Unfortunately, I can't comment on other dedicated amps. My own experience has only been with receivers and then this Axiom amp. However, there was a noticeable difference going from my 90w/channel Onkyo receiver to the A1400-8. I would always get a lot of harshness in the sound at moderate to loud listening levels with certain material. I'm sure my receiver's amp was going into clipping. With the A1400-8, I don't hear that harshness. The difference, while remarkable on certain material, also comes at a huge price gap. In my case, I knew I was planning on having a much bigger home theater room in the future, so I bit the bullet and preordered it when there was a discount. I've been very happy with its performance, but again, I don't have a very meaningful point of reference, given my limited experience.
I'm sure there was. I should clarify a bit. I do know what an amp is, and I do have one (I have a 4 channel bridged to two channel HK PA2000 which provides 100 watts each to my Energy RC-70's). However, I want to go full out - a 7 channel amp. The PA2000 is taller than the A1400, and it is far more powerful.
My thing now is what is unique about an amp. Why does one amp 'sound' better than another. Sound is #1 on my priority list, with power second. Though I do know that if not enough power, then sound will not be there. I find my current PA 2000 runs out of steam at higher volume levels, things start getting a bit harsh (like what you described with you Onkyo). I must elaborate though - the volumes it starts to 'clip' are volumes I do not listen to normally as it is very loud. However, even at that volume, I expect and want more (when my son is a teenager, I don't want him wrecking my speakers..... or my amps :D).
I've got a year or so yet anyway before I buy.....unless there is a crazy sale or something