. I ended up selling all three of them and have kept only the Pronto. I can take it out of my studio, set it on the adjoining patio and be observing in a couple minutes. As I'm now pushing 63 and have seen all the wonders repeatedly, my mind's eye takes care of the rest when I look at the Messier objects and it's terrific for casual sweeps of the Milky Way.
Sure, the NP101 showed fainter stars; you'd see that with the Double Cluster but it's a much bigger scope and the Pronto was so much quicker to set up on the TelePod.
At this point, I'd be thrilled if I could find a nice used TV-76 or, more likely, the TMB 90 that will be back around by the end of the year.
Point is, for me, while the SCT I owned showed nice resolution in globs, the nuisance factor wasn't worth it. The NP101 was a tougher decision to sell but the scope I used the most over these past 10+ years has been the small refractor for its quick and easy set-up. That's why a small refractor over a larger one or even larger SCT for me.
I'll finish by saying that if I had an observatory where I could have a scope or two permanently mounted, a 14" SCT would likely be my scope of choice along with a 5-6" APO.