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  1. Member
    Join Date: Nov 2007
    Location: Minneapolis MN
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    Each title has a thumbnail(which you can name) and the order of the titles are in date order. The general wisdom of HDD DVDRs is the HDD is more a temporary storage area before you burn the titles to DVD. The only time I accumulate titles on my HDD is when I have several short titles I'm waiting to burn to a DVD and I want to do it all at once. This is not to say I don't have a few titles on my HDD that are years old but I try and not make it a habit.
    With Panasonics you can also change the display of the titles to list view which holds more per page but only tells the recording date, recording speed, title name and duration, I always use thumbnail view which gives me 6 titles/page, when you burn to DVD you get 8 titles/page. Unlike the Magnavox DVDRs with a Panasonic(and Pioneers before that) you can change the thumbnail on the HDD. With a Magnavox you just get the first frame of the title on the HDD but you can change the thumbnails on the DVD after burning to it but before finalizing.
    I purchased my EH-59 at B&H also but have heard good things from WI, J&R and a few other grey market dealers as well.
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  2. Member orsetto's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Maldez View Post

    Early DVD recorders like your 7000 bombed totally, because they sucked at editing and could not be used like a VCR.
    This is where you totally lose me, as I could not disagree more. My 7000 is super at letting me snip out even the tiniest bits of unwanted video, with near precision. If there was a particular basketball game, e.g., that I wanted to remove the commercials from, I could do so and the resulting video wouild flow seamlessly without any trace of editing. You obviously never owned a 7000 or you wouldn't have made the comment you did.
    It depends on your point of view, what media you prefer, how important compatibility with other and future gear is to you, and how anal you are about PQ and recording speeds. You liked the way direct-to-DVD edits, but almost no other "video collectors" did: they hated it. Now, I will grant you I haven't handled a 7000 in the flesh since 2003, so I'm going on memory and what other 7000 owners have told me over the years. Aside from a couple of oddities in the way it handles VR, menus and finalization, the 7000 seems to operate like the followup DVR-310 (and by extension, most other similar units). Here is what annoys most users of non-HDD recorders, these factors apparently don't bother you but they may once you start using an HDD-equipped recorder:

    Yes, you can snip out commercials and edit directly on the DVD with a 7000. But doing this has consequences: it only works with DVD-RW or DVD-R initialized to record in the proprietary Pioneer "VR" format. Such discs are not "standard" DVDs and will not play in 9 out of 10 dvd players or PC drives, just Pioneer-branded players and recorders (and this is where the 7000 "weirdness" kicks in: the 7000 "VR" format is a prototype that was modified on all subsequent Pioneers, so 7000 "VR" discs can have compatibility issues even with later Pioneer hardware). The deleted bits do not free up space on a DVD-R, they are merely hidden, so you are still wasting precious disc capacity archiving useless material. On the DVD-RW, you may or may not free up space for additional recording, depends on the specific edits. With RW you can re-record over some deleted patches and reclaim the space, but thats pushing the technology to its limits and the new recording will be spread over tiny random sectors of the RW, increasing risk of future playback issues. And the reclaimed space may not be sufficient for practical use anyway, which often renders the RW advantage moot and sticks you with "dead" space just like -R would.

    RW is not considered archival but is required for anything approaching VCR-like convenience (without an HDD). RW is not recommended for long-term library storage, its a timeshifting-temporary use media. There are always exceptions to these "rules" and you could well find your circa-2001 RWs to be perfectly playable in 2031, but the consensus is -R is the far safer archival bet.

    With an HDD built into your recorder, all of that changes. Since the HDD is used as a "scratch disK" or "rehearsal space" or "staging area" (however you want to think of it), you no longer need erasable discs and the added risks/expense that comes with them. You're no longer limited to wacky "VR" non-compatible formatting that plays only on your own brand of recorder. Every disc you burn for your library can be an archival, top-quality -R or +R, finalized to be broadly compatible long into the future after the recorder is dead, with optimized use of disc space for each recording on it.

    I've alluded to the time mamagment/PQ advantages before, but perhaps my examples could have been clearer between a Pioneer 7000 and something like a Panasonic EH59. Say you want to record a movie for your library, a new made-for-cable movie aired on a station that has commercial breaks. In a two hour timeslot, the average true running time of a cable movie is only 85 minutes. Recording direct to DVD on a 7000, editing out the commercials would require the incompatible VR mode (strike one). Since the commercial breaks run just a few minutes, they often can't be reclaimed to record over with other shows on -RW and can't be recorded over at all with -R, so they just sit on the disc sucking up valuable space (strikes two and three).

    Now lets try that again with a Panasonic EH59. With the HDD, your options to optimize settings for the best possible DVD multiply. Since you already know the true running time of the movie is 85 mins without commercials, you can set the Panasonic to record on the HDD at a video bitrate that maxes out the entire capacity of a DVD for the 85 minutes, instead of slightly lower SP quality that would preserve the commercials. When the timer recording is finished, you'll have the movie (with commercials) on the HDD recorded in higher-quality "85-minute-per-DVD" speed, which in its unedited form would be 25% too large a file to fit on a DVD. But, after you edit out the commercials, it will be cut down to precisely 85 mins and fit perfectly when high speed copied to DVD. No DVD capacity is wasted on the commercials, they aren't "hidden," they don't exist at all on the DVD. The space they would have taken is used to increase the video quality of the actual movie, not dramatically but every little bit helps when archiving and viewing on large screens.

    This also extends in the other direction, where a movie is in a longer timeslot, say 2 1/2 hours. Recording direct to DVD, you'd have to use a longer than standard SP recording speed, which can drop quality noticeably on most recorders. The workflow would play out similar to above: you know that without commercials the movie really only runs 115 mins, so you set the Panasonic to record to HDD in the SP/120min speed. Edit out the commercials and "presto:" you get a top-quality SP-speed DVD instead of a softer-looking slow-speed DVD. The same procedure applies when archiving TV shows: for example, I collect the comedy series "Louis." Half-hour cable sitcoms run a bit less than 21 mins without the ads, so I set my timer to record "Louis" each week in SP mode to my HDD. Each week after watching it, I quickly snip out the commercials and let each episode accumulate on the HDD until I have six, then I burn them to DVD. In this way I max out the storage capacity of the DVD to hold six sitcom episodes in the high quality standard SP mode, instead of only four with commercials. While its good practice to not let recordings sit on the HDD for more than a couple months before burning a DVD copy, because of the small chance of HDD failure, like jjeff I have some stuff on my HDD from two years ago. And unlike DVD, when you cut out commercials or make other deletions on the HDD the space is made available for reliable re-recording. HDDs are designed to collect and re-use every little blank sector.

    The Magnavox is not as flexible at recording speed/disc capacity management as the Panasonics and later Pioneers. It is limited to full-step recording speed/bitrate increments of HQ/XP (60mins per DVD), SP (120mins), SPP (150mins), LP (3 hrs), EP (4 hrs) and SLP (6 hrs). At HQ and SP, the Magnavox is stellar, esp when recording thru its off-air tuner. At speeds slower than SP, resolution drops noticeably, even at SPP the picture becomes softer. The Panasonic and Pioneer models with HDD have infinitely-variable recording speed/bitrate, and hold higher resolution up to the 4 hr mode (although 4 hr is not ideal for archiving). The Panasonics and Pioneers really let you fine-tune odd-length movies to maximize quality on DVD. The Magnavox lets you do the same, as long as you can fit the edited recording into 60 min or 120min modes (no in-between speeds, and softer resolution beyond 120 mins).

    Navigating dozens of recordings on HDD is pretty easy, although you have more options on the Panasonic than the Magnavox. On the Magnavox, you see six recordings at a time displayed onscreen as six thumbnails, and you just scroll thru them individually or page thru them six at a time. If you scroll thru them individually, each one you highlight becomes "active:" the title name appears at the top of your screen and the thumbnail area begins playing the recording as a subwindow. When you arrow to the next thumbnail, the previous one stops playing and its title bar disappears, replaced by the new one. The Magnavox can only display recordings in date order. The Panasonic (and later Pioneer) can show recordings in thumbnail view like the Magnavox or text view. Display order can be changed from date order, to alphabetical, to groups (if you add group tags to each recording). With all HDD recorders, the default title name for each recording will show date, time, and channel (or line input). You can change this to anything you want on the Panasonic, the Magnavox lets you change the first half of the title name but the second half always shows the date.

    If you let the machine default to automatic generic date titles, identifying HDD recordings becomes a little harder than necessary. So its a good idea to develop a habit of "pre-titling" timer recordings: when you set the timer, also enter a title name, and when the recording is made your custom title will appear instead of just the date. With repeating timers, like TV series, you only need to enter the title name once: each week or each day, the episode will carry over the pre-entered title name. If you sort the HDD nav screen alphabetically, series episodes will all have the same name but display in order of date recorded. You can then manually add an episode number to each one (I do this after each timer recording, its quick and easy since I'm in the HDD system editing commercials anyway, and it makes title navigation visually quicker).
    Last edited by orsetto; 28th Apr 2012 at 14:34.
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  3. Member orsetto's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Maldez View Post
    I am now seriously looking at one of the Panasonics, if for no other reason that I have seen the Magnavox, and it is built like a cheap piece of crap. It's picture may be superior to my Pioneer but the fit and finish is shameful.
    This is a common misconception about the Magnavox, that unfortunately deters some people who would really enjoy it from buying it. One has to bear in mind the reasons why it looks so "cheap", and also that looks can be deceiving. First, when the Magnavox came out in 2007 it was nearly half the price of a Panasonic or Pioneer DVD/HDD recorder, but offered 85% of the features AND included a reliable ATSC 16:9 tuner- no small achievement. Costs had to be cut somewhere, which manifested as ugly cosmetics and a truly useless front panel display. But the ugly is mostly skin-deep: inside, where it counts, the Magnavox is no slouch. Within its design limitations, its an extraordinary machine: the encoder performance at XP/HQ and SP is neck and neck with the excellent Pioneer and Panasonic, something never seen before at that price point, and the Magnavox burner totally smokes the Panasonic and Pioneer in terms of durability and handling of todays cut-rate blank media quirks. A power user my chafe at certain feature limits inherent to the Magnavox, and those people should indeed opt for the import Panasonic EH59 instead. The Panasonic has far more conveniences, editing options, and better slow recording speeds. But the Magnavox has some exclusive tricks of its own optimized for more casual users: the built-in 16:9 tuner and 6-hour automated chase-play buffer are very popular. Depends what is most important to the individual user.

    Until recently, when discontinuation rumors and spot shortages drove the price 30% higher, the Magnavox sold for stupid-cheap: as little as $169 for a refurb or $199 brand new from WalMart. Five years ago a comparable Pioneer 560 or Panasonic EH55 was $449-499. Pioneer DVR-7000 retailed for $2800. Other than the chrome trim, recent Panasonics and Pioneers are not really better built than the Magnavox under the hood. The Pioneer has an infuriating motherboard/drive interlock, and the Panasonics have twitchy burners that can be knocked on their ass by the grease from a single fingerprint migrating from DVD to spindle (requiring total disassembly to clean). On the inside, even the 7000 is no great shakes: looks are deceiving. It was huge and heavy because it was a prototype: the circuit boards are larger, the power supply is larger, the R&D costs were enormous, so they wrapped it in a fancy cabinet to ease the pain of the four digit pricetag.

    The external build quality of your 7000 dwarfs the others, but then it cost 8x as much, didn't it? The true difference between these units is $2800 for a cabinet made of solid aluminum justifying an early-adopter prototype, or $300 for a plastic but far more capable recorder. The heart of the 7000 was its early $400 DVD burner, something you can now pick up as a PC accessory for $19 at Staples. The $1400 video recording wizardry of the 7000 can now be picked up at the same Staples as a $79 USB module for your laptop. Technology gets cheaper, as it becomes a commodity affordable to all it loses its early glamorous wrapping (at $200 no one cares that the thing is black plastic, at $2000 Joe Yuppie wants to see some serious polished aluminum before he puts down his Amex card).

    Given the current inflated price of the Magnavox, the import Panasonic becomes MUCH more attractive (as long as you don't need the off-air tuner of the Magnavox). The hysterical Magnavox rumor mill has now settled down and signs indicate the current "shortage" is a matter of WalMart and Magnavox cynically manipulating the market to clear leftover old stock. It looks more and more like 2012 will be a rerun of 2009, when the Magnavox was "discontinued" only to reappear several months later as the same recorder with a larger HDD and new model number. The current 513 and 515 were a great buy at the old price of barely more than $200. At the current $330 they are overpriced, you may as well get the Panasonic (or wait a few months for the "new" Magnavox if you need the ATSC tuner).
    Last edited by orsetto; 28th Apr 2012 at 14:54.
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  4. Member
    Join Date: Nov 2007
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    Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    Now lets try that again with a Panasonic EH59. With the HDD, your options to optimize settings for the best possible DVD multiply. Since you already know the true running time of the movie is 85 mins without commercials, you can set the Panasonic to record on the HDD at a video bitrate that maxes out the entire capacity of a DVD for the 85 minutes, instead of slightly lower SP quality that would preserve the commercials. When the timer recording is finished, you'll have the movie (with commercials) on the HDD recorded in higher-quality "85-minute-per-DVD" speed, which in its unedited form would be 25% too large a file to fit on a DVD. But, after you edit out the commercials, it will be cut down to precisely 85 mins and fit perfectly when high speed copied to DVD. No DVD capacity is wasted on the commercials, they aren't "hidden," they don't exist at all on the DVD. The space they would have taken is used to increase the video quality of the actual movie, not dramatically but every little bit helps when archiving and viewing on large screens.
    I agree with pretty much all of the rest of your post but unfortunately FR doesn't work this way(although I'd love it if it did). Pioneers MN system would work like you describe(and it's one reason I'm envious of Pioneers) but FR is a different animal. With FR you tell the recorder the length of your program and it makes a ~4GB file of the duration you've set FR for(you can also use FR for direct to DVD burning on partially used discs in which case FR will product a file size that is ~ equal to the remaining capacity of the disc). In your example you would need to set FR for 2hrs(if you only set it for 85 minutes, recording would stop after 85 minutes). Setting FR for 2hrs would result in a 4GB file 2hrs long. After you edited out 35 minutes of commercials you'd have a 85 minute title but it would probably only be 3GBs in size. Of course you could put other things(such as extras, short clips, etc.) on that remaining 1GB but you wouldn't have 1 title utilizing the entire 4GBs of space. Their are ways around this limitation by prepping your DVDs with a newer EZ Panasonic and burning them realtime on a older(ES or EH) Panasonic but suffice it to say for all practical purposes FR only produces one title 4GBs in size for the duration of what you've set FR for. Their is also another limitation of FR, because FR only produces a 4GB title it isn't generally practical to use FR for DL media, unless you want 2 titles on the disc each ~4GBs in size or a combination of other sized titles. Generally when using DL media I use SP and using SP will get ~3hrs 45 minutes/disc.
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  5. Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    Originally Posted by Maldez View Post
    I am now seriously looking at one of the Panasonics, if for no other reason that I have seen the Magnavox, and it is built like a cheap piece of crap. It's picture may be superior to my Pioneer but the fit and finish is shameful.
    This is a common misconception about the Magnavox, that unfortunately deters some people who would really enjoy it from buying it. One has to bear in mind the reasons why it looks so "cheap", and also that looks can be deceiving. First, when the Magnavox came out in 2007 it was nearly half the price of a Panasonic or Pioneer DVD/HDD recorder, but offered 85% of the features AND included a reliable ATSC 16:9 tuner- no small achievement. Costs had to be cut somewhere, which manifested as ugly cosmetics and a truly useless front panel display. But the ugly is mostly skin-deep: inside, where it counts, the Magnavox is no slouch. Within its design limitations, its an extraordinary machine: the encoder performance at XP/HQ and SP is neck and neck with the excellent Pioneer and Panasonic, something never seen before at that price point, and the Magnavox burner totally smokes the Panasonic and Pioneer in terms of durability and handling of todays cut-rate blank media quirks. A power user my chafe at certain feature limits inherent to the Magnavox, and those people should indeed opt for the import Panasonic EH59 instead. The Panasonic has far more conveniences, editing options, and better slow recording speeds. But the Magnavox has some exclusive tricks of its own optimized for more casual users: the built-in 16:9 tuner and 6-hour automated chase-play buffer are very popular. Depends what is most important to the individual user.

    Until recently, when discontinuation rumors and spot shortages drove the price 30% higher, the Magnavox sold for stupid-cheap: as little as $169 for a refurb or $199 brand new from WalMart. Five years ago a comparable Pioneer 560 or Panasonic EH55 was $449-499. Pioneer DVR-7000 retailed for $2800. Other than the chrome trim, recent Panasonics and Pioneers are not really better built than the Magnavox under the hood. The Pioneer has an infuriating motherboard/drive interlock, and the Panasonics have twitchy burners that can be knocked on their ass by the grease from a single fingerprint migrating from DVD to spindle (requiring total disassembly to clean). On the inside, even the 7000 is no great shakes: looks are deceiving. It was huge and heavy because it was a prototype: the circuit boards are larger, the power supply is larger, the R&D costs were enormous, so they wrapped it in a fancy cabinet to ease the pain of the four digit pricetag.

    The external build quality of your 7000 dwarfs the others, but then it cost 8x as much, didn't it? The true difference between these units is $2800 for a cabinet made of solid aluminum justifying an early-adopter prototype, or $300 for a plastic but far more capable recorder. The heart of the 7000 was its early $400 DVD burner, something you can now pick up as a PC accessory for $19 at Staples. The $1400 video recording wizardry of the 7000 can now be picked up at the same Staples as a $79 USB module for your laptop. Technology gets cheaper, as it becomes a commodity affordable to all it loses its early glamorous wrapping (at $200 no one cares that the thing is black plastic, at $2000 Joe Yuppie wants to see some serious polished aluminum before he puts down his Amex card).

    Given the current inflated price of the Magnavox, the import Panasonic becomes MUCH more attractive (as long as you don't need the off-air tuner of the Magnavox). The hysterical Magnavox rumor mill has now settled down and signs indicate the current "shortage" is a matter of WalMart and Magnavox cynically manipulating the market to clear leftover old stock. It looks more and more like 2012 will be a rerun of 2009, when the Magnavox was "discontinued" only to reappear several months later as the same recorder with a larger HDD and new model number. The current 513 and 515 were a great buy at the old price of barely more than $200. At the current $330 they are overpriced, you may as well get the Panasonic (or wait a few months for the "new" Magnavox if you need the ATSC tuner).
    Orsetto, you have such a wealth of knowledge, it's a shame your contributions are lost on just the limited number of viewers that frequent VideoHelp,com. You should have a column in a major newspaper or video magazine so everybody could take advantage of what you know.

    I have read carefully what you and jjeff have so kindly offered as advice, and just minutes ago placed my order to purchase a Panasonic DMR-EH59 from B&H. The deal-breaker was when jjeff told me that everything on the HD is summarized by thumbnails. YES! My biggest fear was that I would end up with a mile long pile of video on the HD from which nothing could be found. Thumbnails solve all of that.

    I'm hoping that the Panasonic is at least somewhat better built than the Magnavox 513 I saw earlier. The case might just be a shell that houses the important stuff, but I'm fussy about things like that.

    Consider your mission a success, Orsetto. Your preaching has fallen on open ears and I have gone and bought a DVD HDD recorder. The question now becomes what to do with my two Pioneer DVR 7000s. I suppose I'll keep the unopened one sealed for the time being, just because I hate defiling it by putting it into service. As for the now dying 7000 it still works fine as a player and I guess that's what it will become.

    I hope you save all your posts, because they would indeed make excellent articles deserving of a much larger audience than VideoHelp.com.
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  6. Originally Posted by jjeff View Post
    Each title has a thumbnail(which you can name) and the order of the titles are in date order. The general wisdom of HDD DVDRs is the HDD is more a temporary storage area before you burn the titles to DVD. The only time I accumulate titles on my HDD is when I have several short titles I'm waiting to burn to a DVD and I want to do it all at once. This is not to say I don't have a few titles on my HDD that are years old but I try and not make it a habit.
    With Panasonics you can also change the display of the titles to list view which holds more per page but only tells the recording date, recording speed, title name and duration, I always use thumbnail view which gives me 6 titles/page, when you burn to DVD you get 8 titles/page. Unlike the Magnavox DVDRs with a Panasonic(and Pioneers before that) you can change the thumbnail on the HDD. With a Magnavox you just get the first frame of the title on the HDD but you can change the thumbnails on the DVD after burning to it but before finalizing.
    I purchased my EH-59 at B&H also but have heard good things from WI, J&R and a few other grey market dealers as well.
    Thumbnails....yesssssssss ! This all sounds great, and I thank you for the help. Just purchased a Panasonic DMR-EH59 from B&H and can't wait to get my hands on it....thanks again, for your help.
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  7. Member
    Join Date: Nov 2007
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    If you have any questions after you've played with it for a while just post back. Note it might be best to start a different thread titled something like Panasonic EH-59 questions(title is up to you) since the title of this thread really has nothing to due with a EH-59 and often times people just search on thread titles.
    Thought you might enjoy a couple Craigslist listings for Pioneers, note as they sell the links will go dead so this is more a snapshot in time:
    Model 7000 http://miami.craigslist.org/brw/ele/2958323352.html
    Model ??? http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/ele/2978677733.html
    Model 700? http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/for/2964442062.html
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  8. Jjeff, I'll be sure to post again once I've had a few days to experiment with my new EH59. One question I have already, and this is directed more at orsetto, what did the old Panasonic 513s and 515s do that the EH 59 does not? Orsetto spoke of them in such glowing, perhaps loving terms, I'm just curious what made them so.

    Thx, for the links to the old Pioneers up for sale. The asking prices just back up what orsetto proclaimed and that is that these vintage models do not carry and value as collectors pieces.

    BTW, just for yucks I bought a laser lens cleaner disc and popped it into the Pioneer DVD 7000. It did nothing to fix the problem, but I suppose I can use it to keep my new Panasonic clean. The cleaner directions recommend that you use it after every 8 hours of play. I went probably closer to 8 years without a single cleaning. I doubt that contributed at all to its current state of imminent death but who knows.
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  9. Member
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    I'll let Orsetto comment on what exactly he liked about the 513 and 515(my daughter has a older 2160a model that I don't really use but I am familiar with it) but just so you know, both those models are Magnavoxes made by Funai. IMO the major selling points of the Maggies are the built in digital tuner as well as easy to replace HDD and DVD drive, oh and a US warranty. The advantages to the Panasonics (IMO) would be: Full resolution recording through 4hrs/DVD, sharp recording quality, FR recording mode, ability to burn DL media, quick disc burning, ability to set the Wide Screen bit(only advantage if you plan on playing your DVDs on a 4:3 TV), handy phrase save feature for storing 20 common titles and polished editing and disc functions. The disadvantages to the Panasonic would be: No tuner, 24hr time format, no US warranty other than from the seller, no real technical support other than online from fellow users.
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  10. Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    ..... then when word got out Pioneer had gone under, all hell broke loose: those same recorders began fetching $600+, used, with no remote (ditto Panasonic EH55 and EH-85). Today, they have almost completely disappeared from the secondary market: can't buy one at any price. Those who own a 550 or 560 know there will never again be such an amazing machine, so they hold onto them (even if they have to sell their TV to pay for groceries). .....
    Actually, in my post above I meant to refer to the 550 or 560 (still not sure if those are Pioneer or Panasonic models) but you can see from orsetto's post he thought the world of them. Was it just a higher level of craftsmanship (aluminum vs. PLASTIC, e.g.) or did these machines actually outperform today's machines technically?
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    That makes more sense. The 550 and 560 Pioneers are generally considered the top picture quality Pioneers of all time. Although the build quality wouldn't be as good as your 7000(really nothing else was) they did have excellent encoders better than your 7000 and excellent for VHS to DVD conversions. I've never owned one of those model Pioneers but from reading reviews tend to think they would be quite similar to Panasonics with an even better ability to handle poor quality tape conversions.
    I've been watching Craigslist for many years for such model Pioneers but since they weren't sold for the US market(only Canada and other non US markets) I have yet to see one.
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  12. http://www.ebay.com/itm/PIONEER-DVR-550h-k-450h-k-650h-k-HDMI-1080P-UPSCALING-DVD-RECO...item3374e20f9d

    Here's a 550 available for purchase on e-bay....you'll probably have to fight off orsetto for it.
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  13. Member orsetto's Avatar
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    Congrats on your purchase of the Panasonic EH-59, Maldez!

    I think its convenience features will be a revelation to you, and the PQ should be at least as good as your 7000. The Panasonics have been getting scarce lately, so I'm glad you found one in stock. In terms of PQ comparisons, I have not actually seen an "import" Panasonic in action, but from jjeffs reports they sound similar to the final American EH-55 which was neck-and-neck with the Pioneer 550 and 560. jjeff feels the EH59 tends toward a somewhat lighter picture when recording USA television (because of its multiregion encoder), but this is a fairly minor issue. If I had not been lucky enough to acquire a stash of Pioneer 460s in 2008 at a fire-sale price, I would happily switch to the Panasonic EH59.

    The Pioneers had a more flexible, logical, and easy to use manually-controlled system for setting "in between" recording speeds (95mins per DVD, 130mins per DVD, etc). The Panasonic uses a semi-automated version called "FR," which I have never once described accurately in a forum post (poor jjeff has to follow my ramblings from thread to thread and gently correct me nearly every time). The Panasonic achieves similar end results to the Pioneer system, but sometimes you have to think hard how to outwit its automation. Panasonic reigns supreme in terms of its amazing multiple dubbing list feature and custom titling library (two things I'd kill for on my Pioneers).

    Both Panasonic and Pioneer have "better" apparent build quality than the Magnavox units: at least externally their materials and finish seem slightly "richer" and of course their front panel displays are 10x larger and more informative. On the inside all three are the same, DVD recorders are a commodity item now and all use commodity parts. The Magnavox burner looks the cheapest but is actually the most trouble-free, the Panasonic is crankier but lasts forever if you take it apart and clean it annually (jjeff can direct you to a tutorial). The Panasonic EH59 encoder should produce video at least on par with your Pioneer 7000 at the XP and SP speeds, and might be noticeably better at LP. If used to dub VHS or Beta tapes to DVD, the Panasonic will be WAY better than the P7000 (although I still think the Pioneer 550 and 560 have a slight edge on the Panasonics for tape dubs). Magnavox is comparable out to SP speed but goes soft at slower speeds (this is a matter of taste, as some "expert" users here feel the softer picture at slow speeds is more accurate).

    I've posted my opinions on all the Pioneers elsewhere on VH, but since we're closing out our Pioneer discussion in this thread I'll repeat it for Maldez sake:

    The 7000 (2001), Elite 57H/810 (2002), 310, 510, 3100 and 5100 (2003) had roughly similar first-generation Pioneer PQ. Very good for the time and great for clean OTA recording. Encoders were not as good with cable or satellite TV and had some major trouble handling VHS/Beta input. The original Pioneer user interface in these units was not my favorite, they operate similar to the klunky Magnavox. The remote controls supplied with these models was IMHO the best remote ever of any DVD recorder.

    The 220, 225, 320, 420, 520 and 9200 (of 2004) were basically unchanged from the previous models except for a new cabinet design and slightly newer burner. Interface stayed the same except for adding a dedicated "erase section" feature (earlier models could only edit by creating/deleting chapters). Superb silver/gray remote carried over from previous models. The 520 is thought to be the single most popular Pioneer DVD/HDD recorder worldwide, and probably the single most popular DVD/HDD recorder model of any brand (though as a group, Panasonics took the lead in worldwide sales).

    The North American 531, 533 and 633 (of 2005) were a paradox. They kept the great remote design, but introduced a completely updated user interface, which transformed Pioneers into (arguably) the easiest to operate of all DVD/HDD recorders. The encoder chip was updated and enhanced, making it far more compatible with noisy cable/satellaite signals and VHS / Beta tape input. Unfortunately these cursed units also introduced Pioneer's hopelessly inadequate version of the TVGOS on-screen EPG, then a popular attempt at a "free TiVo" feature. The Pioneer TVGOS was poorly-engineered as a software patch on the HDD, instead of being a solid state ROM chip (as in other brands). The software tended to corrupt the HDD, and vice versa, but Pioneer had not anticipated this and made no allowance for repair or reinstallation. The company was swamped with warranty returns it could not handle, leading to a hastily-arranged shotgun marriage with Sony to co-produce the next generation of recorders. (Similar 530 series Pioneers made for the international market used a different, more reliable EPG system).

    The 540, 543 and 640 of 2006 were a complete electromechanical redesign (and the last Pioneers to be sold in USA). The only thing carried over was the excellent user interface. Video encoder was (surprisingly) not as good as previous models: the 2006 series makes odd recordings that always look a little "off" (not exactly sharp, not exactly soft). Not bad, but a disappointing step back. From these models forward, Pioneer stopped putting its own burners into its recorders. Instead, they have a Sony MultiDrive with the ability to read and write RAM discs as well as +R/-R. The great classic Pioneer silver/gray remote design was inexplicably changed to a fussy all-white handset with no logic to button placement and a clumsy sliding door.

    The 450, 550, and 650 of 2007 were Canada-only models, not sold in USA. They are identical to the 2006 models, with two crucial changes: the mediocre 10-bit video encoder got replaced by a noticeably sharper 12-bit encoder which handles average-quality cable signals and VHS/Beta dubs far better than the somewhat smeary encoder in the 2006 models. And an HDMI output with excellent upscaler was added.

    The 460, 560 and 660 of 2008 were also Canada-but-not-USA models, and sadly the last hurrah of innovative Pioneer Video before the economic meltdown of late 2008 decimated Pioneer's expensive Kuro plasma tv business, taking the DVD recorders and stereo components down with it. Today nothing remains of Pioneer but the brand name, a hollow phantom like Polaroid or Nakamichi. Anyway, Pioneer went out with a bang: the 2008 models were just a slight refresh of the 2007, but offered a black remote with no sliding door that restored the eject button and most of the layout prized in the old silver/gray remotes. Cabinets and faceplates were changed to all-black. Minor features like jukebox playback of MP3s, JPEGs and DiVX files were tweaked and improved.

    Of all the Pioneer recorders, the most desirable are the final 2008 series followed by the 2007 (very minor features aside, both model years were the same machines). Remotes are cross-compatible between 2003-2008, so if you can find one of the superb silver gray remotes from a 510, 520 or 530 and match it with a 550 or 560 you'll have the ultimate hot-rod DVD/HDD recorder. The 2006 series is adequate if you can tolerate the mediocre PQ. The 2005 were disaster best avoided since they cannot be repaired anymore. The 2003 and 2004 are very nice if you don't need them for tape dubbing (they're great for TV recording). Realistically, even the 2008s are "old" now, I wouldn't pay big bucks for anything beyond a 2007. Replacement burners for post-2006 units are impossible to get except at Sony Canada repair centers, the pre-2006 models use ancient burners not easily found in working condition. Servicing any of these requires an arcane Pioneer or Sony "service remote" and matching "service disc." Today, if you want an advanced DVD/HDD recorder a new import Panasonic EH59 makes a much smarter buy than a discontinued used Pioneer: nice as they were, the Panasonic is a safer bet (and nearly as nice).

    Maldez, thank you for the kind words regarding my (lengthy) posts: I'm very glad they helped you!

    Come back and let us know how you get on with your new EH59.
    Last edited by orsetto; 30th Apr 2012 at 20:15.
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  14. My wife just informed me that the Panasonic has arrived already and is awaiting my return home, so I should have a full report in a day or so.

    You mentioned that all three DVD recorder makers (Pioneer, Panasonic and Magnavox" are "the same" now, as they all use essentially the same commodities. That being the case, how does the Panasonic EH59 compare to the legendary Pioneer 550 and 560? I know the EH59 has no tuner (I personally don't need it) and I believe the 550/560 had VHS drives to facilitate dubbing from tape, but beyond that, how does the video itself compare?
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  15. Member orsetto's Avatar
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    I covered my thoughts on how the late-model Panasonics compare to my cherished Pioneer 550 and 560 in my previous post. Given my tendency to ramble, you may have missed it:

    The Panasonic EH55 (last official American DVD/HDD model) was about equal to the Pioneer 550 and 560 in terms of build quality, video quality and usability. The Panasonic had a couple of nifty extra features like multiple copy list memory, the Pioneer had a better in-between variable recording speed system. The Pioneer encoder is marginally better for copying old VHS tapes. (You misunderstood my remarks about VHS: the Pioneers did not have built in VCRs, I was saying their video encoders are about the best for dubbing tapes from an external VCR connected to their line inputs). Panasonics have long had a reputation for the best LP (4 hrs per DVD) extended recording mode, but I think the Pioneers matched it: I couldn't really tell them apart.

    The new EH59 you bought is more or less identical to the American EH55 in most ways, except for no tuner and no EPG. So it too should be comparable in PQ to a Pioneer 550/560. However, some owners report the video as being a bit lighter on the EH59, since it was meant as a "worldwide" unit and countries outside North America use a slightly different luminance spec. This generally does not cause problems and might go unnoticed most of the time, should it ever be an issue you can compensate with slight adjustment to brightness/contrast on your TV. I don't think most people would notice with most video material, except maybe in extremely dark scenes where shadows may appear more dark gray than pitch black.

    The Magnavox appears "cheaply made" on the outside, but inside looks pretty much like the Panasonic and Pioneer. Burners are burners, circuit boards are circuit boards: other than evolutionary refinements there haven't been any major changes to the guts of DVD recorders since your 7000 was shrunk down to "normal" size for 2003 and later Pioneers. Magnavox recording quality is comparable to Panasonic and Pioneer at XP and SP speeds, really excellent, but becomes noticeably softer at the 150min, 3 hr, 4 hr and 6 hr speeds. For pickier types, the Magnavox should be considered an SP-only recorder since they probably wouldn't like the slower speeds. This doesn't bother me since I record almost everything at SP anyway. Occasionally I need to set my Pioneers to 130min per disc but the added efficiency of the Magnavox encoder often fits 128 mins per DVD at SP, so nearly matches the 130min speed in the Pioneer or Panasonic.

    Reliability of all three brands is comparable, i.e. very good. There are many more complaints online about the Magnavox, but these inevitably turn out to be problems with cable TV service faced by all recorders and not something specific to the Magnavox. When reading about the Magnavox, one has to factor its unique position: it has been the *only* DVD/HDD recorder officially sold in USA since 2006. This means it has been reported on and posted about out of all proportion compared to other brands and models,. It also has been the *only* DVD/HDD recorder ever sold in USA with a modern 16:9 DTV broadcast/cable tuner. The cable tuner is the source of 99% of Magnavox complaints: virtually all come from unsophisticated users who think they're gonna pull a fast one on their cable company by using the cheap Magnavox to replace their cable decoder box and rental cable DVR. But cable is having none of that, and recently began a "third digital signal migration" that causes the Magnavox tuner to be useless. People blame the Magnavox but its really their cable company: like it or not, cable holds all the cards in the digital age. Use their decoder box as a tuner for your Magnavox, and it will work just fine.
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  16. As usual, orsetto, an outstanding response, and I really do appreciate your time. I'm still just a little hazy on why the Pioneer 550s and 560s are nearly impossible to find and owners cherish them so if they don't really outperform the currently available Panasonic EH59, unless I misunderstood your response, which is entirely possible.

    BTW, my EH59 was waiting for me when I got home and I wasted no time in firing it up. First impression after just 10 minutes of fiddling around is that it is a fine unit that should do everything I need it to do quite nicely and make me forget about my Pioneer DVR 7000. The 7000 was beautiful to look at, but the picture was not in any way superior to my new Panasonic.

    I have just one annoyance, and it existed even with my Pioneer, as the unit is not Hi-Def, every time I try watching TV through the DVR my Directv screams at me "Your TV or its cables are not HD!"

    It then instructs me to re-set my receiver for standard definition, which I do (it's just the click of a button, but still bothersome).

    I had high hopes that I would be done with this ritual given that my Panasonic has an HDMI output that the old Pioneer did not, no such luck. I suppose since I'm running my TV signal through non-HD circuitry I'm going to get that message regardless of what type of output cable I use.

    Or am I missing something?
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  17. Member
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    Normally if you have a HD cable box(and HDTV) you want to do all your TV watching direct from your STB to your TV(using HDMI or component) this will be the only way to watch true HD on your TV. The exception to this is if your box disables the SD outputs(composite or S-video) when using HDMI, in this case to record from your STB you'd need to unplug the STBs HDMI cable. If your box is this type I'd suggest running component directly from your STB to HDTV, component shouldn't disable SD outputs. Of course you want to monitor your DVDR with it's HDMI output but any real HDTV viewing should not be watched through your DVDR but rather directly from your STB.

    I think the reason HDD Pioneers are so coveted is two fold. One is they were well made and made very good recordings, two is once you get used to something(or have unfinalized DVDs) you want/need to stick with Pioneer. A Panasonic user is in the same boat which is why I'm more or less stuck on Panasonic, of course if I saw a good price on a HDD Pioneer I'd kind of like to get my hands on one, if for nothing else just to see how they compare. I tried a similar classic Toshiba XS series(HDD) and while I admit the picture quality was excellent(SP and faster may have actually been a hair better than Panasonics) I didn't like how they dropped resolution for speeds longer than 2hrs 19 minutes/DVD, otherwise they were excellent machines. My Toshiba now sits on a shelf, maybe someday it will be a collectors item.....after your 7000 that is
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  18. Member orsetto's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Maldez View Post
    I'm still just a little hazy on why the Pioneer 550s and 560s are nearly impossible to find and owners cherish them so if they don't really outperform the currently available Panasonic EH59
    Its just supply and demand. The design and performance of DVD/HDD recorders peaked around 2006, but all were pulled from USA market later that year, then continued in Canada until about 2008. These models are somewhat scarce, since they didn't sell in great numbers in the mass market. Each brand has a "cult following" of dedicated users who really do not want to change brands and models, so second-hand units command high prices and disappear quickly.

    The final USA Panasonic EH55 and EH75v went thru the roof, selling used for unreal prices until very recently when their EPG feature, which depends on analog broadcasting, became useless. Thats when Panasonic lovers began to really buy into the EH59, because its pretty much the same machine without the tuner or EPG (which don't work with ATSC anyway). The fact that the EH59 is (or was) still in current production and available brand new (albeit as a grey market import) keeps prices reasonable and of course its actually available to buy, so no one is going bonkers over it (yet- wait till it gets discontinued).

    The Pioneer 550 and 560 were never sold in USA, only Canada. The smart Canadians who bought them, kept them, the few Americans (like me) who were smart enough to buy them from Montreal closeout dealers in 2008 keep theirs, too. Since there's essentially zero supply in USA except in the hands of a few owners who will never give them up. there is no turnover. Once in a blue moon some Canadian puts one on eBay and the prices people bid are astronomical (a used 660 just went for $2525, about five times its original retail price!). Unlike with Panasonic's EH59, there is no Pioneer "global" model in production for fans to turn to: Pioneer died in 2008 and is never coming back. Scarcity breeds high prices.

    You used to see the same scenario with the Toshiba XS series of DVD/HDD recorders, which were discontinued in 2006. These were hands down the most advanced consumer recorders ever sold, utterly unique, and with PQ even better than the Pioneer 560. The Toshiba fanatics here on VH damn near lost their minds when these were discontinued, creating a huge second hand market. Unfortunately these wonderful machines are horrendously unreliable, prone to breakdown, and a nightmare to repair. This eventually wore down the Toshiba cultists: reality set in a couple years ago, and they don't fetch ridiculous prices anymore.

    I have just one annoyance, and it existed even with my Pioneer, as the unit is not Hi-Def, every time I try watching TV through the DVR my Directv screams at me "Your TV or its cables are not HD!"
    Its funny you mention that, as the issue has been brought to my attention in PMs from several members this past week! Apparently this is a DirecTV glitch with no workaround. You can try this little adapter box, which converts the HiDef HDMI output of the DirecTV into 16:9 standard-def suitable for DVD recorders. But using it continually would require an HDMI switchbox or something similar that would let the DirecTV send HDMI to both your TV and the little converter box simultaneously. You leave the DirecTV set to 720 or 1080, and the converter auto-detects that and downrezzes accordingly. Since the DirecTV senses HDMI being used, it should not display that annoying alert thru the converter box. I use it to get anamorphic 16:9 signals from my Samsung cable box to my Pioneer 560. Mine works really well, but jjeff did not like his at all and user feedback is running 50/50. At $40, it isn't much of a risk if you don't like it, and it can come in handy for dubbing the HDMI output of a laptop to your DVD recorder as well. This works especially well with PAL-format video downloads that lose lipsync when converted to NTSC in software on the laptop: if played in real-time thru the HDMI converter into a DVD recorder, I get a nice clean NTSC dub with perfect lipsync audio.
    Last edited by orsetto; 1st May 2012 at 21:17.
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  19. Originally Posted by jjeff View Post
    Normally if you have a HD cable box(and HDTV) you want to do all your TV watching direct from your STB to your TV(using HDMI or component) this will be the only way to watch true HD on your TV. The exception to this is if your box disables the SD outputs(composite or S-video) when using HDMI, in this case to record from your STB you'd need to unplug the STBs HDMI cable. If your box is this type I'd suggest running component directly from your STB to HDTV, component shouldn't disable SD outputs. Of course you want to monitor your DVDR with it's HDMI output but any real HDTV viewing should not be watched through your DVDR but rather directly from your STB.
    Yep, I agree that normally you'll want to watch your HDTV directly from the satellite box to your HDTV via your HDMI, composite or s-video cables. What I'm talking about is when I want to record a TV program via my DVD recorder and want to be able to see the DVD prompts that are displayed on-screen (setting up the timer, e.g.) I get that annoying announcement from Directv that something is not HD! A click of a button and it's gone, but still an annoyance.

    I think the reason HDD Pioneers are so coveted is two fold. One is they were well made and made very good recordings, two is once you get used to something(or have unfinalized DVDs) you want/need to stick with Pioneer. A Panasonic user is in the same boat which is why I'm more or less stuck on Panasonic, of course if I saw a good price on a HDD Pioneer I'd kind of like to get my hands on one, if for nothing else just to see how they compare. I tried a similar classic Toshiba XS series(HDD) and while I admit the picture quality was excellent(SP and faster may have actually been a hair better than Panasonics) I didn't like how they dropped resolution for speeds longer than 2hrs 19 minutes/DVD, otherwise they were excellent machines. My Toshiba now sits on a shelf, maybe someday it will be a collectors item.....after your 7000 that is
    OK, makes sense. Speaking of needing to stick to the brand of DVD recorder that you've made all your recording in, I was a little surprised when I popped a DVD disc burned on my Pioneer 7000 into my new EH59 and not only did it play, but it didn't have any of the little defects (splotches of red/green pixelation and mini freeze-ups) that I got when played on the 7000. Makes zero sense to me but I'll take it.
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  20. Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    Originally Posted by Maldez View Post
    I'm still just a little hazy on why the Pioneer 550s and 560s are nearly impossible to find and owners cherish them so if they don't really outperform the currently available Panasonic EH59
    Its just supply and demand. The design and performance of DVD/HDD recorders peaked around 2006, but all were pulled from USA market later that year, then continued in Canada until about 2008. These models are somewhat scarce, since they didn't sell in great numbers in the mass market. Each brand has a "cult following" of dedicated users who really do not want to change brands and models, so second-hand units command high prices and disappear quickly.

    The final USA Panasonic EH55 and EH75v went thru the roof, selling used for unreal prices until very recently when their EPG feature, which depends on analog broadcasting, became useless. Thats when Panasonic lovers began to really buy into the EH59, because its pretty much the same machine without the tuner or EPG (which don't work with ATSC anyway). The fact that the EH59 is (or was) still in current production and available brand new (albeit as a grey market import) keeps prices reasonable and of course its actually available to buy, so no one is going bonkers over it (yet- wait till it gets discontinued).
    Which brings up my first question: With the imminent phasing out of DVD recorders, would it make sense to buy an extra EH59 (or two) You seemed a little surprised that I was able to locate one so easily even now, so I have to believe you think "the end is near!".

    The Pioneer 550 and 560 were never sold in USA, only Canada. The smart Canadians who bought them, kept them, the few Americans (like me) who were smart enough to buy them from Montreal closeout dealers in 2008 keep theirs, too. Since there's essentially zero supply in USA except in the hands of a few owners who will never give them up. there is no turnover. Once in a blue moon some Canadian puts one on eBay and the prices people bid are astronomical (a used 660 just went for $2525, about five times its original retail price!). Unlike with Panasonic's EH59, there is no Pioneer "global" model in production for fans to turn to: Pioneer died in 2008 and is never coming back. Scarcity breeds high prices.

    You used to see the same scenario with the Toshiba XS series of DVD/HDD recorders, which were discontinued in 2006. These were hands down the most advanced consumer recorders ever sold, utterly unique, and with PQ even better than the Pioneer 560. The Toshiba fanatics here on VH damn near lost their minds when these were discontinued, creating a huge second hand market. Unfortunately these wonderful machines are horrendously unreliable, prone to breakdown, and a nightmare to repair. This eventually wore down the Toshiba cultists: reality set in a couple years ago, and they don't fetch ridiculous prices anymore.
    I got the big picture now. The 550/560s don't really do much more that the EH59 available today but because they're Pioneers and will never ever be available again, they have that "oh so rare" aura bout them. Just for that reason, I'm going to keep my virginal 7000 sealed for years to come. Who knows.

    I have just one annoyance, and it existed even with my Pioneer, as the unit is not Hi-Def, every time I try watching TV through the DVR my Directv screams at me "Your TV or its cables are not HD!"
    Its funny you mention that, as the issue has been brought to my attention in PMs from several members this past week! Apparently this is a DirecTV glitch with no workaround. You can try this little adapter box, which converts the HiDef HDMI output of the DirecTV into 16:9 standard-def suitable for DVD recorders. But using it continually would require an HDMI switchbox or something similar that would let the DirecTV send HDMI to both your TV and the little converter box simultaneously. You leave the DirecTV set to 720 or 1080, and the converter auto-detects that and downrezzes accordingly. Since the DirecTV senses HDMI being used, it should not display that annoying alert thru the converter box. I use it to get anamorphic 16:9 signals from my Samsung cable box to my Pioneer 560. Mine works really well, but jjeff did not like his at all and user feedback is running 50/50. At $40, it isn't much of a risk if you don't like it, and it can come in handy for dubbing the HDMI output of a laptop to your DVD recorder as well. This works especially well with PAL-format video downloads that lose lipsync when converted to NTSC in software on the laptop: if played in real-time thru the HDMI converter into a DVD recorder, I get a nice clean NTSC dub with perfect lipsync audio.
    Well, I guess it's good to know I'm not the only one being annoyed by this little glitch. Not sure it's worth hooking up a $40 adapter box to get rid of, but it does give me an option if my vexation pins the needle. As always, thanks for your time and knowledge!
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