surely you have some idea about what you want to spend? $100, $1000, $10000?
also you should say what country you are from.
did you want satelite speakers, bookshelves or floorstanders?
5.1? 7.1? more?
what types of sources do you have to connect up?
how big of a room?
some general advice would be to avoid home theater in a box sets (htib) as they are typically shoddy built even if some sound half decent. the notable exception are some sets like the klipsch home theater set, or the energy take 5.1 classic set (which at $350usd is quite a good deal for how well they sound). note: for speaker+sub only sets you will need a receiver.
if you are in europe... i would suggest warfdale speakers as they are excellent.
if you are in the usa you might want to have a look at klipsch or boston acoustics. if you are on a very tight budget sony makes some pretty half decent floorstanders for a nice price.
in general this is a list of respect "best sounding" speaker brands. keep in mind that not all are price friendly! list courtesy of thread over at audioholics...
California Audio Technology
IF you have the cash I would buy separate components that add more flexibility. Almost all receivers have poor to average amps in them. They might be able to drive cheap speakers but for any mid to higher end speakers, a receiver will be lacking at least in 5.1/7.1 mode. Most output 2.0 but don't really output surround sound wise, in terms of power needed. If you look at the specs at a receiver it will say for example 100 watts per channel stereo mode(2.0) but doesn't post what it's amp power over a 5.1/7.1 system.
The other reason to buy separate components, especially a pre-amp surround processor is because as surround sound(new formats) and inputs have progressed over the years, it's cheaper in the long run for me at least just to replace the pre-amp. I have a ton of amps and speakers laying around but truly over many years, I have really only upgraded for home theater pre amps because of the technology change.
For a budget surround pre amp, I would recommend this http://www.outlawaudio.com/products/975.html. I own one and it works great.
You can build your system around it adding speakers, amps and various media players. We can recommend amps and speakers later depending on your budget.
be seeing you and happy listening, the Prisoner...
what you say about receivers is not completely true.
you can buy receivers with 100w per channel for all 5 channels. some even come at 120w per channel for up to 7 or 9 channels if you spend the cash. sometimes the front channels are boosted up to about 150w or more values to allow for big tall floorstanding speakers.
as far as driving cheap speakers.... well cheap has nothing to do with it (not to mention where do you draw the line between low/mid/high). its all about the specs on the speakers and what they draw. my pioneer elite vsx-30 receiver has absolutely no trouble driving my $550 speakers (50/75w norm, 200/300w peak) or sending a clean signal to my $300 sub. in the other room a cheap $200 100w/ch sony receiver has no trouble powering 100w 8ohm floorstanding speakers.
in most cases the specs per channel are listed for receivers unless you buy something rather low end or from a source which is questionable. i've never seen models which list 100w for the front two but dont list the rest.
one nice thing about receivers is that they are easy to set up, easy to control and are good for most entry level (if you can call under $3000 entry level) systems. once you start going above that then seperate components make more sense.
however if going for a high end several thousand dollar setup... what thee_prisoner says is definitely true. many such systems use pre-amps and amplifiers... normally a whole AV rack full of equipment to generate good sound.