Newbie needs help


I am just beginning to upgrade my system, and have never been at an "audiophile" level (I have various pieces, including an HK surround receiver). I just purchased some used Paradigm Studio 100s for my main system, and will be purchasing new items for a surround system that will go in my basement.

For now, I am planning on putting the HK 5.1 in the basement, but wiring for 7.1. This means I will need somethin get to drive the Studio 100s. I am confused, but think I generally understand that an amp powers the speakers, but you will need a pre-amp to utilize a straight amp, which is why many manufacturers make them in 1 unit. However, I am unclear as to the benefit of breaking these items up.

Also, when it comes to amps, I see reviews for a $1000 amp that seems as good as a $10,000 amp. Frankly, I'm not sure my ears would notice the difference (at least not now). So, I am confused as to what brands to focus on. Names like Krell, Mark Levinson, and Classe, all seem to have loyal followers and high prices. Audiophile never seems to give "bad" reviews, only less positive, and I have not found any other publication that appears to take audio any more seriously.

Sorry for the rambling, but here are my questions: 1. What is the benefit of having a separate amp/preamp over a single system; 2. What is a good name of amp/preamp (or integrated) that is reasonably priced used ($1500 or less +/- total) that could make a difference in the way I hear music? 3. Anyhing else I should know/missed/mis-stated?
There are many variables . Get out and listen to as many varied pieces of equipment as you can . You first need to find out what you like . Then come back here and ask more pointed questions .
We can only tell you what we like which may not be what you like .
Good luck and enjoy the ride .
One piece of advice I can offer is to take reviews with a grain of salt. You are better off doing your research here, and as Warren says, you'll want a BIG jug of aspirin on hand!
Whow, did you every imagine what you were getting yourself into?
Warrenh's recommendations are right on. There are some other things in your post that I would like to comment on; "So, I am confused as to what brands to focus on": None, do not focus on any single brand. You focus on matching your gear based on characteristics, not brand. That said, your speakers are great, but known to be too bright when matched with some amps. Look for an integrated amp known for smoothness, such as Creek 5350 SE, Unison Unico, and others. Don't forget the importance of your source (poor CD player will result in poor sound) and cables.
The best scenario would be if you could auditon a few integrated amps with your speakers and have your ears decide which one to choose.
Good luck,
Thanks. Right now, I am running Paradigm Studio 100 v2 with a Harman Kardon AVR-25 Mark II (which I just realized is 65wpc, not 75wpc). For me, the 65 is good, but doesn't really go loud as I'd like as I approach above the 270-285 degrees mark on the volume control. As for the cd player, I have a Sony carousel - model CDP-CX300.
Man, this is a coin toss, but I'd think of ditching the cdp before purchasing a new amp, but since this is, like I said, a coin toss, perhaps while the coin is in the air I'd decide on an integrated. Both could use a little up grading action. What did I tell ya? Mind spinning yet? Hang in there, more to come....