I'm in the market for a DVD Recorder for dubbing VHS tapes for my mom. Nothing too fancy, but since I dont know what to look for I am hoping to be pointed in the right direction. Looking for a ~$200 Dvd recorder that will convert VHS.
Are there any models to stay away from?
Any features I should definitely look for?
At the $200 price ranges is DL recording a pipe dream? same with HDD?
Two that I have found are
Can anyone offer a little advice to me
Thanks as always
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Last edited by quxote; 8th Jan 2013 at 10:42.
Magnavox is apparently the only manufacturer that still makes them for the USA and Canada. I am not sure but I think the Toshiba ones are older stock.
You do need to understand that if your VHS tapes have any tracking issues or you are recording old commercial tapes and not telling us that that's your real goal that the DVD recorder may refuse to record them. In that case you will also have to buy a TBC to put between the VCR and DVD recorder. Do NOT under any circumstances buy a VCR/DVD recorder combo. You need separate units for the best results.
We've got a member who's something of an expert on the Magnavox recorders. Hopefully he will join in before long. By the way, many DVD recorders do not record to DL media. If you find one that does, ONLY buy Verbatim DL discs. I cannot emphasize that enough.
jman, thanks for the input. I only buy Verbatim DVDs for everything...but thanks for the tip.
This is something my Mom wants to do..and she doesnt have a lot of technical knowledge. You mentioned not to buy a DVD/VCR combo....but that is what she wants, she needs something easy to use. The quality doesnt have to be stellar, just watchable. I am pretty sure she just wants to dub home movies.
Do you want this done right? If you're just going to buy a combo recorder, then do NOT come back here when it doesn't work for you. You were warned not to do that. You're pissing your money away if you buy a combo. Expect tons of problems. Again, you have been warned. Combo owners used to come here all the time crying about how lots of their tapes wouldn't record at all with their combo units. The ONLY fix for this issue is to have separate units so you can put a TBC between them if you have to.
Until my recent purchase of an old VCR in great condition that has a built-in TBC, I've never owned or needed a TCB. On the other hand I would NEVER buy a "combo unit".
My friend back home in the states just bought a combo though...a Toshiba DVR620....and has successfully copied some of his tapes to DVD. They look VERY nice and the audio is excellent(he used the BEST quality settings on the unit because his clips were short). He is quite "techno-challenged" and he managed to record the clips on his own(with my suggestions).
If it is home movies she is looking to record....be warned that most copy houses back then jammed WAY TOO MANY hours onto those tapes and that will cause problems....no doubt about it.
wow jman, thanks you have been helpful
MJA, thanks for the info....I think we would rather just convert them at home......like i said before ...not looking for stellar quality..just something watchable.....I am getting the feeling combo units are the "red headed stepchild" here.
The alternative is send them out or spending $$$ on a VCR and DVD Recorder and TBC?
hech54, thanks for the info on the Toshiba, That model is available at Walmart. I understand no one likes the combo units but atleast you actually gave me a little insight on them..thank you
Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end. -- Henry David Thoreau
sanlyn, Yup understandable.......and we always will keep the originals. Personally I have converted homes movies...but I used my computer video capture hardware...but again..this is my mom doing this.
And honestly I have seen DVD using combo units and didnt think they were all that bad, except for the ugle menus it creates lol
Yeah. Some of those menus are dreadful.Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end. -- Henry David Thoreau
I'll also chime in on the almost all combos are crap bandwagon. The only exceptions might be a few old Panasonics and maybe JVC or two.
I'd really steer away from the Magnavox and only slightly less from the Toshiba. I have read from one guy on AVS who really liked his Toshiba combo(I think his/her? name was Microlady). Again he/she really liked the Toshiba but most people as Jman98 said wish they hadn't spend the money and get quite frustrated.
Even though you say your tapes are not commercial, many times the cheap combos read glitches as CP and will stop the recording. As others have said most all combos(except a few old Panasonics) will NOT let you install a filter or TBC between the two sections(VHS/DVDR) which is one big reason to stick to separates.
Your best bet would be something like a Magnavox w/HDD, decent VCR and possibly a filter/TBC. Unfortunately that route may not be feasible for a small amount of tapes unless you recoup some of your money by selling the items after your job is done. I'd think everything should hold their value pretty well and at least in my area the above items usually don't last too long on Craigslist if discounted from the purchase price.
quxote, you really need to be more specific about what the heck is going on between you, your mother, and these tapes if we're to give you any useful advice. I mean, if you know how to do captures to your PC, and you've already got the hardware, and you've already been thru the process- why are you not simply doing it for her? Why burden her with a task she's clearly clueless about? If we're talking less than 30 tapes here, then seriously dude, man up and just do it for her yourself even if you think its tedious work and really don't want to be bothered. Trust me on this, its a lot less bother than having her call you 20 times a day to hold her hand, and then blame you for the whole mess when she gives up in disgust a couple weeks after you waste $200 for a unit that baffles her.
Stop, take a breath, and understand that 9 out of 10 average people consider DVD recording to be rocket science: no matter how intelligent they are, their brains turn to mush when operating a DVD recorder. DVDR does not work anything like a VCR, there is no simple "rewind the tape and do it over" option, and the combo units are barely any easier than dubbing to your PC if the user is inexperienced. The perverse joke of the DVD/VCR combos is that they can actually work quite well, but only in the hands of someone who understands the dubbing process well enough to not need a combo in the first place. The newbies for whom you would think the combo is ideal often end up throwing them in the basement after a month of frustration.
Now: assuming for whatever reason you can't do this for her, you'll need to analyze the situation completely before gambling on a combo unit instead of just sending the tapes to a service. If your Mom is highly motivated and can take direction from you, a combo may or may not be workable depending on your answers to the following:
How many tapes total?
If less than two dozen, you really should consider doing the job for her. If you still have the VCR and PC hardware from your own transfer project, and she has less than 24 tapes, just do the damn things for her a few at a time over the course of a year. You'll save $200 not buying a unit you don't need, and avoid all the stress of teaching a parent new technology that they'll never use again in their lives. Subconsciously, people resist learning fussy complex tasks when they know they only need the skill for a very limited time: it makes it harder to teach them.
Are these all home recordings from TV or a camcorder?
If so, then the combo will make passable DVD copies of them and probably not need additional accessories or obsessive fussing during the dubs.
Are any of these Hollywood studio tapes or copies of Hollywood studio tapes?
If so, you're up a creek: no sane son would would stick his mother with all the ridiculous extra workarounds necessary to make DVD copies of Hollywood tapes. The combo will flatly refuse to copy such tapes, you would need to connect a second VCR to the DVD section of the combo with a TBC or reliable protection filter wired between the two units. Dubbing would be even less automated and she might need to intervene occasionally if the protection signal sneaks thru and stalls the dub despite all precautions. Before going one step further into this project, weed out any Hollywood tapes she has and make a list of them to buy off Amazon as pre-recorded DVDs. The aggravation involved in getting passable copies of protected tapes is only worth it if you own dozens or perhaps hundreds of them. Even then I'd rather spend my lunch money on the official DVDs: the copies are too much work and rarely turn out well. With pre-2008 movies typically selling for under $5 everywhere, there's no reason to be a DIY masochist.
Are any of these made from old home movies on 8mm or Super-8 film?
If any of the tapes were produced from old home movies on film, they are guaranteed to copy for sh*t. Most of the service companies that did this for people did a hack job, the quality of most home movies was awful to begin with, and these tape conversions copy very poorly to DVD without a lot of intervention. If Mom never really watches these tapes and could care less how the DVD copy looks, no problem, but if she expects "nice" she isn't going to get that. She'll be lucky if she can recognize the faces from scene to scene.
Are these tapes mostly recorded in SP (two hour) mode, or are there a lot of LP (four hour) and EP/SLP (six or eight hour) slow-speed tapes?
SP tapes will generally dub in passable quality without too much trouble or glitches. But if most of these tapes have 4, 6 or 8 hours crammed onto them, you better plan on moving to another country after your Mom tries to copy them. Countless things go wrong during DVD dubs of slow-speed, long playing VHS. Tracking problems galore, poor playback triggering false shutdown of the DVD because it thinks the tape is from Hollywood, terrible errors and visual glitches in the DVD copy... the list goes on. Probably the biggest disappointment to new DVD/VHS combo users is that VHS does not directly correlate to DVD: with VHS, you could kinda sorta get away with six hours on a tape, but DVD visual quality tanks quite dramatically beyond two hours per disc (unless using a PC or one of the older deluxe DVD recorders with carefully calibrated infinite variable speeds).
The Magnavox combos go from decent two hour to not-so-hot 2 1/2 and 3 hour per-DVD speeds, the Toshiba combo drops immediately from decent two-hour quality to fugly 3, 4 and 6 hours per disc. Unless she's blind or viewing on a 12" tube TV, Mom will not be happy with a straight-across dub from 6-hour tape to 6-hour DVD. Any hope of passable DVD copies requires splitting a 6-hour EP tape into three 2-hour SP DVD dubs. This means thinking ahead to plan out where the breaks will be on each tape, starting and stopping the dubs, swapping DVDs, keeping track of everything. Not horribly difficult, but not something the average Mom really wants to tackle.
Personally, I've barely been able to get my own parents to comprehend how to use a combo DVD/VCR player: I wouldn't attempt to teach them how to dub their VHS to DVD for any amount of money. My stress and their disappointment would not be worth it. There is a point of diminishing returns with parents and their VHS collections: unless the tapes are absolute garbage brands, they are remarkably durable, and excellent lightly-used durable Panasonic VCRs can be had for $15 from countless Craigs List ads. If the tapes aren't viewed all that often, and the person is much older than you or me, often the best option is to buy them a couple of clean, good-quality VCRs. Connect one to use, and save the other as a backup. Unless the tapes are stored in a garage in Florida during a heatwave, they should be playable for another 10-15 years minimum. Rushing headlong to make DVD copies only pays off if the person is tech-minded, undaunted by the task, and expects to to outlive their tapes by decades. Otherwise, its a lot of trouble for very little reward vs just playing the tapes themselves.
And as others mentioned, DVD recorders are deader than dead and almost gone from stores. The last DVD/VHS survivors you can buy new are the Magnavox and Toshiba (which is the Magnavox with a Toshiba nameplate glued on). If you decide to buy Mom a combo, at least get it from WalMart: their return/refund policy is ridiculously generous (you could probably get your money back two months later if Mom hates it). Most other retailers or web stores have limited 7-10 day, only-if-defective refund policies.
Last edited by orsetto; 8th Jan 2013 at 15:17.
NOTHING I did worked when I repeatedly asked my friend who bought the Toshiba DVR620 to send me his tapes(and he only has about 10 tapes with little 10 minute clips on them).
You might want to lay off lecturing a stranger whose situation you know NOTHING about.
hech54, thanks for your help....you are about the only one who actually answered the question rather than trying to steer me away from buying a combo.
What everyone fails to realize is she WANTS the combo...she WANTS to do it herself. I was just looking for advice on one to look for. YES i understand the quality wont be there....YES I understand it could be a lot better...Yes I could do it if I wanted, that's not the point.
orsetto, thanks for the man up lecture...that was really helpful. Again..this is something she wants to do herself. and for a $150 Recorder what is the harm
Worst case scenario: I hook up a separate VCR to the combo and tape from there ..maybe put in a TBC between them.
oh...and for "regular" people.....every dub doesnt have to be an Academy Award candidate for editing a dubbing....sometimes people just want to be able to watch something on DVD.
Nobody is out to get you -- just trying to give an honest assessment of the situation out there.
I imagine that most opinions of combos is that they are all the same -- one is just as bad as the next. I would just try one out that is in you budget and has a solid return policy, especially if you have lots of EP/LP tapes.
Again, I'm sorry: no offense was intended by my reply. I just tried to give the broadest overview of the various traps an older person who normally doesn't do these kind of techy tasks could be snared by. A lot of the options we once had for converting VHS to DVD have disappeared over the past few years, at least as new products you can buy in a store with a good return policy. Unfortunately, all that is left in USA are the Magnavox/Toshiba twins: there is no detailed advice to give on these, they are the same recorder other than the Magnavox including an additional SPP (150 mins) speed which is barely distinguishable from its (or the Toshiba's) LP (3 hour) speed. They are adequate, bare-bones combos that aren't the most user-friendly ever sold- but they're all you can buy new today. They won't dub Hollywood tapes at all, and they don't copy most LP or EP/SLP tapes all that well.
It is of course fine and understandable that your mother may want to do the work herself. We're just addressing various "gotchas" she may encounter with certain kinds of tapes, or if she wants to control how scenes are put together or do any editing: if she has such ideas in mind, the Magnavox/Toshiba may not please her. Edits can be done, but not easily, and they're more difficult if she wants to use archival DVD-R blanks instead of convenient but less-durable DVD+RW. The Magnavox/Toshiba are OK for straight-across uninterrupted dubs, but poorly equipped for editing or customizing. If your mom has any significant plans for editing, she'd need the more advanced Magnavox MDR533 DVD/HDD recorder. You'd connect an external VCR to that unit, record all the VHS tapes to its HDD, easily make all the edits there, then burn the DVDs as high speed copies from HDD. Even better for editing would be the Panasonic EH59, which is incredibly convenient and flexible, but costs more. Whether your mom would find a combo suitable really depends on how much editing she expects to do vs how much the two of you want to invest in a recorder. Note DVD/HDD recorders have excellent resale value, so you could recoup 70% of the purchase price by reselling the recorder on eBay when she's finished all the dubs.
Regarding the final dub quality, don't misunderstand the replies: no one is trying to be elitist. We're just trying to give an idea of what you can expect with various dubbing setups. The current combos are not great, older ones were better, but you can't buy them anymore unless you want to gamble on used recorders (tricky when a parent is involved). Even the better, older combos had their issues and had to be fought and worked around to achieve decent results. I'm not a fanatic about it myself: I've done hundreds of such VHS>DVD dubs, and they're a big PITA no matter what hardware is involved. I'm happy if I get "passable" results that don't make my eyes hurt: doing better than that requires twice the gear, triple the effort, and mad PC software filter skills. Some of the experts here will accept nothing less than perfect, others like me are willing to accept "adequate." I have way way too many dubs still left on my list to attempt anything better than "adequate."
The catch is that "adequate" is not that easy to achieve, either: if you just throw a tape in a combo and press the "dub" button, the most common end result is usually "yuck" instead of "watchable." Each tape is different, each person has a different TV and visual expectations. Which is why I recommend getting the combo from WalMart, and letting your Mom try it out for awhile. She may get lucky, it may work just peachy to make good DVD copies of most of her tapes- it does happen that way for some users. If she has trouble, you obviously have the experience and skills to help her. If she still can't get results she wants, return the combo for refund. She'll need to consider (with your input) if its worth trying again with a more sophisticated DVD/HDD model, whether a few problematic tapes should be done by you with your PC setup, or whether to farm the whole project out to a service. No way to know for sure until she tries with her own particular tapes.
I wish you both good luck, and 100% success with the Magnavox or Toshiba combo. It would be the easiest solution, if it suits her tapes and needs.
I have a friend that bought the Magnavox DVR620 as a Christmas present for his wife. I know that your mother just wants it for dubbing VHS to DVD, but just in case she decides she wants to record TV shows, be aware that it does not have a tuner.
And I think that your mother wanting to do this herself is quite wonderful.
Great post Orsetto and in all fairness I did kind of offhandedly suggest the Toshiba over the Magnavox, based on the recommendation of the person over at AVS who seems to really like his/her Toshiba.
Brainiac, are you sure your not talking about a Toshiba DVR620? I think Magnavox has different model numbers but I agree with your tuner suggestion, if not too much more money it might be nice to have the option of a tuner, no way to easily add one down the line if she ever needs one.
Jeff, you are correct, it is the Toshiba DVR620 that does not have a tuner. That is the model my friend purchased.