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Does anyone know VCR's?

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 
Hello, I am looking to pick up a couple of units, used.

From what I understand


were the top dogs of the VCR world.

Also, at some point in the early to mid 90s, quality of constructions started going down hill on all VCRs.

So I am looking for a good SVHS and also Mulit Region player.

For the second, all I know of is the Aiwa models, which I will probably get. I think Toshiba had a couple of multi region (PAL/SECAM) players too.

Anyways. Thanks for sharing your knowledge on specific models.


post #2 of 39
As for VCRs, I've had good experience with Panasonics. Still have two that are running fine and have three speed recording which many ended up NOT having.

I'm guessing you're more interested in using them as playback units, tho'.

As for the others, Sony's not a bad brand name, and in my own choosing I'd put JVC as the last on the list, if I had a choice between the three.

If you're talking used units, however, remember you could get a Panny that's a piece of battered junk, or a JVC that's still running fine.

The multi-region thing, I'm guessing you mean DVD players, even tho' you didn't specify.

I have NO experience with actual region-free machines, but I have been able to hack some players to MAKE them region-free.

The Aiwa's were easy to do, since people were able to figure out the code and produce software that'd alter the machine for you. Other units have been even simpler to hack, just by pushing a few buttons on the remote.

As for your linking Pal/Secam with multi-regioin, please stop NOW.

They're two entirely different things.

PAL and SECAM are different TELEVISION formats, involving how the picture is sent as part of the TV signal, including when broadcast.

The matter of REGION on DVDs has to do with what part of the planet the disc was meant (by the manufacturer) to play.

Two entirely different things. Don't confuse them, since you could mess someone else up, or mess up your own chance at someone knowing what it is you're really looking for help with.
post #3 of 39
Thread Starter 
Multi System is what I meant.

Im trying to build a stable to have in reserve for esoteric video playback. Stuff only available on VHS. I would also like to do some transfer to computer video formats.
post #4 of 39
Sony high-end SVHS models are incredibly bad risks used: they don't hold up as well as the cheaper small-cabinet "ordinary" Sonys, and they use ridiculous proprietary parts that are now impossible to replace or repair. The top of the line model 1000 and 2000 are notorious for lousy tracking of tapes made on other machines.

Same deal with the svhs JVCs: nice when new, don't hold up 20 years later. Too many different models, too many different parts, dodgy transports that don't track well playing tapes made on other recorders, even if the other recorder was a JVC. The more recent DVHS models from JVC are much better, often still available new. The Mitsubishi DVHS HS-HD2000 is similar in performance and price to JVC models.

Panasonic made a ton of models, under their own name and for Quasar, GE, Magnavox and RCA. Some of these were great, some were mediocre, with the best being made from 1994-1998. The Panasonic AG-1980 was/is the gold standard SVHS recorder: wonderful machine, but most were owned by wedding and event photographers who used them heavily. Can be picked up in decent condition for around $100, add another $100 or so to have it restored by a good technician and its good for another 20 years (built like a tank, easy to fix, parts still available).


You throw a wrench into this question by specifying you want a "multistandard" VCR. That makes the above info irrelevant, and narrows your choices down to just three VCRs. Very few true multi-standard VCRs were made (by "mutlistandard" I take it you mean it can play a tape made anywhere in the world and convert it on the fly into the other format). Of these, the only ones that were worth a damn were the Aiwa you mentioned, the Panasonic AG-W series (AG-W1, -W2 or -W3), and the Samsung SV-5000. Of the three, I would go with the Panasonic if possible since it has a solid reputation and the best likelihood of remaining repairable later on. The Samsung and the Aiwa were lower-priced competitors to the Panasonic, they made financial sense when new, because they sold for $600 while the Panasonic was well over $1000, but today when they can all be found used for $200 or less you may as well get the Panasonic. Unless you can get a great deal on a new-old-stock Aiwa or Samsung: a brand new VCR is still a better bet than a used one.
post #5 of 39
Nobody has mentioned Mitsubishi.
post #6 of 39
I have three SVHS VCRs... Panasonic AG-1980, and two JVCs - HR-S5500U and HR-S6600U. All three are as pristine aesthetically as when I purchased them, and all three are also still functioning flawlessly. I've never had a tracking problem with either JVC, and this includes playing tapes from rental stores or those originally recorded on the Panasonic. Maybe I've just been lucky, but both JVCs have been absolutely bulletproof.

I also have a late '80s Mitsubishi VHS deck, and it too is reliable, but I've had to replace a couple of belts, but was inexpensive and easy to do. I also have four Super Beta Hi-Fi decks, one NEC and three Sony's. With the exception of the NEC, all have been super reliable. The NEC required a couple of new nylon gears recently has they had cracked due to age. All the Beta decks were purchased from 1985 to 1988.
post #7 of 39
Originally Posted by RichardT View Post

Nobody has mentioned Mitsubishi.

Look again: I recommended the Mitsubishi HS-HD2000U as an alternative to JVC svhs or dvhs decks. The OP seems primarily interested in "top" decks: the Mitsubishi SVHS machines were decent but have potentially expensive or lethal repair issues. Mitsu SVHS models prior to the 780 often short their video outputs due to a faulty circuit board design, causing snow that looks like mistracking, the only fix is complete disassembly to install a home-made shield that should have been there to begin with. Higher-end Mitsubishis made from 1996 on have very fragile plastic loading assemblies that shatter into a hundred pieces over time, eventually making it impossible to insert a tape. This cannot be repaired. The Mitsu HS-HD2000U was their final attempt at a high end vcr, and the only one to include the TBC and DNR features that help make VHS more watchable on big flat displays. The Mitsubishi 2000 DVHS has improved mechanicals, and can usually be found in like new condition, with some new-in-box units popping up occasionally.

Originally Posted by Colloquor View Post

Maybe I've just been lucky, but both JVCs have been absolutely bulletproof.

You've been damned lucky. I long ago lost count of how many troublesome JVCs I've been thru since 1986, every one of them bought brand new and every one of them turned to tape-destroying evil monsters within days of their 90-day labor waranties expiring (many of them sooner). I've only had one JVC last me several years, a mid-range model that formed the basis of the later niche professional model 360 (which I bought used and which also developed issues). I've never seen a used JVC that didn't have problems, and I've never had one repaired that stayed repaired for more than a few months. So I guess I've been damned unlucky: you and I must comprise the extreme ends of the JVC experience spectrum.

Second-hand "high-end" vcrs are a hit-or-miss proposition: they tend to either be heavily used by the video geeks who bought them, or have sat for years neglected by wealthy twits who bought them without any real need. In 2010, its probably best to assume any higher-end used VCR will need repair: budget for this and look for a model that is still fixable. A lot of VCRs made after the mid-1990s are disposable, even the pricey JVC 9911 and Mitsubishi 790 were plastic craptastic. The cassette loading slot can be a major problem: if its shell, guides and posts are made of plastic, they can crack and shatter from age and internal heat, and replacement assemblies haven't been available for years. The tape transport system in most JVCs and many Panasonics is a non-adjustable module that can be very difficult to get back to spec once tracking starts drifting. Sony BetaMax models are (mostly) repairable, but the SVHS models are usually not, especially if their power supplies blow. Lots of "gotchas" to look out for with all of these.

If you can get a return guarantee, or some testing/preview time, Craigs List and eBay can be OK to source used VCRs. If you have no patience to play games, opt for a Panasonic AG1980: half of them are still fully functional, those that aren't are definitely repairable to good-as-new condition, either way you know what to expect. Or, get a new-old-stock JVC DVHS or Mitsubishi DVHS model: these were designed to a higher spec and as "new in box" units should be in perfect condition. Everything else will be a gamble: shop carefully, don't overpay, make sure you know a friendly repair tech beforehand.


Note to the OP: you said you'd prefer a multi-standard-converting VCR: none of us who've replied so far reported extensive experience with one of those rare ducks. It would be great if owners of the Aiwa, Samsung or Panasonic "worldwide" converting models could see this thread and give their feedback. Unfortunately this thread's title of "Does anybody know VCRs?" is too generic to attract their attention. EscapeVelocity: perhaps you should consider reposting as a different question, such as "Whats the best multi standard converting VCR?" or "Aiwa, Samsung or Panasonic: Multi Standard VCR Experiences?"
post #8 of 39
Thread Starter 
Thanks everybody, especially you citibear.

My OP post could have been better. Im looking to acquire several VCRs.

A High End SVHS or 2.

A Panasonic AG 1980, AG 1970, or AG 1960.

A JVC or 2, Ill have to research this. Ive done a little, HR S7600 looks like a winner....what about that S6600 you have? Is that a good one?

Maybe a Sony...but Im having trouble finding info on the Sony's. The SLV 595HF perhaps. Id like to find years that Sony models were offered. I might have a stack of Crutchfield's that show this (which would also have many of the JVC's as well).

A Multi System (PAL/SECAM NTSC) Panasonic, Aiwa, or Samsung as you suggested. Leaning Aiwa....but Ill research more.

Perhaps some good HiFi 4 Head standard VHS ( I have one that has been very reliable, a lower model JVC which is nothing fancy). Perhaps a Panasonic here.

Ill look into the DVHS's you recommend as well.

I dont mind gambling a bit for a good price....or donking around over time for a good used unit. And I also am a hobbyist collector of electronic equipment.
post #9 of 39
Originally Posted by EscapeVelocity View Post

A Panasonic AG 1980, AG 1970, or AG 1960.

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).


A JVC or 2, Ill have to research this. Ive done a little, HR S7600 looks like a winner....

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).


Maybe a Sony...but Im having trouble finding info on the Sony's.

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.
post #10 of 39
Thread Starter 
Thanks for sharing your obviously considerable knowledge on this subject Citibear.

Ill hone in on a couple of Pannys, a 1970 and a 1980. Does the P designation matter or are the P and non P units the same? As in AG-1980P vs AG-1980.

Just to play around with, Ill look at an early 90s HiFi 4 Head Sony VHS. Maybe a SLV 595HF? Ill stay away from the Sony SVHS units.

And also some late model Panasonics, HiFi 4 Head VHS...as Ive heard these are pretty solid (and still Made in Japan).

Im gonna shy away from the DVHS models. Gonna try to pick up one of those JVC SVHS models. I think the Panny's will do me, but just something different to play around with....which also has some collector's value, as golden age of VCR units.

The early 2000s were hot for SVHS playback video transfer to DVD computer formats, heh?
post #11 of 39
Thread Starter 



post #12 of 39
There is no difference between an AG1980P and AG1980, Panasonic just labeled some of them that way during its very long period of production.

A Mitsubishi or JVC DVHS is likely more collectible than the older SVHS models, as well as more usable/reliable. There are boatloads of 7600 and similar models floating around, but the DVHS models were very low volume and pretty scarce. They are also coveted by a small sub-group of HDTV recordists who find them easier to use than fooling with various PC-based HD recording options. This will keep their value above a certain floor for a very long time to come. The JVC version of DVHS had an exclusive ability to play the small selection of Hollywood DVHS tape releases: these tapes are still considered superior to BluRay discs and highly collectible. If I had the room and money to collect VCRs just for the heck of it, I would definitely snap up a JVC DVHS and as many DVHS pre-recorded titles as I could find. Mitsubishi only made two DVHS models, the 1000 and the 2000. The 2000 had the JVC-type of TBC/DNR useful for improving regular and SVHS playback, the earlier 1000 was a dedicated DVHS unit. The 2000 is collectible and holds value, the 1000 is already forgotten.

If you have the room for a number of VCRs, and don't care how well they actually work, here are some other suggestions:

JVC made a remarkable half-width compact vcr, it accepted tapes thru its front slot via the smaller end! This is quite amusing to watch and never fails to surprise people. It cost $595 in 1986, if found today I doubt it would cost much of anything because it was notorious for erasing tapes while it played them. Would make a great display piece for a collection.

JVC made hi-fi vcrs for a number of audio brands that wanted to get in on the vcr craze. Sansui and TEAC come to mind, these were elegant-looking. The holy grail of collectible vcrs are the Pioneers: we've all heard of them, we know they existed, but they're so elusive you can't even find a photo of one online. There were two models, and no one seems to know who actually made them for Pioneer. JVC also made the first Zenith VHS model, which was much sleeker than JVCs own version (the JVC had huge "playskool"-style buttons in day-glo colors, and is also collectible).

Hitachi made some incredibly high quality hi-fi VCRs for Minolta, these aren't particularly attractive but they're uncommon and their recording performance was stellar: they made ordinary VHS recordings that looked as good as later SVHS recorders. Panasonic made a few interesting variations of their AG series for Canon. The slimline Canon models, contemporary with the AG1960, have very pretty slate-blue faceplates and cabinets with dark grey controls. Very well made units.

The fairly rare Sony SL-2000/TT-2000 two-piece convertible BetaMax from 1981 is a phenomenal toy: the very sleek portable VCR portion docks to a tuner/timer module side-to-side or stacked. This was Sony's (much too late to matter) answer to the fast-selling RCA and Panasonic VHS docking portables. The Sony was hideously expensive, and died a quick death in the marketplace, but is a gorgeous piece of engineering with whisper-quiet miniaturized tape mechanism and feather-touch controls (to this day its hard to believe this tiny unit contains a full-sized Beta transport!) I remember borrowing one from work, it made the best Beta recordings I'd ever seen. You find them on eBay now and then practically for free, a very nice collectible. Another nice item is the final Zenith BetaMax which was actually sweeter than the Sony it was based on: very elegant slimline model, last call before Beta HiFi.
post #13 of 39
Thread Starter 
Looks like Aiwa is the cheapest Multi System, so Ill probably go for it.

Aiwa MX1

Aiwa MX100
post #14 of 39
Thread Starter 
Here is a sweet Sony SLV-595HF.
post #15 of 39
Thread Starter 
I owned a very nice Hitachi TV from the 80s at one point.
post #16 of 39
Thread Starter 
Panny AG-1970
Panny AG-1980


Sony SLV-595HF
post #17 of 39
Thread Starter 

Any recommendations on a stand alone DVD recorder. Something less expensive...to use to record from the SVHS players?
post #18 of 39
Originally Posted by CitiBear View Post

... JVC also made the first Zenith VHS model, which was much sleeker than JVCs own version (the JVC had huge "playskool"-style buttons in day-glo colors, and is also collectible).

I remember a circa 1986-1987 JVC built Zenith Hi-Fi VHS model that got rave reviews in Video magazine. This Zenith was black and stood straight up (looking much like a modern mini-tower computer). I wanted to buy one of these Zeniths but I couldn't find it in stock anywhere. I even called the New York City stores that showed this Zenith in their Video magazine ads but it was always out of stock.

Soon after I bought a $1,000 dusty rose-pink colored JVC HRD 630U that had "digital" features and a roll-down control panel with perhaps eighty buttons and other controls. The JVC 630 was a horror story. After going around and around with JVC (where the 630 spent months at a time during several stays at the JVC repair center in Compton California) I was able to exchange the 630 for one, then another JVC SVHS model, the last of which was a HR 6600 (something like that) with a jog-shuttle wheel on the remote with another jog-shuttle wheel behind a front panel fold down door. Each of these JVCs had it's own horror story. Fortunately I was able to exchange the last of those JVC SVHS recorders for a Sony SLV555UC that was an outstanding recorder but it required frequent visits to a local repair shop. The Sony was covered under the extended service contract I had purchased for the original JVC 630 but had not been activated for the JVCs. After the Sony gave up in 1996 I purchased a Toshiba M781 that is still functional after very heavy use.
post #19 of 39
Originally Posted by EscapeVelocity View Post


Any recommendations on a stand alone DVD recorder. Something less expensive...to use to record from the SVHS players?

I'm not Citibear, but the one to recommend is the Magnavox MDR513H.

Has S-video input, a hard drive which will make transfers and editing a heck of a lot easier, and is only $230 or so from WalMart and Amazon. Plus, lots of support and information from members here covering just about every aspect of it and its predecessors.
post #20 of 39
What Tulpa said.

No other dvd recorder available new can match the Magnavox 531 for typical American use, at anywhere near the price. Its the only DVD/HDD model with ATSC digital tuner, and one of the few DVD recorders of any kind with a reliable digital tuner. Even if you have no interest in off-air recording at the moment, its a potentially worthwhile feature. And the exhaustive user documentation on AVS alone means every question you could possibly have has an answer somewhere. The 531 (and its identical predecessor, the 2160) have high-quality video encoders that make quite good dubs from VHS, although they sometimes need the source VCR to have the TBC/DNR feature turned on. An excellent buy at $229-269.

If you can afford to spend more (a lot more), there are grey-market import-model DVD/HDD units by Panasonic and Pioneer available from reputable dealers for about $400-500. The Panasonic EH-69 and Pioneer 560 have a better overall operational feel than the Magnavox, more intuitive editing features, and more flexibility. But they lack tuners for American off-air broadcasts, the Pioneers (and possibly Panasonic) are discontinued leftover stock, and the price premium over the Magnavox at this point cannot be justified unless you're a dyed-in-the-wool existing user of Pioneer/Panasonic and don't want to migrate to a totally different brand. Second-hand Pioneers and Panasonics often sell for as much as new ones on eBay, but some members here have scored excellent deals (less than $200) on Panasonic DVD/HDD models by browsing CraigsList. Sellers on CraigsList are often less aware of the value of what they're trying to unload, while eBay sellers tend to ask 20% more than the highest known average price anyone has ever paid.
post #21 of 39
What Citibear said
...... with one caveat. The international Panasonics(not sure about the Pios) have only the international black level, which is 0 IRE(line input/output). The U.S. uses +7.5, if you feed a international Panasonic a +7.5 source it will record the image too bright resulting in a non standard DVD. You can compensate for this by turning down the brightness on your TV but you'd have to do this on every TV you played those non-standard DVDs on.
You also run into problems by playing standard DVDs on the Panasonic from it's composite/S-video outputs. Since they output at 0 IRE and your TV is expecting +7.5 IRE the result is a dark picture, which again you can correct by adjusting the brightness, but how much hassle do you want to go though.
For this reason, unless you're recording from a source that can output a darker line output(namely most DVD players) I wouldn't suggest the international Panasonics. VCRs have no such darker setting that I'm aware of, you'd have to use some type of external Proc Amp or such.
post #22 of 39
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone!

Ill look into those recommendations. Looks like the Philips/Magnavox are the way to go.

I was doing some research and the Panasonic recorders seemed to get a lot of kudos.
post #23 of 39
Panasonics with hard drives were very good, but none new are available in the US anymore, aside from the International models mentioned. You can still get one or two models without a hard drive, but they make dubbing harder.

The Maggy mentioned is about the only HDD recorder on the domestic market. The Phillips was discontinued about a year or two back. It was a virtual clone of the Magnavox, though, and most of the help files of one apply to the other.
post #24 of 39
Thread Starter 
What were some of the favorites from back in the day? I remember almost plunking down for a Pioneer 810H or a Toshiba TX-*. They were kindof like Tivos though.
post #25 of 39
Around here? Mainly the Pioneers and the Panasonics (in fact, it was like a competition here at times between owners, all the way up until they stopped selling them both in the US).

But Toshiba and Sony also made very good units back in the day (pre-copy-protection crazy days from Sony, which started with or just after the HX715 - but it's predecessors had no such issues. I believe the Toshiba were the next to follow that path).

Toshiba's were easily the third most popular brand around here after the Pio's and Pannies. Not too many posters seemed to have Sony's, though. Probably because they were priced high, and would never go on sale like the others. There were more non-HDD Sony's talked about here than HDD ones in the early days. The Sony's back then were all very good recorders - built like friggin' tanks and excellent PQ - although they generally lacked some of the extensive editing features that the other majors had - even though they made up in other areas. They often had playback features and tweakability, like for PQ (gamma, etc.), that the others didn't (my HX900 even has a "zoom" feature), and were often rated by reviewers as being "good enough to use as a primary playback machine". The others never really were. The Toshiba's, on the other hand, were the exact opposite as far as being an obsessive editor's dream. Those four brands overall were the ones most commonly found on the shelves of the local B&M's, like BB and CC.

JVC's were good, too, but some models had that "loading bug" problem. I remember they used to offer the largest HDD's, before Toshiba started catching up.

Samsung made a couple, but I've never heard much about them one way or the other (Tweeter by me had one set up with a large display, and the PQ at least seemed OK). Seeing as their DVD recorders were never that great, I wouldn't have expected all that much - even though they were making things better in those days like everyone else (for example, their ATSC/QAM standalone tuners, compared to that somewhat chincily-made last one they put out). But still - they were Samsung, and they never did have a very good reputation in the old days, except maybe for their DLP's (at least performance-wise).

Philips (pre-Funai), RCA, Polaroid, and various other Funai's were really not all that well-made. But people still bought plenty of them, because they were relatively cheap at Wal-Mart, and some even had TVGOS.

I remember that early Pioneers often were reviewed as having "'not as good picture quality" as the other biggies at the time, but they improved that after a couple of generations (those real expensive, top of the line models they had with free, TiVo Basic generally didn't get that knock - but the damned things went for like $1000.00- $1800.00 retail. I would've bought one myself back then if they were priced more reasonably).

That's pretty much how I remember things, anyway, and I used to follow that stuff pretty closely in those days. Someone can add to that or correct me if I'm wrong about anything. There are people here who have actually owned more than I ever did (I've just had 3 Pannies, 1 Sony, and 1 each Funai Philips and Maggie), and/or are more expert in their detailed knowledge.
post #26 of 39
I had a Hitachi once.
post #27 of 39
That's a new one to me - I never saw that.

Now that I think of it, I think even Sharp had one.
post #28 of 39
The Hitachi was a 1982 model, 2-pieces: a recorder/player unit that you strapped over a shoulder with camera attached, and a tuner section you left at home.
post #29 of 39
Originally Posted by EscapeVelocity View Post

What were some of the favorites from back in the day? I remember almost plunking down for a Pioneer 810H or a Toshiba TX-*. They were kindof like Tivos though.

The Pioneer and Toshiba TiVO-based DVD/HDD recorders were never as popular when new as they were later second-hand. The new retail price was more than anyone wanted to spend, and their best feature (the TiVO operating system) also sucked: prohibiting you from any editing whatsoever, which kinda defeats the purpose of having a DVD/HDD recorder in the first place. Once discontinued, prices dropped to a more palatable level, and those who wanted a "poor man's TiVO" that just happened to have a DVD player built in developed a cult around them. The DVD section is pretty much worthless as anything but a player in these models, they were sought after primarily as cheap TiVOs.

Originally Posted by Rammitinski View Post

I remember that early Pioneers often were reviewed as having "'not as good picture quality" as the other biggies at the time, but they improved that after a couple of generations.

The earliest Pioneers (the huge clunky expensive 7000 with no HDD) and the followup TiVO-based units (Pioneer and Elite) got major knocks for inconsistent PQ unit-to-unit and questionable reliability. They were so expensive, and the reaction so strong, that Pioneer did move quickly to upgrade them and by the end of production all three were pretty stable with decent PQ. These first three models were really out of range of most buyers, anyway.

The first serious consumer DVD/HDD model from Pioneer was the 510, which made tack-sharp recordings at SP. The following year saw it evolve into the 520, which was quite possibly the most popular, well-reviewed DVD/HDD recorder ever sold worldwide (until the Panasonic EH55 caught up with it, especially in North America). Normal, non-obsessive users rated the Pioneer, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, and JVC units about the same for real-world image quality.

Forum-type users were another story:it depended on who you spoke to, how emotionally invested they were in their particular recorders, and how strong their preference was for one type of subtle image factor over others. The five mfrs broke into two image styles: Pioneer, Panasonic and Sony opted for minimal processing and maximum detail. JVC and Toshiba opted for moderate to heavy processing. Those who preferred the processed recorders didn't merely "like" them: they adored them, worshiped them, sacrificed goats and chickens to them. The intensely zealous promotion of the JVC DRM-10 in particular as "the only recorder anyone in their right mind should consider" became boorish and overbearing after awhile. There was a somewhat less obsessive cult behind the Toshibas, and these two groups duked it out with the Panasonic fans for a couple years while the Pioneer and Sony owners mostly watched from the sidelines wondering what all the fighting was about. When the dust cleared, the survivors proved to be the ones with the best retail presence and/or best reliability.

The much-promoted JVC quickly developed a reputation for self-destruction which exceeded the infamous JVC vcrs in severity, with the HDD-equipped models causing such a scandal in Europe that very few were imported for sale in US/Canada. The interesting JVC non-adjustable heavy input processing caused as many image problems as it solved. The JVCs were uniquely well-suited for some material, but a poor match with other sources. Combined with the breakdown problem, they became niche recorders for the few who could properly exploit them and keep them working. By late 2005, JVC had given up and farmed their recorder production out to LG.

The Toshibas had a well-regarded balance of input processing and detail, as well as the all-time greatest feature set ever put in a DVD/HDD recorder: you cannot match the editing and authoring features of the Toshiba XS models unless you go to a PC authoring system. Unfortunately, these wonderful features were inordinately difficult to learn and use. And Toshiba had its own issues with unpredictable IRE variations, noisy mechanicals, and the worst burner design of any recorder ever sold. (Toshiba gave up on the high end in 2006 and subcontracted a line of me-too DVD/VHS combos from Funai.) Those who bought a Toshiba XS new and held onto it learned to work around the "gotchas" and really love their machines, indeed a working Toshiba XS is probably the best quality recorder you can hope to find. But they are a very bad risk on the second-hand market, unless like the JVC devotees you really know how to repair electronics and substitute for faulty parts occasionally.

The Pioneers largely flew under the radar: many of us thought they were ideal for our purposes, and still use them, but they were never really appreciated or provoked a "cult" until they became the only game in town for a year or two. The recording quality of most Pioneer models is excellent, if not quite as good as a Toshiba XS. The feature set is generous, later models are stone-reliable, and they're intuitive to operate. The only significant black marks in Pioneer's history are the misbegotten 2005 models with the badly-implemented TVGOS feature: these were nice recorders killed by poor engineering and quality control at the factory. They were replaced in 2006 by a totally new chassis designed by Pioneer and Sony together. The initial 540-543-640 were very reliable but PQ is not quite as sharp as previous or later models. The best overall Pioneers were the final Canada-only 2007 450-550-650 and the 2008 460-560-660.

Panasonic has always been a lightning rod for controversy. In the early days they were really only suitable for DVD-RAM recording, they weren't good at all with DVD-R (despite howls to the contrary by early adopters). By 2005-2006 Panasonic DVD/HDD design was as evolved as it would ever get, roughly at parity with Pioneer but with a few tricks up its sleeve like truly reliable and flexible TVGOS and the still-debated "enhanced" LP/4-hr recording mode. Panasonic bailed on North America, discontinuing its wildly popular EH-55 in late 2006, but a similar worldwide model has remained in production as an import option. The least-known but most important feature of earlier Panasonics is their near-indestructible burner design: it attracts dust like a magnet, and this dust will knock it out of commission, BUT if you clean it regularly (using tips provided by DigaDo here on AVS) many Panasonic recorder burners can last for thousands of discs, perhaps double the lifespan of other brands.

Sony never did well in North America with its early or premium models: their cheap (and awful) DVD/VHS recorders do a brisk business but the early, better DVD and DVD/HDD models languished. Most likely Rammitinski nailed it when he said they were overpriced and never went on sale, also the earlier HDD models were sorely lacking in editing features compared to less expensive offerings by Panasonic, Pioneer and Toshiba. Some have complained the early, tank-like Sonys had "grainy" picture quality, even at SP, but most have ranked them even with or just slightly better/worse than Panasonic. The more-versatile mid-period Sony DVD/HDD recorders were incredibly popular in Europe, but weren't sold in the USA and only sporadically in Canada. The 2007 and 2008 Sony DVD/HDD models in Europe and Canada were re-branded Pioneer 560s, minus the DVD-RAM feature and with the older less-sharp encoder chip used in the 640. Current Sony DVD/HDD recorders are truly dismal Samsung designs which are mercifully not sold in North America.

Early Philips-Magnavox-Sylvania-RCA-Polaroid models made by Funai were bottom-feeder crap, but the more recent Philips 3575/3576 and Magnavox 2160/531 with HDD and digital tuners are quite nice, the Magnavoxes especially. They use a more recent version of the encoder chip that was well-regarded in the old Toshiba and JVC models, but without any additional processing or filtering. They make fantastic off-air recordings and do well at VHS/Beta dubbing as long as your VCR is in good condition and the tapes aren't too far deteriorated. When dubbing really poor tapes, you might need to add an external TBC like the DataVideo TBC-1000 (necessary also with the old JVCs and very early Pioneers).
post #30 of 39
I just remembered something else - LG also had a model which used a Microsoft-based guide you downloaded from the internet.

At first they charged for the guide, and they didn't sell for $&#% - then, when they finally stopped the production and they went on clearance (BB had them sitting on their shelf here for quite awhile), they stopped charging for the guide and lowered the price of the unit.

I still don't think many people bought them, though. I think I remember reading of one or two posters around here mentioning they had them.
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