Given the additional information:
I would look into the latest Bluesound Node as a streamer. $600. Start with the built in DAC and once familiar with the new system consider adding an outboard DAC.
lots of really good help/info here; thanks. I might have to spend some more time in the speaker section of the forum because it looks like the surrounds on the old ARs are definitely failing, so maybe I should stick with the consensus and start with some speakers that go well enough with the Mc gear and then go from there when the downsizing gets more official. Still like the idea of "start from scratch" though because it will force me to decide on inputs, etc.
I guess it is a silly question in the amps/pre-amps area, but how many people really use the active speaker route? seems ok short term and good for people minimizing gear, but bit of a tradeoff in flexibility and long term issues