My JVC HR-S9900U VCR is a disappointment - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 04-29-2013, 02:21 PM - Thread Starter
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I've heard so much about how great JVC S-VHS machines with TBC/NR are. I thought it was my lucky day when I found a HR-S900U being sold by a post production company parting with some equipment. I've had the device for a few months now and am really quite disappointed with it. It does have some good points, but for me the negatives outweigh them. My other VCR is a Mitsubishi HS-U775 (I'm the original owner) and that's what I'm using for comparison. For the record, I'm not playing back any SVHS tapes with either of the machines.

My disappointment with the 9900 is all about the playback picture quality. Compared to the Mitsubishi it is darker, less crisp, and overly color saturated. There's just no comparison as to which looks better. The Mitsubishi can sweep the floor with the JVC. I've carefully cleaned the heads but it made no difference. When I turn on the TBR/NR the picture often degrades a bit more in quality so for the most part I leave this vaunted feature off.

So why do I even use the 9900 at all? The main thing it has going for it is that it will play tapes that are too difficult for the Mitsubishi to track (guess the transport is amazing). For really bad tapes I turn on the video stabilizer feature and it salvages them. Of course I'm stuck with the poorer picture quality but at least I got something. However, it's become my last resort machine as I know I'm going to get worse picture from it.

After all the raves I've read about these JVC VCRs I wonder about a few things. Was the 9900U a bad model? Surely all the JVC SVHS machines can't be this bad or they never would have got so many raves. I will say that when one feeds a well recorded tape into the JVC the picture is good (very close in quality to the Mitsubishi), but when one feeds a more worn tape into it then one really sees the quality suffer. The Mitsubishi can still play some of these beautifully while the JVC produces that dark dingy picture from the same tape.

All of this leaves me wondering if there's a machine with the great transport of the JVC 9900U and the great picture quality of the Mitsubishi. I really need something that can handle worn tapes but without losing so much quality like with my JVC.

Thanks for any comments or thoughts on this thread.
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post #2 of 17 Old 04-29-2013, 02:56 PM
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Before the experts arrive, just let me tell you this: a real Mitsubishi deck was much better (solid) that many JVC devices (note that I'm not talking about the lame JVC products that came from LG).

I also remember the good old days of car audio, when the Keenwood products were superior than those from Aiwa or Pioneer.
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post #3 of 17 Old 04-29-2013, 03:53 PM
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Polo, to me this sounds like the heads are getting worn down. I can’t tell you for sure since I can’t see the picture first hand. But I can tell you from work experience ( I worked with production and broadcast VTRs since 1980) and 95 percent of the time when a deck tracks tapes good (like your JVC seems to) but performs poorly with worn tapes -- the problem usually is contributed to wearing heads. Not every time but 95 percent of the time the heads are getting worn when a deck tracks good, exhibits a fairly good picture with newer tapes but a poor picture with worn tapes.

I have worked with literally hundreds of broadcast and production VTRs and 95 percent of the time heads are to blame with the above scenario. The other 5 percent of the time some other circuitry is to blame. When the heads start getting really bad you can see a little tearing affect – around white font on black background it gets really noticeable or a chrome mic stand with dark background etc, but that usually doesn’t happen ‘till the heads are real bad.

Oh red flag “deck from post production company” usually means close to 24/7 usage and even with regular maintenance consumer decks should not be used in a pro production environment.

One thing for sure – those JVCs sure are great trackers….
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post #4 of 17 Old 04-30-2013, 05:08 AM - Thread Starter
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I could try and post some screen captures from each VCR is that would help. Also, if it is worn heads is there anything I can do about it? Are there any places left that can replace the heads?
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post #5 of 17 Old 04-30-2013, 02:23 PM
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If you bought this JVC from a working pro studio, odds are Super Eye is correct and the thing has been worn into the ground. The heads may indeed be shot, although I can't say I've ever noticed darker, murkier output as a symptom of worn heads. Usually worn heads result in noisier grainier output and more visible dropouts, not loss of brightness, but anything is possible when a deck has been very heavily used over the years.

Head replacement will cost a minimum $200 with no guarantee it will be done right or that the VCR will work up to original spec. Head drums are long out of production for most VCRs, so it may not even be possible. High-end JVCs can be a bit tricky to service, if you opt for this I'd suggest shipping it to someplace that still knows what they're doing, like JOTS Electronics repair. Frankly for the cost involved I'd probably just junk this worn JVC and look for another in better condition, perhaps one of the later DVHS models.

On a related note, if you haven't had recent experience with several brands of VCR patched thru a modern LCD television, you may not be aware that dramatic differences in playback is actually the norm. The old CRT televisions were great at minimizing or concealing these differences, but today's plasma and LCD technology is ruthless if not utterly hostile to VHS output. I've been digitizing my enormous VHS collection for several years now, and one of the biggest hurdles slowing me down is the endless game of "which VCR will best play this tape?"

Even within the same brand and product line, there is tremendous variation in playback appearance. With the same tape loaded, one of my VCR models results in extremely bright and contrasty video, with borderline atrocious colors. Another plays the tape with a muted color palette, almost totally flat and lifeless: the opposite extreme. My other VCRs fall in the middle. This applies to DVHS, SVHS with TBC/DNR, and ordinary household VCRs: price is no particular indication of how any VCR will play a specific tape. My two JVCs with near-identical DigiPure features do not perform identically, my Mitsubishi DVHS apes one or the other JVC alternately, my Panasonic AG1980 is the best all-rounder but not always and not predictably, my older AG1970 is usually mediocre except when its antique TBC is the only one I own that will correct a freaky tape and make it usable.

If you are new to this digitizing lunacy, I strongly suggest trying another JVC only if you can get one from a seller who offers a trial period and return policy. It is possible that your tapes were recorded on a VCR that is extremely incompatible with JVC, and any JVC you buy may not live up to your expectations. This is a common phenomenon not limited to JVC: the same issue can occur with Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic, whatever. So its best to be cautious until you find a VCR that is usable with most of your tapes: many of us find we need two or three different brands to cover large tape collections recorded on random long-gone VCRs.

Unfortunately it is getting harder and harder to find VCRs with the TBC/DNR feature in decent condition. Most are now worn out, and the cost for restoring them can be prohibitive (assuming you can even find a tech willing to do it). The older JVC SVHS models can be a headache and the Panasonic AG1980 the stuff of nightmares, unless you are prepared to pay several hundred $ for repairs. These high-end models are much less reliable and far more persnickety than their more common low-end or mid-range siblings.
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post #6 of 17 Old 04-30-2013, 02:42 PM
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Replacing the heads is a very expensive job. Usually when a service center replaces VCR heads, they replace the whole upper drum with all the flying heads already attached on it. If you can still get the part itself you may have a hard time finding a qualified technician to align everything properly. Big $$$$$.

Another possibility is that there is something wrong with the CNR circuitry. I believe the top-line JVCs have special CNR circuitry along with the standard HQ circuitry. It could be as simple as dirt accumulating in the soldier points. Or the HQ chip or the enhanced CNR chip could be faulty.

I’m just guessing at these things. I’m not a technician but I have worked with lots of pro VTRs and when I see symptoms that I can’t fix I just pass it on to the techs. But since the deck tracks all right and the problem is most noticeable with worn tapes, dark scenes video noise, I took a guess… I have seen dark scenes getting very noisy with bad heads. CitiBear is correct regarding drop outs - bad heads will exhibit more drop outs. If it is the CNR or HQ circuitry then there should be no “tearing” effect as I mentioned what you may see with wearing heads.

Does it make a difference if you toggle between soft sharp edit auto norm? Edit should be the cleanest.

Screen shots may help.
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post #7 of 17 Old 04-30-2013, 03:12 PM
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Forgot to mention.

If there is nothing wrong with the VCR but it just looks bad (to you) with your particular tapes as other JVCs would then don’t junk it as you can get hundreds of dollars for it on eBay.
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post #8 of 17 Old 04-30-2013, 03:26 PM
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Polo, what video output are you using and have you tried another?(assuming it has more than one). Dark video sounds more like like a video level issue, have you tried another cable?
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post #9 of 17 Old 04-30-2013, 05:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the replies. My current setup is that both VCRs connect to a Canopus ADVC 110 using a SVHS cable and standard red/white audio cables. I use the same cables for both VCRs. To change from the Mitsubishi to the JVC I simply unplug the cables from the output of the Mitsubishi and plug then into the output of the JVC. The other ends are always plugged into the Canopus. Playback is on my Planar PX series 19 inch monitor and I play the resulting files with zoom player though I have also used vlc and windows media player for comparison. So all outside factors are the same for both VCRs (same tape, same cables, same capture device, same playback screen, same playback software).

I have not noticed any recurring problem of dropouts on the JVC. In fact, I go to that machine when the Mitsubishi has dropout problems, and the JVC often plays the same tape flawlessly in regard to dropouts. Just to make sure we're talking about the same thing in regard to dropouts, these look like the tape freezes on a frame and then suddenly jumps ahead. I would say that 80% of the time the JVC will play those tapes fine. 20% of the time both VCRs have dropouts and I figure the tape is just too worn.

My source tapes come from all over the place and were recorded on lots of different machines. The reason for that is that for years used to trade video tapes of classical music recitals with people all over the world. So there's little consistency there. Some tapes play beautifully. Others are very difficult. So that's why I wanted a machine like the JVC to help me with the tapes that my Mitsubishi can't handle.

At this point maybe the best thing is for me to make some comparative screen shots. The difference in picture quality is most noticeable in the brightness factor. To put it another way, the JVC looks like a tenth generation copy when compared to the brightness level of the Mitsubishi. To clarify, it's not a problem with dark scenes, it's that it makes all scenes look darker than they should be. On good tapes the brightness difference is minor and probably attributable to the different character of the two brands.

The suggestion by Jeff to try a different output is a good one, but this machine has only one SVHS output port. There are two SVHS input ports but that's of no help. The other output is the yellow RCA jack but that would be a big drop in quality. However, it may be worth testing just for the brightness factor.
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post #10 of 17 Old 04-30-2013, 06:00 PM
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Polo, now that you gave more info;
Analog video dropouts look like little white speckles of snow. What you’re describing is dropped frames caused by improper time base correction in the analog to digital conversion. To see if analog drop outs are or aren't causing the dropped digital frames it would be best to hook the VCR straight to an anolog TV if possible or at the very least bypass the Canopus ADVC 110 and hook the VCR straight to a plat panel. Do note that VHS to a device like the Canopus will usually drop frames from worn VHS tapes. An external TBC would help with that.

As for your JVC symptoms, now that you gave more info it does not sound like worn heads but sounds like a problem in the circuitry. Now I think it sounds like the YNR circuitry. (Luminance circuitry) It could be in the standard HQ chip or the enhanced JVC YNR/CNR that comes with the top line decks.
I’m guessing only…

Do try jjeff's suggestion of changing from s-video to composite to eliminate any problems with the S-Video output.
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post #11 of 17 Old 05-01-2013, 10:01 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for explaining to me what those freezes were. I had assumed they were dropouts due to worn or damaged tape. The JVC plays most of those spots fine with the TBC turned off so I never associated the problem with TBC. As mentioned earlier I usually keep the TBC turned off because it darkens the picture even more.

What I'm wondering now is whether I could solve my problems by buying an external TBC to use with my Mitsubishi VCR. If that would fix those freezes and skips then I would hardly need to use the JVC at all.

Will try to put some screenshots up comparing the two VCRs and illustrating the darkness factor of the JVC.
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post #12 of 17 Old 05-01-2013, 03:39 PM
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More and more, your description of the problem seems to line up with Super Eye's theory that one or more of the video circuits in your JVC have gone bad. You say the output gets "even darker when I turn the TBC on," which is the polar opposite of a properly functioning JVC: switching on the TBC/DNR should either increase brightness and color slightly, or not affect it at all (aside from clearing up color noise).

An external TBC used with your Mitsubishi may or may not fix the Mitsu's dropped frame issue. External TBCs behave unpredictably with VHS, they often help with drop frame issues during PC capture but they can also degrade the image slightly or notably: colors change, sharpness changes, brightness and contrast changes. Since you are very concerned about this, the only external TBC you should even remotely consider is the AVT-8710, which is the only sub-$1000 TBC with user color adjustments (proc amp) built in. The controls are crude but something is better than nothing.

The "TBC" built into the JVC isn't the same as an external TBC: its more of an adjunct to the DNR circuitry, helping clean the video, smooth out noise and correct geometric distortion. External TBCs don't clean noise or correct geometric distortion, they just help with dropped frames and lipsync drift. The entire point of bothering with a twitchy pricey high-end JVC (or similar Panasonic or Mitsubishi) is this noise cleaning TBC/DNR feature, so if yours isn't working properly and the video output is objectively very defective, the unit is hosed. If you can't get a refund from the studio, try selling it as-is on eBay to someone who wants to deal with the repairs. You could get $50-$150 for a funky 9900.

All of the high-end VCRs combine this amazing TBC/DNR feature with lousy, unreliable transports and other electronics. Everyone tolerates the high price because the TBC/DNR is unique and invaluable for some tapes, but the underlying machines are generally much less well-made than the cheaper consumer models of the period. There are millions of Panasonic PV-4660s and JVC HR-S5912s still working perfectly, while the fancy AG1980s and HR-S9911s litter the video landscape in sad dysfunctional piles. They are a necessary evil for some of us, but require extremely careful shopping and buying. Always get at least a one week trial period, and test the hell out of it with a variety of tapes. Its also a good idea to to have a competent repair tech on speed dial.
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post #13 of 17 Old 05-01-2013, 05:11 PM - Thread Starter
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Yes, when I turn on TBC or the video stabilizer the video often but not always gets darker. It's interesting that you say that I should only get an AVT 8710. I was just reading about external TBCs today and had just about decided on a Datavideo TBC-1000. The reason being that I'm running my VCR 8-10 hours a day and several people said the 8710 doesn't hold up well to long hours of continuous use.

I love the output quality of my Mitsubishi so if I could get the lost frames from these freezes fixed I'd never use anything else. If the Datavideo or AVT will do that without degrading my picture much then I'm sold. It sounds like there's no way to know other than trying it out.
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post #14 of 17 Old 05-01-2013, 06:57 PM
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Definitely there’s something wrong with your JVC. CitiBear already explained about the JVC TBC/DNR and I will explain about the JVC stabilizer.

My JVC SVHS decks don’t have the DNR/TBC circuitry but all recent JVC SVHS decks have the stabilizer. If I turn on the stabilizer on either one of my JVC SVHS decks there is no noticeable difference in brightness, contrast or chroma levels, nor should there be. The only thing the stabilizer should do is help remove jitter, roll or dropped frames. What the stabilizer does is it tries to rebuild the control track pulses. On my good stable tapes which is 95 percent of my tapes – turning on the stabilizer actually adds a little jitter and the stabilizer should be turned off on good tapes. On my bad tapes the stabilizer does help remove jitter, roll or dropped frames.

Again, the JVC built in stabilizer should not alter the brightness, contrast or chroma levels. You might have some kind of power supply problem. I’m sure the stabilizer draws some extra power and a power supply problem would explain why turning on the stabilizer alters the video levels. Now-a-days everything seems to be integrated and maybe a faulty YNR/CNR chip makes the stabilizer act funny.
I’m just guessing.

I agree 100 percent with CitiBear stating that the lower end JVCs and Panasonics seem to outlast the high-end models. I disagree that it has to do with the built quality. My reasoning is

1) The high-end JVCs and Panasonics used to be so desirable to a select crowd that most of them were workhorses and have too many miles on ‘em and are worn to death. As most of the lower end models like the JVC 5912 just sat around in regular folk homes having slight usage as by the time they came out regular folks bought them just to replace older non working VHS decks and most people watched DVDs 90 percent and VHS 10 percent by that time.

2) The high-end models have more options. Just like with fancy old cars those options start to wear out and it takes more maintenance to keep a fancy fully loaded car properly working in proper order – on the other hand there is a lot less to go wrong with a plain jane car.

Regarding an external TBC, although I don’t own the AVT-8710, I heard good things about it. But as CitiBear stated it may or may not help with your dropped frames and it may degrade the image slightly or notably.
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post #15 of 17 Old 05-02-2013, 12:50 AM
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I have owned both the DataVideo TBC-1000 and the AVT-8710. Superficially, the DataVideo seems more robust than the rather dinky AVT, but looks can be deceiving, and the DataVideo has been reported to develop as many issues as the AVT, if not more. The key issue with the AVT is its cramped case which overheats if you don't let it cool down every three hours or aim a cooling fan over it. The trouble with the DataVideo is its sturdy case conceals the atrocious build quality of the circuit board, which is appalling at its price point ($450, nearly double the AVT). The DataVideo acts up unpredictably for no apparent reason, in part because its internal construction marries the TBC used in the once-popular TBC-100 PCI card to a cheap, crummy, four-way splitter (distribution amp). The TBC-1000 is prone to pick up noise and interference from its unused additional outputs: the open connections are not well shielded.

One also needs to be aware of the DataVideo's clumsy hookup requirements: input in the front, outputs on the back, which makes it a pain to position on a shelf or table. The AVT uses a similar layout, but being a small portable pod the size of a cigarette pack makes it less cumbersome. The DataVideo with its larger case was clearly meant for permanent placement, but the clumsy connections make this difficult and there's always a danger of it falling to the floor from cable stress. The lightweight AVT would survive a fall, the DataVideo, not so much. The DataVideo is very sensitive to power and works better if you can get the heavier-duty power supply sold with it in Europe (the US/Canada PSU is crummy and underpowered). Finally, the DataVideo has no adjustments at all: it will alter the video it passes to some degree, and you'll need to fix it in software on your PC. The AVT does have adjustments: they aren't extensive but they do let you compensate minor image issues in hardware pre-capture.

My comments on the dubious construction of the "prosumer" VCRs were based on personal experience as well as advice from several repair techs I have used. JVC couldn't adhere to a specific chassis design longer than two months if you put a gun to their heads: the top models often shared little in common with the lower units. Such one-off, limited production designs rarely fared well in the VCR days: the higher-volume models had much tidier electronics which stand the test of time. JVCs most reliable VCRs were the midrange units, followed by the cheap models and then the flagships. The only Panasonic comparable to a JVC DigiPure was the AG1980, but that model is plagued with one of the worst PSUs ever put in a VCR and multiple one-off circuit boards that self-destruct every which way (primarily from failure of the dozens of flimsy caps). When they work, they're fantastic, when they break, ugh. Even the most experienced repair techs remove the cover from an AG1980, take one look at the nested circuit boards with infinite number of potential bad capacitors, and break out in hives.
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post #16 of 17 Old 05-02-2013, 03:00 PM
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About the AVT-8710

I have used a AVT-8710 for years. I can confirm heating problems after 6hrs or so continuous use.
BUT... I was able to solve the problem by adding heatsinks to the main chip and a few of the smaller chips.
...much like the ones used for video ram chips.

Helpful Hint:
The other thing of note about the unit...be aware...the AVT-8710 has reversed polarity on the wall wort.
It wants center negative not the conventional center positive. Mark the wall wort for use ONLY with the AVT-8710.
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post #17 of 17 Old 07-27-2013, 06:29 AM
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Funny you should say all that about the AG-1980; I had the exact same experience and in fact couple years ago I sent my 1980 off to be diagnosed and got a repair quote back from about the only place that still works on them of around $800.

It's since been junked.

(Ironically the older AG-1970 seems to be a true workhorse and I've seen several of those that are still working in perfect condition.)

Note also I have a TBC-1000 I'm considering replacing with an AVT-8710 simply because the TBC-1000 reduces the brightness of everything I feed through it by about 8%. :-(
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