thanks to all of you for the answers. I must say it's the classic audio situation of "it depends."
Mikelavigne, I'm generally familiar with all of the methods you describe, and have tried several of them. But the detail and discussion you provide is most helpful and most appreciated. You are surmising correctly -- I'm focused on using my speakers and sub optimally, with a focus on music. I will worry about multi-channel and movies with much lower priority.
But the intent of my question here is really to see if there is any clear consensus on whether it is better to send speakers a full range signal, even when you know they can't produce the lower octaves, but avoiding any fiddling with a crossover....
or if it is better to remove the lower octaves with a digital or analog crossover and let the speakers only try to produce frequencies they are comfortable handling.
Bottom line: which is better introducing a crossover (and the sonic cost that implies) or let the speakers just naturally roll off (and dealing with the possible distortion that creates either from the speakers or the amps).
And the answer seems to be: too many variables to have a clear answer.
For what it is worth, my speakers are Wilson Benesch Curves (very clean bass down to 33 Hz or so, but not much after that), and my amps are Kharma MP150s. Sub (which might get changed) is a Totem Forest.
Right now what I am doing is using a Bel Canto Pre/Pro to send 60 Hz and above to the speakers, and below 60Hz to the subwoofer. I have managed to integrate the subwoofer quite nicely with the mains. To my ears, this sounds better than using the speakers full range.
But I am eager to be done with the pre/pro -- it is a wonderful piece, but it has WAF issues for me, and does not fit well (space wise) in my system. Plus I'm mostly a 2 channel guy.
I'm intrigued by Rokadanny's suggestion. Looks like I've got a lot of listening to do.
thanks again all!