Country, glad you found AVS Forums, it's a terrific place to get the type of advice you are looking for.
I've recently had the opportunity to set up a "budget" system for an apartment I have. My heavy investment is in my main system at my primary home, but I work in multiple locations, and didn't want to miss out on the video/audio I'm used to while away, but also didn't want to break the bank. It was also nice to consider starting out with the latest technology and not deal with any legacy equiment or formats.
I think you are starting in the right place with considering speakers first. More than any other component they will make or break your system. Most of the suggestions you will get on this forum will be for quality products, so it really comes down to more marginal differences, and people's personal preferences for different types of sound signatures, which is often developed by what they are accustomed to. Another challenge is that the environments in which you can test most speakers, or at least affordable speakers in big box stores is not ideal
As I researched my budget system, I routinely kept coming across the outstanding reviews for the Andrew Jones designed Pioneers, as you have pointed out. As I reseached these further, not only was I impressed with the consistently excellent reviews, I was also impressed with Andrew Jones himself, and how widely available several interviews with him were specific to these speakers. At the very minimum, it is clear a lot of design and engineering consideration went into these very affordable speakers, a point that is difficult to validate with many other speakers within the same ballpark.
Eventually I pulled the trigger on the two Floor standing models, a center channel, and two pairs of bookshelves, one for the surrounds and one for my bedroom system, and could not be happier. I did not get the Sub based on some very mediocre reviews of that particular piece. For the price, these speakers are simply excellent, and provide an outstanding, affordable core upon which to build.
If you are looking to shave cost somewhere, I think the AVR is the place to do it. Identify the features that are most important to you (#HDMI inputs/AirPlay/Power Handling/Brand Reputation) and narrow down your choices. Used AVR's of only one generation past are readily available at deep discounts, and functionally are very similar to current models. If Airplay is important to you, it can always be added with an Apple TV, which is more functional anyway. I would look at the prior generations of Onkyo in particular as exceptional values. On a side note, one feature that I find useful but is often overlooked is HDMI pass through. Depending on how you use your system, it could be a critical feature in an AVR, and most of the Onkyos have had it. AV gear is very much like automobiles, in that they depreciate rapidly while still perfectly serviceable.
UGA is also right on point regarding Monoprice. I have not purchased cables anywhere else in years.
Good luck on your research, you are definately in the right spot.
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