When my 30 year old, harvest gold, metal, made in USA, 720 watt Hamilton Beach blender finally gave up the ghost a year ago, I searched high and low and soon figured out that none of the available household use blenders would meet its performance. At the same time, I balked at the price for a VitaMix or commercial Waring.
Then a friend found the Centaur CEN200, a discontinued model marked down to $150 from $295 at a San Francisco restaurant supply. It's served me well this year blending smoothies, purees, and ultra silky soups. The only thing I don't like about it is that it's too tall to fit under the cabinets. I probably would have chosen a smaller capacity if I were looking today. But it comes in handy when I make a double batch of soup and the whole volume fits in the 64 oz container.