Apparently Tekton Design has a new HT package using Pendragon speakers for $6500. These speakers have gotten *rave* reviews and are also very efficient. I would think this setup would be *killer* with your receiver...
In that price range, you should look at the new Revel Performa3 line. First impressions are off the charts from users and dealers. You may also want to seriously consider some direct to consumer brands. SVS and Emotiva both have speaker lines right within budget and at that budget you'd be able to get a full speaker package plus sub that would do great. You can also consider Golden Ear. They are probably pretty good for HT user but I was disappointed when listening to the brand for 2-channel.
Have you considered using active speakers? I have set up a 5.1 HT system for my mom in 2011 as Christmas gift. It included a Marantz AV7005 processor, five Focal CMS-50 active speakers, and a Focal CMS sub. The connections from the processor to the speakers were all fully balanced cables. The whole package costed about $5600 new at that time. After adjusting the room correction in the Marantz, the result was quite spectacular. If your budget is limited, you can replace the two real speakers with the smaller Focal CMS-40. Or if your budget allows, you can add two more CMS-40 to the side to make it 7.1 and/or add an extra CMS sub to make it 7.2 or 5.2.
Thanks all for the help. I'm quite interested in the tekton option. Will have to see if I have room available. Sidssp I am leaning towards the theta amp you have to drive the system. I have considered the exact active option you mention. My issue is I swap pieces in and out for fun and fear that would prove challenging with actives.
Looking into the Tekton options, in your size room, I would recommend the Lore as your main speakers, and the m-lore as the surround. I have a very large room (35' x 15' x 8') and I am using the m-lore as surround speakers and they are excellent. Add a sub (Tekton offers some) and you would have a killer HT system that would sound excellent with 2 channel as well.
In Regards to your H.T. setup I will recommend looking at OHM SPEAKERS I have used a number of different speaker systems for my H.T.,none of them have been as room filling as the mix of Ohm speakers that I now enjoy. The company has been in business for quite a while and offers a great upgrade policy.
Unless you can audition speakers, I would be careful about ordering a full HT set of speakers from some of the companies mentioned. For example, both Aperion and Ascend have very user-friendly return policies.
Tekton has a 30-day trial policy like both Aperion and Ascend. Practically all critical reviews, and most user reviews, are very complimentary of Tekton. But, should you decide Tekton is not your cup of tea and you decide to return your 7.1 set-up, there is a 15% re-stocking fee and you pay shipping too. I don't know the SVS and Emotiva policies but should be very easy to find out.
Therefore, I would try and find some to audition, or if you live within a reasonable distance where Eric builds, you may be able to pay a visit there.
Elsewhere, I have read that some suggest ordering just the center channel (this goes for any brand where there are shipping costs and re-stocking fees to consider). The center speaker plays an important role in home theater. If you don't like the center, then you are out the shipping costs and re-stocking fee of just one speaker, if applicable.
After reading Andrew Robinson's review of the Pendragon HT system in his own home theater, I concur with Holley - your room is probably a bit too small for this particular set-up.
Good luck and let us know how things turn out for you.
Ohm's are another excellent option. Ohm warrants new speakers for five years from the date of purchase and offers a 120 day home trial program which, to my knowledge, is unmatched anywhere.
Further, (this from the Ohm website), "...if you find anything you would like changed in the speakers call and talk to Ohm's President, John Strohbeen. If he believes we can make a custom version to fit your desires, we will do it and send them to you at Ohm's expense. We ask you to invest another 30 to 60 days of auditioning of the custom speakers before making your final decision. We will extend the trial period as long as necessary for you to make an informed decision".
If you choose the appropriate speaker that presents an easy load as well as proven good sonic character you may find that most of the major brand receivers can provide more than adequate performance. Good sonic character is usually more enjoyable than the brut force of a larger speaker. I've had very pleasing results installing Gallo speakers in rooms your size.
Since your two channel requirements are modest I strongly suggest forgoing the Home Theater speaker packages instead shopping for six and a center or seven matched speakers and a higher quality subwoofer.
Modern 7.1 matrixing makes the relationship between the left and right and the side speakers much more balanced which translates into a more seamless surround effect. Do not use dipole or surround speakers in a 7.1 system.
If possible keep all the speakers at ear level. If not careful aiming will do.
The subwoofer need not have equalization the receivers room correction will work fine.