Originally Posted by Captain Crunch
I found a X3400h for $499 so I will probably go with that. I"ll take a look at the Yamaha TSR-7850 at Costco too but I know the Denon's are supposed to be good stuff.
That sounds like a GREAT deal on what is essentially a $1000 AVR. I don't think using a separate 2 channel stereo receiver yields any real benefit in most situations. Audioholics tested the 3300, one model lower, and it tested extremely well with both 4 and 8 ohm loads, over 200 watts/channel burst output if I remember correctly, with extremely linear response....orders of magnitude flatter than the threshold of human hearing, and with distortion much below the threshold of human hearing. So I don't see where spending more money for a possibly less capable "2 channel" stereo receiver would yield any benefit. If anything due to manufacturing volume, you probably get as good or better quality with an AVR than with many 2 channel only setups. And with lots of extra, useful features to go along with it.
If you need more power than the AVR can supply, sure, spend a bunch on dedicated amps or whatever. You can double your power and if the speakers can handle ALL the extra power with zero compression or distortion(hint.....extremely unlikely), you can gain a maximum of 3 dB extra SPL.
Now if someone has low efficiency full range, highly capable towers that play down to 20 Hz, sure, huge power would probably be helpful. But for good sound quality, crossing at 80Hz to properly located subs will almost always yield better sound quality and eliminate the need for more power than an AVR can supply in most cases.
If objective testing shows completely flat response from an amp above and below the frequency range of human hearing, with inaudible distortion and enough power, more expensive amps won't change the sound unless they are intentionally inaccurate.