I LOVE my Wusthoff 's that I've had for 20 years....
I agree that a set is probably unnecessary,
I have a 8 inch chef I use almost exclusively, a 10 inch chef and a small, serrated utility knife.
Before I went veg I had a nice boning knife also.
If I had to buy just one knife right now...it'd be a Wusthoff Santoku.
I actually know how to sharpen a knife very well and I love the Wusthoff knives because the steel takes and holds an edge so well.
They also feel great and very balanced in my hand.
My 2 cents...
I have to say that I recommend a set, because for the cost of two or three knives, you get a bunch (but make sure the set includes at least one kind of knife you really want). I got a 7 piece Wurstof Classic set, and use the Chef's knife more than anything else, but have used the paring knife and scissors on occasion. It was only $200 for the whole thing. I'm happy with my choice.
The reason shopping for knives is confusing is because there is no accepted standard for measuring sharpness. Every knife maker can legally claim his knives are "razor sharp." This is a baseless claim because it cannot be proved. And since every maker claims the same thing, the only way to get you to buy one brand versus another is sheer marketing power. Knife makers have to generate brand loyalty to sell knives and you can see from the postings here that brand loyalty works well.
Here is some hard data that may help:
Asian knives are generally made of a harder and more brittle steel that measures 60-62 on the Rockwell C scale. Western knives are softer and measure out at 55-57 except for Cutco which tests out at 59. The scale is logarithmic meaning the difference is a lot bigger than it looks.
When people say they want a "sharp" knife they generally mean they want one that requires the least force to cut with. This can be measured scientifically but no one has ever done. (It would really be a bad day for Wusthof and Henckels if they did since their marketing budgets are the biggest in the industry.) Cutting force is a function of: 1) the edge angle; 2) the profile of the edge and; 3) the coeffecient of dynamic frictioon between the knife itself and the thing being cut. The knife makers give us the edge angle, a everything else being equal, a more acute angle will require less force while cutting. A more acute angle can be put on any blade, but will last longer on a blade made of harder steel. This is why Asian knives, like Shun and Global are demonstrably better than Western knives. Asian knives can hold a more acute edge angle longer than Western knives. Another point in favor of Asian knives is that they are made without bolsters. This makes it a lot easier for the guy who sharpens your knives.
Hope that helps.
My best advice: do NOT by an entire set. Take your current knives, and follow yourself around for a couple of weeks and keep track of the knives that you actually use. Whichever ones you use, then buy just those knives.
Brand? I like Mundial, since they are just as good as the famous German ones, but at half the price. I also like Oxo Professional, since the handles are non-slip rubber.
Never ever buy sets of anything. Buy openstock and buy what you need and will use. I know the other posters have said this but it cannot be said too much. Buy knives that fit your hands and are comfortable for you to use. Henkels fit my grip but might not be right for your hands. You really need to handle them and decide what you will be comfortable with. But don't buy sets of pans, dishes etc. You are buying stuff you may never use. Invest in what you will use. It is money well spent in the long run.
FYI: you can always edit your post within a few hours even if you've already submitted it. Just click on the bottom right "Edit" link.
Anyway, are you sure you want a "set" of knives? I bought a set (block) of 7 knives several years ago now but I only use 2 or 3 of them regularly. Purchasing al a carte, you're not paying extra for stuff you won't use. I've been impressed with the quality and performance of the Sabatier, Au Carbone line.
As far as prices go, there's always deals to be found online!
The best bang for the buck is not to buy a set. Think about the set you have now. Which knives do you actually *use* on a regular basis? I'd guess not more than three of them. Your money will be better spent getting a few nice knives that you'll use every day rather than a set of ten mediocre ones.
Knives are very personal things. I'd suggest going to a store that has a wide variety of brands and will let you handle them on a cutting board. A knife that's uncomfortable to use is almost useless, try a few and see what type of handle you like best.