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I'm in the early stages of setting up archiving services at a mid-west university. We had 13 Panasonic AG-DS series players donated to us by another school. None of them were functioning. My research says these are notorious for bad caps and have many problems.

What professional SVHS players with balances outputs and RS232 remote access would you recommend?
 

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I afraid the only SVHS/VHS deck you will find will be used as I don't think anyone is making these any more. Back in the day JVC made some nice pro decks.
 

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I'm in the early stages of setting up archiving services at a mid-west university.
Archiving what (and how), exactly? It would help to know more details of your intended project. Are you planning to use these recorders primarily as recorders, or players? Connected to PC workstations for digitizing old tapes, or remaining completely in the analog realm? I ask because a surprising number of inquiries have popped up recently regarding analog audio archiving to VHS HiFi format (with no interest in video at all).

What professional SVHS players with balances outputs and RS232 remote access would you recommend?
Your mention of balanced outputs again implies significant emphasis on audio use. Do you need balanced outputs for a specific purpose, or simply because your university lab is wired that way and it would be the easiest route to slot in replacement VCRs?

Why do you need the RS232 interface? Do you have an existing edit board system in place and a specific workflow requirement for such elaborate remote control? Here again, it would help to know if you need the RS232 to reboot an all-analog setup or whether the end goal is digitizing to a PC.

There is nothing available in terms of new VCRs anymore, at any level from highest pro to lowliest consumer grade. You will be strictly limited to second-hand VCRs. Given your stated connection requirements, this further narrows to professional studio-grade models only. No consumer or prosumer VCRs were ever available with balanced outputs, although there were a couple that offered RS232 connection (Panasonic AG-5710 and JVC SR-S365U come to mind: the Panasonic had the caps issue and the JVC had crappy video performance).

If you require both RS232 and balanced outputs, you'll need to look at VCRs like the Panasonic AG7750 or similar JVC models in the BR-S series. At this late stage, I would choose the Panasonics since many of the JVCs employed a complex head drum system which is now difficult to source for parts/repair. In any case I'd recommend speaking to a pro A/V dealer familiar with university labs that can properly coordinate with your vendor policies. They should be able to advise on the most available-reliable used studio VCR models for your situation. These studio VCRs were designed for periodic maintenance, another factor that needs to be considered.
 
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