Originally Posted by CitiBear
The AG1960 is too old and uses some hard to repair flat motors. It does not have any features that differentiate it from consumer units of the period. The AG1970 is quite possibly the most rugged VCR Panasonic ever made, but overall its performance is only average. It has a very basic TBC and limited DNR, so colors are not as smooth or pure as the AG1980 or JVC/Mitsubishi DVHS models. If you find a working AG1970 for a great price, say $50, it can be an excellent workhorse player: the tape transport and power supply are actually better than the AG1980 which followed. But the AG1980 rules the Panasonic roost with the best color processing and TBC. Personally I use both a 1970 and a 1980. The primary defect in these VCRs is a faded front panel counter display: it is prohibitively expensive to replace nowadays and is the only part I would not spend the money to service. Its much cheaper to just troll eBay or Craigs List for the accessory AGA96 wired remote, which has a built-in one inch high LCD tape counter display that never fades. The AGA96 is easily found for $30 or less and is compatible with the 1960, 1970 or 1980 (you connect two vcrs to one AGA96 and view the counter display of either one by toggling a button).
The HR-S7600 is about as old as the Panasonic AG1970, but ten times as likely to have been beat to death and passed around by every member of every video forum in North America. Totally aside from my own personal bad experience with JVCs, its simply too late in the game to be shopping for one. Every wingnut obsessive-compulsive on every AV forum who was interested in transferring their VHS tapes to DVD snapped up all the old JVC svhs models in 2003 and beat on them, then turned around and resold them to another obsessive, who beat on them some more, then flipped them to another set of users, and so on. These decks were peculiar to begin with and don't like being shipped repeatedly and being repaired multiple times.
The only reason anyone put up with the infuriating old JVC svhs series was for their TBC/DNR features. These can be truly helpful when digitizing VHS or playing it on today's unforgiving LCD televisions. Over the long history of vcrs, JVC offered the TBC/DNR feature on more models at more price points than its competitors. So when recordable DVD led to unexpected demand for those features, most jumped on the old JVC vcrs. The Panasonic AG1970 TBC/DNR is not nearly as effective, and the superior AG1980 was twice as expensive to buy five years ago than the typical JVC. Eventually the constant forum drumbeat for the JVC 7600 and its ilk drove out discussion of any alternatives, and the JVCs became overpriced cult items.
Today, with demand cooled, other options are discussed more often. The DVHS models from JVC and Mitsubishi offer the same TBC/DNR filters as the old 7600, but in a much newer chassis with better-spec tape transport and other parts. Since DVHS was a stillborn format virtually no American consumer was aware of, the machines sell used for the same or lower prices than the cult SVHS JVCs and are thus a much smarter alternative. The Mitsubishi HS-HD2000U has an arguably better overall design and sleeker chassis than the clunkier JVC DVHS units, but performance in regular VHS mode is near identical: you could be happy with either brand. The once-expensive Panasonic AG1980 has finally dropped down to earth from its stratospheric heyday, now found easily for $80-200 depending on condition. The AG1980 TBC/DNR is functionally similar to that in the JVC 7600 and the JVC/Mitsubishi DVHS models, but is different enough to be noticeably better for some tapes. The AG1970 and AG1980 can use their noise filters independently of the TBC feature, which can be crucial with some tapes that do not react well to the TBC (the JVC/Mitsu design locks the TBC and DNR together in an "all or nothing" arrangement, which is less flexible).. At todays more affordable prices, many of us can now keep both a JVC/Mitsubishi and
a Panasonic 1980 on hand to tackle any tape issue with ease. Other than JVC, Panasonic and Mitsubishi, no consumer VCR brands offered the coveted TBC/DNR feature (Toshiba had one final top model with superb DNR but no TBC, it didn't sell well and is hard to find in North America).
The unstable Sony SVHS units had some relevance when we were still recording strictly to tapes, but in today's playback-only scenario they aren't worth the effort. A well-preserved lower-end (non-SVHS) Sony can be a remarkably good player with a nice picture, and worth a look if you can obtain a nice one. But the SVHS models were all one-off showpiece models with very strange parts designs that tend to fail and not be repairable. When tape was the only format, some of the Sony SVHS models were prized for their amazing recording
quality in spite of their atrocious reliability history and so-so playback circuits. The final premium model 1000 and 2000 were fun to play with and looked wonderful on a shelf, but performance was not fantastic and reliability was poor. None of the consumer or prosumer Sonys had the TBC/DNR feature desirable now for feeding a clean signal to a PC or DVD recorder: an eccentric VCR without that feature is really not worth the risk of repair anymore. In terms of absolute performance, a Quasar model VHQ860 (or its sister Panasonic version) found in a thrift shop for $10 will outplay and outlast any used Sony SVHS vcr. As a collectible
, sure- some of the top-line Sonys are exotic and pretty to look at. But not good for day-to-day use.
The Sony BetaMax models are an entirely separate discussion. These were generally much sturdier and Sony took greater care in their manufacture. Most early and late period BetaMaxes are still repairable and in service, some mid-period models based on the clunky tall-boy front-load design are not worth the trouble. Toshiba made a couple of astonishingly good BetaMax clones in the early-mid '80s, as did NEC, but I imagine parts and service knowledge for these has all but disappeared. Today I would stick to a late model Sony if you want a used BetaMax.