Sorry in advance if this is a long post. Never actually posted on a bulletin board before!

I just ordered my speakers from Axiom yesterday and am quite excited. Here's what I ordered:

EP350 Subwoofer
VP150 Center
M60ti Towers
QS8 Surrounds

I already own a 50" Panasonic Plasma (50PX50U), and I'm looking for a receiver and DVD to connect to this. Already have a Comcast HD cable box.

I am, as the subject suggests, challenged when it comes to technology. I've been trying to figure all of this out (read the AVS Forum a bit, but it's often hard to understand and what I understand I usually forget), but I am really not confident on the receiver and DVD player. Any suggestions for this configuration would be much appreciated. This will be in my basement--the room is about 750 square feet. Hoping to stay in the $700-$800 range total for the receiver and DVD player, though that is flexible up if it would be worthwhile (also, always happy to save a buck if I can do it cheaper). I am hardly an audiophile or videophile, but enjoy watching movies and sports, and obviously would like that to be as enjoyable as possible. Would like the receiver to be "IPOD compatible" if possible, as I may stick a pool table in the basement, and it'd be nice to listen to music if I do so.

Also, I have a question about HDMI. My TV has only one HDMI input, and I understand there may be some compatibility issues between the cable box and the Panny. Is the HDMI worth worrying about, or should I stick with component cables? If HDMI is worth it, do I run everything through the receiver (cable box and DVD if it has HDMI or HVI outputs) and then to the TV? If so, my initial research indicates that receivers with the ability to do that can run a couple of bucks.

Thanks very much in advance for any help you can provide.