Great Sounding 2-Channel Reciever Under $400

Helping friend assemble a decent system, already has Emotiva CD player, I'll match speakers, Vandersteen 2C, Energy C series, Sound Dynamics, PSB, Paradigm.

Only 2 high quality channel watts with good current.

Can be new or clean used Receiver, narrow down this list to one or two:

Marantz, Rotel, Sansui, Yamaha, Denon, Harmon Kardon, Onkyo, Kenwood, Outlaw, Sherwood, Pioneer, Sony or?
Does your friend really need a receiver? There are few bigger fans of the receiver out there than I and even I am hard pressed to recommend receivers today.

If you friend really needs the receiver, which means he needs FM, then I would suggest the Outlaw RR2150. The RR 2150 is on sale currently on the Outlaw website for $600. I have owned one since its introduction in 2005 and it is still going strong all these years later. Of all the current receivers out there, its FM tuner is superior in sound to those currently of HK, Denon, Onkyo, and Yamaha . The others on his list are not worth considering.

15 years ago I might have recommended to him to look at vintage or older model receivers, specifically the Marantz 22XX line or the Pioneer x2x line. I took the bite myself. But that was 15 years ago. Those receivers are now 35 years old and any receiver that he would pick up would require at least $300 or so to be gone over by a competent tech and replacing caps and lamps, etc.

I would look at integrated amps ... the NAD D3020 looks interesting if he is keeping to a single source, the Marantz 5004 can be had for $350 at Music Direct and it has phono capability, the Marantz 6005 (made in Japan) for $500 on eBay if he digs a bit, the Yamaha A-S500 has been well reviewed. Better choices out there than a receiver.

Keep in mind two things about the Emotiva CD player ... it has a warm, not quite dark sound to it, which can be pleasing, but you don't want an amp that is voiced the same. Also, the Emotiva is not the most forgiving CD player that I have ever owned and it requires quality components around it to sound its best, it is especially sensitive to interconnect choices (go figure).

I have used both the ERC II and III cd players in smaller systems. Each time the Emotiva was used with an Outlaw RR2100 receiver and the speakers varied from Totem Mites to Ascend Acoustics Sierra 1 to the current Omega 3Ts.

Will this be a forever buy ?
If not try one of the older receivers as long as it sounds good and everything works properly . Go for it and save some coins for an upgrade down the road . Have some fun !

The older Pioneer , Marantz , Sansui and Yamaha's are going for less than half of his budget around here and guarantied for one year after being checked by the seller who only deals with 60's & 70's stuff . These units were pretty good sounding , came with a decent phono built in and an FM/AM radio as a bonus ! I don't mean the mega watt units . These older units only have 20 - 30 watts output and they are heavier than today's stuff ! Guess why .

I am going down this road for a budding audiophile , my teenage granddaughter . For less than $400 I am assembling a sound system , with turntable , that is easy to operate , not finicky and will provide a decent taste of what can be achieved .

Gotta start some place !
Thanks Rich, I'll get him to run the Emotiva ERC-3 into an Outlaw RR 2150 to a pair of NHT 2.5's, hell, I'd probably be happy with that myself.