I’m mainly a 2-channel guy too, but I’d definitely do at least 5.1 as I find that’s really the minimum to get the immersive movie experience and is far, far more involving and enjoyable than something like 2.1. The sub is not optional IMO, and there are perfectly serviceable subs for movies in the sub-$500 range (i.e. Dayton Audio subs at Parts Express). I used to work for Magnolia, and Sonance often runs some crazy specials on in-wall speakers that will be tough to beat. They’re just ok speakers, but at your price point that’s all you can expect. Given your preference for smooth, sweet sound I’d go Marantz for an AVR hands down. Accessories4less.com has good b-stock type units at very good prices, and I’d recommend getting your AVR there. Hope this helps, and best of luck.
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