Today I discovered an interesting unit that was made by Sony early on. It was built a few years before the much larger 5600/5800.
It's described as a professional VHS Hi-Fi recorder designed especially for business and industrial applications.
The manual describes it as providing "high picture and sound quality, incorporating the VHS HQ system, DA PRO 4-head, tape stabilizer, VHS Hi-Fi audio, and digital auto-tracking. Sony's unique tape stabilizer minimizes picture jitter (sounds like line TBC?). The result is consistently stable, sharp pictures.The SVO-1610 will surely be a workhorse built for long hours in a variety of applications such as satellite program recording, corporate communication, point-of-sales displays, or wherever a high quality VTR is essential.
Here's the kicker though. This "pro" unit plays SP, LP, and EP which is unique. I couldn't tell you anything about it. The only mention of it was briefly on another forum where one user wrote. "You couldn't pry the 1610 out of my hands even if you tried, ha!"
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Last edited by BenKlesc; 1st May 2021 at 08:29.
HQ is an outdated feature, Modern VCRs include it as a basic feature, It's like one of those medical VCRs designed for abuse, if you find one it will be heavily worn, If you want quality get a S-VHS deck.
Tape stabilizer probably refers to the brass spinning thingy to the left of the video head drum you can see in e.g this video of a consumer Sony which looks like it's from around the same time. Variations of were common in older VCR, rare in late 90s and on models other than JVCs SVHS decks. How much impact it has I don't know.
DA4 = dual azimuth 4 (video) heads. The video head configuration used in most vcrs with 4 video heads other than some of the early ones. A more technical explanation here (it's for betamax but the principle is the same for VHS.
The model looks somewhat similar to some consumer Sonys as noted, maybe it's a beefed up version of those. JVC and Panasonic had some "professional" models that were pretty close to the equivialent high-end prosumer deck and with similar playback capabilities (like LP/EP), though often with support for remote control and editing controllers. Panasonic also had some industrial/medical ones like the AG 5700, AG 5260 and similar that do play EP/LP but look a bit different.
The big bertha pro decks on the other hand are completely different, with different mechanisms and setups from the consumer decks, often with e.g direct drive servo reels (instead of being driven by a belt), electronics on easily replaceable cards, etc.
Considering how Sony arrived quite late to the VHS format, and most of their consumer-tier VHS and SVHS models were notorious for becoming unrepairable landfill before their warranties even expired, it is rather amazing they seem to have released a metric ton of these "quasi-professional" SVO models. Apparently industrial/medical purchasing agents just loved the idea of spending $1000 for an ordinary $300 Sony VCR gussied up in PC-beige cabinet with an endless repeat feature added. Few of these medical/industrial models lasted more than a year on the market: Sony had vastly quicker turnover than Panasonic or JVC, whose equivalent models sat on the market for five years or more.
This type of Sony seems exotic, appealing and mysterious, but they should be understood in their proper context: they were purely a marketing ploy when sold new. They're just slightly warmed over consumer VCRs with different cabinet styling and often different front panel display. Medical/industrial was a lucrative niche segment for Sony, JVC and Panasonic: almost no price competition and huge markups due to purchasing agents heedlessly spending corporate or institutional money. 99% of the time, the only added features were a full one year parts + labor warranty, various automated playback connections for kiosks, and RS-232C connectors for medical or machine interfacing. Zero effort was made to improve the video playback quality (ironically, the least important feature to buyers in these markets). As a rule, they weren't any more reliable than the flaky consumer Sonys they were based on: the price was inflated to cover a better warranty and guarantee profits even if the units had to be replaced for free.
Today they're of no particular interest for transferring VHS to digital, esp at the ludicrous asking prices you see on eBay. Second-hand industrial Sonys seem to pass thru different, more limited liquidation dealers than the Panasonics and JVCs, which are more widely available at more realistic cost. The outlier owners claiming "you'll have to pry it from my dead hands" are exceptions to the rule: their opinions are valid, but again always remember the context. These claims mirror owner experiences with the Sony consumer decks: one out of ten came from the factory flawlessly assembled with better than average playback, so of course their users love them. But most Sonys were fairly mediocre: at best in range of other VHS brands, at worst they had terrible tracking performance and broke down at an alarming rate. A 1610 in good working condition for $40-$50 might be worth a try, at the usual $199 -$399 asking prices I wouldn't go near one. Not when you can get the excellent Panasonic AG-2560 for $40-$80 with a little patience.
The only Sony SVHS models interesting for capture are the consumer SLV-R5U (great playback when it works, but staggeringly unreliable), and the huge SVP-5600/SVO-5800 studio decks (fantastic color and hard-core built in TBC, but rare and pricey). The 1610 was made for a wildly different, less exacting market than the far superior 5600/5800. One of the biggest tip-offs of a consumer chassis is the availability of LP and EP record/playback: none of the high performance pro decks ran at anything but SP.
UPDATE: I just remembered from some of your other posts that you're searching for what amounts to a "unicorn": a single deck that combines line TBC, frame TBC, DNR, and rock-solid reliability. Unfortunately there ain't no such thing. Its exceedingly rare for a deck to include both line TBC and frame TBC: generally the big pro decks with frame TBC don't have elaborate DNR and line TBC, aside from rare exceptions like a few very late Panasonic studio models. Since those are about as reliable as an abandoned Yugo, not recommended. The prosumer decks with desirable line TBC/DNR never include a frame sync TBC. And rock solid reliability just doesn't exist with any premium VCR anymore: maybe when these things were new, they lasted a few years if maintained under contract. But in typical as-found "surplus" condition today, forget it. Heavy build quality means nothing if the heavy parts and electronics fail and can't be easily repaired.
Standard 17" to 19" wide, 5" high medical/industrial models were all based on midrange consumer chassis: nothing to be gained with any of those in terms of capture. The compact narrow-width Sonys and Panasonics were based off "pro" portables: not that reliable, and again usually nothing extra like TBC/DNR ("Y/C" features usually turn out to be a complete crock, with no significant effect whatsoever). The extremely oddball Panasonic AG-MD835 was a one-off: compact medical chassis with line TBC/DNR somewhat similar to an AG-1980. AFAIK, no other compact medical model of any brand included line TBC/DNR: it reduced reliability by a huge factor, while adding nothing much for typical medical imagery (more likely it would cause problems interpreting the footage). In the 835, it also could not be turned off: big drawback for capture work.
There are no shortcuts or magic bullets: the VCRs with TBC/DNR are all disasters waiting to happen, other more-reliable, near-unbreakable VCRs lack the line TBC/DNR so are less useful (but sometimes necessary). All of us doing capture work are trapped between a rock and a hard place: the "good" VCRs are costly, required maintenance even more costly, and we often need three or four different models, multiplying the risks. It can be a hideously expensive, nerve-wracking business (and thats before we even get into the horrors of shopping external TBCs).
Last edited by orsetto; 1st May 2021 at 15:56.