The 976 is a pretty nice piece. My local Rotel dealer is selling them new at $700. However; there is another Rotel dealer a few towns away that said the best he could do would be $950.
I just bought a refurb. RSP-985 for $600. This unit originally retailed for $2,000!! So far I like the unit a lot. It is very thin on features (no 6/7 channel, no DD-EX, DTS-ES, DPLII, no component switching) but what I decided that what matters most to me is the SOUND! For a $600 Pre/Pro this thing sounds phenomenal. I upgraded from a Denon AVR-3200 and there is no contest. The 976 probably sounds very similar to the 985 except that it has a few more features (component switching, front panel display, etc.)
If you're on a tight budget I say go for it. You may want to upgrade it a few years from now as the new formats become more popular but that's probably true of any Pre/Pro.
Thanks for the input guys. I did buy it. The dealer isn't open yet, and I am having a problem getting the OSD to come up. I have a Hitachi 53UWX. I have about exhausted every cable swap available and still no OSD. And the manual is no help at all. I'm wondering if I have a defective unit? Any ideas or solutions?
I had a 976 and it sounded great- as a matter of fact, just sold it to upgrade to the 1066. Honestly, if you wanted the 1066 but could not afford it and were willing to do without some features, the 976 is a no-brainer. It sounds very similar to the 1066.