Very true, but are we asking "which amp is 'better'" or are we asking "which amp better reproduces music X"? They are very different questions.The automotive analogies are stretched, but what you are proposing is that we race, say, a Ferrari Italia 458 and a Porsche 911S, but limit the top speed to 150 mph. Which one is the faster car?
Even then: our question is more narrow than that. In a car we might discuss fuel efficiency, as in an amp we might discuss efficiency. A car might have comfort where an amp has attractiveness. Both have interfaces. Where a car has acceleration and top speed, an amp has THD and max power.
But the question is about the ability to deliver music... so which one can better transport a briefcase down the highway at 70MPH? A Ferrari Italia 458 or a Porshe 911S?
They are the same when it comes to how long it takes the package to arrive.
It may happen every day... and there may be people that "normally" drive amps into overload.I contend that overload performance is what separates the good power amps from the bad, and most people have no idea what levels they are listening to. Witness the repeated, controlled tests, where every amp is kept in its linear range, that is to say derate the Porshe by 3 dB, from its top speed of 209 MPH to 150 MPH, and we find out that every amp sounds the same, i.e. the Ferrari can do 150 MPH too. These are not real world conditions. Power amps get driven into overload every day in normal use. The way they respond to this colors the sound, and that's what people are hearing.
I don't. No one I'm familiar with from audio circles does in "normal use". The audio shops I've been to do not (at least not on their SS units). I've got at home and used at shops amps with level meters, and amps with clipping indicators.
*All* amps color sound at overload. So which option is better? Getting an amp that colors it less, or getting one you don't overload?!?