Originally Posted by MichaelJHuman
I understand the thinking behind this. And it's not wrong.
But, an all channels driven test is not pointless IMO. Here's my thinking. If you take some $200 Sony AVR, it might be rated at 100 watts / channel. Probably at 1kz, and 1% THD.
You might look at a better receiver, which has 110 watts / channel, and conclude they have similar performance. Maybe it's rated at a better THD, but still, you may think, well, why not get the Sony, seems ok.
Then you put both models on the test bench, and subject them to an all channels driven test. The Sony drops to 25 watts / channel or worse. The other receiver drops to 50 watts. I think you just learned something. At least I did.
Not picking on Sony, this sort of thing is true when testing various budget receivers vs better mid range models...
In some ways, price is a fair indication with the mass market brands. It would seem to be a tough market, and they are not going to be able to juggle prices much until the price tag gets above $1000. So a $600 receiver will almost certainly have better performance than a $300 receiver. Probably not twice though, but the feature upgrade on the midrange model may be compelling as well.
No news there - there are certainly quality differences in amps and how they handle load. That said, the testing process and associating results with amp requirements itself is, IMO, fatally flawed, as it is based on a metric that doesn't represent real world operations. There simply isn't a scenario where actual content will drive all channels, long term, at maximum output. Now if the manufacturers would give us a short duration version of that test, we would really have a more valuable set of data.
Add to that the reality that very few users will ever ask the amps to put out more than a few watts, and I just don't consider power to be a compelling differentiator in AVR's. As you state, the feature set, particularly EQ options, is, to me, the area to focus on when selecting an AVR.
As mentioned before, if you have difficult speakers to drive, listen @ reference, or have an exceptionally large space, then power does become a factor, but for most, not so much. I certainly wouldn't give up a preferred EQ solution to get a few more real world wpc.
I agree with you though in the case where a very competent amp section is compared to a very low end model, but that wasn't, IMHO, what the OP was comparing.
Anyhoo, it's an interesting discussion and everyone can decide where they want to spend. Sometimes, it's just nice to know you have more power, whether you really need it or not. For example, I have a 200 wpc channel amp hanging off a Denon 4311 driving 91db sensitive speakers in a mid size room. Can I justify it intellectually? Not a chance, but it's fun to try new gear and while it's probably more placebo than real, I think at reference, my system sounds better. At levels below reference, I know there is no impact.