If you have the $$$ and you want complete peace of mind, by all means get new gear. If you are a bang for the buck kind of guy like I am, get the best used amp you can afford. I have purchased a total of 21 amplifiers in the last 5+ years and only spent about $500.00 in repairs and that is repairs on only 4 of the 22 amps. All other amps performed like new. Needless to say the "failure" rate of my used amp purchases is a little over 18% and what I mean by "failure" is a couple of solder repairs, RCA connection repair, and one channel on one amp with blown output transistors.
On this site alone there are plenty of high quality used amps for sale under your 3K threshold.
You can save quite a bit going the used route and amps are pretty safe as long as they are not so old that the caps need replacing. Your Yamaha is running out of gas since all the channels are getting loaded down. B&K would be your first step up. You can buy them in 2ch or mutlti ch. They all use the same topology. Next step might be a McCormack DNA. Again you can buy individule or multi channel depending on your budget. I would stick with all the same brand amps and speakers if possible.
I think a used amp is a good value; maybe less than 10 years old and you probably would not need any repairs.
Audiogon is much better than Ebay to buy an amp. Buying electronics on Ebay is a gamble; never know how many times the item has been flipped.
First I would look for a high quality amp that you may really want, new or used. At times you may be able to find new or demo amps at tremendous savings. Full warranty and no hidden issues. I would not assume used to always be the most cost effective.
Once you have cast your net, should you not have any luck for new. Then go with the best high quality used amp in your opinion. Keep in mind the old saying. "The Quality is Remembered long after the Price is forgotten."
I would go for new speakers only when you begin to "hear what you are not hearing" in your current speakers.
I would get your mains situation figured out first. If your next upgrade is higher in efficiency or load you may be able to live with the current amplification a while longer and save more money to get a better amp. At that point you will know the character of the new speakers (bright, dark, fast, neutral etc), which sound more different compared to each other than most amps sound different at the same price level.
Great, thanks for the thoughts. So it sounds like good used (B&K is only radar, along with Parasound, ATI, Emotiva, Outlaw) is only slightly more risky than new, and potentially cheaper, with one vote to upgrade amps first and see if that satisfies, and one vote for new mains which may satisfy, but if not, then I can shop for the amp with the sound to best match the upgraded mains. I have been looking hard at Synchrony's or maybe Imagine T2's. I must say I'm more nervous about buying speakers without an audition than I am amps. Thanks, keep suggestions coming...:)
Tell us a little more about what you listen to and what elements of music
reproduction you value most. This will keep us from recommending a dark
laid back speaker to someone who looks for speed and dynamics.
Nothing beats personal experience. Try to make time to get out and listen
to as many potential candidates as possible. Read reviews. While not the
last word in finding truth you will see some patterns develop as to what
different components sound like and what traits they generally have.
Knowledge is power!
You can buy a brand new Theta Intrepid 5 channel amp on AudiogoN for $1,500 and be done with it.
I just added a sub, and was really happy to hear more 'air' around instruments in the highs in my main speakers than before. A particular trumpet note that 'rang' after the note ended that I'd never heard before stood out. But at the same time, the highs were too bright in other material, and it was fatiguing. Music tastes are varied, from Pink Floyd to Jennifer Warnes, Casting Crowns to Dire Straits. A wide, deep, focused soundstage, the afore-mentioned air, and a tight but full bodied bass. That's the best I can describe.
Ok, I'll look at that Theta too, thanks
My vote is Mains first - that's what's making the sound, etc. etc. Then consider what you like (or don't) about your AVR - if you like it but think it's still stressed when driven hard then consider getting that 2X or 3X amp. The vast, vast majority of load is from the front channels so if you handle that w/ a big booster amp then the AVR can easily handle powering the surrounds. I've also run stuff like B&K, Odyssey, etc. and can vouch for all - but something like an Emotiva XPA-3 or -5 just might cover all your needs best.
There's obviously a reason all these brands exist and coexist, are there 'brand flavors' of sound that would help narrow the field somewhat, or levels of quality? Or is it all subjective, and simply finding what I like by auditions and/or home trials of the ID brands like Emotiva or Outlaw, etc? Many of the brands, speakers and electronics, I've never heard of, so how do I know if something is worthy of extra effort to find and audition. The PSBs I found and heard locally, but I can't believe they're the only ones I'd be happy happy with. The Paradigms and B&W I heard in the $3k price range didn't excite me, but there are lots of other options too