I finally took the plunge and got myself a new receiver to take advantage of the HD audio formats on Bluray. After weeks of agonizing over which receiver to get, I finally landed on the Pioneer VSX-1020-K mostly based on price. Being last year's model, it was a steal, and still had all the features I wanted (and then some).
My main requirement was just that the receiver had HDMI connectivity, since I wanted to see what I was missing with the lossless audio tracks on Bluray. Since almost every receiver made recently has HDMI connectivity, that did little to narrow down the field. After HDMI, I wanted two zone support so I could power my desktop speakers from the same receiver, and finally I wanted a receiver with some room correction software to play around with. After lots of comparisons, I ended up with the 1020-K since it was the least expensive of the models I was contemplating.
Aside from the features I was looking for, this receiver includes networking functions and internet radio which I'm looking forward to messing around with in the future. For now, what's been taking up much of my time is fiddling with the Advanced MCACC room correction software that comes installed on the 1020-K. The receiver comes packaged with a small calibration microphone that it uses to adjust channel levels, time delay, equalization, and standing wave compensation.
My first impressions of the settings made by MCACC are favorable. It set all the channel levels and distances spot on. The EQ is a more subtle effect-- nothing like the night and day differences I read about everywhere, but I think it improved the clarity of the sound, and overall I'm very pleased. Now I just need to figure out how to interpret the reverberation graphs it generates so I can properly set the time capture, and hopefully improve the room correction.
Overall my experience with the Pioneer VSX 1020-K has been very good, aside from some shipping shenanigans (not a fault of the receiver itself).