Home audio/receiver recommendations?

Just getting into the home audio side of the electronics world. I've done a bit of research on the subject, but figured I'd ask for some real life advice.

I'd like a 7.1 or 7.2 receiver, any recommendations? I don't want to spend over $500.
Denon looks to be a good brand, but it seems like other brands might bring better bang for buck.

How much does speaker line wattage matter? I do want the system to get rather loud (house-shaking loud). Some Denon receivers state only 75 watts per line, while some Sony/Yamaha go up to 140 or 170.

Lastly, are there any brands or specific models to avoid? I always thought that Harmon Kardon was premium, but they've released a couple of terrible models lately.

Thanks for any help.
Reply to Brillis Wuce
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More about home audio receiver recommendations
  1. The power ratings on surround sound receivers can be very hard to figure out. Even though there are standards for how they are measured those don't take into account the speaker load or how much less power the receiver produces when all the channels need to draw from the power supply at the same time.
    That means that a $500 receiver that is rated at 100 watts per channel may only product 35 watts when all the channels are playing. A $500 75 watt per channel receiver may produce 75 watts per channel under the same circumstances. Which is more powerful?
    Denon and Marantz are both very good. Onkyo at a lower price level is good too.
    I would suggest you pick your speakers first. How much power you are going to need depends on their efficiency and what their impedance is. Cheap AV receivers will not play lower impedance speakers well if at all. If you get high efficiency speakers such as Klipsch they won't need as much power as some other but you may not like the way they sound or they may not be clear at low volumes. Being able to clearly hear dialogue is really critical and a speaker that just plays loud often sounds muddy at normal volumes.
    Some receivers have preamp outputs so you can add separate power amps if needed. No receiver has the same quality or quantity of power that you can get with a good power amp.
    Reply to americanaudiophile
  2. Thanks for the reply.

    Sounds like I need to research speakers first, then. Do you have any preference on those? Klipsch has been the seemingly best choice so far...
    This setup will be mostly used for music, with an occasional movie, if that makes any difference.
    Reply to Brillis Wuce
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