Low distortion CAN provide a big, realistic, all-encompassing sound, and this includes invisible speakers and excellent to outstanding sound from all recordings. This is the you-are-there perspective, 30 feet from a stage that is about 60 feet wide and 25 feet deep, in an auditorium that sits about 1200 and has 40 foot ceilings. You can hear an occasional cough to your side, and applause comes from around you. This is a very impressive and overwhelming sound that makes your jaw drop, the hair stand-up on your neck, and leaves one scratching their head. Amazing, realistic, impressive are the adjectives used here.
However, low distortion, does not translate into tonality. Tonality needs a separate approach, and as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes requires adding back some desirable distortions, if that is what you wish to call it. The adjectives are gorgeous, sumptuous, harmonious, and intoxicating.
This is the knife’s edge, trying to get a system that does both. They are practically two sides of a coin. The real trick is adding transparent tonality. By tonality, I mean a wet, deep, rounded sound that conveys vibrating wood, brass, and reeds. It has texture, clarity, and an ethereal nature. Notes float into space and envelope you. Harmony and color come to mind, but this stuff is harder to describe. This is not a slow, syrupy, hazy sound. There should be nothing between you and the musicians - just air. For example, do adagios sound beautiful and hold interest as much as the fast pieces. Yes, the 1812 overture sounds impressive, but does the adagietto from Mahler 5 make your heart skip a beat and melt? Does the music draw you in, or is it the descriptors of the imaging? Can you hear a violin and cello summate in a quartet to make a totally new harmony that decays into space? Can you hear the evolution of the vibration in the cello with each note?
Thus, the best system will seek an optimal middle ground. Having low distortion helps the harmonies as an interaction, but it is not the total answer. For some, this may be the old hifi vs. musical debate. For me, this is different, because it is the quest for hifi and musical. That is my goal.