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  1. Dear VCR experts,
    This is what I see & hear on composite-out:
    https://youtu.be/E3y7_M0-4gI

    I read the VCR FAQ, https://www.repairfaq.org/sam/vcrfaq.htm
    and the youtube videos.
    I am still stuck with static only. Pls help.

    Latest test: I fed the VCR's composite-in with footage and recorded this to tape, then I played it back. Still same static.

    * It seems the tape is too high on the audio/control head. But I'm not sure.
    * The Supply & Takeup guides "crowns" do not turn with a screwdriver.
    * I cannot figuredout how to enable manual tracking.

    Long write-up of what I tried so far:

    Mitsubishi HS-U57. Original owner. VCR sat in a box in the garage for 10 years (was working when it was boxed w/ bubble wrap, but box was moved around). Original belt was goo, so I replaced it with a new one this week.

    All tapes load/eject/rew/ff OK. Tape appears to roll fine in Play & REC.

    Same static video with commercial tape or self-recorded video. Audio is loud buzzing, not old school OTA TV static sound. I have tried 3 commercial tapes and 3 self-recorded tapes.

    I cleaned the cylinder heads using small pieces of clean printer paper and 91% isopropyl alcohol (youtube video by 12voltvids). There was medium tape residue.

    Back Tension Arm is freely working. Adding and lessening tension with my finger results in same full-screen static that varies a little with tension changes.

    Adjusting the Supply & Takeup alignment guides with a flathead screwdriver: I tried this but the "crowns" of the guides do not turn at all. I notice at the base of each guide has a hex set-screw that has thread-lock. I have been too scared to try turning the set-screws.

    I could not find any manual tracking buttons/options on the VCR or its remote.

    When I play a tape, the "DTR" (Digital Tracking) led blinks like it's actively adjusting tracking (one of this VCR's features). After a few secs "DTR" stops blinking and is solidly on. I remember this to be normal behavior when starting a tape.

    Composite video-out port displays the computer-generated menus when I enable them.

    When I feed the VCR's composite video-IN with a camcorder, I see the video on the VCR's composite video-OUT port. So the video-out port is alive.

    No picture via RF-coax-out either. My LCD TV says no-signal. But when VCR is fed video from the camcorder, camcorder's footage does appear on LCD TV (so VCR's RF-out port is alive too).

    One thing I notice: The tape seems to be tracking/riding high on the audio/control head. I can see the lower-half of the bottom A/C head BELOW the tape. Is this bad?

    In the photo ( https://imgur.com/a/PkcjKO2 ) you can barely see the lower edge of the A/C head is NOT in-contact with the tape. Photo is a bad angle. In-person, I can see a good 1.5mm of the "sensor" of the A/C head (lower head).

    Because I can see half of the lower head "sensor", I wonder if the tape is traveling too high across the A/C head. But then why does the VCR's DTR led change from blinking to solidly on (as if it's happy with the self-applied tracking)?

    I appreciate any help! Thank you
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  2. Originally Posted by donnlee View Post
    I could not find any manual tracking buttons/options on the VCR or its remote.
    Mitsubishi had an odd obsession with deliberately obfuscating the manual tracking adjustments on nearly all their VCRs. Never in a million years will you figure out the trick to a particular Mitsu model unless you can find the owners manual. I've owned Mitsus for decades on and off, and even now I sometimes forget and have to dig out the owners manual. I haven't owned this ancient model series in many many years, but my more recent examples require two hands to juggle a button/dial combination. Typically you need to hold down the REC MODE (SP/EP) button while spinning the jog/shuttle wheel during playback to initiate manual tracking, and either eject the tape or press SP/EP again to reactivate auto tracking. Your HS-U57 doesn't appear to have a jog/shuttle knob on the front panel, so it may use the much more common method of pressing the channel up or down button during playback to manually adjust tracking. If that doesn't seem to do anything, try pressing the SP/EP button simultaneously with channel up or down.

    One thing I've learned over nearly forty years using countless VCRs is that every brand has different advantages and Achilles Heels. Mitsubishi's weak spot is most models made prior to 1998 do not age well: at all. More than likely you've had a significant electronics failure develop while it was sitting in the garage so long: older Mitsus can be fragile, and garage storage in temperature extremes could easily speed decay along. This may not be a readily repairable problem: unless you absolutely must use this specific VCR for a special purpose, I'd probably junk it and look for another in working condition. Your sample playback clip looks very much like a clogged or damaged video head issue: while you believe the heads are technically clean, they (or their supporting circuitry) may have degraded in other ways during storage (oxidation, shorts, cold solder failure, etc etc).

    Of course there's always a chance its a simple mechanical issue, but it may be difficult to isolate and dial out. Over the years I've had the most difficulty getting Mitsubishis properly serviced than any other brand, even at authorized techs. The nearest runners up were JVC and Hitachi, which were less difficult to get fixed than vintage Mitsubishi but still lag way behind Panasonic. Even the most doltish ham-handed tech could usually fix Pannys, but if you wanted flying erase and editing features Panasonic had an almost nonexistent model range compared to Mitsu and JVC (esp in the 90s).
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  3. Member dellsam34's Avatar
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    I don't have the VCR in front of me but by the picture it looks like the heads are shot, The drum ribbon cable is disconnected or damaged, the head RF preamp is malfunctioning, All this has to be tested with the oscilloscope off course so it is just best guesses. As I always say, if you can't fix it yourself get another one.
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  4. @orsetto, @dellsam34,
    Thank you for the expert advice. I tried all the combinations of keys ch+/-, EP/SP, the jog wheel on the remote, and other button combinations; I was not able to see anything that looked like manual tracking behavior.
    I inspected the ribbon cable exiting the head and it looked to be in excellent condition and connected. I checked other ribbon cables and cables with connectors.
    I read that failed caps may cause this kind of failure. I was planning to disassemble further to inspect the boards for leaky caps, but someone on reddit said these caps fail without any change in exterior appearance.

    I will look for a good used Panasonic VCR as a next step, probably.

    Thanks again!
    donnlee
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  5. Mitsubishi can be a bit "all over the place" compared to other brands. Typically, each brand has its own set of traditional, predictable operational quirks or failure points. Mitsu, OTOH, is really scattershot from year to year and model series to model series.

    For example, the majority of their higher-end models of the late 90s all looked alike and all had the same critical failure point: the loading mechanism was made out of incredibly thin, fragile, heat-sensitive plastic. Prolonged heat would dry it out until it shattered into multiple unrepairable shards (you'd think Mitsu might have considered this, given their VCRs run very hot). Then, in the early 2000s, Mitsubishi released their excellent HS-HD2000U DVHS model with TBC/DNR (comparable to JVC DigiPure). This DVHS model looks exactly like their premium models from the previous five years, yet is much MUCH more durable and reliable: mine has been running non-stop in a stack of other VCRs doing DVD transfers since 2005. Total contradiction: go figure.

    Flipping expectations once again, the big drawback of the Mitsu 2000 DVHS is its really finicky, lousy ability to track HiFi audio on tapes made by older VCRs of other brands (manual adjustment using the jog dial is far too coarse to be helpful). In this regard its as bad as a typical JVC (half the time those can't even track the HiFi on their own recordings). Yet the cheaper volume-seller Mitsu models from the HD2000 era have excellent wide range tracking, great for HiFi and EP/SLP tapes: my go-to recommendations for those seeking a rugged, affordable, "ordinary" VCR with excellent tracking compatibility for most tapes are the Mitsubishi HS-U448, 449, 748 and 749 made circa 1997-2001. They're better built and better at HiFi or EP/SLP tracking than comparable Panasonics of the same period (Panasonic actually got really crappy around 2001, their final chintzy compact silver-finish consumer VCRs are a must to avoid). The sweet spot for cheap consumer-grade Panasonics is the compact model series made between 1996-1999 (check the date on the back panel label).
    Last edited by orsetto; 29th Aug 2020 at 16:12.
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  6. Member dellsam34's Avatar
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    You can't go wrong with JVC HR-SXXXX series S-VHS decks, They are not cheap nowadays though and the built in line TBC ones go for over $300 if not more depends on the condition. If you are capturing tapes a S-VHS deck is a must for proper archival job.
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