I currently have an old Denon 2800 which I hope to replace soon. My budget is is in the $600-$900 range. 40% music, 60% movies. I like my movies reasonably loud. The listening area is 9X10 - small area in a larger room.
Speakers - Polk CSI-3 center, Polk RTI-4 surrounds, Polk FXI-3 rear surround, JBL 10" sub. For stereo I have a set of Polk RTA 15Ls. So I would need A&B speakers. I'll staying with 5.1 for the foreseeable future. The Denon seems bright to me.
I have pretty much narrowed the brands to two - Pioneer Elite and NAD. I don't want to get into a debate about perceived quality, my questions pertain the which model(s) fit into my enviroment given my speakers and listening layout. If I go NAD it will probably have to be used/refurb which I don't have a problem with. Are the Pioneers as musical as the NADs? I know an audition would be best, but I don't have that luxury at this time.
All the Elite's have A,B and A/B switching capabilty. You assign the rear surround speakers to B in the speaker setup mode and then use the others in 5.1 mode. The switch is located inside the flipup door. Very simple to set up and all it takes is a push of a button unlike my last receiver[Denon 3803] where you had to go through the process on the remote for second zone switching. Very cumbersome.
The Polks are quite bright. I have them paired with a Harman Kardon and some segments can get a little shrill, but that's more in the recording. The NAD is considered brighter than the HK and neutral over-all. The Pioneer is your best option.