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  1. LONG time since I've posted here as I haven't done any real video capture work for quite a few years now. However, I still have quite a few unfinished projects and regret never buying something quite as good as say, a JVC HR-S9600 model from the late '90s...

    My question is, if one were to purchase a used high-end VCR nowadays, where could one take it to get checked/restored back to "new" condition (internal mechanics-wise)? I've tried various searches over the past few years, and all these places have been drying up, and I'm not sure if any results I found today are current by any means.

    I'd just find it *highly unlikely* that one could score an as-new performing vintage VCR unless someone was the original owner and babied the hell out of it for over 20 years, or had it serviced in recent years and then babied the hell out of it...

    Almost nothing for sale on eBay has a real description anymore, and at best you might find one that "has been sitting in the closet unused for 20 years, never really used!!" which gives me great pause due to the probability of things like lubrication gunk build-up from sitting idly forever. Either that, or you'll most likely find a VCR that has been worn to hell and has passed through an unknown amount of multiple previous owners, with a listing just saying "works!"

    Considering how much these old models are still commanding in truly "unknown condition," I'm baffled and figured I should post this before everyone forgets that VCRs and VHS tapes exist!

    To be clear, I don't intend to start a debate about which exact model of VCR to get. The questions applies regardless - that virtually all very high-end VCRs were discontinued near the end previous previous century and thus likely have worn/aged parts internally. Any recommendations? A service center that is honest and doesn't make problems up would be a plus... I've just been wondering this for years and cannot buy another VCR until I know what to do with it - thanks in advance!
    Last edited by echo1434; 9th Oct 2020 at 11:46.
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  2. P.S. I am rather ignorant about repairing VCRs and have kept my JVC HR-S6970AH in perfect shape from continuous, extremely minimal use ever since I bought it new, but that has taken a lot of thought and effort and I can only presume this is one in a million nerdy-type feat to have pulled off - lol...

    (I don't even know if a unit sitting idly for years is actually a bad thing or if that's just a myth. I do know that belts and other parts definitely wear out and have a negative effect on output quality...)

    I'm not a complete idiot, as I do know how to manually clean the tape path and heads, etc. but as for knowing how to gauge the condition of internal parts via visual inspection is something I am CLUELESS about. Any and all related information will be greatly appreciated!
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    "I'm baffled and figured I should post this before everyone forgets that VCRs and VHS tapes exist!"

    Are you serious? There are posts here and at digitalfaq.com every week about the best VCRs and capture methods!

    The the odds of you finding VCR worth repairing at a price worth repairing is slim to none as they're still a hot, hot item. Even a new in box, never opened AG-1960 needs a checking over and probably new caps and belts. $$$

    As for repair services. TGPhoto.com does repairs on some Panasonic and JVC VCRs. But keep in mind that repairs can take months since their backlogged and because replacement parts are scarce or non-existent, replacement parts often have to be cannibalized from a non-working machine. Further reducing the the available supply.

    Best to buy a refurbished unit from TGPhoto or lordsmurf. Yes, you pay a premium, but that's better than gambling on a machine that may not be work or able to be refurbished.

    Edit: Properly troubleshooting and repairing a VCR goes far beyond cleaning. Belts and caps dry out. Alignment drifts. Lube dries out. If you're still interested in troubleshooting, look for a repair manual for your machine and see what's needed to get to the various parts of your machine.
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  4. Originally Posted by echo1434 View Post
    I'm not a complete idiot, as I do know how to manually clean the tape path and heads, etc. but as for knowing how to gauge the condition of internal parts via visual inspection is something I am CLUELESS about. Any and all related information will be greatly appreciated!
    Ordinarily, I'm all for people learning new skills and doing their own repairs, but honestly if you have zero prior experience or aptitude for tearing into electromechanical devices you should probably NOT start now with VCRs (beyond simple cleaning). The supply of premium models in good working condition is far too scarce and valuable nowadays: if we're talking an everyday common consumer model easily replaced for under $50, sure poke around inside. But anything with TBC/DNR should be sent to a dedicated pro tech who clearly states their specialization, and/or has a good track record at sites like DigitalFAQ.

    Some issues you can diagnose by sight, but appearances can be deceiving and each brand/model series will have internal differences. Noticeably dirty capstans, guides, pinch rollers and stationary audio/tracking heads are an indication of hard use, but not necessarily a defective VCR: a little astute cleaning and many work fine. The big problem areas are often located inaccessibly beneath the mechanism (brakes, gears, tiny belts, cracked worm gears): troubles with load/eject or screeching in FF/REW can be traced to this area. Some VCRs use a complicated pinch roller arm that moves up and down vertically when loading/unloading: the timing for this is critical. Dried gummy grease or misaligned gear train will slow the vertical roller movement enough to snag tapes. Eyeballing the tape ribbon as it moves thru the transport can offer some clues:if it seems to be riding a little too high or low (bowing at the edge), tracking can be impeded and eventually cause edge damage (some models are easier to re-align for this problem than others). Hidden switches and sensors can become dirty, throwing timing off. Then of course you have electronic issues: bulging leaky caps are fairly obvious to the eye, but many smaller cap failures require instrumentation to diagnose.

    Unfortunately, the whole VCR field is one giant Catch-22 PITA today. The perverse fact is the better the VCR, the more likely it is to require repairs, and not just ordinary repairs: nitpicky, resistant, peculiar, specialized repairs. The techs who could do this task well are dropping out of the business at an alarming rate, similar to how skilled camera repair specialists and FM tuner techs are evaporating like dew in August. There isn't enough demand to actually make a living at these repairs: it seems that way from all the chatter on AV forums, but in reality its a low volume, very niche business model. Coupled with the ridiculous amount of time and effort necessary to overhaul something like the popular Panasonic AG-1980, the cost has skyrocketed in the last couple years. As the fees go ever higher, fewer and fewer people can afford proper VCR service, and give up in despair. In turn, the decreasing client base pushes many aging techs toward retirement (with no apprentices training in the wings).

    So there isn't much of a middle, affordable ground anymore: you either splurge on a fully restored AG-1980 from TGrant Photo, or take your chances on the eBay lottery. The former is like investing in gold coinage: I swear I blinked a few months ago, and the TGrant price for a 1980 jumped from $999 to $1499 overnight. $1500 is a LOT of money for a VCR: unless you have a decent margin of disposable income, that price will stop you cold. The cliche bromides "that's what the 1980 cost brand new in 1997" or "its a temporary purchase: you can always resell and get all your money back" simply don't fly anymore. The retail price of the AG1980 in 1997 has no relevance today (back then it was a professional tool for wedding/event firms that could write it off, Average Joe with 100 tapes to transfer in 2020 is gonna choke hard on that price). As for "just flip it when your project is done" - good luck with that. Very very few interested buyers are truly willing to fork over $1500 for a TGrant unit: those that do generally hold onto them for the long term. If you save all the service documentation, you might recoup about half that from a savvy VH or DigitalFAQ member. So the question becomes, do you have enough tapes (and do you prize them enough) to eat a six or seven hundred dollar loss?

    Of course, for some people the answer is a resounding "yes" or TGrant wouldn't have a business. The Panasonic AG-1980 is a unique VCR that has no exact alternative: if you need it, you need it and must find a way to afford it. The level of rebuild depth and testing TGrant performs on their VCRs is an order of magnitude better than your average "VCR repair" - remaking the flaky sow's ear AG1980 into a silk purse paragon is a difficult trick indeed. Same goes for the popular JVC DigiPure models, tho these tend to be notably less expensive and less difficult to restore. If you want to just buy a VCR and get to work, going with a pricey specialized restoration service recommended at DigitalFAQ can be worth every penny. Check the repair threads often: active and shut down status of these firms can change quickly as techs retire.

    Those with restricted budgets can still win at the eBay lottery, but its very risky for some models and prices are not the chump change they were years ago. I'd strongly caution against an eBay AG1980 unless you've already decided to send it directly to TGrant or Deter for an expensive time-consuming overhaul: theres almost zero chance an eBay AG1980 is really working "perfectly" as-is. They all have one or more gremlins: if you know the model well, it is possible to make functional tradeoffs of price vs glitches and snag a "bargain". But the gremlins can be unstable, so you'd need to transfer all suitable tapes immediately (IOW, don't play around with random bargain AG1980s unless you know exactly what you're playing at).

    JVC SVHS DigiPure VCRs are much less volatile than the Panasonic, but many require PSU service and they will shred tapes if out of mechanical alignment. JVC repairs are not nearly as exotic or involved as with the AG1980 (nothing is), but the mechanics and cap issues are just peculiar enough that you should look for a JVC specialist if possible. Good deals can sometimes be found if one looks for JVC industrial-series "SR-MV" SVHS+DVD combo recorders instead of the better-known standalone VCR models. These combos all contain a variant of the JVC SR-V101 DigiPure VCR with TBC/DNR, which is quite good when working properly. The "gotcha" with the combo units is the notorious JVC "Loading..." defect, when failed caps or resistors in the power supply or a faulty optical drive prevents the unit from completely booting. Repairing this so the VCR section can be used is rather tricky, but since these combos sell for half the asking price of popular JVC VCRs you can still come out ahead if you've got the name of a good repair service. They aren't ideal for playing non-hifi tapes, however: the linear mono audio circuit is rather poor, esp at SLP/EP.

    Currently, the best "price-performance-risk" bet on eBay is the Mitsubishi HS-HD2000U DVHS model. For reasons I can't figure, prices on these have dropped dramatically in recent months vs similar JVCs and Panasonics. The Mitsu 2000 has TBC/DNR features copied from JVC DigiPure, but with significantly more reliable electronics and mechanism (most examples are still fully operational). Excellent video performance at SP, tho like JVCs tracking ability at SLP/EP is not as good as Panasonic. The Mitsu 2000 can be had in good functional condition for as little as $195 sometimes, esp if it doesn't include the bespoke silver remote. All of its VHS functions can be operated with any common grey Mitsubishi VCR remote that has a jog/shuttle dial, the dedicated remote just adds a few DVHS-specific buttons most owners will never use anyway.
    Last edited by orsetto; 9th Oct 2020 at 15:17.
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    Originally Posted by jagabo View Post
    This is for the OP. Deter works for (owns?) TGrantphoto.

    The only other person that I would trust for VCR repair would be lordsmurf, but I don't know if does repairs for others.
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  6. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
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    @orsetto: Don't forget, I have JVC decks from time to time.

    The main issue with VCR repair is having parts, not just the knowledge.

    I've repaired many JVC decks in the past 5 years, but had to back off some in 2020. Repairing and servicing these decks takes many hours -- hours that I needed for health and family. I now only service a handful of the best models. That said, I almost always have an in-progress refurb deck on my workbench. At this exact moment, I have one deck available, and another is almost done with the refurb process. I grade the decks with multiple criteria.

    I have a VCR graveyard in the attic, several dozen for-parts decks that get more picked over as time goes by.

    When it comes to VCRs, eBay isn't buying, eBay is gambling. All those "tested" and "working" descriptions are BS by non-video know-nothings. To them, any quality picture is passable, which is ridiculous. At least 85% of all VCRs on eBay are trash beyond use. That last 15% almost always needs some work to be put back into properly working condition.

    What I can say is this: in the past 5 years, the amount of refurb candidate decks has severely diminished. I used to reliably be able to put a deck back in A+ condition, but even with my best efforts, B+ is often the best that can be done with some units. (I grade strict, so B+ is still a good deck.) That's another reason that I felt okay about backing off my refurb work in 2020.

    I generally ask a lot of lot of questions about your project, because I want to pair it with the best deck for the job. Not all VCRs are good at all projects (recording modes, -C formats, etc). And then there are general rules (ie, Panasonic best at -C) but also exceptions (few JVCs equally nice with -C). Sometimes I tell others to hold off on their conversion project, while I acquire a deck they need. So I also do some on-demand VCR refurb projects. I'm not aware of any other VCR seller doing this, and expect you (the newbie) to already known what you need.

    I do not suggest D-VHS decks, and especially not Mitsubishi. There are issue with that model. Some like it, most do not.

    There's not a lot of us out there repairing decks anymore. For many years, I just did repair and maintenance for myself. Because the gear we all need starting getting more scarce, I started to make TBCs, VCRs and capture cards available for others at the digitalFAQ.com marketplace forum.
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    An important note about Deter and quality VCR repairs in general. As stated above, the number of quality repair people and available parts if dwindling rapidly. A while back Deter announced that he was no longer repairing AG Panasonics because of the excessive time required for repairs (it's a given that all the capacitors must be replaced). Thankfully, he recently has started to do repairs again, but he may decide not to continue or retire. I don't know how old he is, but keep in mind that he probably gained his skills back in the 80's or 90's and was probably in his late 20's or early 30's when he learned them.*

    *I got to know all the local Sony Betamax repair guys back then because I had so many machines. They told me they were all in their late 20's or early 30's+ because they had to work their way up from other electronics to working on VCRs which where the most complicated electronics at the time and possibly the most complicated electronics with mechanical parts, excluding hard drives, to this day.

    I know lordsmurf is 70ish (12 in Smurf years) and has medical issues that make it difficult to work, and he goes through phases where he stops working on his own machines. The fact that he has VCRs and other equipment available for sale means that for now, he's willing to go through the arduous task of testing and repairing them, but he may decide to stop at any moment as he has done in the past.

    Bottom line is buy and/or repair today as the prices aren't going any lower and the machines worth having are getting more scarce every day!

    Edit: Dangit lordsmurf, now just thinking about mentioning your name makes you appear! <GRIN> Good to have you here!
    Last edited by lingyi; 9th Oct 2020 at 16:07.
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    Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
    he probably gained his skills back in the 80's or 90's
    Nope. He learned in the early 10s, maybe late 00s, and he credits much of his initial knowledge as coming from me. But his Panasonic skills and knowledge has far surpassed my knowledge at this point, in terms of the deck innards. (Noting that my knowledge gap is mostly due to my former unwillingness and dislike of soldering, and inability now. I resisted deck repair for years, choosing to be a video user, not a video repairman. I wanted to use the gear, not screw around with it. By the time I relented, soldering just wasn't a skill I could have anymore, due to health. Somebody local helps me when I need something minor done.)

    I know lordsmurf is 70ish
    No, no, not quite there yet.

    (12 in Smurf years)
    Papa is about 500 years old. So not sure about human>Smurf years calculation. (I need to look that up! )

    and has medical issues that make it difficult to work, and he goes through phases where he stops working on his own machines. The fact that he has VCRs and other equipment available for sale means that for now, he's willing to go through the arduous task of testing and repairing them, but he may decide to stop at any moment as he has done in the past.
    Bottom line is buy and/or repair today as the prices aren't going any lower and the machines worth having are getting more scarce every day!
    Yep, that's exactly it.

    Edit: Dangit lordsmurf, now just thinking about mentioning your name makes you appear! <GRIN> Good to have you here!
    Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!
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    Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
    Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
    he probably gained his skills back in the 80's or 90's
    Nope. He learned in the early 10s, maybe late 00s, and he credits much of his initial knowledge as coming from me. But his Panasonic skills and knowledge has far surpassed my knowledge at this point, in terms of the deck innards. (Noting that my knowledge gap is mostly due to my former unwillingness and dislike of soldering, and inability now. I resisted deck repair for years, choosing to be a video user, not a video repairman. I wanted to use the gear, not screw around with it. By the time I relented, soldering just wasn't a skill I could have anymore, due to health. Somebody local helps me when I need something minor done.)

    I know lordsmurf is 70ish
    No, no, not quite there yet. .
    Is Deter the only one who does repairs/refurbs at TGrant? Since he learned from you, is he TraineeSmurf?

    I could have sworn you said you were a decade longer on this earth than I am! I'm sure one of the regulars here is at least 70. And it's not thinking of oldfart13 who may not really be that old.
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  10. Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
    "I'm baffled and figured I should post this before everyone forgets that VCRs and VHS tapes exist!"

    Are you serious? There are posts here and at digitalfaq.com every week about the best VCRs and capture methods!.
    Yes, I was serious, but this is good to hear and I should've dug around a bit more. I haven't been active here in almost 10 years as I fell out of the hobby, so I had this idea that everyone here had probably finished making transfers they were happy with by now and moved on to enjoy their finished digital products. I also wasn't sure how many new hobbyists the world of VHS transfers was attracting these days, so this is a nice surprise!


    Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
    Belts and caps dry out. Alignment drifts. Lube dries out.
    Yes, thank you, this is exactly what I was afraid of. I have a very nice cassette deck that starts to noticeably lose its speed accuracy and azimuth alignment range every so many hours of normal use (100-200, if I recall) - then I send it to a qualified service tech who only does the service because I purchased the deck from him.

    However, I've always had this notion that that VCRs (decent ones, at least) are a bit more durable due to having larger parts. I'm not expecting them to last 15-25 years without any service, but I just had this assumption it would be longer than a cassette deck. This is just a guess, so please correct me.

    Also, can anyone say approximately how long it takes for the original factory lube in a VCR to dry out? I make a note to fire up my machine about every two months and run it through some paces with a clean tape to keep it "loose." I purchased it 16 years ago, but in the grand scheme of things I used it quite minimally (and for playback only). I'd guess it has about 100 hours of total use time since its original factory calibration. But... 16 years seems like a long time!

    Anyway, I've been meaning to ask the question about finding service for years now, and also about how likely it is to find a perfectly-to-spec machine from a random online seller at an "normal" price. But it's great hear that there are still options out there. I have a good mix of both NTSC and PAL tapes, so in reality I have two things to figure out here. Thank you very much to everyone for all the info!
    Last edited by echo1434; 10th Oct 2020 at 09:02.
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    Originally Posted by echo1434 View Post
    However, I've always had this notion that that VCRs (decent ones, at least) are a bit more durable due to having larger parts.
    Larger? (Larger than what?) Not really.

    Also, can anyone say approximately how long it takes for the original factory lube in a VCR to dry out?
    Environmental factors matter more than time. Hot Arizona isn't the same as cool British Columbia.

    But... 16 years seems like a long time!
    My oldest S-VHS are just shy of 25 years old.

    I have a good mix of both NTSC and PAL tapes, so in reality I have two things to figure out here.
    Nothing to be confused about here. Good NTSC deck + good PAL deck = solution.
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  12. Originally Posted by echo1434 View Post
    However, I've always had this notion that that VCRs (decent ones, at least) are a bit more durable due to having larger parts. I'm not expecting them to last 15-25 years without any service, but I just had this assumption it would be longer than a cassette deck. This is just a guess, so please correct me.
    There is a huge discrepancy of "durability" (in the way most everyday consumers view durability) between the millions of ordinary average VCRs and the thousands of "premium" VCRs preferred for tape transfer work. This discrepancy can be hard to wrap your mind around if you have no similar prior experience of it, because it really doesn't make any logical sense (you'd think the core components of the VCR would mostly be shared, with only a few circuit refinements in the premium models). Sadly this is not the case: you can pick almost any random Panasonic or JVC low to midrange consumer model mfd between 1993 and 2000 from a random pawn shop, and odds are good to excellent that it will power up and work perfectly.

    The premium JVC and Panasonic models needed for transfer work? Forget it: functional examples are needle in a haystack, parts are bespoke, proper servicing ever harder to find. The less "desirable" the VCR model, the more likely it is to be incredibly durable. Lubrication etc often has very little to do with it: some of the premium VCRs have near-identical internals to the lower models, yet they will fail three times as often. I've got plain jane Panasonic and JVC 4-head HiFi models that have rolled merrily along without interruption since the late 1980s, and "premium" Panasonics and JVCs that can't make it from one birthday to the next. The one (really weird) exception/reversal to this premium-fragility phenomenon are my Mitsu 2000 DVHS units: based on long prior experience with lookalike VHS and SVHS Mitsus, I expected the DVHS to completely self-destruct and become unrepairable with three years. Instead, my 2000s are the most trouble-free VCRs I've ever owned, despite seeming to employ the exact same chassis and running twice as hot as my (now long dead) 680, 690, 790 models.

    Since you mentioned audio cassette decks, it helps to understand this standard vs premium VCR durability paradox if you re-frame it with cassette decks instead. Similar principles apply: you would think by the '90s the baseline mechanics and electronics of cassette decks should have been thoroughly debugged, and the premium models retailing in the $1000 should at the very least have been rock solid reliable. But no: just mention the word "reliability" to any Nakamichi enthusiast and watch them break out in peals of nervous, cynical laughter. The highest performing cassette decks from Nakamichi and a couple other brands inevitably spend more time on the repair bench than they do actually playing tapes. Same with some "legendary" FM tuners and amplifiers: they have unique hissy fits and meltdowns that defy simple repair or require long-unavailable spare parts. Meanwhile, most of the garbage Fisher-By-Sanyo rack systems from 1981 are still blasting away in garages across America. Go figure.
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    also about how likely it is to find a perfectly-to-spec machine from a random online seller at an "normal" price.
    Supply and demand. The prices that Deter and lordsmurf charge are the normal price for a "..perfectly-to-spec machine...". Anyone with enough knowledge to honestly list a machine in perfectly serviced condition, would know enough to charge going prices. The exception would be if someone was desperate for cash and selling well below market. If you do find this rarity, I'd ask for a solid repair/refurb history, especially who did the work. Sometimes, here and at DigitalFAQ, there are machines from members having completed their project, listed as having been purchased from Deter or lordsmurf. Before buying such a machine, I'd ask check with Deter or lordsmurf (I'm assuming they'd be willing to help) if that machine was indeed from them. I'd also ask for hours used (available on professional machines), as they may be due for a tuneup or videohead replacement.

    Bottom line, as lordsmurf stated, don't take anyone's word at face value. Be well armed with knowledge and questions.

    BTW, the "normal price" of all video capture equipment is rising. A couple of months ago, on another forum I disputed the claim of a poster that a known good TBC-1000 was going for well over $1000. I checked and sure enough, that's the "normal price". Whereas a few years ago it was under $1000.
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    Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    Since you mentioned audio cassette decks, it helps to understand this standard vs premium VCR durability paradox if you re-frame it with cassette decks instead. Similar principles apply: you would think by the '90s the baseline mechanics and electronics of cassette decks should have been thoroughly debugged, and the premium models retailing in the $1000 should at the very least have been rock solid reliable. But no: just mention the word "reliability" to any Nakamichi enthusiast and watch them break out in peals of nervous, cynical laughter. The highest performing cassette decks from Nakamichi and a couple other brands inevitably spend more time on the repair bench than they do actually playing tapes. Same with some "legendary" FM tuners and amplifiers: they have unique hissy fits and meltdowns that defy simple repair or require long-unavailable spare parts. Meanwhile, most of the garbage Fisher-By-Sanyo rack systems from 1981 are still blasting away in garages across America. Go figure.
    The difference between non-premium and premium equipment is that the expected performance level of premium is equipment is much higher and the repair cost vs performance is an accepted aspect of ownership. While you could buy multiple Fisher decks for the cost of repair on a Nakamichi Dragon, the price of performance is worth it to the enthusiast.

    IMO, this is where lordsmurf and his recommendations stand. Especially for those who ask for "The Best". lordsmurf is a quality/performance enthusiast, maybe even a snob, but this recommendations answer the question of "The Best". No one is forced to buy only what he recommends, just as no one is being forced to buy a Nakamichi, but for those who want and are willing to pay the price for performance. There's a wide range of alternatives between the top VCRs, just as there's a wide range of alternatives for cassette decks. No one is being forced to buy "The Best" unless they want "The Best" performance.

    Edit: As for build quality of a Nakamichi versus a Fisher. A Nakamichi has far more moving parts such as adjustable head azimuth that is fixed on a Fisher. More delicate moving parts = more repairs.
    Last edited by lingyi; 10th Oct 2020 at 14:00.
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  15. Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
    Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!
    So glad this incantation still works to get your attention! Way more fun than an ordinary PM.

    especially not Mitsubishi. There are issue with that model. Some like it, most do not.
    I would never doubt your professional opinion vis-a-vis your mission-critical experiences, but I've been hearing this criticism (from other posters) on and off for years now, and have yet to see the "issues" visibly manifest in my own projects. Granted, my captures are not paid professional work and I seldom capture with the intent of doing any post-processing, but for ordinary day-to-day I really do not see any horrible artifact that would put me off the Mitsu vs JVC DigiPure or Panny AG1980. To my eye, the Mitsu runs neck and neck with my JVCs, with just a very slight difference in overall TBC/DNR presentation that randomly makes one preferable to the other depending on the tape. Many times, I was grateful to have the third Mitsu option when neither JVC nor Panasonic quite gave me the correction I needed.

    Perhaps if it was priced in the stupid-expensive, temperamental category of the AG1980 I would understand being leery of the Mitsu, but for the low price, excellent odds of getting one in full functional condition (and having it remain that way), I just don't see the downside to at least trying one or having it on hand as an alternative. Maybe the Mitsu 2000 suitability varies more than JVC/Panasonic depending one ones individual tapes and capture methods. All I can relate is my own experience over 1400 tapes, where I've favored the AG1980 50%, the Mitsu 2000 25% and JVC 25%. The Mitsu tends to edge out the others at filtering concert tapes originally dubbed to my workhorse Hitachi-made Minolta and RCA VCRs in the late 80s thru early '90s, while (strangely) the AG1980 is vastly better at playing off-air tapes originally recorded on my Mitsubishi SVHS decks (!). Alchemy + voodoo + unpredictability = my life with video.
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  16. Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
    IMO, this is where lordsmurf and his recommendations stand. Especially for those who ask for "The Best". lordsmurf is a quality/performance enthusiast, maybe even a snob, but this recommendations answer the question of "The Best". No one is forced to buy only what he recommends, just as no one is being forced to buy a Nakamichi, but for those who want and are willing to pay the price for performance. There's a wide range of alternatives between the top VCRs, just as there's a wide range of alternatives for cassette decks. No one is being forced to buy "The Best" unless they want "The Best" performance.
    To be more clear, I was not disputing LordSmurf's recommendation pages or whether the premium decks are "worth it". I would not have pissed away half my income this month buying/maintaining a dozen supplemental diva-level VCRs if I thought otherwise. Of course no one is being forced, and certainly the gear is worthwhile if your standards require it. My post was strictly in regards to the Murphys Law phenomenon that average VCRs seem to run like a top forever and a day, even withstanding abuse or being shipped by Fedex, while a JVC DigiPure or Panasonic AG1980 or NV-SF200 will spit its head preamp out the tape slot if you so much as look at it wrong. To some degree, this is comprehensible with the AG1980 because its a one-off, erratic design much like a Nakamichi Dragon, but the JVC dichotomy is more inexplicable given how many model variations share similar or identical parts with reliable mid-range chassis.

    Edit: As for build quality of a Nakamichi versus a Fisher. A Nakamichi has far more moving parts such as adjustable head azimuth that is fixed on a Fisher. More delicate moving parts = more repairs.
    I wasn't specifically referring to the Dragon, which is the most infamous/notorious cassette deck ever made and an outlier. Many of the Naks that slotted just below the Dragon, with far less sophisticated mechanisms, cycle in and out of the repair shop nearly as often, and believe me I would not curse my history with Nakamichi CD players on my worst enemy. Whether they are worth the aggravation and expense is an individual choice, depending if you truly hear the difference. In my youth I did, today I'm not sure if I still hear it or my mind is relying on memory bias. Nakamichi is to cassette decks what Hasselblad is to medium format film cameras: if the prospect of random repairs in the several hundred dollar range doesn't sit well in your financial picture, the brand is not appropriate for you regardless of performance- learn to live with a Denon (Mamiya).

    The analogies don't completely hold with premium Panasonic and JVC VCRs, because unlike audio components there really aren't any "slightly less good, more reliable" alternatives to the divas (other than the Mitsu 2000). If one can't afford the Nakamichi buy-in or maintenance, there are tolerable, reliable alternatives that can sit in the same room with the Nkas and not embarrass themselves. Not with video performance for tape digitization, which is binary: without the premium VCRs many will have problems or be disappointed. It isn't even a question of snobbery or "wanting the best", more a technical limitation of the digital capture process. These premium VCRs just happen to include the video filtering system required for a successful transfer. Some of us can and do use "lesser" VCRs for some tapes that do not play well on the premium models, or stick with regular VCRs because the premiums aren't available in our country or at a price we can afford. For some people, circumstances or finances may limit the options and eventual result: for them, the choice is a mediocre transfer or no transfer at all, so they opt for mediocre.

    OTOH, millions who bought combo VCR/DVD recorders were perfectly happy with that "low-end" result, and to this day are paying for exactly that result made on the same gear thru retail services like CostCo. If you can see the difference and want the best possible transfer, the hardware quirks and service costs required are well worth it to you. If not, you settle happily for quick-n-dirty and get on with your life. Everybody's different.
    Last edited by orsetto; 10th Oct 2020 at 14:46.
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  17. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    you can pick almost any random Panasonic or JVC low to midrange consumer model mfd between 1993 and 2000 from a random pawn shop, and odds are good to excellent that it will power up and work perfectly.
    Uhh... no.
    - Power on? Sure.
    - Work perfectly? Nope. (Not that it ever did either, even when new.)

    yet they will fail three times as often.
    Huh? No. Most consumer decks are long ago fubar and trashed/recycled, your statement appears to be comparing extant decks only. The consumer extant decks were likely not used much, while the pro/prosumer extants were. So your comparison is flawed.

    I've got plain jane Panasonic and JVC 4-head HiFi models that have rolled merrily along without interruption since the late 1980s,
    You are most assuredly a rare bird. My oldest properly-functioning consumer VHS deck is from about 1998. I took care of my gear, but the consumer fodder did not last whatsoever. The only reason I have a 1981 "big bertha" is due to it never being used much, from a relative.

    exception/reversal to this premium-fragility phenomenon are my Mitsu 2000 DVHS units:
    Huh? Few of those decks have survived. The decks were attuned to SP only (like all D-VHS), and the audio tracking sucked.

    I expected the DVHS to completely self-destruct and become unrepairable with three years.
    Most already did -- a decade ago.

    Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
    lordsmurf (I'm assuming they'd be willing to help) if that machine was indeed from them. .
    Yes. Most also carry my markings.

    BTW, the "normal price" of all video capture equipment is rising. A couple of months ago, on another forum I disputed the claim of a poster that a known good TBC-1000 was going for well over $1000. I checked and sure enough, that's the "normal price". Whereas a few years ago it was under $1000
    The most alarming aspect is how many defective units are selling for $1k+ to unsuspecting newbies on eBay. Late last year, a stash of problem units was unleashed on the site, by two sellers. I've confirmed several as bad units. And several appear to have been DataVideo returns (tampered-with units, with factory seals intact), yet apparently never repaired. That's not good. (Did DataVideo auction off palettes of random unwanted gear?) I recently heard a horror story, where the seller even claimed "just send it to DataVideo for warranty" (aka, a typical stupid know-nothing seller, not realizing the TBC was long ago EOL'd, all warranties long gone). As it stands now, problem TBC-1000 are now over $1k, and refurb'd units are a few hundred higher (because $1k+ + refurb time/costs/supplies = new price).

    Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    So glad this incantation still works to get your attention! Way more fun than an ordinary PM.


    and have yet to see the "issues" visibly manifest in my own projects.
    Ride it as long as it works. Kiss it, rub it, thank it, appreciate it. I still have a JVC DVD recorder that has not had failed caps, and I celebrate every time I turn it on. Sometimes gear just works flawlessly, no errors, no failures, no repairs. But just realize it's not the norm. You're lucky. (Buy a lottery ticket. )

    horrible artifact that would put me off the Mitsu
    That main issue is tracking and alignment. It sucks. It can't be adjusted out. The last time I tried, I almost picked up the deck, walked outside, and threw it against the brick wall. It's not about artifacts. The D-VHS picture is great. If you just have SP, and the audio cooperates, then you're fine. Finding that Mitsu remote is a nuisance.

    the AG1980
    ... speaking of wanting to throw a deck at a brick wall. One of the best VCRs for playback quality, period. For longevity ... SOB. You either need a piggy bank just for this deck, or learn how to test, solder, and dissect it. I'm now the "proud" owner of 4 non-working decks (again). Down to my last unit (again). I was here only 5 short years ago. And it's not like I ran those decks hard, either.

    excellent odds of getting one in full functional condition
    Nope. That's not the odds.

    Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
    Especially for those who ask for "The Best".
    maybe even a snob, but this recommendations answer the question of "The Best".
    But also noting I give a range of advice.
    You need a budget setup, willing to sacrifice "best" to get it? Sure, get XYZ.
    What I won't do is suggest garbage (like Youtubers) such as Easycaps or cheap Chiense HDMI dongles. And I'll easily point out how costly HD cards and DV boxes are equally junk, the exception to the "you get what you pay for" general rule.

    lordsmurf is a quality/performance enthusiast,
    And former ( health) pro, having worked for studios.

    Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    If you can see the difference and want the best possible transfer, the hardware quirks and service costs required are well worth it to you.
    I think it's safe to assume that's why they're at this site.
    Last edited by lordsmurf; 10th Oct 2020 at 21:09.
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    Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post

    lordsmurf is a quality/performance enthusiast,
    And former ( health) pro, having worked for studios.
    Ahhhh...forgot that.

    But do you own a Former VHS Restoration Studio (whatever that is), that has such special equipment that you can't post pics and know the twelve secret tweaks that's worth $500 for two hours???

    Sorry, can't resist!
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  19. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
    But do you own a Former VHS Restoration Studio (whatever that is), that has such special equipment that you can't post pics and know the twelve secret tweaks that's worth $500 for two hours???
    Ha. Yeah, I remember that post. Years ago, at this point, wasn't it?
    Don't forget to brag about the single IMDb credit, buried down the 2nd page with a zillion others that were just doing their job.
    Funny enough, these days, you could fart on a movie set, and then get your name listed as having contributed to it.

    I worked on a lot of neat stuff that I never talk about. None of it really matters anymore. It was just another fun job that paid the bills. Bragging that you worked on a video of famous person is just sad.
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    2018. Interestingly, I just discovered that he was around in 2010 for a short time, talking about special tweaks and adjustments on pro VHS gear.

    He has 25+ credits, none of which have anything to do with VHS restoration or editing.
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  21. Sorry, but I still must dispute some of this.

    I'm hardly an outlier, as most of my luck with VCRs dating back to 1981 has been terrible. Yes, I will agree: in the late '80s heyday of VCRs one could drop a ton of money on one only to see it croak relatively quickly (the permanent scowl etched into my face was due to a decade of "bought new for $699 when $699 was a lot of money JVC fiascsos that barely made it past warranty expiration before becoming grossly defective and un-repairable at any cost"). Few of the first and second generation HiFi decks from Panasonic and JVC survive in working or even repairable condition today. But I'm not talking about those, or the even earlier piano-key Big Berthas: I'm talking statistical reliability of mass-produced "modern" 90s-era consumer decks vs the coveted premium TBC/DNR decks we need for transfer work. I have had more of those midrange HiFi decks pass thru my hands than dollar bills over the past two decades, and the overwhelming majority (even crap like Funai Emerson and early GoldStar) worked just fine: like nine out of ten. By contrast, the TBC/DNR models have been almost completely inverse: nine out of ten had problems, the problems were not easily or cheaply repaired, and I took a loss on more than I can count.

    I also need to draw a distinction between "worked just fine" in normal consumer terms and what LordSmurf would consider "just fine". To me, if it loads/ejects properly, plays well without tracking drift, locks solidly on HiFi audio, and handles EP/SLP decently: its "working fine". To LordSmurfs professional eye, perhaps something in the video output would be evaluated as "totally unacceptable", but then an "ordinary" deck is rarely going to be deemed "acceptable" for transfer work anyway. My point is not that the average random pawnshop circa-1995 Panasonic PV-4560 is going to be transfer-caliber, but that it is likely to be fully functional in the conventional sense. As opposed to your average randomly-sourced JVC DigiPure, which is gonna be problematic and require a bit more nuanced service tech than Joe's TV Repair. Throw in shipping survival if bought from eBay, and your odds shoot much higher with the lower-level Pannies and JVCs and Sharps and Mitsus vs the TBC/DNR divas. And thats without even including the hopeless hapless Panasonic AG1980 in the discussion, a model which is so far out in the weeds of defect probability that no one should expect to receive a functional example in the mail (you will absolutely, positively need to have it overhauled, and pray it survives the return trip from the tech located 1000 miles away from you).

    As to the Mitsubishi 2000 DVHS, my personal experience with nearly a dozen examples since 2006 has been uniformly trouble-free, and all the people I've heard from who purchased one have had similar luck. As with all used electronics, YMMV, and apparently LS has had an atrocious run of them. But statistically, you're much less likely to receive a Mitsu 2000 in the mail that eats the first tape you load or has herringbones in the video or can't track worth a damn vs your average eBay JVC DigiPure (and again, we won't include the hopeless 90% defective eBay AG1980). A Mitsu 2000 that works properly when you receive it will generally remain so, but I will concede if it does break down it will have zero residual resale value while there is always a $150 buyer for JVC or Panasonic equivalents even if they were run over by a cement truck.

    The drawbacks of the Mitsu 2000 are relative to your perspective, needs, and the price point. If both units are selling for $400, functional condition being mint in both cases, a JVC is likely preferable if only because of value retention for resale when you're done with it. But at the $250 the Mitsu sells for lately, it becomes a far more attractive risk/reward prospect vs your average 110% plastic JVC SR-V101US at $300 or $350. The Mitsu is much less likely to have mechanical issues, and I've never once encountered a 2000 with video/electronic issues. In other respects, the "negatives" for the Mitsu mostly parallel the "negatives" of many JVCs: HiFi tracking is twitchy in auto (manual is a pain due to the control being embedded into the clunky shuttle dial), and EP/SLP tracking is mediocre to bad. No surprise, as few potential buyers of $999 VCRs in 2002 were expected to be using the crummy EP speed. With most SP speed tapes, the Mitsu 2000 will match an average JVC DigiPure for video/HiFi tracking, color noise cleanup and grain reduction.

    The one area that distinguishes them is overall presentation of the TBC/DNR output: JVC typically has a lower incidence of temporal smearing. This was much more apparent on CRT and plasma displays, today on LCD panels its a wash (the panels themselves temporal smear SD input all to hell anyway). The JVCs smear less, but tend to look a tad blurrier overall than the Mitsubishi (which at least retains some hints of realistic detail at the same NORM/AUTO picture setting). Neither can touch a fully restored Panasonic AG1980 for most reliably pleasing balance of TBC vs NR vs smearing vs detail retention, or HiFi and EP tracking consistency, but you'll pay triple $ for the AG1980 (and more $ a couple years later when it needs an inevitable tuneup). The term "necessary evil" was invented to describe the AG1980.

    The key factor in choosing between Mitsu 2000 vs JVC DigiPure vs Panasonic AG1980 is the nature of your tapes, followed by your budget and risk aversion. If you have a lot of slow-speed EP/SLP tapes, the Mitsu is out of the running, as are most "classic" JVCs. Some of the final JVCs got a belated design revision that made them far more capable with EP/SLP than previous models. My SR-V101s are way, way better at this than my old 6900 etc, and some of the JVC "Pro" DVD/SVHS combos improved EP/SLP tracking range even further (my SR-MV55 even edges out the AG1980, long considered the EP playback champ). If all/most of your tape library is SP, your choice broadens, and all three options can be suitable. The Mitsu 2000 at SP gives you near-JVC performance at a lower price point with better odds of receiving an intact functional example (LS' terrible luck notwithstanding), but if you can afford to spend slightly more on a JVC it is the traditional default choice (just be sure the seller will back up his condition description). The Panasonic AG1980 is technically preferable for some tapes (and subjectively preferable for many tapes depending on your personal visual taste), but it costs a lot more in $ and stress.
    Last edited by orsetto; 11th Oct 2020 at 13:49.
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  22. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    By contrast, the TBC/DNR models have been almost completely inverse: nine out of ten had problems, the problems were not easily or cheaply repaired, and I took a loss on more than I can count.
    Well, as mentioned, individual experiences can come down to luck. You've had bad luck, and that sucks.

    But what you're stating just is not the overall status quo. Referring to post-1995 units, most consumer VCRs were trashed, while most prosumer/pro decks need repairs. Pre-1995 decks are all universally crap, what few remain. Most extant consumer decks are Funai or combo (including Funai combo), post-2000, often even post-2005. I don't even see pre-2000 units in Goodwill anymore, not for years now.

    I'm constantly irritated by AG-1980P failures, as it happens to me far too often. Those decks need services too much as it is, but my own bad-luck experience shows it to be much higher. However, I'm fully aware that my experience with AG-1980 isn't the norm. And it sucks.

    To LordSmurfs professional eye, perhaps something in the video output would be evaluated as "totally unacceptable",
    Sure, let's dive in to why consumer decks can easily be unacceptable.

    - excessive bleeding, chroma skew/offset
    - excessive oversharpening
    - excessive timing problems, excessive image wiggles
    - constant "blue screen" jumps at any tape sniffle
    - OSD that cannot be turned off, so pops up with random messages ("tracking", "calibrating", "signal lost", etc)

    And this is stuff that everybody notices -- not just me. Some may think "all video is that way", while others tolerate it (the same way they tolerate kids screaming in public places, but everybody knows it's bad).

    your average randomly-sourced JVC DigiPure, which is gonna be problematic and require a bit more nuanced service
    How so? The JVC tolerances are tighter, more guides, etc, but the basic fundamentals are the same: bands/belts, gears, alignment, lube, cleanings. At worst, maybe more head wear, which is a problem on some specific decks (due to the demographics of initial use, original buyer audience). The biggest issue here is simply knowing how to repair a VCR (and that doesn't mean following random Youtube videos), combined with having spare parts and materials for the refurb. It is a skill, and you are more likely to botch your first attempt than not. It's taken me years to hone my skills at this, it's not something that comes quickly.

    Throw in shipping survival if bought from eBay,
    Yes, this is always a problem. Most people have no clue how to properly ship a VCR, and it arrives broken a large % of the time, even when given detailed instructions on how to pack.

    the hopeless hapless Panasonic AG1980 in the discussion, a model which is so far out in the weeds of defect probability that no one should expect to receive a functional example in the mail (you will absolutely, positively need to have it overhauled, and pray it survives the return trip from the tech located 1000 miles away from you).
    This is one area where I do think TGrant needs improvement. My packing of decks takes zero chances.

    With most SP speed tapes, the Mitsu 2000 will match an average JVC DigiPure for video/HiFi tracking, color noise cleanup and grain reduction.
    I agree with this. SP only, perfect audio recordings -- basically retail tapes.

    The JVCs smear less, but tend to look a tad blurrier overall than the Mitsubishi (which at least retains some hints of realistic detail at the same NORM/AUTO picture setting). Neither can touch a fully restored Panasonic AG1980 for most reliably pleasing balance of TBC vs NR vs smearing vs detail retention, or HiFi and EP tracking consistency, but you'll pay triple $ for the AG1980 (and more $ a couple years later when it needs an inevitable tuneup). The term "necessary evil" was invented to describe the AG1980.
    That's all fairly accurate. Noting JVCs can vary, model to model. Even unit to unit, especially with long-lived models like the AG-1980.

    The key factor in choosing between Mitsu 2000 vs JVC DigiPure vs Panasonic AG1980 is the nature of your tapes, followed by your budget and risk aversion. If you have a lot of slow-speed EP/SLP tapes, the Mitsu is out of the running, as are most "classic" JVCs. Some of the final JVCs got a belated design revision that made them far more capable with EP/SLP than previous models.
    Yep.

    My SR-V101s are way, way better at this
    my SR-MV55
    Eh. It's still weak, but is based on head wear. The heads in this model seems to wear out easier, which is no surprise, given the budget-y plastic-y aspects of it. But it really depends on the exact unit. Most get my B grades (50-75% EP playback), rarely A grades. The 55 is one of those problem decks based mostly on demographics, with heavy use by initial owners (usually institutions, with hamfisted idiot operators).

    If all/most of your tape library is SP, your choice broadens, and all three options can be suitable. The Mitsu 2000 at SP gives you near-JVC performance
    I also agree with this -- if the deck is actually in good condition. That's always the variable. With some models, more of a potential variable than other models.

    The Panasonic AG1980 is technically preferable for some tapes (and subjectively preferable for many tapes depending on your personal visual taste), but it costs a lot more in $ and stress.
    I cannot stress "a lot" enough. It can be a $%&#!$ money pit, especially if received from non-refurb'er.
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