We went to Best Buy to listen to speakers and pick things out for the home theater system, and to compare prices. Listening to speakers was useful, though it took some fiddling about: the compare-speakers stations were both broken, and it took a legion of blue-shirts to get most of it to work. The last bit they couldn't fix, but once they weren't around I was able to peek at the wiring and fix it myself.
We settled on Polk speakers for everything but the bookshelf speakers, for which we settled on Bose. However, the prices at Best Buy were way out of line for what I'd seen earlier on Amazon, so I took our choices home and looked at other sources. I would feel bad about using Best Buy this way, but then, I did pay them $100 for the consult that ended up taking about 20 minutes since I was so well prepared, so it really comes out in the wash. Anyway, not my fault their prices are so out of line!
In the end, though, it turns out that a second set of tower speakers would cost only about $60 more than the bookshelf speakers we chose. And I was saving so much on finding better prices for the speakers, I was still well within budget even with the second set of towers. So ultimately, it ends up being all Polk speakers. Here's what is on order now:
Onkyo TX-SR606 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver: The heart of the system. 4 HDMI inputs plus a bunch of extras of other types. Supports 7.1, though I'll just set up 5.1 for now (almost nothing produces 7.1 yet, but I can always add the other two speakers later when it does).
Polk Audio Monitor 50 2-Way Floorstanding Speaker: Four of these. Two will stand on the edges of the wall on either side of the TV (one beyond the woodstove); the other two will be at the back of the room (I cut a bit off the bottom two shelves to make room on one side). These have a nice rich sound that will be awesome for music as well as movies.
Polk Audio CS10 Center Channel Speaker: This will sit on a shelf behind and above the TV, which I also need to purchase to install (the one thing not yet bought). This one will mostly cover dialogue, but it's pretty good for music too.
Polk Audio PSW10 10-Inch Monitor Series Powered Subwoofer: Will sit behind the TV somewhere, not sure where yet, probably behind the heat shield that separates the TV from the woodstove. We got to hear one at Best Buy and it sure gave music some oomph, I bet it'll do amazing things for movies. That scene in Contact when Ellie's boarding the ship will be mind-blowing and I bet bits of Wanted will make my heart race.
DB Link SW12G250Z 12 Gauge 250 Feet Speaker Wire: 250' of 12 gauge wire for about the same as most of the 100' spools of 14 or 16 gauge, all because it's blue. I like the blue, but it's going to be hidden anyway, so who cares what color it is?
Digital Coaxial/Subwoofer Audio Cable 6 ft. CL2: Not much to say about this. It's a cable, with good connectors and shielding.
AMC 3ft HDMI to HDMI Cable: I already have several of these, and this will be enough more to hook everything up via HDMI.
TX-SR606B Replacement Remote: Because if we only have one, Siobhan will have it, and I want to have one too. I need to be able to change inputs, especially to switch to music!
Only thing left is some nice shelf brackets and shelf wood for the center speaker, and then to wait for it all to come in. It'll be in like seven separate packages arriving over about two weeks, and I can't really install it until it's all here. I'm itching with anticipation. Fortunately in a few days I'll have a Kindle to distract me.