John always makes it a point to let those who are looking into power amps know that there is zero scientific data to prove that there should be any sort of difference in SQ between amp A and amp B no matter if amp A costs $50 dollars and amp B costs $10,000 dollars. And I'm glad he does make sure to issue that disclaimer everytime a newbie comes on here asking about amps and where to get the best one and so on and so forth because in a debate of scientific facts, he's absolutely right. And it would be wrong of those of us who do own amps, or are pro-amp people to recommend amps without letting them know that in essence they might just be wasting their money in purchasing such equipment.
However, no matter what the scientific data tells us, a large majority of people who have bought amps will tell you they prefer the sound over certain other amps. I liken this to religion. There is absolutely zero scientific data to prove that there is any sort of God or omnipotent spirit running around in the heavens listening to our prayers. However, walk into any church in the country and you will find someone who will tell you that before they believed in God they were empty souls with a void in their lives that they could not fill... and that the day they let Jesus/Allah/Buda or whom ever else they believe in, into their lives, they were forever changed. They will tell you of that void being filled, and a feeling of complete Zen coming over them once they found religion. How can this be without any scientific data to support it? That question has been asked since religion itself was born. Non-believers have all sorts of theories ranging from the power of the mind giving that feeling to individuals who 'think' its Jesus entering their bodies, all the way down to writing those scenario's off to slight mental retardation. Either way you slice it, there will always be two camps, those who believe, and those who don't.
Same thing goes for people who prefer external amplification to the amplification that is included in a reciever. You will never convince every pro amp owner that an all-in-one reciever can give you the exact same performance as their mono-blocks give them no matter how many blind listening tests you throw at them, or even INCLUDE them in. Their belief in their external power amp is unfailing. Ditto for the other camp. No matter how many amp's you bring over to demo against their reciever to prove there is a difference, they won't hear any improvement. Their belief in solid state amps being equal is also unfailing.
So then since nobody will ever 'win' the argument concerning SQ, the real question becomes, is it a waste of money to buy separate amps? Now that there are several reputable amplifier companies selling well made amps at very affordable prices, I feel the playing field has been leveled considerably. You no longer have to spend $5000 dollars to get a decent pre-pro and reliable amplifiers. These days you can do so for around the same amount of money you might spend on a decent high-power reciever. That is if we're talking apples to apples, as in getting separate amps that only push 70 - 120 watts per channel like the more popular recievers push.
IMO one of the major differences that separates the two philosophic camps is how conservative you are. While it may be undisputable that solid state amps play watt per watt equally, it is also indisputable that separates bring more flexibility to HT. If for instance you want to feed your M80's their rated power supply of 400 watts per speaker, you won't be able to find a reciever on the market that can accomplish this task. Therefore the more liberal you are, the more likely it is that you are a separates kind of guy.
"You don't need more than 1 or 2 watts to play at loud volume levels"... sure that's true, but what does that have to do with anything? The case can also be made that nobody needs more that one pair of pants and one shirt in their wardrobe, but who would pay any attention to that fact? People generally don't care about what they 'need', 'wants' play a much bigger role in the average consumers priority scale. The average US home is much bigger than anyone 'needs', the average car has more HP than anyone 'needs', and how many people actually stick to 2000 calories a day?
I don't push my M80's with 350 watts because they 'need' that much power, I just like it. But I would never rule out the fact that I feed my speakers goobs and goobs of power because I'm slightly mentally retarded either!