Why a Receiver? A much better route would be to separate the Processor from the heat source, The Amp. If you do decide on a receiver, get one with pre-outs to upgrade later. Maybe consider Marantz.
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Actually I have just flopped my thinking. I have just posted on the amps preamps forum, and here is the bulk of it...
The Cobalts are super efficient, 91.5 with a max power handling of 125W. I am using a powered sub, so I can cross them over fairly high, and just worry about powering them, not the sub. How about this mix: a Bryston 2B-LP 2 channel amp, with somthing like a B&K Ref30? The 2B is only listed at 60W, but that is pure bryston power. This would allow me to add somthing like a Bryston 5B-ST (100W/ch x 3) later for the fronts and center, and move the 2B to the surrounds. I would love to grab a Bryston SP-1, but that is quite out of my range for a pre/pro...the B&K would be pushing it. I think I am quite sold on using bryston though...for the price of the 2B and the 5B, I don't think I can do better, and the 20 year warrenty makes me feel warm fuzzies about buying used.
So does this make sense? If not the B&K, who else should I look at for a good match with Bryston in the $1200-$1500 range for a pre/pro?
You might want to keep your eyes out for an Aragon Soundstage. In addition to giving you the HT support you want, it has an excellant preamp section, essentially Aragon's well regarded Aureum pre, and passes an analog signal untouched by its dacs. Seen them posted in your price range, and Aragon offers a reasonable ungrade path to its latest pre/pro.
Can you hold out a while? Sherbourn is supposed to come out with a processor for $1500.00 that will include Dolby Pro Logic 2. The REF 30 is $2800.00 & they say they won't add Pro Logic 2 anytime soon...
I installed my new Sherbourn 5/1500A amp last Sunday, it is excellent with my (admittedly dated) B&K AVP 3090.
I don't know if the Sherbourn processor will come close to the REF 30 in bass management, but if it's as well thought out as their amp, it should be an excellent buy.
I'll audition it as soon as my local dealer gets it.