I finally got my laserdisc player back from Laserland last week.
In addition to all the special editions I have on laser that will not be appearing on DVD ever (including The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King, Taxi Driver, and many others), I have a few films that are personal favorites that I have not had the chance to see in a while.
My laserdisc "To Watch" pile:
My Own Private Idaho
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse
and, of course, The Hunger
Not having watched any laserdiscs in some time, it took some getting used to. The analog picture on a laserdisc has dated significantly, looking much duller than a DVD. Transfers that were the shizznit when the discs came out now look worn in comparison. That said, the sound is, in many ways, superior to most DVDs.
Tim and Dave were over at my apartment on Sunday, and we partook in the original version of The Empire Strikes Back. Although it did not look up to the stringent standards of today's digital age, it still looked miles ahead of crap-vision VHS. Interestingly, the Pro-Logic II and Neo 6 circuitry in the new amp (see below) matrixes out the rear channels on a Dolby Surround signal, much like the classic Fosgate processors. The upshot of this is that the digital tracks on the old laserdisc sound better than the Dolby 5.1 track on the Special Edition lasers.
I fully expect the Special Edition DVDs of the trilogy to sound better than this, of course, but I must say that it is really great to have the original trilogy on deck.
The return of my laserdisc player illuminated an unfortunate aspect of cutting-edge technology... even if your amp can do all these wonderful things, it is still finite.
With the laserdisc player (stereo and 5.1 output), a Super Audio CD player (digital, 5.1 analog and stereo outputs), a DVD-Audio player (also with digital, 5.1 analog and stereo outputs), a tape deck (in and out), a phonograph (in) and the output from the television, we're talking about a lot of inputs. There was no way around it, I needed a new amp.
While I was hoping to get a Yamaha, I found a major flaw with their product line: they only have one 5.1 analog channel input. I'd have to choose between SACD and DVD-A... screw that. I ended up with another Sony, but given the customability and ease of use, I can't complain. Furthermore, the advances in technology in the three years since my amp came out means that there is cleaner bass management, and the DSPs (which I rarely use) are more natural sounding.
The remote control is a lot nicer, slim, with glow-in-the-dark buttons. A significant improvement over the previous system's remote (practically a keyboard... for no real good reason, either).
The biggest issue that I had then is that I was now short a speaker. While I have previously had a 6.1 setup, the new system is 7.1 (the rear two channels are matrixed out to four). The rear back speaker I had was long in the tooth, though...
...so I got two new front channel speakers. The demo in the store convinced me that the Athena AS-B1s had the best sound for the money (I loathe the type of sound one gets from Bose, by the way... too artificial). I adjusted the amp output for the new configuration, and let me tell you... most impressive. Most impressive. I actually had to turn shit down for once in my life. Me.
Much of this is because I have more wattage per channel, but a lot of it has to do with how I reconfigured the system for the new amplifier and loudspeakers.
"You do not know the power of the amplifier!"
I still don't get any radio reception in my apartment though.