I think part of my issue this entire time might have been settings in my input sources, doh! I listen to music via the Spotify app on my Amazon Fire TV stick. We also watch Netflix, HBO, Showtime, etc. thru the Fire stick. Those have always sounded pretty good. It looks like by default the Fire stick will output to Dolby Digital Plus over HDMI if that format is available.
My Uverse and Blu-Ray watching has always been somewhat "meh" and lacking. After watching Midnight Special on my Uverse box the other day I noticed that it wasn't nearly as dramatic as I'd read about on here.
recommended I check my Uverse box for settings. Surely enough, it was in a "stereo" mode that was outputting to Dolby Pro Logic II. When I changed it to "surround" in the Uverse box, it changed the mode in my AVR to Dolby Digital. The sound improvement was pretty dramatic.
This got me thinking that maybe something similar was going on with my PS3 for Blu-Ray. I put in the Accountant (haven't watched it yet), just to see what was happening. I noticed my AVR was playing in "Multi Channel In" mode, and no other modes were available. I Googled, and changed a setting in the PS3 to "bitstream". This allowed me to select Dolby Digital Plus and the difference was INSANE. I was only watching the previews, but at -30 dB on my AVR things were shaking whereas normally at -10 dB it was pretty good, but not amazing.
I don't regret getting the V3601 at all, but I suspect my rapid change from the V1801 to the V3601 was largely caused by incorrect settings on my PS3 and Uverse box
So what exactly was going on here? How much "worse" is Pro Logic II and Multi Channel In than Digital? It seems like it's pretty dramatic. Was I getting the true LFE channel?