A few weeks ago it started getting noisy in one channel
Have you considered that it may have been faulty for some time before finally crapping out?
This would give a simpler explantion for why the NAD is a completely different and far better sound.
maybe you should try Arcam or NAD, or Outlaw audio HT recievers before giving up the home theater idea. I was very surprised as to how good some current recievers actually sound. I had a cheap HarmonKardon reciever for a while and was surprised at how well it did in two channel. I enjoyed it almost as much as my plinius 8200. Plus seperates still sound better then recievers and that's true in the HT world as well.
You're indicating that all HT receivers are junk - they're not - don't assume becaue the one you bought sounded bad that the norm because Denon, Pioneer and others mentioned above make excellent receivers.
While some consider it blasphemy here, you could end up missing a lot more by going the route you're thinking of, than finding a decent receiver.
Shadorne - that's a good point and I hadn't considered that the noise problem that made me pull the receiver out may have just been a part of the problem, maybe other performance was degraded also.
Snofun3 - maybe I need to do more research, I've been out of the hobby for years. Hearing music sound good again makes me interested in getting back in though.
Lenny_zwik - yep. 1970s - back when every decent size town had more than one hifi store. We have really lost something in the age of the big box I think.
Try some of the suggestions made regarding receivers, if that's the route you want to go.
Try some multichannel music too like that on DVD-A's, or SACD's for some revelations. My personal preference is for concert DVD's, where the video component brings a completely new aspect to the experience.
See some of the threads regarding best concert DVD's for some excellent recommendations.
I always enjoys the "real music isn't multichannel arguments" where suddenly the reverberant part of music or a concert doesn't exist apparently.