Honestly, I am kinda sick of AV receivers. Yes, they are packed with features and loaded with almighty HDMI inputs, making them look oh-so-good on paper to consumers. Today's HDMI receivers boast sponsorship from just about every surround sound format known to man and they tend to be first to market with all the hot new technologies but still I prefer a separate AV preamp and power amp. I know separates cost more money, but one of the major advantages of a separates system is that your amp has its own power supply and draws the needed power from the wall without affecting the preamp. I also like the idea of having an upgrade path, as receivers give you very little room to make your next move.
Even if you have a very good, feature-packed AV receiver, one way you can upgrade in a meaningful way is to add a ballsy seven-channel amplifier. This brings me to the NAD T-975. Priced at $2,499, I will put this NAD's amp section up against any mass market receiver out there in terms of power, control and overall sonic heft. The NAD will kick it to the curb. NAD has loaded a lot of nice features into their seven-channel amp, including their soft clipping feature that I often used when I was teenager rocking out to Guns N' Roses (along with my cherry-flame-top Les Paul and a 50-watt Marshall amp) in my room. Today's crash-and-bang movies also keep this feature relevant, but NAD's conservative power ratings mean you will likely never push the amp to that level. The NAD amplifier sound is one of control. This amp has massive reserves of headroom and a wonderfully open midrange. You have to look to the NAD Master Series M25 to improve on that and such a move is an extra $500 in retail cost.
Read the Low Points, High Points and Conclusion on Page 2