Thanks for the info StanD. That is super helpful.
RE: price range. Well, I don't really have limits. I could (wife not withstanding) drop a few grand and be done with it. However, where's the fun in that! I'd much rather work my way up the food chain, building, matching, learning. So, if all these parts are stepping stones then bang-for-the-buck is the factor.
We'll find the marriage-price-ceiling soon enough.
Piss her off and you won't be needing headphones if she......
If you're willing to part with more moolah, look into the Hifiman HE-560's or the new Oppo PM-1 cans. In any case you can't go wrong with the venerable HD600's.
Good luck with the boss.