Originally Posted by moonhawk
I am still on the fence because I just haven't heard enough different amps to be a credible judge, but if all these things sound the same, why are therer so many different designs?
Because there are a wide varieties of ways to achieve the same goal that are not mutually exclusive and there are certain trade offs to every design, no matter what the price. So the question becomes within the parameters of your unit, where do you choose to make compromises and trade offs.
One of the most common areas where low cost amps make compromises is in their ability to drive low impedance loads. Driving a 2 ohm load well, takes a LOT more current than an 8 ohm load. That gets expensive and difficult very quickly.
Another example is using a shared power design for a multi-channel amp. If you cheap out, this lets you cover up weaknesses in power and current, by looking at the specs only for 1 or two channels. However, if it's well done, it also gives the potential for effective greater power than a mono-block design, since surrounds rarely need as much power as mains.
But there are trade offs even in that. Take a 5 x 100 wpc amp. In most cases the power output for 1 channel is not even close to 500 watts (or 5 times the power for a single channel with all five channels driven). That's because it takes components spec'ed for much higher performance or a different design all together, to get to that x5 output. While increasing that single channel driven to only 150 watts, is doable with the design/specs that get you 5 x 100 wpc.
There's no question and none of us "objectivists" argue that all amps are equally suited to all situations. I heard a noticeable difference going from my Pio Elite AVR to using an Emo XPA-5, but it wasn't "magic", it wasn't a question of being "tinny" or "wider soundstage". It was an amp capable of delivering x3 the power and well suited to driving 4 ohm loads vs an AVR that wasn't even spec'ed for driving a 4 ohm load.
Where I at least, start getting bent out of shape is when people start dragging out unjustifiable and undefinable adjectives, that seemingly only serve to give reviewers a chance to exercise their vocabulary.
You want to tell me that an amp gives you better bass. Fine. More power can do that. You want to complain about how one amp is "harsh" or "tinny", please back it up with something other than "This is what I feel".
It simply isn't that difficult a task these days to design a decent amp. Electronics have gotten a LOT more sophisticated and it just isn't that complicated.