Yeah, I get it, big displays garner oohs and aahs; but why are big speakers always portrayed as hideous things only an audiophile could love?
Thing is, tiny speakers cheat you out of more than half the experience. On a return-on-investment basis, home audio is more accurate than video. A 50-inch display may be sharp and clear, but it can't approach the majestic scale of a movie theater screen. A decent home theater sound system will blow away most movie theater systems.
How large is a large speaker? For the purpose of this blog, 20-inch high bookshelf speakers with 6-inch (or larger) woofers would be a good place to start. Of course, floor standing speakers that are 36 inches high or more are even better. Wee satellite speakers with 3-inch "woofers" never come remotely close to belting out a sound that could be mistaken for a large speaker (even the best of the wee ones never hold up in direct comparisons with larger speakers). The little ones sound like the puny, anemic things they really are. Subwoofers can only do so much.
Sound, schmound--most speaker manufacturers go with the flow and give the people what they want. And they want to believe little speakers sound just as good as big speakers. The manufacturers know most folks buy with their eyes, not their ears, so they don't know what they're missing. It's way more important to look good than sound good.
I covered some of this same ground in my very first Audiophiliac blog, "My speakers can beat up your TV." Point being, money spent on quality speakers, compared to video, is a better investment. With display prices reaching record lows you'd be wise to spend more for quality speakers. Pick up a nice big display for $1,000 ($1,200 to 1,500 less than what you would have paid a couple of years ago); invest the video savings on audio and you'll wind up with a way more satisfying home theater.