I like my Wusthof knives. I'm sure there are better, but they work nicely. The key is what you cut on. i.e. Plastic vs. Glass vs. Wood. Some surfaces will demolish the cutting edge rapidly, while wood, for example, leaves it sharp the longest.
Many times you can find individual blades on sale at stores where your average stereotypical housewife shops. Often at a significant discount.
This doesn't work on a registry. I am actually going to contact a relative that's into cooking a lot (she gave us a really nice pan set and an extremely nice wok. The wok is so good, in fact, I feel completely unworthy using it) and I might just leave the cutlery off of the registry and have her bargain hunt for us and just nab stuff when she finds it. She found our cookware for $150 and it is ridiculously nice.
I really don't think you need a whole set. I usually only need a 4-6" paring knife, a Chef's knife or two, and a fillet knife.
I agree, which is why I've been taking a second look at the whole set. I found a $30 set of steak knives by Henckels international (the china/taiwan brand of Henckels) that I won't feel bad about putting in the dishwasher, and I'm stuck on finding a good chef's knife, paring knife, santoku, and a serrated bagel/tomato knife at a price that guests wouldn't say "WTF" when they see.