A good choice would be Bryston 9B ST or EAD Powermaster 1000.
I went through this almost one year ago. The most important advice has been given over and over again...listen for yourself.
The first 5-channel amp I listened to in my system was the Meridian. It's not welll known and you don't hear much about it. I immediately liked this amplifier very much. To be sure I listened to the Dreadnaught and BAT multi-channel. IMO the latter two were very analytical and harsh in comparison. The Meridian was very musical while the others were not. I could not listen to music very long with the Theta and the BAT. With the Meridian I could not stop listening!
In the end I decided to go with a two channel amp (actually two in bi-amp mode) and a three channel amp for center and surrounds. Every thing ultimately is a trade-off of some kind and I choose to favor 2ch over the occasional weekend HT use. With this "compromise" HT is quite good and 2ch is great!
I'm quite convinced that if I was determined to have one multi-channel amp, it would be the Meridian.
What do you consider audiophile performance? Features?
The key you pointed out is the price. Sure you could go out and listen to Sim Audio, BAT, Theta Krell and the like, but none of these you'll find for $3,000 or less used. If you did they would be sold in a heartbeat. As suggested the EAD PM1000 and the Bryston amps are fine amps but they have their weaknesses. For the $$ you looking at they are great. The PM1000 going rate is from $1500-1900 if you can find one. These have more power the Bryston. Sherbourn for the $$ also makes a nice amp as well.
The PM2000 however is one extremely fine amp and you may find one for $3000-5000 used. Look for 20 amp option and the newer transformer. All balanced connections. Other wise raise the bar on money and you may squeeze out 5-10% better performance. Still not likely with against a PM2000 which at this point has not been confirmed, but I hear EAD/ADT are not made any longer.
Audio Refinement by YBA makes a great 5 channel amp. It recently received an editor's choice award in one of the main Home Theater magazines (Perfect Vision, etc.; sorry, I don't recall). Audio Refinement is known for making solid state amps that have very tube-like qualities. We do carry them if you are curious.