Thanks for the recommendations above. The 3-channel Arcam unit is looking better and better as the "right tool for the job" for my particular needs (music and HT). It would keep things simple and still be a nice upgrade sonically (I should hope!) and take some of the burden off my receiver's power supply when playing 5.1 surround movies.
Diode - I appreciate your suggestions. Unfortunately, my receiver (Pro-Logic era Sony ES) does not provide for "main-ins" except for the 5.1 analog input which is already being used for my DVD player. It does have a tape monitor loop, but I'm not sure it would work the same as a "pre-out, main-in" loop like you suggested. In fact, in order to use a 3-channel outboard amp for matching power to the front three speakers, you have to engage a feature called "power swap". In this mode, you connect your power amp to the receiver's three preouts and your surround speakers to the main "speaker A" posts (the speaker B is disabled) and only surround signals are played through the receiver's main amps. There is no way to hook up a full 5-channel outboard amp, either. Kind of a unique (weird?) architecture to provide an upgrade path but it limits your options for running an extra pair of stereo speakers for music unless the power amp has the extra hookups. Cheers! JZ