How are AVRs for 2-channel music these days?

Thinking about using an AVR in my modestly-priced system for the use of surround in the future. It will be mostly for 2-channel music now. Just wondering how they stack up against a good integrated these days, are they sonically transparent? Let's say an AVR vs integrated in the $1k-1500 range, say something like a Pioneer Elite.
The better AVRs are very good. I've used the Arcams at home an loved them. I'm sure there are many others, I just haven't used them myself.

**dealer disclaimer**
AVRs have come a long way; however today's use of the AVR focuses primarily on decoding the digital signals for the newer TV's with 3D Bluray, Digital radio, IPod decoding, etc., so they add electronic glare to the sound. So it's my feeling that an older and simpler AVR: Marantz, Denon, Pioneer Elite, to name a few are very good for two-channel listening. I also feel if your budget will allow; purchasing a SimAudio, Mcintosh, Ayre (to name a few) integrated would be a great addition to your set-up. When you get antsy and make premature audio gear purchases, most often you regret it. Saving up your coin for a good integrated is a wise move. Of course, that is simply one solution; there are others.
One should consider an AVR with an analog input/passthrough that avoids any redigitizin of the signals.
An integrated versus an AVR, dollar for dollar, the integrated is better.

A very good modestly priced integrated right now is the Yamaha A-S1000. I expect it's in a different class than a Pioneer Elite AVR for the same price.

I listened to its big brother the A-S2000 paired with Harbeth SHL5 speakers. Wonderful system, amongst the better systems I've heard.
Last week we traded in a Pioneer LX83. What a poor amp. The class d amp gives a full flat 2-dimensional image. 2nd it gave a harsh sound with a lot of ssss. And 3th what a clinical sound. Most people are not aware which brands can give a 3-dimensional image. And what are the differences in sound, image, resolution and control. Even the Onkyo TX-NR818 was superior in all parts were you Judge an amp for.
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