Re: Best receiver/speakers?
My advice would be don't be cheap with the speakers, especially the sub. I would probably devote something like 20% of your budget to a sub, another 20% to your amp and 60% on the other speakers if you're working in $2000-$4000 range.
If you want good quality on a budget don't buy sets of 5.1 speakers either. Buy each speaker seperately i.e. fronts, surrounds, a center and a sub. The combos might sound like a good deal but they almost always have a weak point (e.g. the sub or the center is crap) which ruins the whole experience.
Also remember there is a lot of good equiment out there and they sound different to each other but not necessarily better than each other so sound testing is a good idea just to work out what YOU like. For example, when I got my receiver I had the choice between the Sony and a Marantz system (for the budget). They both got very good reviews. The Sony was very clinical in producing sound where as the Marantz had a nice rounded tone. Same price, both very popular, in the end I heard both playing through the same set of speakers I owned and I preferred the Sony. If you're going to invest such a large amount of money you might as well do it right and there are so many audiophile shops out there that seem to bend over backwards to help you make the right decision.
EDIT: Nowadays it probably more important than ever to look at features such as HDMI passthrough support and TrueHD 7.1 etc etc. but don't get sucked in by a reciever that flaunts tons of features but actually doesn't produce great sound quality. Analogue connections usually trump digital ones so as long as it sounds good don't worry about TrueHD support.