My hodgepodge home theater setup:
-A/V source: PC with DVI -> HDMI and optical audio out
-A Sony VPL-HS60 projector
-2 older large/heavy 2-way floorstanding speakers (12" woofer and tweeter)
-2 slightly smaller 3-way floorstanding speakers
-2 older bookshelf speakers with mid + tweeter
I have no dedicated sub, but the large speakers put out enough low end for now.
My budget is around $200. I can go a bit higher (not above $300), but it needs to be a situation where it's not worth it to spend less. I'm fine with hunting for good used deals (ebay, refurb, whatever) - I'd rather get something that was mid-range 3 years ago than get something entry-level now.
My application: I'm not an audiophile - I'm just looking to utilize the speakers I have to watch movies (that do often have HD sound).
If you have any specific models, or even -types- of models (i.e. 7.1 vs 5.1), it would be very helpful.
I was looking at the HK AVR 247 (http://tinyurl.com/loasoz), but I wasn't sure 50W a channel was really good enough for those speakers.
First understand that there is no such item as a surround sound movie in something called 7.1 it is a name game from the folks that sell this stuff, i.e. if 5.1 is cool 7.1 must be better. In your $200.00 range you need a better reach for the bucks. Here is the game, the older gear is always better. If you can find a used Teac receiver that would be a good option / I see a lot of used Pioneer 3300 5.1 units and they work well.
Also remember that if you can keep the left and right at 6.7 feet on center axis; you do not need a center channel speaker. I would always opt for the best left and right speakers first / the rear channel is not working at the right level in 9 or 10 home theater systems I see. If it was me I go for the Left and right then a good / a real good sub / small with enough power / knowing how long the room is helps as for example a 32 Hz wave is 40 feet long. So unless you room is 40 feet long you will have to use some kind of folded horn to lower the bass.
I hope this helps / buy the best gear you can keep using it in a correct manner and trade up until you get a great system. And do not buy into the New and Different idea or you spend a lot of money on gear you can not use.
Technology for movies is very far behind the audio technology. This helps when you read a review of some magic gear / you must always remember to ask the question "where did they get the parts for this magic ?