Thanks for the report. It would be fun to do that test and have the curtain reveal your mind was convincing you of who knows what.
. I really like reading your impressions from your testing.
I have also found speakers take on a different character when they are pushed hard as well. Sometimes bad and compressed, sometimes boxy, sometimes spacious and weightless. In my setup with LCRs driven with 150wpc outboard amps my little center channel loves to be pushed hard, while my towers start to complain earlier. I think this is also due to cabinet resonances ringing like a bell at certain frequencies when pushed as well.
What I have also found, strangely enough, is that changing the amplfier gain to preout signal balance has a big impact on the perceived focus and clarity on my towers. My center likes more amp with lower pre setting while my towers like more pre with lower amp setting. I can effectively enhance the width of my soundstage and transparency by juicing up the amp, but at the expense of focus and pinpoint imaging. It has to be distortion related.
Since renting high powered amps I got curious and discovered I am able to vary the gain of my amp by opening it up and changing a jumper setting -leaving it completely variable. After a bunch of testing I concluded I was able to somewhat replicate the pro amp sledgehammer power required to approach "dread" but my speakers lose composure once asked to deal with all that power. The solution was to apply a higher preout voltage and turn the amplifier gain down. The end balanced spl at all channels is 75db, and pink noise measures the same on each relative amp setting once level matched. But with content they sure thud harder with more amp gain when applied. They dont seem to like it when asked to.... Lol.
Wait a sec, is this the synergy thing audio blokes get hung up on?
Again, I like reading your adventures, as I am a sidequest audio nutbar too.
. Keep em coming.