Re: picking a new receiver
To be honest, I've never heard a difference between equally powered receivers--and I've owned plenty of them in my lifetime. Most of the differences are in ease of use and features.
I currently have three systems in my house--In the upstairs media room I have an Integra 9.8 A/V surround pre-amp(Onkyo's upscale brand) connected to an Emotiva XPA-5 amp. For a combination of great looks and great power, you can't do better than Emotiva. I will be buying the new Emotiva UMC-1 A/Vsurround pre-amp for my living room system when it is released next month. At $699 it is a great buy. I have an 8 year old Aragon 2007 7-channel 200 watt/channel amp in the living room which I will connect it to.
It is amazing how Emotiva has made great amps for realitively little money. I can't wait until their new subwoofer comes out too.
For getting a separate 5-channel amp with an AV surround Preamp, one can't do better than the Emotiva XPS-5 at $699 and the upcoming Emotiva UMC-1 AV surround preamp at $699. But for those that don't want to spend $1,400, I still think the Onkyo TX-SR806 @ $620 with free shipping from Amazon is a great deal. Even better is the Onkyo TX-SR876 which has the excellent REON HQV video chipset @ $999 from Amazon (REON chipset is particularly useful if you have a 50" or more HDTV).