My wife and I just purchased a home. The living room is pre-wired with speakers in the ceiling. There are 2 speakers in the front of the room and 2 speakers in the back of the room. I assume this is a 5.1 system, but they took the sub and center channel speakers when they left. The home also has feeds to the front and back porches (2 speakers at both front and back) where there are wires exposed (they took all 4 outdoor speakers with them as well). I have never owned a stereo before, so I am totally confused about what I need. From what I have read I believe that I need a 5.1 system with zone 2 out.
I called Crutchfield and they recommended the Denon AVR-2312CI. It's a $600 receiver. I have seen receivers with good reviews as low as $200 on amazon. The Onkyo TX-NR515 is the #1 seller on Amazon, has zone 2 and is 7.1 (I can still use it in 5.1 setting correct?), and it's selling for $329. The Denon AVR-2312CI has airplay, which would be nice, but I can also hook up an Apple TV to the Onkyo and do the same thing. I have also read that playing digital content to zone 2 can be problematic, so airplay to zone 2 doesn't work anyway, but with an apple TV, you can use the analogue out to play to zone 2.
I read that Yamaha offers a feature that lets you play the same music in both the main zone and zone 2 called "party mode." Is this unique to Yamaha, or do the other brands also offer this under a different title?
Since I have never owned a stereo, I don't know the difference between brands. Is the Denon a significantly nicer receiver than the Onkyo or Yamaha? Are there any other receivers you would recommend for my situation?
Any feedback would be welcome, as I said I am totally new to home theater setup.