How about the new EMP line? It's too bad that he wasn't trying to put it together one year ago since they were running very nice introductory prices. But, anyways he can get a 4.0 system to start with small towers (, some surrounds ( and $250 left for a receiver. Johnk can always has good suggestions for nice refurb AVR's for around $250 to $300 that are a huge step up in features over a budget model, or you can go with the budget Denon that you suggested. Either way, this would come in at about $1000 - $1100. Not to mention the WAF of the speakers (due to the finish) is much better than some HTIB. Later on add a sub and then a center.