At the risk of coming across as pretentious, you'd get better answers if you post this question in the 'Home Theater' discussion area. There's a lot of spill over, but most of the readers of this forum are hardcore two-channel types. Of course, now someone will step up and dispute that... In any case, be cautious about falling into the THX trap. While it does provide assurance that a piece of equipment can perform up to a standard, it is not a guarantee of quality. There are some very good products without that cert that are worth reviewing. Same goes for certain other 'standards'. Find out which ones are really necessary and aim for them. You might also consider starting with a nice two channel system and build from there. You'll get more bang for the buck initially.
I don't think you can go wrong with NAD. My first "real" high end amp was an NAD. I too, was a poor college kid at that time. I STILL have it 13 years later, in my 3rd system. The sound is very good, much closer to the real good stuff than it is to mass-fi garbage. And despite a couple of clowns saying it stands for Nearly Always Defective, I have NEVER had a problem with it. Go for it!
NAD does make good sounding stuff, but the above joke about them being defective does have some basis in truth. A friend of mine is a dealer and has plenty of units returned for repair. The Denon receivers would probably have more focus on home theater, more features, and depending on the model...they can be very well built (and also have good two-channel sound for the price). They also have decent D/A converters in their units. The NAD stuff would have a warmer sound, but I wouldn't risk the possible trouble. Yamaha and Onkyo also build decent, practical, reliable home theater/audio receivers (for the price). I suggest you try looking up consumer reviews on www.audioreview.com.
I looked at the reviews @ AudioReview.com. If there is one adjective to describe the people's feelings on NAD, it would be "glowing". I looked at many a model, and saw VERY little in the way of negativity. I saw only one person with a problem, and he routinely used to throw it in the back of his car. This is remarkable, considering the amount of products and reviews contained therein. Their regard of the products are higher than mine. As for me, I experienced NO problems in 13 years, the amp was always flawless. I used it to drive some difficult speakers REAL hard, during auditions, parties, etc. Sound was always very, very good. Check the reviews yourself. Like I said, go for it!
heh heh, heh heh... he he said NAD.... Seriously, you can't go wrong with their equipment. Also check out parasound, adcom, sonographe (my fav), and rotel. The adcom 555mark2 is a really nice amplifier. That stuff goes for 100-300 per component, and it's pretty good. Make sure you listen to all channels. Equipment sometimes gets noisy with age.
Taking the "Poor" student to heart, if the NAD blows your budget; for a well made, good sounding Home Theater receiver that won't break the bank, pick up an Onkyo.
I have an NAD 304 integrated amplifier for sale that is PERFECT electrically, mechanically, physically and sonically. Check Audiogon classifieds under Amplifiers, solid state. This unit will serve you well on a budget.
Nate, I started my love for audio as a sophomore in college and really got into it because of Home Theater. I'm now 29. I found as I got more into it, I became much more critical on two-channel than HT because when watching movies, you get drawn into the movie and not always listening to the soundtrack. My personal advice would be to start with a decent powered receiver save your budget and GET THE BEST SPEAKERS THAT YOU CAN AFFORD for the front left and right. Before anyone bites my head off, I do believe the whole system us important, but do believe for someone starting out speakers will make the most obvious and enjoyable difference. (Remeber he's a POOR COLLEGE KID)As you get more into it, you'll develop your critical listening skills, then you can start upgrading. Some of the receivers you may wish to consider are NAD, Onkyo, Marrantz, Yamaha, or even Sony. Depending on your budget, I would even consider going to a Best Buy or Cirucuit City ( I can hear the people gasping) I started out with a Pioneer(don't laugh) pro-logic that I still have in my second system, and it was a great sounding system for college. Now I have what even the die-hard audiophiles would at least consider a respectable system. Quite frankly, when I started I probably couldn't tell the difference between a receiver and an amp/pre combination, until I started listening ALOT. Now you change any part of my system I could tell you the difference. Bottom Line: nice speakers will make the biggest difference for you IMHO. (Just make sure the reciever can handle the load of the speaker.)
I thought some more about my Best Buy/Circuit City comment. I would look at what they have and then buy it online for cheaper. The only downside to this is that once you buy a receiver like this it'll have little to no resale value. If you buy at the higher end especially used, you'll be able to recover alot of that money. However, since I remember clipping coupons and debating whehter I could even afford a $5.00 pizza from grogg's, dominos, or pappa johns, coming up with the capital can be quite a strain on the budget.
Right now I have a AIWA with pro-logic. I am running a couple of Bose 201 as center and some 501s as right/left (i know y'all hate them, but all four were free). I don't have any rears hooked up as it is, but I have been looking for some. As it stands, I like my system. DVDs, VHS tapes, and CDs sound pretty damn good to this ear. What I feel that I am missing from teh experience is the Dolby digital 5.1. I know how people will praise just about anything under the sun, but this really seems like it is a quality improvement unlike so many other things (like dsp modes - it sounds nothing like a concert hall or stadium or...). What I figure is that if I am going to invest and upgrade my equipment, then now might not be a bad time to look into something a little higher end. A friend also suggested marantz, and I found a pre/amp combo that looked very promising, although quite out of my price range (the AV560 and the MM9000). What I am thinking, though, is just to save, look here for dealer models, etc, and try my best to buy something quality. Thankx for all of your responses and if you have more, let me know. -nate
Nate- I have had NAD AV int. amp, NAD tuner, NAD tape deck, and NAD CD at various times. Had a few minor problems with tuner 10 years ago. They do source their equipment from different factories around the world, so there is likely to be significant differences between models. Anyways, used NAD gear should be widely available, and has little depreciation after the first purchaser takes the initial hit (except as technology/formats change). With respect to 5.1, I found a significant difference going to DD/DTS from my Pro-logic set up, but some/much of that was probably also associated with going to a DVD. As for speakers, you should be able to find small NHT or Paradigms used for cheap (major step up from the Bose). Also don't forget to save some $ for mid line interconnects and speaker wire. Again, buy at auction or classifieds, but definately worth it.
Nate, I'm telling you as a guy who started just like you, don't go crazy on the receiver. Check out how many receivers are on the audiogon website and see how many don't sell. I would get a decent receiver used or one new on-line and save the money to upgrade your speakers. Try to get one with DTS as well. In the future there are so many formats on the horizon such as 7.1 (EX). No high quality receiver can touch a solid pre/pro and quality amps. Wait until you can afford those. The truth is you'll notice very little difference at all between the best Receiver and a used one when driving you BOSE. So..... SPEAKERS, SPEAKERS, SPEAKERS. Try this test. Find a dealer who is willing to let you set up your BOSE in their store and compare them to a $500-$600 pair of speakers from a good company (ie, PSB, Paradigm, B&W, etc) (No Polks or Klipsh which are BIG in college) see if after the demo, you don't want to buy those speakers on the spot and dump the Bose. I hope I don't sound too preachy, but like I said, I was in your position not too long ago and that's what I would do now.