- Panasonic AG-7750
- PANASONIC DS555
But seriously - where can a guy find a comparison on these? What are the differences? I'm looking for the ones with the best audio quality and there are SO many of these Panasonic decks. I just want to know what is what. I'm NOT looking to do VHS to digital conversions, really just curious what the differences are - if some are better than others
Contrary to what many people think, these retired ultra-pro machines are not appreciably better at playback of most consumer recordings than a top semi-pro model like the AG1980/AG5710. They are optimized primarily for recording and editing of original material, preferably camera-generated, preferably using tapes they recorded themselves or from calibrated sister decks of the same series. If you come from a production or post-production background, and know of a couple good repair techs who can restore such VCRs and maintain them for you, and you have a specific need to play tapes that were recorded on other such production-class VCRs, then you might explore acquiring one. Before doing so, ask your tech friends which they can still service: thats more important than a 2% difference in audio performance.
If you are not coming from a professional background, and the tapes you want to play were not originally recorded by this type of extreme professional VCR, there is no advantage in getting one over a more common AG1980/AG5710. They're huge, heavy, non-standard in some aspects of record/playback, and designed for a pro environment with expectation of regular, scheduled maintenance-calibration by a vanishing breed of service technician. Properly serviced, they can provide excellent playback with some consumer tapes but not all: these pro decks are skewed toward pro tapes, consumer tape compatibility varies.
The ultimate in S/VHS audio performance was offered by the short-lived "WVHS" analog HDTV vcrs sold some years ago by JVC. These high-spec units had premium bespoke audio circuits and audio tracking targeted at completely eliminating headswitching noise, "machine gunning," flanging, mistracking and other issues inherent in VHS HiFi since it was first introduced. If your highest priority is HiFi audio performance, be patient and look for one of the JVC WVHS decks that were imported as accessories for DirecTV. They come up for sale in the second-hand Craig's List or eBay market a few times a year. Model numbers were SRW-320U, SRW-5U, SRW-7U, HR-W1, HR-W5. The most common was the SRW-5U (circa 2001, original retail $6900), the most coveted was the SRW-320U broadcast spec version (original retail $13,000). The SRW-5U currently fetches about $500 in good working condition.
Bought an AG-7750 a few years ago, off eBay. I'd used the AG-6550 in a professional environment about 20 years ago. They're relatively easy on the tapes, EXCELLENT audio and video quality. The 7750 has useful video "enhancement" controls, brightness, color, hue, "video level", good for improving the deteriorated quality of these old VHS tapes I'm transferring to DVD. The 7750 has an S-VHS output that, even if you're playing a regular VHS tape, will output the signal via S-VHS format to improve the color separation... results in a more "distinct" picture. I'm not a "video tech" or anything, but I've worked consumer sales (Best Buy and the like) for a long time, and have always felt this VCR (player, really, I'm not recording) is the best quality product I've ever used. eBay price is under $100 these days, and well worth it, but make sure it's a reputable seller.