Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: less than 10 minutes from Akihabara
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Been meaning to pick up a Sony Blu-ray recorder for a while, but hadn't gotten around to it yet (too many cool things to spend one's money on in Japan). But after getting a request from a friend to make backups of her rare anime series that were only made available on VHS, I decided to stop putting it off. It was only about $600, a little more than I paid for my PS3.
I'm too lazy and don't know much about PC video capture/compression to do a good job, so that was out. And Sony Blu-ray recorders are the only recorders in Japan I know of that record external sources to AVCHD. Since analog sources contain a lot of noise, they can be difficult to compress without getting a lot of block noise, etc. Hadn't really been impressed with the results of DVD recorders using analog sources, even at max bitrate. And with BD-Rs costing as low as $2 each in Japan nowadays, now seemed to be the right time.
So while I'm definitely impressed with the video quality of the compression (with SD video at the maximum setting of 15MB/s AVC, it looks nearly indistinguishable from the source), 256kb/s Dolby Digital is just too low quality compared to Hi-Fi analog stereo from VHS or LPCM 2.0 from Laserdisc. I contacted Sony Japan's customer service, and was told that the audio format cannot be changed for the external inputs for any of their Blu-ray recorders, even the high-end ones.
To paraphrase the Sony Blu-ray commercials in Japan, "what a waste." At least I have a device with a digital TV tuner now. My main display is a tuner-less projector so I haven't been able to check out TV at home except analog signals (which will air until 2011 in Japan) from my VCR until getting this recorder.
But luckily, my VHS tapes and LD players are all in pretty good condition, so I'll just be waiting another couple years or so for better technology for backups for my own personal use (I doubt my friend will care that much about the audio quality or be able to tell the difference for her backups). I'm not an anti-Sony person, but I'm definitely looking forward to Toshiba Blu-ray recorders. Their current DVD recorders in Japan at least give the option of LPCM 2.0 and have some other nice features not on Sony recorders, even though Toshiba's external inputs can only be recorded to MPEG-2.
edit: for those curious, the model I bought is the BDZ-T55, which is currently the cheapest Blu-ray recorder on the market.