My old system was powered by a Yamaha RX-V7620 receiver (yeah, I know it's supposed to be cheap, but just listen...). I found a Yamaha RX-V2200 receiver on the local Craigslist and bought it. The 2200 is the same vintage as my 620, but is supposed to have significantly more power. To my mind, this should be a good thing.
So I hook up the 2200, and (surprise) the sound quality isn't as good as the lower-powered 620. The bass is woolier, the dynamics aren't as good on the remainder of the spectrum, and the treble isn't as sweet. This, by the way, IS an apples-to-apples comparison, as I went through the entire set-up menu to verify that every option was configured identically AND I waited an equivalent amount of time for everything to warm-up. Since I was listening in straight stereo, there wasn't much to mess up.
So now my question - WHY? One would think that with an identical vintage product from an identical manufacturer using identical settings the sound would be virtually indistinguishable. Alas - not so.
This puts a serious limitation on selecting replacement electronics. If I can't audition the item in my home (almost always the case) and I can't rely on a consistent "sound" within a manufacturer's product line, then how can I predict how the equipment will work unless I buy and try it?
My long-suffering better half won't be up for a long series of buy and sell until I find a synergistic match. My ears, however, will tolerate nothing less than that elusive synergy. I've also found through experience that brand, price, and reviews do not necessarily predict performance in my system either. The little-noticed and dismissively low-priced Yamaha 620 provided every bit as good a sound in my living room as my previous Classe SSP-30 & Bryston 3B combination. Few will believe it, but it is absolutely true.
So my second question is: Is there ANY way to reliably predict how a given component will sound in a system without actual home audition? If not, I believe that my best option is to select the local dealer with the largest selection of differently-branded demo equipment and promise a sale if I can take each and every viable item home for an audition first. If anyone has any better ideas, I'm open to suggestions. Thanks!