I need advice on my first step into separates. B&W

I have an Onkyo 696 with B&W 7nt in front and 1nt in back. Id like to buy a 2 channel amp to enhance 2 channel listening and use the onkyo as the pre/pro. Eventually picking up a 3 channel for center and rears. Or maybe 3 then 2 or even 5 channel. Everyone says Rotel but what are other choices. Id like to spend up to $1000.

check out the Odyssey Stratos amp at odysseyaudio.com. You'll see some excellent reviews on this amp at their website. amp is fast and powerful, very highly rated and comes with a 20 year warranty.
I used an Anthem AMP2SE for about a year with my CDM7NTs. Seemed to be a really nice match. Plenty of power (200W/ch)and the speakers really shined. I only sold the amp to purchase a VAC PA100/100.
You may also want to look into getting a good 2 channel pre-amp with HT pass-through. Then just use the Onkyo as a pre/pro for HT and use it to also drive your center and rear speakers.
I have a bryston b60 driving my cdm1nt's & am quite happy with it...in fact, it sounds alot better than the Denon 5800 receiver that I heard the 7's on at the local shop. If the integrated has a HT passthrough then you get the best of both worlds...in the $1000 range you will probably get alot of votes for classe & electrocompaniet also from what I have seen. Good luck...
I have a denon 2801 I am using as my pre-pro with a Acurus a100X3 and am really happy with it, huge increase over the receiver alone. It has never gotten warm to the touch, it runs very cold and seems to be very well built. I paid $450 for my 3 channel and their is a 2 channel a100 listed for $300 right now up to $600 for the a250. The 5X125 sells for about $600-750.