Is there any truth to this question?

Will a lower powered amp that can drive your speakers, in your room, listening to the music you like sound better than using a powerful amp to avoid clipping?

Here's the scenario: Use a 50 w YBA amp to drive 86 db efficient Vandersteens in a 10 x 12 room, listening to jazz or

Will a 200 w Krell or such sound better and more effortless.

Some say buy all the power you can afford and others say the bigger amps have more component pairs ie) transistors to match and that can effect sound quality.

Why?... Because everything matters and no two systems will react the same or sound the same. You will have to listen for yourself in your room with your specific components to determine your favorite pairing. Sorry, but that is the way it goes. Absolutes do not exist in audio only in Vodka:-)
Does a bigger amp always sound better? No.
Can a bigger amp sound better? Yes.
Are lower powered amps simpler and easier to make sound good? Yes.
Do you sometimes need high power? Yes.
The "BEST" power amp in any given situation is determined by a series of variables, room size, preferred volume, individual taste etc. The best rule I have found is don't get more power than you actually need but make sure you have enough; see how simple it all is? LOL
Well yeah bigger amps do have some issues at low power if they are cheap.
If you are using Pass or the big Bryston 28B-SST2 they are not gonna have that issue. (but they also cost $20 grand...)
For cheap amps, yeah, use one sized to fit your needs. Having a better quality low powered amp is gonna sound better at low volumes than a same priced but much more powerful amp. (in general yeah thier might be an exception. but dollar for dollar, a low powered amp is gonna have better parts at the ame price point)

Also, it USED TO Be an issue with any high powered amp, but not anymore. Now modern high powered amps generally have overcome the issues high powered amps used to have.
But those still cost a LOT of money..
Another question to which I am looking forward to answers. Two in one day. Not bad.
When you say issues...what are they?
If you`ve read previous threads covering this topic you know there`re multiple opinions and factions just like,SS vs tubes,digital vs analog silver vs copper etc.I believe(2 cents worth) that high quality built + simplicity is usually the route to take. A simple- minimalist signal path coupled with top level parts and strong power supply is much more important than merely counting watts. So much depends on the speaker load and efficiency(some speakers will sing with 5 watts, others will struggle with 300 watts) and preferred listening levels. In your example with the stated parameters, IMO the good quality but lower power amp(fewer parts and complexity) would be the path to better sound.I believe purer and more natural sound will be more likely. The less interaction on signal flow the better.
Before SMPS (switching mode power supplies) an amplifier's weight said more than it's wattage rating. Doesn't mean that I would choose a 70 lb, 200W amp to power bookshelf speakers.
I have concluded that lower power versions of the same circuit sound better than those iterations with higher power if the power is sufficient to play at a volume you are satisfied with in the room you are using. If we know the watts, the speaker sensitivity, the impedance profile of the speaker, the room size, and the average dbs you listen to in your listening position we can probably guess if the amp is powerful enough - though that does not replace actually listing to it in your room, but a guideline at least. I know that for my speakers, 30-40 tube watts are more than sufficient under almost any circumstances in my 18x12 room - more power would require more amp complexity, and that just never makes sense to me when less power does the job. I've had tube amps from 27 watts to 162 watts, and for my listening it seems power was simply not relevant above 27 watts - and lucky since that lets me listing to EL84 tubes.
listing = listening:)
Used to be that high powered solis state amps had problems playing at low volumes as the distortion was much higher (at low output levels) than in a small solid state amp. If you had a big old solid state amp, you wanted to play it loud to be happy.
Just a design problem which big, expensive modern solid state amps have totally overcome.
Hi all ! This is my experience....two amplifiers from the same company , one a 50wpc amp ...and the other a 250 wpc amp . The smaller amp (operating below clipping) always sounds better than the 250wpc amp . Why ? The larger amp is more complex with more output devices which muddies up the sound . Same goes with tube amps ...same company , same amp family is 30wpc , other one is 140 wpc ...unless clipping the 30 wpc sounds better . Simpler with less BS in the signal path is almost always better .
Pass gets mentioned a lot in discussions like this.

2 gain stages simple enough for 'ya? I've read thru his DIY stuff and many amps are simple 'scale ups' of a basic design. More output devices in parallel with minimal matching. Increased PS size / capacity / output heatsinking.

The Pass amps, at least the 'a' amps, avoid certain distortions (crossover) by using a different, highbias design than a/b. His 30x2 'a' amp has something like 20 output device pairs per channel.

I think more important, perhaps, or at least on the table, is degree and type (global or stage-2-stage) levels of feedback. Amps with multiple gain stages can suffer here.

Clipping distortion is awful and enough power should be provided to avoid it.

Personally, I have one of the large 'd' amps of 250x2@8 which doubles up into my panels. I doubt I've ever got the amp past half that on peaks....and 1/10th that in rms.
Pubul..the best I've ever heard Vandersteen 2 speakers was with a Music Reference RM 10. If I were looking at tubes that little EL 84 amp can do magical things. I guess you're all right, you have to try's one time that following the rules doesn't always give you the best result.
IN your case with 86db efficient speakers my guess is the 200 w Krell will sound better and more "effortless".
Digepix, you are not the first person to tell me that the best they ever heard the Vandersteens was being driven by the tiny RM10 - I kid you not. In fact, I think Roger designed the amp when he owned a pair of the 2Ces, it seems he thought 35 watts was enough power!
Regardless of the speaker's sensitivity I have found not driving your amp too hard and having more power and headroom available is a very good thing. In my current rig a highly touted 70 watt tube amp was displaced by a Hybrid amp with 4 times the power. The more powerful amp was not taxed as much, and I think since it was not pushed, just sang with more ease and pleasure.

Extra watts and headroom can be a very good thing especially with large orchestral music and the like. Same is true for solo piano turned up to louder volumes.
Once you have enough power to get to the volume you need, it is more Power supply and current capability, not watts per channel.
You can also over-power your speakers too. I wouldn't exceed the power ratings for your speakers however it is also true if they are under-powered you can easily drive the amp into clipping especially at higher volumes and this will in turn destroy your speakers. Many people that own Vandersteen speakers like the way the McCormack amps sound with them.
FWIW, there is an old audiophile axiom: that one should start with at least 2 X the minimum power recommendation of the speaker manufacturer. Though a more accurate deduction can be made with more tangible information such as room size, etc.. Surprisingly enough, I've found this seemingly crude rule of thumb to be consistently useful.
Sounds like a reasonable start!
Last time I visited with Roger he was using the RM-10 to power his 74 dB ESL loudspeakers. We were listening at a very moderate level in his room and there were no hiccups coming from that amp that I could hear. Sometimes you can be surprised by amp/speaker combinations. I myself would think 100 watts minimum in this case, but the RM-10 easily had enough power, perhaps not to rattle the walls, but definitely comfortable listening.

I have never seen one question with so many variables. If everybody chooses the variables that makes their answer correct, then nobody is wrong.
The general consensus from those who`ve heard or own the YBA amplifiers is they are very natural. Their strenghts are realistic tone,timbre with an organic and very 3 dimensional sound. The emphasis is on music rather than hifi pyrotechnics.They are considered exceptionally constructed with excellent transformers and parts.It seems a product built for music lovers above all else.

Gon member Defstathiou owned krell at one time but finds his YBA components much better. He found the Krell sound 'robotic and mechanical' lacking the fluidity and flow of the YBA gear, not as natural. Like you he listens to a lot of jazz but says it goes well with any type of music.With your room size and music preferences The YBA would seem more to your liking.
Best of Luck,
The other thing I forgot to mention is that I have to sit near field < 6 ft due to being wheelchair bound and with the layout of my apartment. I don't listen too loud and with the music I listen to it's rare I push it anywhere near the clipping point.
Curses, Foiled again. I thought for sure there would be just one answer. Is there anything on which all members agree?
IMO, the only indisputable comments so far are Pubul57's:

****I have concluded that lower power versions of the same circuit sound better than those iterations with higher power if the power is sufficient to play at a volume you are satisfied with in the room you are using.****

and Tom6897's:

****Absolutes do not exist in audio only in Vodka:-)****

Digepix, to address your question specifically: If the YBA's 50 watts is
sufficient to drive your speakers EFFORTLESSLY, then wether the Krell sounds better or not with those speakers doesn't necessarily have anything to do with it's higher power rating. It may simply sound better because it's a better circuit, or a better circuit for your speakers. Or, it may sound worse; but not necessarily because of it's higher power. Yes, it's true that there is no point in buying more power than needed, but the problem is that what is "needed" is often underestimated.
"but the problem is that what is needed is often underestimated" and often over estimated also.People usally need 'better' quality and not always more watts.
This question frequently relates to what is often known as the 'first watt'. Many amplifiers have a minimum amount of distortion that occurs at more than zero watts- depending on the amp, it might be a couple of watts and then below that distortion increases.

The most common offenders are push pull transformer coupled tube amps that combine single-ended and push pull circuits, and most transistor amps.

There are certain exceptions- Nelson Pass has his First Watt lineup wherein the distortion continues to zero as power is decreased. SETs and certain OTLs share this property. As an example this is how SETs have attained their reputation for great 'inner detail'.

However the larger you make an SET the less musical it becomes due to loss of bandwidth. This is why the 45-based amps have ruled the roost in the SET world in the last few years. Of course, you need a speaker efficient enough to show that off.

So that leaves OTLs and unique transistor designs that can be scaled up without increasing distortion at low power. IME this is borne out in practice, and certainly flies in the face of traditional wisdom (that smaller amps sound better).

Of course, if you are only listening at higher power levels this may not be a concern...YMMV
86 db speakers are not very efficient. you may need more power to drive them vs more efficient speakers. So, to me, this conversation depends on the interaction between your amp/speaker cables and the speakers. That YBA amp may be absolutely wonderful matched with your cables and speakers. on the other hand, I don't know what db efficient speakers the amp manufacturer recommend that you pair with the amp. 86 db is on the ragged edge of making amps work too hard and therefore you may need proper power handling capability (i.e. huge power supply capacity) in order to drive less efficient speakers). All that said, turn it on, listen. Does it sound like the amp is working too hard? sometimes biamping with the same amp will fix this. other times, well, either more efficient speakers or better more powerful amp is required. If you are really concerned about this for your own system and not just an intellectual conversation, then go "borrow" a few more powerful, nice, clean amps within your price range, in-home test them with your favorite music at the listening level you are used to, and tell for yourself. A good stereo store will let you take home and audition. If they won't (even after taking your credit card information), then they aren't worth my time. I won't buy blind. Or, find a good friend and borrow their amps for a quick listen. or have a wine, dinner party with friends and have them bring their amps over for a in-home listening session. There are several fun ways to do this without buying first. But, 86 db speakers are not efficient. Far from it and they are difficult to drive. However, a class A Pass, Threshold, Mark Levinson (20.6, 23.5, etc.)amp at 50 wpc or more would not have a problem at all driving these speakers. I like the sound of YBA equipment (if you can find it), but I don't know about their load driving capabilities.

IMO excellent comments have been made in many of the posts above, but with respect to the general question (as opposed to your specific situation) I would particularly emphasize these:
02-13-12: Frogman
If the YBA's 50 watts is sufficient to drive your speakers EFFORTLESSLY, then whether the Krell sounds better or not with those speakers doesn't necessarily have anything to do with it's higher power rating. It may simply sound better because it's a better circuit, or a better circuit for your speakers. Or, it may sound worse; but not necessarily because of it's higher power.

02-12-12: Grannyring
Extra watts and headroom can be a very good thing especially with large orchestral music and the like. Same is true for solo piano turned up to louder volumes.
An important variable is the kind of music that is listened to, and in particular its dynamic range (the DIFFERENCE in volume between the loudest notes and the softest notes). Wide dynamic range material, such as well recorded, minimally compressed classical symphonic music, can require vastly more power to handle brief dynamic peaks than small scale vocal, chamber, or jazz recordings, or dynamically compressed rock recordings. And even if a lower powered amp has sufficient power to avoid clipping on the peaks of wide dynamic range material, it may show evidence of strain on that kind of material that would not be brought out by material having narrower dynamic range.

On the other hand, if everything else is equal, more watts = more $, so investment of a given number of amplifier $ may result in higher amplifier quality if applied to a lower wattage design. But of course everything else is rarely equal.

In your particular case, I suspect you would do better with the YBA amplifier, based on your music preferences, your listening room size, and the comments about the specific amplifiers by Charles1dad (whose opinions I always have great respect for).

-- Al
I was surprised at all the viewpoints this thread has generated. From a fact based scenario I'm am sitting close 1.5m from speaker, not ideal. I listen for the most part at 85-90 db maximum so at best I'm using 4 watts with my Vandersteens, correct? The 50W should give me 101 db to play with, way louder than I've ever listened to music at home. Could I reach the clipping point playing small group jazz? I like the YBA sound but can't afford there better amps besides a YBA 1 is only 85 W with more current. I guess I'll never know so I guess the best thing is to forget the audiophile rules and just enjoy the music.
Seems like you have a pretty darn good setup as is! As you say, enjoy the music.
I have never heard a high powered amp of any sort that was capable of delivering great dynamic contrast at low volumes, detail without an artificial edge, and a truly enveloping soundstage like a very low powered SET amp (10, 45, 2a3 and 300b). But, these kinds of amps have quite limited applications. Where a little more power is needed (anything well over 10 watts) I would look next to an OTL. These amps can deliver most of what a SET can deliver, and in a very critical area (dynamics, liveliness) they are pretty much unmatched. There are some matching issues as well with OTLs, so I cannot say whether any particular one would work well with your Vandersteens. I would certainly give something like the 30 watt Atmasphere a trial.

This is a rough generalization, but, for me, the least appealing kind of amp is a high-powered tube amp with oodles of pentode or tetrode tubes in pushpull operation. A lot of these sound hard and artificially edgy.

I find that many of the better, high powered solid state amps no longer sound particularly grainy, and while none have quite the natural attack (leading edge of the note) of a SET, they are not nearly as edgy as they once were. What I find is that they sound somehow dull, flat and uninvolving unless the volume is cranked up a bit. I've heard some systems (not my own) with certain high-powered solid state amps that sounded reasonably good, but these amps were extremely expensive (Soulution, MBL, and D'Agostino).

I have heard, and liked, some lower powered solid state amps. I think the lower powered Ayre amps sound reasonably good. I particularly liked the First Watt J2 that I had in my system for a week (borrowed from a friend). This 25 watt amp was quite natural sounding once it warmed up. I would not trade in my SET amp for the J2, but, then again, the J2 costs less than one tenth of my SET amp. I would bet that its 25 watts would be enough for the Vandersteens at anything but extremely high volume.

If you want to test whether an amp can deliver enough juice for demanding situations, my suggestion is to find large scale choral works. For some reason, systems will distort (voices become muddled and fuzzy) at what subjectively does not seem to be that extreme a volume level with such works (look for something like Rachmaninov's "Vespers").
Power is most likely not an issue with your nearfield listening position.

Devils in the details.....
Thank you, I`m quite flattered.I most certainly feel the same about your many educational high level contributions to this site.
Best Regards,
Hi. i once had a pass x350 ( very powerful ) which i replaced with a newer much lowered pass amp. dealers say powerful amps present the music more effortlessly. my expereience is that this is not the case at all.
Back in the day 50 watts was powerful and 86 db/1 w/1 m speakers were fairly efficient. What changed that you need 92 db speakers and 200 watts to be happy. I do have more powerful amps a Krell KSA 100 and a Parasound A21 and I'm not impressed, besides I live in an apartment building in New York and I have to sit too close to the speakers. I just keep hearing you don't have enough power to drive your speakers from my friends. When I put the other amps in the system it seems to make my friends happier then me. That's why I posted this to see what you guys thought.
I may have missed it in this post, but what type of preamp are you using?
I have been beating this to death on a couple different other threads but a recent preamp purchase for me changed the character of my system 100%. I guess my point being that before the pre.. I thought I had a lack of power because I was turning it up so loud to hear detail. I couldnt have been further from truth.
Mcpherson I'm using a YBA preamp and amp. If anything it has too much gain. I can't turn it past 11 o'clock on the volume where I would prefer around 2 o'clock for the loudest setting. My D/A converter is 1.0V output so that helps compared to the standard 2V output of most cd players. My turntable I need to turn up a bit louder but no where past 11.
Yes, but remember, back in the day, 86 db was pretty darn good speakers for standard air moving drivers. Not withstanding horns which are incredibly efficient and only require very low power to drive you out of the room. Back in the day, amps clipped routinely and most (not all) amp manufacturers openly lied about their specs. I'm not saying that you need rediculous power to drive speakers. What I am saying is that you have to make sure you match the amp/cables to the speaker you intend to use. 86 db is absolutely not efficient and based on a speaker's db/watt rating, you need more power capability out of a decent amp to drive an 86 db speaker well. Also, just to clear up something I read earlier, amps are rated by what their sensitivity (input voltage for the input signal) is to get rated output power. So, look at most amps, their sensitivities are pretty close to the same. Sort of a industrial standard. So the power rating of the amp has really nothing to do with volume. It is the signal coming into the amp and the amp's sensitivity. for example, a certain Mark Levinson amp has an input sensitivity of 1 volt for 250 watts output into 8 ohm load. Same for other amps for lower watt output. 1 volt input. But, my point here is say you have a 100 wpc class A solid state amp with a 1 volt input sensitivity. If this is a true class A amp (and I mean class A output bias at rated output), and it doubles the rated output for halfing the load. 100 watts for 8 ohms, 200 watts for 4 ohms, etc. There is no way this amp won't be able to drive your 86 db speakers well. Lesser efficient speakers require more powerful amps (better power supply capacity) to drive them. Engineering 101. Speakers with strange loads like electrostatics require solid, well designed amps that can handle the lower speaker impedances. ie. more power handling capacity. For more efficient speakers (horns, etc.) you don't need nearly as much power for the rated db output at 1 watt. So, when you buy speakers, make sure you buy an amp that absolutely is able to drive the speaker well (IN YOUR ROOM). Also, don't forget that changing amps also means that the integration of that amp to your system changes the system dynamics. in other words, that amp may not work well with your cables and your pre-amp. So, it may not be the new amp that is the problem. I evaluate one item at a time. If it is an amp. I don't change anything else. either I like it or I don't. I don't play with cables, etc.

For your situation, listening nearfield and not at high volume, amp power is not likely the key to good sound.

If you take Minor1's advice and audition different amps to see what sounds best in your rig, don't count out some of the better Class D amps if you do look at amps with more power. Mine do quite well listening near field at lower volumes. But again, power alone is not likely the solution to your needs. Try some different amps and see what works best.
Have you thought about trying a buffered preamp to eliminate gain in the preamp stage and give you more control over the volume range? Buffers from Pass, Burson, Dodd, or Horn Shoppe could work nicely with your YBA amp and they are very reasonably priced.
The Vandersteens are an easy load for most amps (including OTLs); IMO going with a more powerful amplifier is likely not the best move- it will be more likely that the 'first watt' issues will be exacerbated.

If you play the system as loud as you can, does the amp clip? Does it get harsh? might be the better question. If no I would be wondering if its worth worrying about.

This is not to say that you can't make improvements, but maybe that a bigger amp may be a step backwards in your situation.
quad 306 vs quad 606(909)
pass labs aleph 3 vs aleph 5
pass labs x250 vs x600
bryston 4bst vs 7bst

and always smaller sounded better !
(speakers: quad 63,988,2805,57; mg1.6,mg12,mg 3.6, gradient Revolutions}
When I posted above about my opinion and Defstathiou`s experience I did`nt know you had the larger Krell amp already.I guess I`ve been preaching to the choir.
Your conclusion is the same as his.Forget your well meaning friends and just trust what'you' hear. YBA must be very good equitment(I`ve never heard them).
Can I get it to clip?, sure but I would be in the other room to get away from the noise. During normal listening session from the listening position, no not that I can hear. I've never gotten the warning lights in the Vandersteens to illuminate. If I lived in a house and could sit 7-8 feet back I probably would have 100 watts as my starting point.
This may be a silly ? but when the term "clipping" is used..Is it referring to the amp shutting down momentarily or the speakers making a clipping sound?
Here's another one: Harbeth speakers, less sensitive than my Vandersteens and are an easy load for amps to drive my YBA amp is a great match for them.

My Vandersteens are more efficient, easy load to drive but it's open to debate if 50 watts is enough.same room, near field listening, same average volume and type of music.

I'm confused
02-13-12: Digepix
Here's another one: Harbeth speakers, less sensitive than my Vandersteens and are an easy load for amps to drive my YBA amp is a great match for them ...
If the Harbeth's were similar in their frequency response and impedance characteristics to the M40.1, for which John Atkinson's measurements are shown here, there are a couple of factors which probably contributed to that.

First, their near-field frequency response has a 7 db peak at 70 Hz, relative to the response at 1 kHz, and a smaller but significant elevation throughout the mid-bass region. Those are the kinds of frequencies where most music has its greatest energy levels. A 7 db rise results in the same sound level at the particular frequency that would occur if there were no rise but amplifier power is multiplied five times.

Also, as JA notes, "the M40.1's plot of impedance magnitude and phase angle suggests that the Harbeth is easy to drive in terms of its demand for current."

I know of a fellow 'Gon member who very successfully drove an M40.1 with a 32 watt per channel VAC Renaissance 30/30.

-- Al