Unless you seriously plan on using these to continue recording with VHS instead of a digital format (and heaven help you if you are), there isn't much practical difference between any of these production studio SVHS models aside from age. None is likely to be spectacularly better than the others in audio performance, all will have video heads that are a total mismatch for anything you didn't record on a similar spec "ultra-pro" vcr, most you find second-hand will be missing crucial internal circuit cards, most will need some kind of servicing (good luck finding a tech who's ever laid eyes on one of these units, never mind a tape tension gauge).
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.
Edited by CitiBear - 10/8/12 at 1:25am