Originally Posted by jfiaff
Eh... If you ask me, this is sort of a waste of money if you're just running it off of a laptop.
Don't listen to this. FLAC files played from your Macbook, even through an analog connection, are going to sound waaay better than with a pair of crappy PC speakers.
Other than that all the setups you are considering look fine. Have you considered going used though? My receiver cost me $0, I bought a package of my two mains, CSW Tower II's, Centerstage center channel, and TheSourround 5.1's(which I want to sell actually) and 10" downfiring BaseCube10 all for $350 on ebay.
I bought a pair of awesome sounding CSW M-80 speakers at Goodwill for $30, although I ended up having to have them repaired. Ended up costing around $120 or so but still worth it as they are great sounding speakers.
Edit: Don't mess about with things like Dolby Virtual Speaker, they basically screw with the sound to make it sound like you have a surround setup but the results are invariably inferior to the real thing. I don't run a 5.1 setup even though I certainly have more than enough speakers too because even most movies sound fine in stereo. Of course I consume my media all on my computer, if it was a home theater I was using maybe I would reconsider.
If you don't want to go used then I would start out with a good amp and pair of stereo speakers. Spend what you are willing to spend there and just use that for awhile. After you sound it out, so to speak, you can think about adding a sub, and then surrounds. Some mains won't need a sub. My Tower II's are tower speakers, in fact I think I have a pic:
They have large 10" woofers that reproduce the low tones many would use a sub for. I still use a sub but it only really kicks in to any degree with some movies and dubstep type stuff. My sub:
Edited by Mygaffer - 3/10/11 at 4:58am