I have owned my Z7 for about 3 years now & have been very happy with it.
I recently thought about upgrading to the A3010 but when I spoke to the guy in the shop where I bought my Z7 from he basically said there was no real advantage except for the 3D pass through & some extra HDMI inputs. So I bought an Oppo BDP-93 player which has two HDMI outs to get around the 3d issue that way instead.
I currently have a 5.1 set-up using Krix speakers (Aussie brand) which have given me great service & been terrific value for money.
However I have got that itch again & am looking at adding an external amp for the front channels & buying new fronts. The front speakers that I have decided on are the Focal Diablo Utopias which I have listened to in a couple of different settings & with a few different amps. They will stretch the budget I think that they will be worth it.
My uncertainty lies a little more on the amp side of things. As I still intend to use my Z7 as a pre-amp (not in preamp mode, just RCA out for the fronts) the dealer that I have been talking to has recommend that I look at buying an integrated power amp instead of a straight power amp. He says that when I just want to listen to 2 channel stereo I can run an anlog output from the Opp directly into the integrated, thus bypassing the Z7, which he believes will sound superior. Having listened to it, I would have to agree with him wholeheartedly. However I still have some reservations about buying an integrated amp. Integrated volume control for instance raises a few questions.
The Z7 will still be running the centre, surrounds & sub for TV / HT, with the Oppo hooked up via HDMI. One of the integrated amps I am considering has a HT passthrough option, which basically turns it into a straight power amp allowing you to control the volume via the Z7.
I've narrowed it down to three Musical Fidelity amps, the M6-500i, AMS-35i or the AMS-35p. All sound awesome with the Diablos, the AMS options are more expensive but have a very effortless, silky sound. Sure wont need any heating during winter if I decide to go that way though!
So after all this rambling what I am looking for is any advice or experience from people who may have already played around with external amplification & the Z7. I can see that there are a number of members who have done it. Are there any obvious do's & dont's? How does the Z7 stack up when paired with a more audiophile level external? I realise that in the end it's still going to boil down to budget & "what sounds good to me" but I would be interested in hearing other people's experience in this area if anyone as time.