Welcome to a fellow Washingtonian!
I love my Axiom system. I had been running M60ti's from a Denon receiver and then Onkyo 805 and recently added an XPA-3.
Honestly, it makes me feel better to have the amp, but I really just feel like I'm using more electricity most of the time. I rarely listen to music at loud enough levels that a difference would be perceived (I mostly use the system for TV/movies).
I would get the Onkyo for a few reasons:
- it has many more inputs and outputs. You might think - now - that you won't ever need a second HDMI output or 8 HDMI inputs, but you might be surprised.
- it has the widely used and proven Audyssey room correction. While it is possible that the Emo proprietary system is wonderful (or better) I'm just still skeptical about their software development.
- it has very robust and flexible Zone 2/3 support.
- it is engineered to access and be controlled by other devices on your network
You can always add an amp later, but it's going to be difficult to overcome functional or switching deficiencies.
Obviously, I'm one of those people that don't believe I can hear differences claimed by "higher quality DAC's" or such. Your ears might be better than mine.
We are a whole community of "that guy" - StPatGuy