Agreed. Many A/V receivers have gotten worse over the years as more and more of the cost has gone to video processing and codec licensing at the expense of the parts that actually produce sound. IMO the under $1K receivers available today basically sound like garbage.
I used to have a fairly high-end home theater with a SSP and a powerful multi-channel amp, and I got bored with it. I think HT is boring. Other than brain dead action movies, most move soundtracks send some 60% of the sound to the center channel, so you're basically listening to a glorified sound bar most of the time, with the rest going to waste. Ironically, stereo is actually an improvement over that as you avoid the combing issues and dynamic limitations of the center channel. One of the idiotic things about home theater is that center speakers are designed to look good, not to sound good. M-T-M is a terrible arrangement for a horizontal speaker and the engineers know it, but they have to build them that way because it's what the market demands.
The other reason I got tired of home theater is that there's far too much dynamic range in most film soundtracks. While modern music has been squashed flat, modern films are the exact opposite. You have a choice of inaudible dialogue or 120dB explosions.
There's a reason lots of top-end theaters don't use horizontal toy speakers or omit the center channel entirely. That said, I entirely agree with everything you just said. :eek: