I am looking to put together my first 7.1 system, It is all pretty new to me, I have always been a two channel guy. It will probably be about 90%TV/movies and 10% music. ( still keeping my 2 channel setup, just building a new room in the basement for them) Also I do not plan on upgrading the TV any time soon, I am perfectly happy with my 32" Sony VEGA. I have about a 12x22 space to work with, however it is fairly open to another room.
I know that speakers are probably one of the hardest things to suggest because everyone has different ears... but the best I can do is go by what I have now to try and give some idea.. Right now I have a set of Klipsch ChorusII with a vintage Hitachi SR2004 power amp and a NAD preamp, also I just got a NAD 2400 power amp which I will be using instead of the hitachi. Musically I listen to a vast variety of stuff with the majority of it being jam bands, country, blues and some hard rock/metal.
One of my biggest issues is this area all the good shops closed up years ago so it is a minimum hour and a half drive to go and really get to hear anything. So I am pretty much plagued with doing alot of my shopping online.
So to this point I am leaning towards the following.
Denon 3806 reciever
Klipsch RF-7 or RF-5 for the main
Klipsch RC-7 Center
Klipsch RB-61 for the surround and rear surround
M&K MPS-5160SF Sub
Lemme know if im on the right track, or making a mess, or what I should consider differantly..
There are a lot of newer internet direct speaker companies out now who focus on high quality, high customer service and good value. They have to deliver 100% of what they say because you know how bad news can spread on the net. Axiom, Aperion, Home Theatre Direct and my favorite, AV123 are all quality products that offer a 30 day in home trial period. They do this since you cannot listen to them in a shop. IMHO listening to them at home is a better experience anyway.
I have the Onix XLS made by AV123 and everyone that comes over comments on how amazing they sound.
Denon makes great receivers so your fine there. I personally don't like Klipsch home speakers because I find their tweeters to be a bit bright and harsh in what I have heard. Everyone has a different idea of what they like in a speaker's sound so its all subjetive.
You will find a lot of people that have oppinions about speakers HERE.
Its the arfcom of the sound and tv world.
I agree that there are a lot of Internet companies that have lots of great products. As you mention the only problem is they are internet direct with no retailers in the middle. However be careful when ordering. While they do give you a 30day demo, some will require you to pay return shipping which can cost a lot of money depending on how many and weight of shipping.
Denon makes a nice receiver so you can't go wrong. Higher end Yamaha and Pioneer are good as well. I believe the 3806 does do LPCM audio via HDMI which is important if you want to purchase a HD-DVD or Blu-Ray player so that you can enjoy the new audio codecs.
As to 7.1 system, that can be debated since most movies are not encoded in 7.1 channels. The only movie I have that is 7.1 channels is Descent on Blu-Ray. It sounds mighty nice too.
In terms of SUBS, I might advise you getting an SVS sub. www.svsound.com.
They are made and ship from just north of Youngstown, OH, so if you are close enough, you can purchase online and pick up at the factory. This is what I did. They are by far the best subs out there.