Well, so I don't really know how to choose between the 3 speakers I listed above. I can do the in-home demo of the 3.5s, though that is kind of a hassle, and I'd feel kind of bad demoing with no intention of buying through them. (It looks like the 3.5s can be had much cheaper through other channels)
With the soundscape 8, it seems like less amplification is suggested than with the ht3 or ref. 3.5. But its also a good bit more expensive.
I could easily fit something like the Emotiva xpa-3 into my budget, though I haven't really done a lot of research on amps, so I'm not sure why its so much cheaper than some other amps of that power level. (E.g., Bryston 4bsst is much more expensive than the Emotiva xpa-2, which has the same output... I understand that digging under the hood would reveal all sorts of differences, I just don't understand what the practical ramifications of those differences would be.)
That looks like it could power any of the above listed speakers reasonably well (and has more juice than the Soundscape 8s would need), and would also be able to power a matching center channel. Though again, not sure what I'd be sacrificing vs a more expensive amp--I'll have to go do some research.
I'm guessing I'd probably be plenty happy with any of the 3 speaker choices... the ref 3.5s would be cheapest (by how much depending on where I got them), and have the cheapest matching center as well... but I'm still indecisive. I'll give it some more thought.
As to the maggies & the power issue--the dealer brought over an external 150WPC amp (he said so I could see the difference in SQ at the same power level), and I didn't really notice a difference. Though we didn't level match it or anything.
He said the reason the maggies wouldn't be able to give more volume, even with a 1000W amp, is because the planar design doesn't allow much more excursion than they were giving already.
Also, my wife really didn't like the look of the maggies, though she said I can do whatever I want and she'd get over it. (Though if she hates the system, it means we'll be using the tv upstairs, with no sound system on there currently... so...