Does anyone know some model numbers for Panasonic, Sharp and even Sony VCR's from the early 90s? (circa 1991-1993)
I'm not looking for Pro grade like the AG-1980, but just standard consumer grade...hopefully something I could get on eBay for $100 or less.
Any recommendations would be appreciated, thanks.
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IMO the SONYs from the early 1990's were the better SONYs, went slowly and steadily downhilll from there. Those would be the SLV-HF585/595, SLV-586/596. Good luck finding one that still works. The better Panasonics were in 1995/96 (PV-4560 series, PV-4660 series, the best being the PV-4661 or Dynamorphic PV-4662, PV-4664). After 1996, all VCR's took a slide downward. By 2000, forget it. The Panasonic 1996 SVHS machines are OK, but EP tape playback wasn't as good. One of the more popular Pannies was the PV-8661 from 1998, but good luck finding one that hasn't been played to death. Don;t forget that most higher-end Mitiubishi's from the same periods were Panasonics in disguise. Other members here might have more to say.
Last edited by sanlyn; 23rd Mar 2014 at 06:17.
You will have difficulty finding a model from the early '90s that still works, and has standard tracking azimuth. The period from 1992-1994 was transitional, and even normally-dependable (if sometimes mediocre) brands like Panasonic made some WTF??? design changes that were pretty awful. I have an enormous VHS library recorded between 1981 and 2005, and the only tapes that give me tracking migraines were made on Panasonics and JVCs circa 1991-1994. There are other issues with this era of VCRs too boring to go into: suffice to say many had major video circuit and tape loading design flaws. The only sensible reason for wanting a VCR from this period would be to track a large tape collection made on similar machines, but this doesn't usually solve the problem as these VCRs drift over the years. If you have tracking problems with a great many tapes, the simplest "cure" is to pick up a used Panasonic AG1970 VCR. These are much cheaper than the popular AG1980, well under $100 (often under $50) and while they don't have the super-duper TBC/DNR the 1970 is much more robust and has the widest tracking range of any consumer VCR. Note some HiFi tapes are just impossible to track in HiFi stereo: some VCRs recorded the audio so far off track from the video that its impossible to lock on the audio all these years later- you need to switch the VCR to mono/linear soundtrack.
If you just want a nice sturdy VCR that will play most tapes reasonably well, skip the early '90s and go straight to the end of of the decade. Sharp VCRs have very decent PQ and excellent tracking range, but a bewildering number of models so a specific recommendation is difficult. Pretty much any 4-head hifi Sharp that seems in reasonably mint condition and sells for under $40 should be OK. Matsushita made a whole flock of surprisingly good lower-end VCRs between 1998-2000 under the Quasar, Panasonic and GE brands. These can be identified by having a near-normal width of 15 inches and either no clock at all on the front panel, or a clock that changes into a mode indicator when a tape is playing. None display the counter on the front panel, only onscreen. Examples would be the Quasar VHQ860 and VHQ960, and Panasonic PV-4520. The Panasonic, Quasar and GE models also have a date stamped on the back panel near the serial number, so its easy to track down a 1998-2000 unit. These sell for next to nothing but are very reliable. However, similar higher-end "full sized" 17 inch models were not as good and should usually be avoided due to very grainy noisy PQ (the lesser models were actually better for some odd reason).
Samlyn already mentioned that the best Sonys tended to self-destruct, most are long-dead and should be avoided. The very small 14 inch wide low-end models were about the only Sonys that were reliable, and they have very good PQ. These can be recognized by their small size and small clock display. I think samlyn gave the correct model numbers as 585 etc. Don't pay more than $20 for one of these: above $20, get another brand.
I have had terrible luck with every JVC I ever touched, but recently became a convert to the HR-5900 series (5901, 5912 etc). These were cheap 4-head hifi models that are currently popping up for peanuts all over eBay and Craigs List. They are rather more reliable and have better tracking than most other JVCs, well worth $30 or so used.
Mitsubishis were excellent in their day but most had fatal design flaws in the electronics or tape loading that can no longer be repaired. The tape loader is made of a plastic that can shatter into a hundred useless pieces when you least expect it, and as the video circuits age they introduce white dropouts in the picture. Mitsubishi did not correct these design flaws until 1999, but this last generation was very sturdy and better built. The most common would be HS-U448 or HS-U449, which sell for about $40-$50 used. The HS-U748 and HS-U749 were the same except with SVHS capability, unless you need that they aren't worth the additional cost.
If you can find one in your city (to avoid shipping risks and costs), the Panasonic AG1970 can be a killer value. As prices finally dropped on the cult AG1980, demand for the older AG1970 fell through the floor and they can now be picked up for a song. The transport mechanics in the AG1970 are the best Panasonic ever put in a consumer VCR, and it has a very tough power supply section (both are better than whats in the AG1980). The AG1970 tracks SP and EP tapes made on other VCRs very nicely. The color performance is not as clean as the later AG1980, but the AG1970 can often be had in good condition for under $60 and usually does not require the expensive repairs needed by most AG1980s. The AG1980 is a wonderful VCR that is a money pit of repair and upkeep costs, the AG1970 is an average VCR built to outlive its users. They look alike on the outside but are different on the inside.
My final suggestion is one of my favorite "sleeper" (unknown) VCRs, the Panasonic AG-2560. These have PQ a little better than the AG1970 but not as good as the AG1980. They don't have SVHS or editing features but are remarkably sturdy lightweight 4-head hifi VCRs with a very decent picture. The tape mechanics seem less robust than the AG1970 or 1980 but are so modular and well-made they almost never break. The AG2560 can often be had for $30 without remote: like the AG1970 it can use any Panasonic or universal VCR remote.
Last edited by orsetto; 25th Jul 2012 at 19:14.
Thanks for clarifying, orsetto. I recall 3 or 4 Mitsubishgi's from the late 1990's that were recommended, and a couple to be avoided, but I don't remember the numbers. Will have to locate those numbers posted sometimes during the last 18 months (wish me luck).
I've managed during the past two years to collect some Pannies off eBay that track EP and SP well, with varying degrees of imperfection but without damaging anything. One of them even tracked most spots damaged by the three JVC's I pitched out. These are the PV-4651, PV-4662 (2 of these), and a pristine PV-8661 -- the latter with that oversharpening and red bleed you really have to be careful with. Feeding thru an AC line conditioner seemed to help, but a hassle to hook up because they're in another room feeding my tv's and DVD recorders. I'm still looking for an AG-2560 that doesn't appear to be burned up. Two Pannies I got that worked OK and tracked well, but had the ugliest color I've seen to date: PV-8662 and...oh well, having a mental moment here, I think it was the PV-4664 or 4668 ? ?. There are outfits that sell refurbished and specially-programmed remotes if the original can't be had. Watch out for remotes on eBay: I've seen some selling for up to $85, but found the same thing as refurbed or adapted units for less than $20 elsewhere.
The only JVC I use is my old JVC 5612, purchased new. OK for SP only, but I've used it to restore some badly damaged EP tapes (took a lot of post-processing, though).
These are all used with a DVD recorder as tbc pass-thru. Not perfect, but it sure beats no line tbc at all.
At some point someone must have posted a listing of reliable shops that service old VCR's, or they should. I see some on the 'net, but there's so much hype (and some complaints) that I don't trust any of them.
Last edited by sanlyn; 23rd Mar 2014 at 06:18.
Possibly the most well-regarded and popular SVHS editing Mitsubishi ever was the HS-U770 circa 1995-1997. Unfortunately it is plagued with the "snowstorm of dropouts as it ages" issue which can only be corrected by total disassembly and installation of shielding material in parts of the chassis. Most Mitsu SVHS models have a large label on the back panel stating they are made under license from Faroudja patents, something I've never quite understood (unless I'm completely forgetting Faroudja had some involvement in the development of the SVHS format?)
The followup SVHS models HS-U780, HS-U781 and HS-U790 were basically the HS-U680 with SVHS and manual sound levels added. Nice VCRs but overpriced given the mediocre performance in regular VHS mode. This series suffered the most from the "unrepairable exploding plastic loading system" issue, which is why they rarely turn up second hand anymore (even a scammer won't try to palm off a VCR that can't even accept a tape partway into its front slot).
Older Mitsubishis from the peak VCR days were expensive due to dealer exclusivity arrangements and market niche. Compared to similar Panasonics and JVCs of the era, they were not a good value, but were interesting VCRs in their own right. Today they all suffer from unobtanium parts syndrome, esp the power supply sections and motors, making them as bad or worse risk than the cult-classic Sony SVHS models. Possibly the finest SVHS Mitsubishi ever sold was the extravagant HS-U82 which was derived from the BV-1000 Medical VCR. These were huge hulking 32 pound monsters built of solid metal, akin to the Panasonic AG1950. They had every feature imaginable, but are impossible to repair today.
As of right now, only the two extremes of the most recent Mitsubishi line can be recommended: the cheap circa-1999 models 448, 449, 778, 779 and the pricey final DVHS model HS-HD2000U. These are durable, and the 2000 is comparable to a top JVC in performance with its TBC/DNR circuits. The 2000 rides a rollercoaster of demand from the few surviving DVHS cultists, with prices ranging from $150 used with no remote to $600 new in unopened box. I haven't seen any change hands for less than $250 since 2010.
JOTS Electronics Repair in North Carolina. LS favors JVC gear, which is a nightmare to repair, so if this firm satisfies his repair needs I'd wager they'd be great at any other VCRs. I'm thinking of sending my recently-expired AG1980 to them.
Last edited by orsetto; 26th Jul 2012 at 10:09.
I have one of these back home in America. Haven't used it in over 7 years but my folks say it still works fine. Had very nice picture quality as I recall but I wasn't SO into video capturing back then as I am now.
The best vcr I ever had was one of those top load JVC ones from the early 80s with the wired remote. Built like a tank. Turned out many pros used them as well, which I had no idea of when I bought it. I seriously lucked there.
That's all well and good, but frankly it seems to me that with any 20 year old vcr the condition would trump any design virtues or flaws inherent in the design.
orsetto, thanks for notes on the Mitsubishi and the few model numbers I tried to relocate. Think I'll contact your repair shop link and see if they'll check one or two of my oldies.
Last edited by sanlyn; 23rd Mar 2014 at 06:19.
One of the most irritating characteristics of VCRs was that the brands which were best at recording PQ were often mediocre or poor at playback, while the brands that played back really well often made mediocre recordings. My personal high water mark for recorded PQ were the 1986-1991 top-line Hitachi OEM flying-erase models sold under various brand names. But they weren't great at playback and had breakdown issues. The Sonys I replaced them with were roughly similar. Panasonic was always either middle-of-the-road or outright mediocre at rec/play, but was at least reliable. JVC was and remains all over the place: love em or hate em depending on model and random luck. Mitsus were average overall, Toshiba had no real market penetration to speak of but the few top models have quite a cult following.
That's all well and good, but frankly it seems to me that with any 20 year old vcr the condition would trump any design virtues or flaws inherent in the design.
Appearance alone can be deceptive- many VCRs that seem to be "like new" are a mess inside, and unless you know enough about models and dates you can be suckered by a 20 year old known-POS model. Thats why its a good idea to ask around to friends and family first, to see what VCR they might be willing to just give you. After that, you can try looking for nice standard VCRs in the $20-$30 price range: these are usually a good deal. Anything more than $60, you're looking at higher-end models, and higher-end models tend to be money sinks that require expensive repair sooner or later (often sooner). VCR "connoisseurs" cream over various JVC SVHS models with TBC/DNR, the similar Panasonic AG1980, and assorted DVHS models. All but the DVHS had reliability/repair issues which will bite you if the previous owner did not have them serviced before selling to you.
I have a Sony SLV-595HF sitting in the closet bought new in 1992. I have only three letters for that thing.... P O S. That thing was in the shop enough that we eventually bought a cheapo GE VG-4240 in 1998 to have something to use while it was getting repaired. It certainly looks nice on the shelf though, with its sleek black case and jog dial.
I just picked up a nice circa 1984 4-head Quasar/Panasonic deck with linear and Hi-Fi stereo. Needs the loader fixed and the usually rubber parts, but the rest of it is solid. We'll see how its video quality is when it gets fixed. Very easy to service too, only a few screws to take the whole thing apart. Seems that Panasonic forgot how to build a serviceable design by the time the AG-1980 came out!
Sorry to hear about your SONY. My original lasted 9 years, taping 3 or 4 tv shows every week and countless movies. It was serviced about halfway thru its life (new heads and a drive belt), finally dropped dead one day. Then I bought one used -- mainly to capture all the VHS tapes I'd recorded with the original. AS I said, the second "HF" was a used one that dad refurbed. Anout 150 hours later, it's slipping out of alignment again. So I guess I was lucky the first time around.
Last edited by sanlyn; 23rd Mar 2014 at 06:20.
Panasonic PV-1730, Quasar VH5346, and Magnavox VR8445 first-generation VHS HiFi machines (yes, I blew every paycheck in the '80s trying new VCRs). All three were beautiful to see and great to use, the Panasonic looking super-luxe with all the bling (a fingerprint magnet) and the Magnavox having the super-cool drop-dowm membrane panel. Build quality and PQ was about as good as Matsushita ever got: both elements went into slow decline after this series. After 2-3 years the electronics went on all three: the display died in the Quasar, the Panasonic PSU blew out, and the nifty membrane control panel on the Magnavox decomposed. The biggest drawback with these first-gen HiFi models was the primitive HiFi system: they can't track the HiFi worth a damn, with audio static/dropouts galore and constant low-level machine-gunning. The Quasar version has the largest, most finely adjustable tracking knob so is a little better at HiFi than the other two.
Seems that Panasonic forgot how to build a serviceable design by the time the AG-1980 came out!
Last edited by orsetto; 26th Jul 2012 at 20:27.
The model I got is the VH5846XE. All those 80s Panasonic decks eventually develop power supply problems. A re-cap solves the problems with displays dying. I got this deck for its linear stereo ability, a friend of mine has a huge library of LP speed tapes with linear stereo that he wants to transfer.
I have had the Sony SLV-R1000 that I bought new in the 90's and still works great to this day. Granted I've taken good care of my electronics, that's why buying them off eBay can be a hit or miss....many people just don't take care of things and abuse them, and they want to try to sell it a 'works good' type thing.
The other Sony VCR I formerly had was the SLV-960HF VHS unit that was one of the last higher end ones that Sony made, and during the years I had it it held up very well like a tank. Only thing I done with it was to remove the auto-head cleaner arm as those are junk anyway.I have the staff of power, now it's up to me to use it to its full potential to command my life and be successful.
My first VCR was a Sony SLV-N71. It lasted a good 10 years before it fell out a window (Dont ask ). It Had a great PQ. The only problem I had with it is that it took 20 seconds to start recording...
I also have a Sony SLV-D300P combo. The VCR works, but it has a jumpy picture. The DVD part complains if you put in a DVD with a tiny spec of dust.
In my bedroom, I have a Panasonic PV 9405S VCR that I got for free. It works great, even though its now 12 years old. There is one small problem: Sometimes you have to try a few times to load a heavy tape (IE Blank tape or long movie)