Should I buy a used high-end VCR or a dvd-r/vcr combo? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 01-08-2012, 12:54 PM - Thread Starter
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I have 2 dvd recorders, a samsung and a sony, both record fine. I need to transfer some old vhs home movies to dvd. I have no vcr anymore. I am looking at buying a Sony SLV-R1000 S-VHS Hi-Fi Stereo VCR used for $150 instead of buying a new vcr/dvd combo or a new vcr. They go for like $1000 new.

What would you do? By a bnib vcr, a bnib vcr/dvd combo and save the hookup hassle, used of either; or drop $150 on the used high end vcr.
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post #2 of 9 Old 01-08-2012, 02:25 PM
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Kind of depends on what speed your tapes were recorded on and what the nib VCR would be. If the nib VCR is of the garden variety Funai recorders(or similar) I'd stay clear. If it were a decent name brand VCR(and not priced too high) I might go the nib route.
In my rather large dubbing project I've been having excellent results with a couple Panasonic combos(pre '07) and Samsung VCRs(early '00s). Basically all my tapes were recorded in SP and track very well. A few recordings were done in SLP(EP) and may require trying different VCRs. I haven't used the particular Sony you mentioned but I do own(although am not using for my dubbing project) a Sony S-VHS VCR(can't remember the model right now) which has wood grain sides, digital effects and a jog shuttle remote. It's a very nice VCR but a bit awkward to use so I'm choosing to use my other VCRs/combos.
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post #3 of 9 Old 01-08-2012, 03:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for your reply, I agree with you.

I used to have a couple of the "nicer" (but not pro grade) JVC SVHS units with wood grain sides. Seems VHS players tend to die after a few thousand hours of use, so even buying high end used may not be a good as buying middle range new.
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post #4 of 9 Old 01-08-2012, 10:09 PM
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I'd buy that Sony in a minute! It is one of the best ever made.

JJeff's is probably a R5U. They were very nice, but had a few problems. I have an old one that I'll sell for parts, if anyone wants it.
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post #5 of 9 Old 01-09-2012, 04:55 AM
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In my opinion $150 is way too much for a used and very old VCR. Even with lightly used VCRs that been sitting, not often used, you may encounter age and environment related problems. Not saying not to bother looking at older robust VCRs - just saying don't pay a premium price, know exactly what you're getting and make sure you're handy with VCR maintenance including knowing how to deal with sticky guide pins and similar problems that can be very common with any old VCR.

Another thing with those older high-end VCRs is that much of the hi-end features were recording features that are a total waste for playback to DVD recorder. Other features to do with playback became standard in newer generation decks. So really the only thing I'd look for in an older VCR is robustness but consider that no matter how robust the older VCRs are - they are past their shelf life and not designed to properly function forever - its good to at least have some maintenance knowledge to keep it going. Kinda like having an older robust 57 Chevy, very robust but you need to know how to maintain it.

Here is an interesting video from a guy who knows how to diagnose sticking VCR parts.



I once had to deal with a similar problem with my hi-mileage JVC SVHS but it was with a sticking guide pin. One of my old Sony SuperBeta's also a had similar issue with sticky parts - loading and ejecting tapes. Be prepared to diagnose and repair such minor problems common with older and/or hi-mileage VCRs.

How big is your VHS dubbing project? I'd start by looking for a lightly used unit from local craigslist ads. Sometimes you can pick up half decent units for free and almost always you can pick up lightly used VCRs in good condition for under $30. If you don't know how to maintain it, no big deal just throw it away and get another one (hopefully no tapes get eaten).
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post #6 of 9 Old 01-09-2012, 06:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kjbawc View Post

JJeff's is probably a R5U. They were very nice, but had a few problems. I have an old one that I'll sell for parts, if anyone wants it.

You are correct I just looked and it's a SLV-R5UC. It was actually going to be tossed at work since they switched to digital recording and I was the one responsible for getting it recycled. Needless to say it ended up getting recycled to my house along with a copious amount of professional grade Fuji T-120 S-VHS tapes, mostly recorded on just once.
By the time I got this VCR I had already switched to DVDRs and really never looked back, but it's a beautiful looking machine with a similar built quality(HEAVY) to my first(early '80s) VCRs. With the little I've used it I haven't had any problems but thats not saying I know much about it. Not like my Mitsubishi U57 that got literately 1000s of hours of use but did need occasional idler pulley work.
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post #7 of 9 Old 01-09-2012, 12:21 PM
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As other posters have mentioned, the fancier or more "high end" the VCR, the more likely it will have a host of known technical problems and the more likely it will be in borderline shape requiring very expensive repairs. These simply were not made in great quantity, and lower production runs means less mfr ability to work out design flaws over time. You also encounter the "AVS Recommendation Effect", aka "VCR Model Cults" (the high-end VCRs have all been bought, used to death and resold between every member here so many times its amazing they even power up anymore- you are very ,very late to the "dub my VHS to DVD" party).

With that warning out of the way, you do have options, but you need to narrow down your requirements so you spend your money wisely. The most important five questions are:

1. What kind of tapes do you have? SVHS or "regular plain ole VHS"? (SVHS models are more expensive, but unnecessary for regular VHS tape collections).

2. How many tapes do you need to transfer? (If its a few, you have more flexibility, if its a large quantity made on various older VCRs you may need more than a single brand/model VCR to cleanly track every tape.)

3. You say these are "home movies", but are they camcorder tapes or VCR tapes from TV? (Camcorder tapes are notoriously difficult to track without static unless the tape is played in the actual camcorder that made it: if most of your tapes are camcorder-sourced you'll want a wide-tracking-range VCR model like Panasonic AG or Sharp rather than more twitchy brands like JVC, Sony and some older Mitsus (newer Mitsus are better at tracking).

4. Do you have the slightest idea what camcorder brand/model was used to make them in the first place? (Using the same brand and model year of VCR can help with good tracking.)

5. Seriously and with no BS, how much can you truly afford to spend for a VCR? ($600 will buy you a fantastic new-in-box high-end leftover, $250 will get you a similar fantastic VCR in near-mint condition, $175 will get you something just one step down from the top, $30-50 will get you an excellent "regular" VHS like the AG2560 or a Sharp.)

If you don't have any SVHS tapes, i.e. the tapes are all plain ordinary VHS, you can find a good VCR more easily and affordably. Sharp in particular made some very fine midrange 4-head hifi VCRs commonly available for under $30 on Craigs List or eBay or pawn shops. For some reason the people who bought Sharps tended to take good care of them or not use them much, I've rarely seen one that was beat up. Sharp also had fewer mechanical problems than most other brands, and better than average PQ. If you can't track down a Sharp, most Panasonics, Quasars and Mitsubishi/MGAs made from roughly 1995-2000 were dependable with decent PQ. My favorite "affordable" VCR is the industrial-grade Panasonic AG2560 of 2000-2001: superb mechanics, great tracking of video & hifi audio, and often sold for $40 on eBay.

JVC and Sony tend to have mechanical problems that are not easily repaired. The high-end JVCs are worth the risk (if you you want their features), the low-end aren't. With Sony its the reverse: the low-end (compact chassis) were actually rather good, but the high-end Sonys were an outright disaster: Sony couldn't make a top-of-the-line SVHS that didn't self-destruct almost immediately, and spare parts are long gone. I would for sure avoid the SLV-R1000, SLV-R2000 and esp the SLV-R5U. Also, the "top" Sonys lack the most desirable TBC/DNR playback features for dubbing to digital.

If your tapes are SVHS, you'll of course need an SVHS model to play them back at full resolution. Here again Sharp made some great affordable models, but the SVHS Sharps are much rarer than their regular VHS. Other good "affordable" (under $80 used) SVHS were sold by Panasonic and Mitsubishi/MGA. The Sonys I would avoid, and probably the midrange or cheap JVCs (JVCs become more worthwhile at the high-end).

If you want the TBC/DNR options that everyone on video forums goes nuts over, you need to budget $175-600. TBC means Time Base Corrector, its a special circuit that makes the tape signal more stable (straightens out wavy verticals like doorways, etc). DNR means Digital Noise Reduction, this is a filter that clears up grainy picture noise and smooths away those rolling shadowy lines in large areas of the same color, esp red. Today, the only reason anyone spends the sick $600 pricetag for a "top" vcr is to get this relatively rare TBC/DNR circuit, which ironically is nothing more than a postage-stamp-sized processing chip. The VCRs that had TBC/DNR were invariably top-of-the-line models with elaborate editing, flying erase and other features that only the wealthy or the dedicated hobbyist could afford. This makes them rare and in demand, rarity drives the price up, so unless you think your tapes need a major PQ boost you may not want to invest the money for what today amounts to a plain $50 VCR with a $400 processing chip bolted on.

Not many VCRs, even high-end, had the TBC/DNR feature (Sony never bothered with it at all, which took some nerve considering the absolutely outrageous retail price of the SLV-R1000). JVC promoted the TBC/DNR more than any other mfr, including it on the top three SVHS models of each year for many years. So there are tons of JVCs, and they have been discussed and fawned over on forums like this for so long that a huge cult formed around them. Eight or ten years ago this cult had a point, today they're out of their frickin minds: there is not one "classic" JVC in existence that hasn't been passed around from AVS member to AVS member like a flu virus, shipped who knows how many times over hundreds of miles. Therefore I recommend against any JVC SVHS with a four-digit model number (7600, 9500, 9911, etc.)

The primary competitor to the "classic" JVC svhs was the Panasonic semipro AG1980: it had similar features but works just different enough to make owning both brands a good idea for people with huge tape collections. Unfortunately the AG1980 has also been bought-sold-resold-trashed-resold so many times most of them look like a worn out penny. Also the AG1980 was originally sold almost exclusively to wedding and event videographers who beat the hell out of them, so most were already worn out when they first went into circulation for DVD transfer use. An AG1980 is a great sturdy deck, but good ones still run at least $150 and then need another $150-200 for proper restoration by a good tech.

At this point, if you want a good TBC/DNR vcr, you need to think outside the box. The least expensive model that is likely to be in good condition is the JVC SR-V101 SVHS: a recent "semi-pro" model often overlooked because it is a boring-looking grey plastic instead of the pretty silver metallic/wood sided "classic" JVCs everyone (misguidedly) covets. The SR-V101 has a newer, more reliable tape transport but the same TBC/DNR as the older JVC models. Not always easy to find, but pops up new-in-box occasionally for about $350 or in mint used condition for $150-200. A near-identical SR-V10 model was also available, at roughly the same pricing.

Other than the SR-V101 and SR-V10, SVHS models are all too old and too used up to be worth the money people are asking. Look instead at the final last gasp of VHS, the "DVHS" models made in the last decade. Mitsubishi made probably the best one for VHS>DVD conversions, the model HS-HD2000U. In clean used condition these go on eBay or CR for $200 and up. Every month a stash of brand-new-in-box is discovered and put up for auction, those typically hit $500 or so. Aside from Mitsubishi, JVC was the only company to offer DVHS, and typically for JVC they turned out TONS of them (despite the fact they could not give them away for free in stores-go figure). The oldest are the HM-DH30000 and HM-DH40000, these fetch $200 and up depending on condition. Newer models like SR-VD400U and HM-DT100 sell at higher prices.

One last point to consider is the resale value of the high-end VCRs. If you have a reasonable number of tapes to digitize, and honestly believe you have the time/patience to complete your project within a year, its quite likely you could resell a DVHS or a JVC SR-V10 for exactly what you paid for it, or perhaps just a slight loss.
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post #8 of 9 Old 01-09-2012, 08:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjeff View Post

You are correct I just looked and it's a SLV-R5UC. It was actually going to be tossed at work since they switched to digital recording and I was the one responsible for getting it recycled. Needless to say it ended up getting recycled to my house along with a copious amount of professional grade Fuji T-120 S-VHS tapes, mostly recorded on just once.
By the time I got this VCR I had already switched to DVDRs and really never looked back, but it's a beautiful looking machine with a similar built quality(HEAVY) to my first(early '80s) VCRs. With the little I've used it I haven't had any problems but thats not saying I know much about it. Not like my Mitsubishi U57 that got literately 1000s of hours of use but did need occasional idler pulley work.

I used the heck out of my R5U. The only problem I had is that there is some circuit module that goes bad, and makes the picture B&W, until the unit has warmed up really well, and then the color comes back. That happened to my unit twice.

Its main claim to fame, what made it cult item, is its great editing features. It displayed side-by-side screens showing what was on the tape, at the edit point, and what was on the source to be edited in. It also labeled timer recordings with time, date, input source.

I don't think the R1000 was ever a cult item. It's built like a tank, works great, but didn't have SVHS-ET. The only other SVHS machine I'd like to have, even more, is the one Marantz sold. It was made by Philips. They called it the last VCR you'd ever need to buy. They were great. Ironically, VCRs began to die, not long after it was released.

I still have a SVHS JVC piece of junk, I had a $1,000 Mitsu SVHS editing deck, the Sony R5U, and a couple of others. But, my most reliable deck, still running strong after 20 years, NEVER a problem, is a Philips SVHS deck, not an editing deck, but their best when I bought it.
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post #9 of 9 Old 01-09-2012, 09:35 PM - Thread Starter
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There is a lot of good info in this thread, thank you very much to all!

I'm just starting to look into what kind of tapes I'm dealing with, I want to say they are vhs-c; but I'm not sure. I have to find them lol. I hope to heck they are not in the garage, because they are probably toast if they are. I may have transferred them to regular VHS, I doubt I dubbed them to SVHS. I'll have to find them and check it out.
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