There are a few important things to take stock of before shopping for a new set of speakers. Surprisingly, what they look like is often as important as what they sound like.
What Will You Use Speakers For?
It's important to honestly ask yourself what the speakers are going to do for you. Overbuying will do nothing but waste you some hard earned money while underbuying will leave you dissatisfied with your purchase.
If you need speakers to hear the "you've got mail" alert, then the cheapest set of speakers you can find will be more than enough.
If you need speakers that can reproduce 7.1 Dolby Digital surround sound produced by advanced games, then you'll need to buy at the high end.
What if You're an "Average" User?
For most of us, we need speakers so our computers can give us feedback and so we can listen to high quality music and to audio from movies and videos. Luckily, the average $20 to $50 computer speaker set does this job perfectly. Most in this price range come with two large speakers for the desktop and also a subwoofer.
What Features are Supported by Your Sound Card?
Sound cards vary in the quality of the sound they can produce for the speakers as well as the number of surround sound speakers they support. These days, many that retail for under $10 support 5.1 3D surround sound - more than enough capability for even very advanced audio users.
Higher-end cards paired with higher-end speakers are usually only beneficial to professionals in the audio production and editing businesses.
How Much Space Do You Have?
A simple stereo speaker set that has two speakers will probably fit nicely on either side of your monitor even if your desktop real estate is slim. On the other hand, if you're planning on investing in a larger setup with a subwoofer or surround sound speakers, you will need to survey the area around your computer setup to make sure there is ample room to properly position them.
What Color Is Your Computer?
Take a close look at the color of your monitor and possibly your computer case if it's not hidden away. Most people don't realize until they're setting up their new speakers that they've purchased a set that clashes with the rest of the computer.
If no one ever sees your computer and the neon orange speaker deal of a lifetime comes along then I say go for it. If you love showing your computer off to friends then it's a good idea to keep some aesthetics in mind.