Hi All, Thanks again for everyone's
opinions. It was a short thread and I read every comment and took them to heart.
My old Yamaha was overheating so I needed to replace it sooner, rather than later. I had already made up my mind that I was ready for a major upgrade this time! I read up on Atmos and decided that it, and all the other bells & whistles, was not all that important to me. Someone else had mentioned that any of the flagship AVRs should be able to power my 4ohms, moderately and for the time being.. so I tried not to worry about power as I made my selection.
I demo'd a Denon, a Pioneer, listened to a couple other brands...and honestly at this price range they all sound good! ...but they all still retained certain characteristics in the way they reproduce sound... The Denon sounded flat to me (they always have, i don't know why!), the Pioneer was lively and dynamic, but too much so for music... I thought it lacked warmth....The other brands were just too pricey or too unknown to me to consider. I know I like how Yamaha sounds, but I think it was time to branch out and try something new.
My last stop was the Anthem dealer. The demo set up in the store happen to be a mrx510 powering 4ohm speakers....check! The sound, omg I love the way it sounds! I mean, the store is probably set up as good as it gets...but there were so many things that just sounded right, and natural, and good! I took it home! (actually i took a MRX 710 home)
So my last curiosity was ARC.... I've heard incredible claims so of course I listened to it both before and after ARC. Before ARC, it was like my old Yamaha on steroids... similar sound but much more detail and power! That was expected since this is a much more expensive and powerful AVR.
After ARC is where the magic really happened! I mean, like I said, I liked how everything sounded before, but ARC seemed to have pulled it all together in a way that YPAO never did. My front, center, and right now sounds like a wide seamless stage instead of its individual components! And talking about seamless...The crossovers from speakers to subs are invisible! It also leveled out the lows, the mids, and the highs so that nothing sounded overpowered, or underpowered (you know what i mean?). Full auto ARC made magic of the "mashup of components" that is my home theater! Manual mode awaits for the day when I attain enough knowledge to use it properly!
TLDR;? I am now a believer in ARC....The MRX 710 sounds good (great?) on its own...but so do a LOT of receivers in the $2k-$3k range. What amazed me is that ARC will take your existing home theater, with all its faults, and optimize it to be the best that it can be! Thanks for reading, and I hope that my rant can be of use to somebody out there!