....you can get very close with a Marantz 14Ex. No surprise, this thing is $4700 list, but the big Marantz has good two channel sound and the ability to bypass all the processor filters for clean 2 channel.
Is it as good as separates? Well, IMHO it's better than some of the lower end separtes and approaches some under $6K multichannel amp and processor set ups. (There's a good review in this month's Sterophile Guide to Home Theatre.) Built like a tank and easy to use ... the best two channel in a receiver and much better than the Yamaha RV-1 (too many bad sounding gimicks) and an ever so slight edge over the Dennon 5800. Great video switching -- it's really at home when you have a myriard of inputs to manage (Cable, Sat, Playstation II, DVD, DVD-A, Sony SCD-1 in my case).
This receiver is the cornerstone of my HT set-up. As good as it is, my Aranov tube monoblocks are MUCH better for 2 channel listening. To get into that "high-end" 2 channel league with HT, you'll to look at (and listen to)Classe, Bryston's best and the Theta Dreadnaught/Casablanca. Any of those three setups are clearly better sounding than the Marantz, but they should be, as they are $8 -$20K.
In sum, I'm not sure if low end separates (totaling the Marantz's $4700 list) will give you much better performance and certainly you want have the flexibilty of the Marantz's video switching and multisource management. And then there's that wonderful remote that is the very best. (Ok, I know this thread has been discussing some more modestly priced HT stuff, but the Marantz can be had for around $2700 or so on eBay or Audiogon.) --Lorne