Anime A/V

What you need to get the most out of anime, and what you don't.
adapted from 'Building a Video Sound System', Ultra High Fidelity No. 40, p.24
This discussion assumes that you are interested in commercial anime, either on VHS or laserdisc. If all you watch are fansub copies, then no amount of time or money will significantly improve the quality either of the picture or the sound. It also assumes you already have a reasonable TV set and a hifi VCR.
To build the ultimate A/V system, you will eventually need the following:

This is listed in order of importance, and only the first three points will be addressed here: A Dolby Surround decoder along with the extra speakers/amps costs a fair bit, and not all that much anime comes in Surround anyway. You are better off spending the money on a decent two-speaker system first. Not only are two good speakers better than five poor ones when reproducing movie soundtracks, but they'll play back your anime CD's a lot nicer too.

How much to spend on the basic two speakers and an amplifier? Even if you spend only 400$, it will be miles better than that little 3" speaker in your TV set. A good, musical, involving, hi-fi will set you back about 1000...

While is laserdisc player is marked as optional, picture resolution is effectively four times higher than VHS. The equivalant analogy in computer displays is 320x200 vs 640x400. Contrary to the opinions of some, this does make a significant differe nce when watching anime. Most anime released today is available on LD, and the price is usually only slightly higher, and occasionally even cheaper than VHS.

The problem is that players are expensive, running 600$ and up. Buying second hand is a good way to go. Remember also that laserdisc players also play CD's, so you can factor out the cost of a CD player from the price, if you're into that kind of rational izaion.

Whether or not a subwoofer is a good idea depends on your speakers. If they are really good a bass reproduction. And I mean BASS!, then don't bother. Otherwise for those gut-wrenching explosions so prevalent in most anime today, it's gonna be vital. Get a n active or self-powered model if you can afford it.

A final word. UHF's suggested upgrading strategy is
  1. External sound
  2. A subwoofer
  3. Laserdisc
  4. Surround sound
For anime, I'd recommend getting a laserdisc player over a subwoofer, as anime fans are a little more video-oriented than hifi magazine writers... also, prolong that last step as long as possible. Discrete multi(more-than-two)-channel sound will become a reality, and if you can avoid buying into surround until then, nothing you will have bought will be in any way obsolete. Finally, remember that that first step - a good hifi - is by far the most important. The rest is refinement.

Richard Murdey :