Originally Posted by EscapeVelocity
I thought we could have at one VCR thread. Trying to keep VCR alive.
There is nothing to "keep alive" - we can barely keep DVD Recorders (the subject of this subforum) alive, never mind VCRs. USA/Canada consumers have almost completely abandoned removable media recording: all of it is "dead" except for a hardcore consortium here of geeks and luddites, who make strange bedfellows indeed.
Unless you somehow manage to make this thread a sticky, it will disappear within a couple weeks the way most threads do. But don't worry: there are many VCR-related AVS threads in the DVD Recorder forum, they come and go as needed when a fresh group of members suddenly becomes interested in VCRs (either because they're just now switching to DVD instead, or they've finally decided to tackle a long-delayed VHS>DVD conversion project). And you'd be surprised how many unrelated threads get diverted onto a VCR nostalgia trip, when the original topic gets exhausted and someone name-drops a classic VCR.
The difficulty nowadays with the VCR topic is that there's little left to discuss that hasn't already been hashed over in other threads going back years. Of the thousands of VCR models made over the past 30 years, few of the "top" or "best" models were recent or relevant enough to have survived thru the DVD transition. These few models have been discussed and debated hundreds of times. All other VCRs have either been junked because they break down, or are so ordinary there isn't anything to say about them beyond "they're reliable, pedestrian, cheap, and still usually work when you find them." Most members currently interested in VCRs aren't interested in ordinary: they're chasing down the "top" models, usually to use in making digital transfers.
But I'll play with you, its always fun to talk VCRs, and they have a typical lifespan at least triple the durability of the average DVD recorder:
JVCs are always good to launch a hotly debated VCR thread. They made some of the best VCRs, in terms of video quality, which could simultaneously be some of the worst in terms of reliability and tape destruction. Your new love the 7600 is a perfect example: you were lucky and got a good one, other owners would make your hair turn blue and fall out at the roots with their 7600 horror stories. Classic JVC SVHS with DigiPure TBC/DNR are very much a heaven or hell proposition, and its a coin toss which experience any potential owner will have. (Strangely, the "budget" JVCs like 3900 and 5900 are much more reliable: definitely worth seeking out).
The only really notable Panasonic is the AG1980 and its twin the AG5710. These are the only Panasonics with a TBC/DNR system comparable to the JVC DigiPure feature. The implementation is different enough to make owning both a Panasonic 1980 and a JVC DigiPure a worthwhile investment for those with huge tape libraries: each brand has different playback strengths. The drawback with the AG1980 is rapid decay of the electronics with age. Mechanically they are extremely durable and repairable, the opposite of JVC, but their electronic boards utilize dozens of discrete capacitors which tend to fail and are hard to diagnose (making complete replacement of all caps the only practical, if costly, solution). When fully recapped, a Panasonic AG1980 can blow the doors off nearly any other consumer VCR, but the typical second-hand as-is sample one can find today will not approach that level of performance without an overhaul.
All other Panasonic VCRs can be classified in three broad categories: still functional, decent performance, cheap and durable -OR- troublesome with fatal design flaws that already killed them dead long ago -OR- made after 2001 in which case they're junk not up to par with earlier models. My personal fave of "lesser" Panasonics are the 4500 series, 4600 series, and AG2560.
Mitsubishi made some great VHS and SVHS models, over the course of roughly three generations: pre-1995, 1995-2000, and post-2000. None had TBC or significant DNR. The pre-1995 are prone to age-related breakdowns that can no longer be repaired due to lack of custom parts (rectifiers primarily). The models from 1995-2000 were the peak of functionality and a pleasure to use, but most have hit the scrapyard because of the ridiculously fragile thin nylon loading mechanism which shatters into pieces after four or five years and cannot be repaired. Post-2000 models like the 448 and 748 are the most ruggedly-built VCRs of the period, very durable, with excellent tracking but very mediocre video playback quality.
Sony was all over the place with SVHS, none had TBC/DNR, the better models are highly prone to breakdowns, and no two model years used the same parts so repairs are a lost cause. For awhile there was a huge cult following for a couple of rare-ish Sony SVHS because they delivered truly exceptional record/playback. But the cult died when it was realized they would blow their fussy expensive power supplies repeatedly and become impractical to maintain. Other than a handful of oddly-durable nondescript budget models, Sony VHS is best avoided today.
Toshiba made a couple of VHS models with extravagant DNR features unmatched by other brands, but they are incredibly rare now, and Toshibas in general had a bad rep for durability. Hitachi VCRs could make incredibly good recordings but were average or worse at playback. Sharp made a lot of models, too many to single out any individuals: most made throughout the 1990s were excellent with great tracking and good durability (today they're a fantastic bargain as "spare" VCRs).
Anyone now needing the best possible playback of their VHS and SVHS for digital conversion should skip all the above listed and head straight for the far more recent and much more reliable DVHS models made by Mitsubishi and JVC. These VCRs are all less than ten years old and were designed to record HDTV signals from compatible cable/satellite decoders via FireWire, to expensive DVHS tapes (as well as make standard VHS and SVHS recordings). They were very pricey machines when new and most hold their value today at $300-$500 depending on condition (many are still new in box or mint). Their high resale value is partly due to a small but thriving DVHS cult, and the fact that they all have a DigiPure TBC/DNR system similar to classic JVC SVHS models housed in a more reliable chassis with more durable tape mechanics. Mitsubishi made only one such model, the HS-HD2000, and it was marvelous. JVC (amazingly) managed to field a dozen or so models, a few even have built-in ATSC tuners. The oldest JVC HM-DH300000 can have overheating problems, later models are preferable.Edited by CitiBear - 1/2/13 at 4:43pm