Best 5.1 ONLY receiver every made?

Hi everyone!

I am curious to get your opinions about what the best used 5.1 receiver is. I had a 7.1 one setup about four years ago, but eventually left surround sound for a stereo setup. Now that I have space for both I am considering venturing back into surround sound.

So my question is... who made the biggest, baddest, and best sounding 5.1 receiver in the past that would now be a great buy on the used market? I see some of the new flagship receivers from Yamaha and Denon are pretty monstrous, did they have 5.1 counterparts back in the day?

Thanks for your thoughts,

AVRs from "back in the day" will lack the new and important features of current AVRs. Besides, you can always add amps and subs if you want the "biggest, baddest, and best sounding 5.1."

List some parameters as everything has changed in the last 4 years. Budget, codecs, HDMI switching etc. Better 'Goner opinions will follow!
BTW- By "Better opinions" I mean "more opinions". I certainly meant no disrespect to KAL who knows "Mucho mucho!"
Beasts like the original Denon 5000 were great. However, KAL is correct. Missing things like DPL II, 24/96 and much more makes a huge difference. The last of the 5.1's that I'd consider would be an Anthem AVM-2 or perhaps a Sunfire. Who cares if a unit is 7.1, you don't have to use all of the channels.
As a 2 channel rig, an older Denon or B&K can be awesome.
i currently have a couple of high-end denon avrs (4803 and 3300). i hate 'em both--wimpy and "digital" sounding. in general, b&k and arcam were the best of the 5.1 breed--several notches above the mass market asian branded gear.
Best to split, and get a pre-pro that you feed to separate amps, two, three or five at a time. Interga 9.9 is the real killer for sound quality and value.

I'm amazed to hear you say that.

I have 2 theater systems in the house, plus four 2 channel systems.

The bigger theater system has some big responsibilities...

Martin Logan Fronts and Centers, and Mirage surrounds.

The Klipsch Sub Strata 15 does it's own talking...

This is the Denon 4308 (not CI), with a big ole 60 inch Sony Flat on the wall.

It kicks ass. I could have changed it several times to Krell or Lexicon, but thankfully asked myself why when looking at money difference.

Now if I just do that in my 2 channel rigs...

If you buy a Denon that is working correctly, and you take the time to learn how to use it and figure out what all those features are for, you won't be way...
to each his own, i guess. actually, my denons are fine for movies and tv. for music, though, they lack oomph and transparency. my late, lamented b&k avr-202 was eons better, albeit lacking all the (mostly unnecesaary) bells and whistles. 'm gonna try connecting external amps and using the denons as pre/pros to see if that makes a significant difference in sound quality. i'm glad you enjoy yours, however.
My answer was directly related to the best all around AVR for the my experience.

I've never used a Yamaha, or Pioneer Elite and the plethora of others for the brain of the cinema experience.

I'm certain that the seperates sound better, but at what cost?
One see's many used opportunities for used AVR units, I'm sure they are quite good, I've simply never used them.

More to the point, as stated before, my experiences with Denon have been solid, especially for the money.

Mr. Leonard could do well with Denon, as well as with Yamaha or the others.

Don't forget our sister site, for many more options for your cinema goodies.
Pioneer Elite VSX-59TXi. Check the reviews from 2002 or so. One of the best and most respected AVR's ever made. Many still in use as a pre-amp. I owned the 29, 39, 49 and 59 series during the 90's and up to 2008. Now I own a Pioneer Elite VSX-92TXVI with HDMI, Apple Conn, XM radio, new codecs etc... Highly recommended.