Thanks jjeff and CitiBear for the informative responses.
Regarding Panasonic's late-1990s decks, I had no idea they were such pieces of junk in the signal output department! The difference I experienced in the severity of the H2160's problems between my PV-S4670 and Samsung decks did leave me scratching my head, and Wajo's reply and link certainly got me thinking. But this sinches it.
Fortunately, I was already planning on NOT using the PV-S4670 as the source deck for any of my VHS transfers. One thing I've always known about it is that its VHS playback capabilities look absolutely horrible (as if, literally, NR'ed to death). That said, for all of my VHS transfers, I'm planning on using the original machine that recorded most of the tapes themselves. It dates to the mid-1980s when VHS manufacturers were still competing on quality rather than price merits. The thing probably even has 58 micron heads!
I also have a couple of early-1990s VHS machines on hand in anticipation of needing alternatives supposing I encounter tracking issues, etc. Hopefully between the original deck and the alternates, I will be good to go for everything that needs transferring in whole. (Thanks for the note on the AG-2560. I'll keep that one in mind as well.)
As far as the AG-1980, I actually owned that deck until it was eaten by a giant power surge. Just my luck that I happened to have it plugged directly
into a wall outlet during a period of time when our central heating unit spontaneously arc faulted and fried everything on its breaker circuit.
In any event, even if the AG-1980 was still with me, I wouldn't have used it for this project. It's TBC did work wonderfully, provided you had clean tapes. But it couldn't handle VBI dropouts. One glitch during the vertical interval, and the entire frame would jump. Nasty.
As far as "illusions about 'perfect image quality'", the primary reason I have been considering the DVD-R route all these years for eventually transferring my tape library was my belief that DVD-R recorders represent about the only avenue available for performing satisfactory VHS captures. Because VHS (and Beta) are color-under formats, there's something "not quite right" about the luma/chroma relationship when re-combined upon playback. It drives professional TBCs crazy and leaves you with soft, ringy video. As my understanding goes, the TBCs in some (clearly not all, but some) DVD-R recorders, on the other hand, were specifically engineered with consumers transferring old tapes in mind -- not just in terms of their being able to deal with re-composited color-under source material, but in terms of being able to handle timebase instability, sync pulses containing noise and dropouts, etc.
In the end, I would be just as happy (perhaps moreso) with an outboard encoder device for a PC. Problem is, where does one find such a device sporting TBC/procamp circuitry as VHS-friendly as that found in some DVD-R recorders? For instance, at one point, I was thinking about the Hauppauge 1212 HD PVR. That would have been perfect
for me. It's input circuitry features no Hollywood copy-protection cartel boobytrapping, and maxed-out bitrate MPEG-4 would let me capture my source material with very little artifacting penalties re: noise. All I'd literally have to do is capture, make minor edits, and dump to BluRay. Alas, after talking with a friend who owns a 1212, I was told the unit absolutely loathes unstable input sources like VHS. (Really, *#@$. Finding that out hurt
. It would
have been my ideal solution.)
Anyway. Thanks (both of you) for the pointers to the Pioneer models. I would love to find a high quality, "VHS compatible" TBC to put in front of a 1212. But I guess that if any such thing exists, it will be sure to cost an arm and a leg. So, these Pioneers may be my only hope...
@edit - Hmm. Do you know by chance whether the Pioneers' video outputs are "direct" or TBC'ed? I suppose
I could do [VHS deck] --> [Pioneer used as TBC] --> ... if
its outputs don't operate as direct pass-throughs while it's simply idling.