Can anyone clarify a discussion I had today regarding distortion within an audio system and what actually distorts. I initially had set up a sound system for a preview of some short films. Now the system is quite old- made up of 4 Crown amp and a home amp for the master output. I had set the levels on the Crown amps at max and then found an output level on the master that would both work with the large space as well as compliment the output of the sound design. It worked very well and I was happy. No noise floor, good distribution throughout the space, no distortion. I was then approached by one of my colleagues who was concerned about the systems set up and mentioned that he had changed the settings on the Crown amps. He reiterated that the main output level on the amps must never go above 11 o'clock or else it will distort. I was quite perplexed at this because I had always set my amp levels between 3 o'clock and max and never had a problem with distortion. He was quite adamant about his settings and refused to budge on the matter.
My question comes in 2 parts, is it correct in assuming that when setting your output levels on an amp that going to max is not a problem because your are simply attenuating the sounds and not affecting the gain at all which would prevent the issue of distortion? Also, can distortion occur in a pre-amp a regular master amp as well as in the speakers themselves or is distortion exclusively the product of a master amp over-loading?
I hope that I am clear regarding my queries.