Finding a good A/V receiver

My 12 year old A/V receiver bit the dust last week.  It seems to have overheated and burned out some components judging by the smell.

So now I’m looking for a replacement.  The first thing I learned is that the Canadian stores all price the products at about 2x what they go for on eBay in the US.  In fact, price shopping for a receiver opened my eyes to just how ripped off we are up here.

When the Canadian dollar reaches parity with the US dollar there is generally the occasional news story about how the price of books is not getting adjusted.  Books are singled out because they’re one of the few products that put both the Canadian and US price on the label.  Most other products have the good sense to hide that information from us.  However that price disparity is there on everything, and it is often even bigger on those other items.

The biggest problem with buying something like a receiver is that they all kind of suck in my opinion.  It’s very nearly impossible to know what is good or bad, or what sound/video quality differences are even noticeable let alone worth the price.  Setting up these machines is usually the issue.  Bad interfaces make it difficult to know if things are plugged into the right spot or whether your inputs are in the correct formats.  It is difficult to put good information into a one line text display to help understand what might be happening on any of the 50+ inputs/outputs on the back.  Massive knots of cables are a nightmare to look at and figure out.

What I’d like is a HDMI only for inputs, and a decent amp to power 7.1 surround sound speakers.  Not much else and no legacy support for outdated standards – drop s-video, composite video inputs, and no CD player inputs or phono.  With such a simplified receiver the interface would be as simple as select input and control volume.  As far as I can tell that doesn’t exist.