Dont forget Altec Lansing's 621 and 641 series, they are insane, the sub for the 641 is easily bigger than a tower case! i own the 621's they are great, lots of bass but well defined, and the treble is very crisp but not overbearing, crazy speakers.
I think its best to have the volume in windows turned right up, and then adjust the volume on the speakers, because this gives the best signal to noise ratio
, you will hear less imperfections in the audio. because as good as any speakers are, they can only be as good as the amp can reproduce the sound