Originally Posted by Cyclone82
All this stuff is so confusing when everyone has differing opinions on whats bad/good. I have spent months reading forums and sites and when i think i have it all worked out someone else has a differing opinion.
Thats the point I was trying to make about the TBC/DNR thing. The one aspect of this that forum posters fail to factor is the relentless passage of time: aside from the DVHS models, these "high end" VCRs are all old, well-used, and getting older by the minute. Old stereo audio amplifiers were better than new models, and are relatively easy to repair/restore. Old VCRs just get worse with time, and every year that passes they get much worse. Parts get scarcer, repair people with the dedicated tools vanish, pretty soon a TBC/DNR SVHS made in 1990 will be nothing but a doorstop.
Ten-twelve years ago when digital transfer first became affordable to consumers, the long-obscure TBC/DNR vcrs were rediscovered. Many were still in decent condition, and the early capture cards and DVD recorders were so unstable and twitchy they all but required the TBC/DNR feature. These VCRs, which had been languishing in basements, garages and pawn shops for years, suddenly became the hottest thing on eBay. The Panasonic AG1980, virtually unknown outside of post-production houses and event videography studios, was being discussed by masses of people who had no use for it six months earlier. Used worn-out AG1980s that had been fetching no more than $100-200 skyrocketed overnight to asking prices of $$600-$1000 and remained there during the early-mid 2000s. The same pattern occurred with used JVCs, except the prices didn't shoot quite so high because JVC had been pimping TBC/DNR on a dozen different models for many more years than the AG1980. JVCs were far more plentiful.
So, the TBC/DNR models finally came into their own on a mass scale, after being completely ignored during their original marketing lifetime. They had their moment, but that moment has now passed: if you didn't buy one before the stampede of 2003, you missed the boat and should consider passing on the idea. SuperEye and I both agree on this point, and we usually debate everything
(having both worked in professional video but with divergent approaches and experiences). We agree for two reasons: by 2012 the old machines have been worn down to a nub so the pickings are poor, and the absolute necessity of using one has actually dropped off dramatically. In 2002 you could not transfer a VHS to digital without a TBC/DNR model: the result would be ripples and waves and jaggies and tearing and instability in the transfer (because the early consumer encoders basically sucked and were not optimized for tape dubbing).
Beginning in 2005-2006, mfrs wised up and vastly improved the tape encoding capabilities of most DVD recorders. A Pioneer 520 of 2004 was practically useless for tape dubbing without a TBC/DNR vcr and external black boxes, while a Pioneer 530 of 2005 could dub a defective VHS running inside out and backwards using nothing more than a $20 vcr bought at a garage sale. HUGE paradigm shift, happened with all recorders by 2006. The add-on video encoder boards for PCs dragged their feet quite a bit longer, and even today some are still ridiculously twitchy, but if you shop carefully many PC boards are now nearly as stable with VHS input as most DVD recorders.
This means a TBC/DNR vcr shifts from the "must have" category of gear to the "optional, depends on your preference" category. It isn't strictly necessary to make a watchable, decent digital transfer anymore. For many tapes, using the VCR built into your EZ48 would work nicely, as would any common good-quality second hand VCR. The benefits bestowed by TBC/DNR are now largely cosmetic: if color noise really bothers you, or you have very wavy verticals in old tapes, TBC/DNR totally cleans that up and provides a noticeable improvement. But as the saying goes, "all magic comes with a price
," in this case dealing with worn out expensive old VCRs and side effects including plastic-y faces and weird motion artifacts. If you can live with what your tapes have always looked like anyway, and be comfortable with not trying like crazy to "improve" them, any halfway-decent 4 head hifi VCR that still tracks well can be used successfully.
In your particular case, making these choices becomes even easier: you have less variables to deal with than some others working on transfer projects. Your most important tapes seem to be in PAL, and PAL (in some respects) looks better to start with, giving you an edge. This is one of the reasons people in Europe didn't go quite as nuts for TBC/DNR a few years ago as North Americans did. Most of your tapes appear to be pre-recorded as well, which again narrows the variables considerably. Pre-recorded automatically means first generation SP, you aren't dealing with dupe tapes or unstable off-air and satellite recordings. Color and luma noise should already be minimal on these, the kind of tapes that benefit least from vcr TBC/DNR circuits.
Another variable most of your
tapes will share is copy protection: most pre-rec tapes have this, and it requires dedicated external
TBCs or filter boxes to get rid of in order to make a good digital transfer. The built-in TBC/DNR in "high end" VCRs operates on different principles that often conflict (badly) with these external boxes. Meaning you have to turn off the VCR circuits, meaning you paid extra for a feature you can't use, and an older more decrepit VCR than you needed to risk.
As for your TV recordings, which you seem to view as a lower priority, consider this: every year TV mfrs are removing custom functions from new TV displays. Five years ago every flat TV let you customize frame cropping in 5% increments, so when you played old VHS tapes (or digital transfers of them) you could mask all the "junk" artifacts on the sides and bottom of the frame that were normally hidden on CRT televisions. Today? Cut-throat competition and lower prices means the majority of flat screens are optimized strictly for digital broadcast and HDMI sources. They offer no compensation for older analog sources, ruthlessly revealing every flaw.
This has become an increasingly frustrating problem for me, as I discover my older broadcast transfers made with a JVC TBC/DNR vcr display horrible distracting artifacts at the frame edges when played on newer large-screen TVs. If I go back and re-do the transfer without TBC/DNR, the video looks a bit worse overall but the frame edge issues disappear. Adding yet another
difficult decision every time I transfer a tape: clean the color, or optimize the frame edges? Ugh. (Yes, I know I can crop the edges on the PC, but its an added step and I prefer to use standalone DVD recorders for their more-robust encoders). And of course, since my goal is to get rid of the tape clutter, I've discarded most of the tapes and can no longer redo the transfers. Once again, TBC/DNR becomes more a problem than a solution.
My experience with JVC has often been the polar opposite of SuperEye's, which is our primary point of contention (I've never used one I didn't severely regret, he's never used one he didn't love). Nevertheless, I agree with his advice that a clean 5902 or 5912 at $15 is a good deal. The midpriced 5000 series was much more consistent in build quality control than the high-end SVHS JVCs, which were all over the place and seemed made on a production line staffed by drunken Keebler elves. The 5000 series also have better playback than the higher end models when their TBC/DNR is turned off: some of those, like the nasty 9911, have piss-poor playback without their TBC active. When Super Eye mentioned the 5902 having a "poor front panel," I think he was referring to the uninformative display: most VCRs made after 1997 rely on on-screen info overlays, so they have tiny useless front panel LEDs that show the time and not much else.
SuperEye and I also agree on the JVC DVHS models: they are uniformly better designed internally than the old SVHS models. The conflicting reviews you see for the 30000 and 40000 are based on two issues: they get very hot, and some of them omit a switch for the TBC/DNR (so it is always on when playing analog tapes). The heat issue is provoked by using the internal A/D converter, this is bypassed during playback for transfers. The lack of a switch for the TBC/DNR is more tricky- it may be problematic for you since you have many tapes that will need an external conflicting filter box. You should probably download the instruction books from JVC's support page for any DVHS you're considering, to see if that unit has switchable TBC. Some do, some don't. Here again, personal context is everything: since most of your tapes are pre-rec, you don't necessarily want TBC/DNR anyway, which means you don't want DVHS.
I'd snap up a couple cheap JVC 5902s if I were you, and for PAL keep an eye out for the mid-range industrial series Panasonic NV-HD640 or NV-HD675: very underrated, sturdy, unknown VCRs (PAL equivalent to the equally nice AG2560 and AG2570 NTSC models).