which Brand of Reciever produces the Best Audio?

Have rec'd numerous suggestions from Arcam to Sunfire to you name it---Ideas? I want something warm for the system--not cold, lifeless digital---like some of the Pioneer or Onkyo or Denon products I have audtioned--I am used to vintage equipment and sound quality---your thoughts? I want great audio, but also something that will work well into the future for the video side of things (I haven't a clue about this video thing--will be running a Pioneer Elite Plasma)-- thanks
You will get better responses if you include a list of your equipment and a budget.Be aware,what someone else says is "best",might not work for you at all.
If you are accustomed to vintage, buy a reciever to do the HT and surround, and a 2 channel preamp with Home Theater bypass, and a seperate front channel amp. Best of both worlds. Denon and Onkyo are great for HT, if you want hi-end stereo sound you are not going to get there with any reciever, even an Arcam or NAD (I have had lots of problems with NAD's, but they sound good)
If your #1 concern is sound quality, I would recommend sticking to a good pre/pro (the older and quite inexpensive Krell HTS sounds awesome) and a good 5 channel amp. It will probably end up costing you close to the same as a new receiver, but sound quality will be superior. You will probably give up some of the lossless decoding capabilities (quite a few BluRay players can do that for you though), and very likely HDMI switching (connect video directly to Plasma with audio going through coaxial and/or 5.1 analog input for lossless decoding in the BluRay player).

Arcam does make some very good sounding receivers and the Sunfires sound decent but can deliver lots of power and will drive almost anything.
Outside of running a high quality HT pre into your flavor of amplifiers, what you're asking for in a receiver to run modern HT simply doesn't exist.

IMO, not all "digital" is cold and lifeless when implemented correctly. Since the linear solid state receivers you've mentioned above are not to your liking you might be limiting yourself. Keep in mind that most HT source components and their media is in the digital domain.

I find modern 7.1 HT is simply too much fun. If you have a large display the improvement over 5.1 in the L,C,R, dialogue placement alone is worth living with these current digital shortcomings. In time we may see a larger selection of hardware to fill differing tastes. I always suggest biasing the budget towards a higher quality display and speakers that won't need upgrading later and going thrifty on a receiver that may get a huge transformation next season.

Classe', Meridian, Anthem, and Arcam, are offering higher quality 7.1 systems and I believe McIntosh is developing a substantial system with very detailed room equalization. I have no idea if any of these systems will fill your requirement for "something warm". If and when you find it, I hope you let us know where you landed.
The vintage sound is no longer considered the "best" audio sound. Best audio for HT in my book would be Meridian,then Cary...any of which would be 5 figures worth of HT audio equipment

Modern "sound" is less fuzzy and warm than vintage sound, less "round", and probably more truthful than the vintage sound you love and that your ears have grown used to. Some of what you are hearing in your current system is, frankly, coloration, but that is part of its appeal for you. It may not be "truthful" or truly transparent and detailed (the modern holy grails of audio) but it is forgiving and easy on the ears - it's also what you like. The price you pay for that smoothness is slightly rolled off highs, a bit off extra mid-bass to midrange warmth...which results in a lack of transparency and detail, which isn't necessarily a bad thing with HT and digital audio recordings, but its not the current "flavor".

Also keep in mind that many HT fans have never heard high quality high end audio only rigs, much less mellow vintage components, so they have no idea what sound you're aiming at.

It seems to me you don't necessarily "want" a SOTA, much less a modern sound, so although they don't sound vintage, gear from Arcam, McIntosh and B&K, components known for their dynamism and warmth, are the way to go. NAD is also pretty good but a step below the above.
The Denon 7.1 channel digital receiver, model AVR-1507. Some told that Denon is the Mercedes of home theater receivers.
The Yamaha RX-Z7 sounds wonderful for a receiver as does the Marantz SR8002, which is now out of date. If I were to choose a receiver, it would be the Z7 because of it's attractive price and real-to-life power it delivers. Of course I do like the Arcam and Sunfire offering's as well. But, then you get into the realm of why not just buy separates.
I found a Sunfire TGP IV or V (with HDMI) produce sound that rivals many separate preamps including tube units. I do not need HDMI so I found a TGP IV for $550. It has a super tuner and a very nice phono preamp. It retailed for over $4000. Mine is paired with 2 PS Audio Delta 250 monoblocs that I found for $1100. I could always add more amps and speakers for surround. The sound does have a slight warm tendency which is very pleasing to listen to. I know what you mean by the digital sound and most new recievers sound that way. I used to run my video through a component switcher to my projector and my audio was an all tube 2 channel setup. The TGP IV is much simpler to operate and comprises very little over tubes. But that is another way to go. I have a mint Marantz 2270 with Polk 10 speakers so I can compare quite easily to the sound you are looking for. It is hard to compete with the 2270. Once you turn it on you keep finding excuses to listen to one more song because it was designed for music and not specs. Good luck in your search.
Audition the NAD 785 if you can.
Marantz av recievers do a good job on both HT and Music. My system is a little dated (2003) but the Marantz sr9300 does wonderful in both venues.
i have a 4 year old Rotel RSX-1056 Reciever in my family room used as sound for my 50" Fujitsu Plasma; it's powering a pair of Dynaudio Audience 52SE speakers. you can see what my reference for sound quality is by clicking on my 'system'. i have a separate 2-channel room as well as a dedicated Home Theatre room with a 10' wide screen.

this Rotel reciever is only rated at 75 watts per channel; but it will drive all 5 channels at the rated power continuously and not get too hot and shut down. when listening to TV thru the Rotel and Dynaudio speakers i am frequently very surprised at the really terrific sound i get......very transparent, lively, and natural.....with lots of slam and pop. very much like what i hear on the 'big rig'.

the Rotel looks like a million bucks, is built like a tank, and is very heavy. very classey for $1199 msrp.

i would very highly recommend any Rotel reciever or amp as one of the very best bang-for-the-buck for high quality sound. in 4 years the reciever has never given me a moments concern.

there is a newer version now (RSX-1057?) with HDMI inputs.
I've been pleased by the sound from my Denon 3808 that I use as a processor only fed into my ML 335 and B&K 7250 amplifiers. Receivers have sonically improved quite a bit in the last 10 years!
Yes, Rotel AVRs are highly musical. I did a side by side comparison last year with Marantz. While I love Marantz products and have a Blu-ray and a CD player (2 pcs) and did have an SR5600 AVR, I found the Rotel RSX-1057 to be more musical. It has more options and functions for music where the Marantz was definetly designed with HT and surround sound for video and home theater in mind. I went in to upgrade to a higher end Marantz AVR but walked out with a Rotel because music is far more important. It does well with HT also. No problem there. I then added an RMB-1075 multi-channel amp (120watts x 5 all channels driven) to the RSX-1057 and now the sound is super fantastic. Love it.
I have had a Marantz receiver and now currently use a Rotel RSX-1056 for HT and music. The Marantz receiver (2000 model year w/THX cert, forget the model number) crapped out w/ a blown motherboard and no replacement parts available right after the 5 yr warranty expired. Prior to that I'd gone through 2 Marantz DVD players -- both died. Moved on.

The Rotel has been rock solid and I really like the musicality of it, even though I have very low end B&W speakers (LCR6's Front and Center). I played trumpet throughout school including college so I have some reference to what sounds "real" or "musical", at least with band type music. The Rotel is musical, for a receiver anyway, and it is at a very nice price point, in my opinion.

Good luck.
I 2nd the NAD. I have the T775 and it absolutely blew my Pioneer Elite VSX92THX AWAY. Blew away every Denon, Sony ES, Onkyo and Yamaha as well. $3,000 but worth every penny. No frills and no video nonsense other than passing through a perfect signal. All goes into the audio.
I encountered the same issue Admranger had with my Marantz SR18 (2000 model? Yes, had THX).

I can't remember, but I think Marantz paid the cost of fixing (I paid shipping), even though it was past five years. Upon firing the fixed unit up for a second time, I got the same puff of smoke and another blown board. Marantz paid shipping the second time, and it's been working great since.

I never thought I'd buy another Marantz, but last month I did, an SR8002 for my new theater room (only $999 on amazon). For the price, I like that deal, but did consider Emotiva separates.