What is a stereo receiver? It's just an integrated amp with a tuner and sometimes a DAC. Who really needs that? How many audiophiles today are listening to the radio? The integrated amplifier market is stronger than it's ever been. Integrateds used to be the little runts of the amp world, suitable only for entry level systems until one could afford separates. Now there are 75lb+ integrated amps capable of several hundred watts per channel, and they definitely blur some lines and make one wonder whether two boxes and two extra cables are really necessary.
Dave, I agree with you re integrated amps, but you miss my point on receivers. If you look at the specs on Yamaha's website for their dedicated stereo amp range - that A-S* series - and their stereo receivers, you are getting (nominally, at any rate) a more powerful amp in each receiver compared to the equivalent dedicated amp. None of this is high-end, but for those of us who dont have a problem with mid-fi its attractive.
The 90wpc A-S700 amp, at 1K:
The 100wpc R-S700 receiver at $550:
Of course, as an audiophile you know that the amp has more to offer sonically than the receiver (fair enough - its a purpose built device), but which one do you think would be the gateway drug for the iPod generation ? Even if they never turn on the tuner, saving $450 makes a lot of sense. That money could go towards a nice set of speakers or a better source - real world stuff.
You would probably avoid a mass marketed brand like Yamaha entirely, but that puts the ball back in grev's court. Consider the following for inclusion in my sig:
KEF Q300 loudspeakers
Sjofn (the clue) loudspeakers
Which one looks sexier to the audiophile, assuming they had never heard either speaker ? Both are similarly priced, both have rave reviews, but I'm betting that the more obscure gear would pique the interest of people who care about such things. Said people know you can walk into a KEF dealer almost anywhere in the world and ask about the Q300 - not so simple with a boutique manufacturer who sells direct and lists 4 or 5 email contacts for the US market. One can only assume you meet these folk in a Starbucks, exchange the secret handshake and a thousand bucks and they retrieve your prize from a white van in a nearby alleyway .....
I also think you underestimate the value of radio as a source of music you don't have to pay for. Commercial radio may be dross, but there are still a few FM stations out there worthy of a background listen. Even subscription services via the Net are a lot cheaper than buying the physical media and finding you only like one or two tracks.
As always, this is just my two cents worth, and I admit that arguing the case for mid-fi in a forum dedicated to high-end components may be asking for trouble. I just know that most of the hardcore didnt get their first taste of good sound with a Levinson gadget costing 30K+.