Home Theatre AVR recommendations (Anthem, NAD vs Denon, pioneer, marantz)


I’m looking to buy a new home theatre receiver, which would get used about 50/50 time as surround and as a two channel system. I’m trying to get a sense on how much of a difference I will see between something like a the lower end of an NAD (like a T748) or something by Anthem or Emotiva versus big named brands that I could buy for a little cheaper (Denon, Pioneer, Onkyo) and direct some of the savings towards speakers. I’m looking to spend not much more than $1000 on the receiver, could always spend less! Could maybe be convinced to spend a little more. Would ideally buy new, but could also buy used.

I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. Will only really have one source hooked up to it. Would sometimes carry 3D signals via HDMI, but if the HDMI on a unit doesn’t support that, I’m happy to bypass the video and patch audio in optically. Airplay, network, spotify.... don’t need these. Not certain on whether I need/want room correction. Coming mostly from a 2-channel background and knowledge of things, I’m dubious of EQs and processing, but I understand that home theatre is a different beast. So maybe that would be good to have. Only need 5.1, but wouldn’t pass up considering the right 7.1 model. Would also really prefer for have 5.1 full surround pre-outs, just for the options of patching in a different amp.

It’s for a midsize/large-ish room, but won’t ever really need to be cranked at full capacity. Would only ever be for modest listening volumes (viewing/listening room in a work setting). That said, I do value/desire clarity and clearness in the sound with good tonal balance and imaging. And while I don’t need a lot of power, I do want it to have enough bang to drive a wide range of speakers.

I don’t actually have speakers selected for this yet. Ha! which maybe is the wrong way to go about it. But I’m trying to figure out a receiver budget so i can determine how much is left for speakers. It will be mini-monitors/bookshelves. no stand mounts. Something like Paradigm or NHT.

check out accessories4less.com  these are b-stock or refurbished items with warranty.  If you have a budget of $1k for receiver, it will go a little further if you don't mind the stigma of refurbished.

here is something I would consider, given your parameters.

also please look at dolby atmos and make sure in the future it is not something you think you will want to do.  If so you will need to add this as a requirement as not to buy something without that capability.

I'm in the camp you're doing this backwards.  If you're getting speakers anyway there's no reason to not choose those first IMHO.  That said, given your preferences I'd look at an Anthem MRX 700 or 710 if you can swing it.  Among the more mainstream brands, Yamaha consistently gets good ratings for audio and has been very reliable unlike many others.  The Aventage rx-a 1050 is in your price range, but Yamaha AVRs aren't the most powerful beasts out there, especially with multiple channels driven, which goes back to choosing speakers first. 

Since 2-channel is important, eventually I'd consider buying a good stereo integrated amp and incorporate that into the system for stereo duties taking the AVR out of the system when you're doing 2-channel listening (the AVR would only be used for surround processing and powering the center and surround channels).  It's easy to do and can potentially yield significant sonic benefits.  Many folks here can help with that if you want to explore that option further.  Best of luck. 
Thanks for the insight here. After posting this, I was kind of thinking I needed to really get a speaker pick first. I did some more work on that since yesterday, visited some shops and think I will likely go the route of something like a b&w 685 or 686 (or maybe the 685s up front and 686s for surrounds). I'm intrigued by NHT speakers, as they fit my price point, I like the aesthetics of them. But I have only ever heard them briefly in someone's house years ago.... 

Is something like a Yamaha going to be under-powered for a speaker like the b&w 685/6?

I'm buying this for a project at work, so, for reliability and ease, it makes more sense to buy new, which is why I am more interested in a new model AVR then separates, but I'll do some research on separates and see what I find....

Given that you're using a sub and not listening at loud levels, I'd think the Yamaha could be enough even though the 685s dip to 3.5 Ohms at some point.  But as you're auditioning and if you find a speaker you like just as well without the impedance dip so much the better.  Lots of good speaker choices in that price range these days.  However, if it's me I'd go with the Anthem as it has more robust power and probably has a better preamp section, which can make a huge difference as many AVRs fall short in this critical area. 
i agree that of your choices the anthem is a cut above, but if you do go with b&w, i'd look at rotel which is owned by the same company and is frequently paired/voiced with b&w
If you are set on speaker choice, then as suggested  above you'll want to get an AVR that will pair well sonically.  Nothing worse than getting a forward sounding pair of speakers, and then pairing them with a forward sounding amp.  Bright, harsh and ear fatiguing is the danger.

Denon AVR-X4000, -X4100, -X4200 all are within your budget and sound very good for the money...
I own a pair of the 685s driven by an NAD 50wpc amp. No problem driving them with this amp.