I start drawing the line with space and monetary budgets. Space is generally pretty fixed if you own the house. Look at speakers, subs that will integrate with your room well. Then, depending on budget, go one step up to satisfy the "what if" bugs. Also, look at the items that will give you the most value adds. Room treatments, dual subs, a solid front soundstage, all of these will give you a lot more enjoyment than some other features or upgrades. System cohesion and integration into your room should be prime factors in your decision. When looking at this, try to keep thinking of how the components will interact as a system, instead of just the individual parts. It is easy to start to bump the budget for one item (subs, and then feel the need t bump another area( speakers) which starts keeps you going down the rabbit hole (AVR/Amps, more bass traps, new seats/couch, etc). You have a good budget, with which you can build a very good system, keep that in mind as you put it all together.
Look at manufacturers who have good reviews, service and return policies since you can't audition the ones you are looking at. Some are better than others in this regard. As for sub's, dual if you can place them right are going to provide a better frequency response between seats than a single. I personally like having more than one spot to be able to sit in, and the bit of extra headroom that duals can offer, so I prefer 2 subs. Additionally, while I would call your room overly small, some of the larger, single subs may just take up too much floor space to be feasible, forcing you to place them in sub-optimal locations. With only 1638 cubic feet to pressurize though, smaller subs/sealed subs shouldn't be a problem. You may actually benefit from some nice room gain, helping beef up the response of smaller sealed subs.
You should be able to put together a pretty nice system for your budget.
Ascend Acoustics CMT-340 SE for mains, CMT-340 SE C for the center, CMT-170 SE for the surrounds. This runs you about $1212 ($1118 + $94 S/H). Stands for the 340's can be had for $50-$140+ depending on what you want. The ones from Ascend give a tower speaker look and are sand fallible, giving a nice steady platform, but they are pricier than some of their competition. Ball park $125 for stands with the realization it can go up by $55 or so. Speaker total $1337 delivered, (+/- $55). Here you have dynamic, musical speakers, an identical front L/C/R (practically ideal), and very well matched surrounds. If you move to a larger room, these can go with you. At the same time, they are smaller than towers, allowing you some flexibility and not eating up all you rooms space.
Subs: Dual HSU VTF-2 MK 4's, if you can fit them, would run ~$1,164 delivered, or dual Rythmik FV12's should be ~$1,134 delivered (estimated shipping to NY as I don't know where you are). Or, if you need a smaller footprint, dual SVS SB12-NSD's in the standard finish will be $1,298 delivered.
That gives us a range of $2,416 (less expensive stands, dual Rythmik's) to $2,690 delivered (SVS subs, Ascend stands).
With your budget you still have room for some room treatments. For around $375 (delivered) you can get 2 ATS 36*24*4 panels for first reflection points, 2 ATS 24*48*4 open backed, corner mountable bass traps and 1 24*48*4 closed back panel for your back wall (behind the couch). The cost of course can go up from there, if you choose more panels, or custom fabrics, etc. But this gets you in the ball park.
Grand total: $2,791 to $3,065, delivered. With that you have a solid set of speakers, with matching L/C/R, timbre matched surrounds, dual subs, and a solid start on room treatments. For movies and TV, this system would rock pretty well, and it is also very good for music. Later on you could look at a new AVR, perhaps with room correction software such as Audyssey or ARC, which will still benefit from your effort on the speakers/subs/treatments. Additionally, it would start to cost a lot more to begin to get solid gains in performance over this. I think your $3k budget is pretty solid.
Originally Posted by Kini62
... nor can I take advantage of any of the 30 day in home trials.
Why can't you take advantage of the trial period out of curiosity? Overseas?