i like my pioneer unit. vsx-30. it might be out of your price range at about $500 though.
in general there are a few things you want to think about when picking out a receiver.
-what is my price range?
-what inputs do i need? what are you planning on connecting in the future?
-do i want an on screen display (on the tv) or are front panel displays fine?
-do i want to use bannana plugs or are the pinch clips fine?
-how many speakers do i need to connect?
knowing this information will allow you to buy what you need without overspending on what you dont. if you let us know what speaker system you bought it will help as well.
a total harmonic distortion percentage lower than 0.1% is a good place to pick one receiver over another.
the next number is 0.09%
many of the new denon receivers have a THD of 0.08%
the new sony receivers all have 1% of THD
there are two values..
one is THD 20hz - 20khz
the other one is THD 1khz
my receiver has a THD of 0.09 in stereo mode
0.7 in surround sound mode
it doesnt say anything about THD @ 1khz .. but the manual says
' with no more than 0.09% total harmonic distortion '
i dont know if that includes 1khz, but it does imply 1khz is included since it says 20hz - 20khz @ 100 watts RMS
(its above the normal THD specifications, and may be confusing)
other receivers dont always show the THD @ 1khz
and i have never listened to a receiver that does have the rating.
the point is, if you find a receiver with a lower THD specification.. you can use that as a way to know the sound will be better than a radio with a higher number.
it can be the deciding factor that prevents you from buying a receiver that sounds generic - compared to buying a receiver that sounds like it is worth hundreds more dollars.
if you look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonic_distortion#Harmon...
you will see the definition, and you will also see other distortions.
but if you want the short version, harmonics are large chunks of audio.. transients are much smaller chunks of audio.
harmonic distortion is geared towards a thump from a kick drum (or the sound of air)
transients are faster than a thump, they are the sizzle of all frequencies. (can be treble or midrange, or even bass)
if the sound of the 'air' is clean without distortion, that means the sound isnt muddy or dull (could also be called flat or 'cardboard' sounding)
you can be confuse 'muddy' with 'rich' .. but if you listen again more closely, you will hear that inside the 'space' is clean - more detailed audio.
if you dont want the 'space' its almost inevitable that the vocals will be 'cardboard' instead of clear and detailed.
if you have 'space' .. you can simply turn up the volume and the audio will be louder.
it's the 'space' that adds lots of realism and depth, as it can also aid the 3D surround sound effects/affects.
i've heard the 'space' transfered to the midranges, and it allowed a male actor to speak while a female actor was speaking .. and the two vocals sounded as if they were spaced apart with air.
that amounts to a better perception.. as the vocals sounded as if they where being heard clearly.
it didnt sound like the two vocals were smashed together and coming from a speaker.
to be fully honest, it sounded like the two people where standing close to eachother .. but the quality of air was very low humidty. (like the professional chilling air you find at places with quality air control)
I greatly appreciate all you help. I took your advice and bought the low end Pansonic. Amazon had one on sale for $189.00. I'll can use the information you have given me when I upgrade to what you now have say a Pioneeer unit vsx-30.
what receiver i chose was based on my wants/needs. this might or might not be what you will want/need when the time comes in the future for you to upgrade. i'll list why i like my choice:
-my budget was around $300-450 ideally. i exceeded it by about $100 but this was ok as it fit my other requirements.
-i wanted sturdy plugs on the back not the cheap crappy ones. they needed to be bananna clip compatible.
-i was to be using hdmi for everything so the unit has quite a few of these plugs.
-this particular model is one of the lowest that offers an OSD (on screen display). this was much nicer than having to play with the front panel on a receiver when it came to configuring my system. the osd had pictures which made setup a breeze.
-pioneer was recommended as a reliable brand. the unit in question had good reviews.
-i'm not sure of the individual specs but i believe it has decent ones. i'm referring to the very long winded post above.
-i wanted this for a 5.1 system, though this receiver can handle much much more.
overall i did purchase more than i required. however build quality, features, ease of hookup were all exactly what i wanted so i am satisfied. the receiver was about 30% of my total HT system expense so percentage-wise i'm still in the norm.