Originally Posted by Lebronze
No offense, but $500 wont get you quality audio gear. That can get you an entry level receiver and two small bookshelves. Check out some speakers from Infinity and Polk to see what fits into your budget.
True ONLY if you are buying new stuff. For a 7.1 surround setup with HDMI audio capabilities, you are correct, but that's not what we're looking at here.
The OP's sources do not demand a fancy new HDMI receiver. His goal is only to improve on the sound of his internal TV's speakers, and he doesn't need full surround sound to do so. A solid stereo or 2.1 setup will be a VAST improvement over TV's internal speakers.
Ik - My recommendation is to start small with a few quality pieces and then build up from there ad you get more comfortable with what you want/need. As I mention above, the used market is a great place to start, but it entails you doing research to know what you are buying.
Recommendation 1: forget about surround sound and just go with a nice 2-channel. A solid stereo receiver and two nice speakers will sound great. In this situation, you would plug all your audio into the receiver, and all your video direct to the TV. Something like a Denon DRA-297 or an HK 3380 would do the trick fine if you want a new piece, or if you go used there are zillions of options.
Recommendation 2: similar to 1, but instead of buying a stereo receiver you buy an AV receiver so you have the potential to upgrade to multichannel in the future. If you want new, you will be buying entry-level stuff, something like the Yamaha RX-V463, HK AVR 247, or the Denon 1908 would be a great choice at around $300 and give you the option to update to HDMI audio if you get a PS3 or something.
If you want better pure sound quality, buy a high-end used receiver for $200-300, something like a Denon AVR-3803, Yamaha RX-V1500, Harman Kardon AVR 635, etc. fall into that price range off ebay (or check your local craigslist). Then find the best two front speakers you can get, whether it's a new pair of bookshelves, a nicer used pair, whatever.
There is no reason you can't get a dynamite-sounding 2.0 setup for under $500, that will sound a bazillion times better than your current TV speakers and give you room to upgrade in the future by adding a sub and/or a center channel (and eventually surrounds). In fact, if you are committed to watching the used list and do some research to become familiar with older products, you could get a very solid sounding 2.0 setup for $300.
An AV setup that would have cost $2000 five years ago can be had today for under $500 in most cases. Sound quality has not progressed THAT much in five years, what you are getting with the new stuff is the fancy bells and whistles like HDMI hi-resolution multichannel audio, video switching/processing, auto-calibration setup, etc.
In 90% of situations, the five-year-old setup that cost $2000 at the time will blow away the brand-new $500 setup, even though they both cost $500 today. I would ALWAYS go with the higher-end used setup over the low-end new setup unless you specifically need the new features, like HDMI audio or something.
Trust me, once you start, you won't look back. Listening to even a decent 2-channel rig will be miles better than your TV speakers and make movies and music so much more enjoyable.