I have a serious question about the audio that you can capture from a Sony SVO-5800 pro VCR. Is there anything special about it?
Been reading from a few members over on Digital FAQ and on here that the 5800 has the best audio tracking and perceived audio quality above all other professional and consumer VCR decks that were ever made. Comments such as, "this is the best deck I ever heard." "Wow, Sony really did right by this one."
At this point in my studio lineup the Sony is a sitting paperweight, but if it truly has magical audio I may keep it. Can anyone comment on the audio of this deck that has balanced XLR outputs? My best guess is that the professional VCR decks out there all have decent audio tracking. There's nothing special about the Sony. My other VCR is a Panasonic AG7350 but it has RCA jacks instead of XLR connections. My original goal was to archive Hollywood movies for their soundtracks in HiFi onto my computer.
I hate looking at my Sony just sitting on the ground collecting dust. Am I sitting on a pile of gold or nothing special? I have no use for its TBC, and would prefer a deck that can play three speeds tbh.
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If you have no use for the excellent built in full frame TBC and feel constrained by an SP-only player, sell it to somebody who can exploit it properly. Its doing nobody any good sitting on your studio floor collecting dust, and NTSC versions made for North America are very hard to find. You should have no trouble selling it to an eager new owner.
Yes, the HiFi audio performance of the SVP-5600/SVO-5800 is indeed superb. Personally I think its by far the best I've ever heard, but there may certainly be other studio VCRs from the same era with equal performance. All I can tell you is these two Sonys lock very solidly to HiFi signals that mistrack wildly on other VCRs, with no need to ride manual tracking extremes or compromise video tracking for HiFi tracking. When digitizing the full tape (audio+video), this is an invaluable quality, but for someone like you who is only interested in capturing audio a standard VCR (that requires trashing the video tracking to nail the HiFi on some tapes) should do equally well at far lower cost.
The Sony SVP-5600 (player only) and SVO-5800 (record/play) are stellar capture decks for those who primarily have libraries of SP-speed tapes. Their color output is very pure, video rendition is natural with no oversharpening or overactive DNR motion artifacts, built-in modern pro-level frame sync TBC is noticeably cleaner than externals like DataVideo TBC1000, and the sound is stunning from both HiFi and linear tracks (linear audio is exceptionally clean and clear, unusual in any VCR at any price).
But these late-model pro Sonys are hard to find in USA/Canada, they were more common in EU PAL format. They're also quite large, hard to ship without damage, cannot be wirelessly remote controlled, cannot play the slower LP/EP extended-play consumer recordings, do not have the "line TBC" or noise-shaping features of consumer decks like JVC 9911 or Panasonic 1980, and parts/repair can be difficult to source. While the 5600/5800 will play SP mode consumer tapes beautifully and better than most consumer/prosumer VCRs, one needs to remember they were pro decks optimized for pro-grade recordings. They can nicely heal/conceal some defects like simple color noise and luma grain, mild tearing, Macrovision interference, and frame drops to a capture card. But like all similar SP-only studio VCRs, these Sonys are not as effective as a JVC DigiPure or Panasonic 1980 with severely crummy tapes (third generation concert bootlegs, bad tearing or geometric distortion, intense color noise/grain).
Horses for courses: choose a VCR that best meets the needs of your specific tapes and capture requirements.
Last edited by orsetto; 21st Jun 2021 at 12:27.
I recall someone I was talking to on here explain that his Panasonic AG7750 he was restoring has incredible audio and he was jusy keeping it around for music. I wouldn't be surprised if other pro decks have similar good audio. My AG7350 which does have manual audio tracking adjustment may work well and don't care about sacrificing video to get that. I'm sure there is no perceived audio difference between XLR and RCA connections.
Funny enough I was reading that to get SP on machines to play extended play tapes, some were using the toggle search wheel and slowing down the machine and playing it that way with sound disabled. There are some models that don't disable the sound. Probably not the best way to track though and the pro VCRs that have this don't make line corrections so the point is mute.
My collection of 100+ tapes is this. Have about 12 sealed copies of classic musicals. I wanted to make audio captures onto the computer such as Sound Of Music, Willy Wonka as I was interested to hear the unique mastering. The rest of my tapes are all amateur recorded footage from VHS camcorders that probably would benefit from line TBC. When I snagged up the Sony I knew I wouldn't have trouble selling it again if it wasn't for me.
Last edited by BenKlesc; 22nd Jun 2021 at 02:38.
The only extra you might need is a good pair of XLR adapter cables that convert the 5800 balanced XLR audio outs to unbalanced RCA: I bought mine on eBay. Like most professional decks, the 5800 does NOT have internal auto or manual switching between HiFi and linear audio tracks: you need to plug your capture device into the appropriate XLR outputs on the deck back panel (HiFi-only or Linear-only). This could potentially be a problem with badly recorded HiFi tapes, because audio would simply go silent during mistracking instead of auto-failing to the linear track (like consumer decks do). This has never once been an issue for me, however: the 5800 almost never mistracks HiFi audio (and I've got some of the worst-tracking HiFi tapes anyone's ever had the misfortune to encounter). I should note the headphone amp of the 5800 is stellar: playback on headphones is fantastic, and the deck does have a separate HiFi/Linear selector switch (and auto-failover circuit) for the headphone output.
If I may say, 100 tapes is a fairly "small" overall project compared to the mountain some of us are dealing with: you could conceivably finish the project in a reasonable time window before selling your 5800 (keeping it available as a fallback in case your testing reveals it does better at playing some tapes than your 7350). For my pile of VHS, I alternate between the 5800, a Panasonic AG-1980, JVC DigiPure, and Mitsubishi DVHS depending on the specific needs of the tape and what playback factors I want to prioritize for each capture.
For what its worth, if the tape has no major issues that require exclusive features of other decks I vastly prefer to use the Sony 5800. There is just something uniquely clear in its color presentation and detail rendition, the built-in TBC blows my DataVideo TBC-1000 into the weeds with Macrovision tapes, and nothing beats the 5800 for purity of sound reproduction. The only areas where it gives anything up to my other decks is in visual cleanup of really grungy recordings. It does have DNR but it is less brute force than in "lesser" decks (an advantage with good tapes that just need light cleaning , because it doesn't add obvious effects, but not strong enough for truly dismal tapes with ugly noise that needs to be ruthlessly filtered away in exchange for temporal smearing and other added DNR artifacts).
The 5800's built-in frame TBC is very effective with most tapes, but some oddball recordings with some types of flagging or geometric distortion are not fully corrected by it (since it corrects frame sync, not visible line issues). Those challenging tapes need to be played in a consumer VCR with line TBC to correct the visible errors, then patched thru an external frame TBC to avoid frame drops with some capture devices. Six of one, half dozen of the other: the Sony 5800 excels in situations where you want to avoid using an external TBC (because its inbuilt TBC is as good as it gets), while consumer VCRs can better correct some super nasty visual grunge but then force you to patch thru an additional outboard frame TBC to avoid frame drops or filter away MV. As always, the individual quirks of each tape and capture device will determine which VCR to use.
Last edited by orsetto; 21st Jun 2021 at 21:09.
I would say 95% of my collection is amateur recorded and a lot of it 4 and 6 hour tapes that probably would benefit from a line TBC. I must admit I've got the VHS bug and keep buying more tapes I find. I need to purchase an external TBC for those and I was looking at purchasing an early model Key West BV10 that seems to get good reviews. However as you can imagine those are quite expensive in good condition by I heard they are more transparent. Also I heard the Key West has line artifacts.
It's too bad I didn't have the technical know how to rig up the Sony and bypass the playback heads and tap into the incredible TBC. Truly is a remarkable piece of technology. Sony really did do a good job on those two models. I smile every time I end up using it.
I'm also considering doing the Datavideo 1000 mod by removing distribution amp for less noise.
Last edited by BenKlesc; 22nd Jun 2021 at 05:34.
I found the most amazing thread about audio recording with HiFi where the AG7350 and Sony SVO-5800 are brought up.
298 pages in Russian so brace yourself. I translated it.
Alex.A: "Panasonic AG-7510 also has an entire sound card filled with such red-gold ELNA Cerafine capacitors - And it just has one of the most musical and pleasant sounds of all my devices ... a special, more spacious, deep-airy sound, not like the others ... Although, it seems, the level of sound noises is higher than that of the same AG-7350, but it (AG-7510) reproduces all sorts of reverberations / cymbals / rustles better. (True, his operating time is only 400 hours, he is fresh)
But ... I previously tried to take such as your Panasonic AG-7330, I listened to it, but, however, for some reason I didn't like that 7330 so much in sound, despite ELNA Cerafine .... after comparing its sound with AG-7350 and AG-7510, I decided to change it with the seller for one more AG-7350 is in good condition, as a spare - for some reason it seemed to me that the AG-7350 sounds a little more transparent ... Maybe that 7330 was incorrectly configured ... it also had a noisy image, and the video heads were somehow suspiciously quickly getting dirty ... In general, the sound quality is likely to depend on both the tuning accuracy and general wear and tear."
nailka0005: "After purchasing 7350, I cleaned the broach, racks, heads. Replaced grease. I recorded a couple of test tapes, made sure of the high-quality output of the recorded material ... And it is absolutely violet to me whether the capacitors are installed there - audiophile or simple. Studio devices are initially more stable in terms of mechanics and if the tape recorder is not too jaded and properly stored, there are no problems with electronics."
nailka0005 "AG7300 is identical in size to 7350, and it is by no means for medicine - a good studio record, the previous series before 7350.
Plus AG MD830 in a three-motor drive and identical sound path (on the same LSI) as in AG 7350. Dimensions are smaller, the body is compact. I just had to fit a 100mm fan (on the back wall, opposite the ventilation holes) from the computer power supply unit through a separate power supply unit. The vent operates at reduced voltage, so there is little noise from it."
The audio is clipping almost immediately. Way too hot even when my Focusrite is turned down to almost zero. Oddly enough the levels on the VCR's VU meters are maxed out. Not sure what I'm doing wrong. Hopefully nothing wrong with the VCR itself.
The knobs on front of 5800 are not responding. It still plays at full volume even when knobs are at zero. Those may be just for recording though and not for playback. I may have to buy XLR to TRS line level adapters and run through line level instead.
How do you capture audio from your 5800 @orsetto?
Update: I had falsely assumed the Focusrite accepts line level XLR if gain is turned down. Wrong.
Also the Sony meter only reads up to +5db. HiFi audio starts overloading at around +10 db, 5 db higher than the Sony meters even read. I guess the designers knew many would try to record at levels close to overload as if they were recording to a noisy audio cassette, so the designers made it look like we were recording much closer to overload than we actually were, forcing us to be more conservative in levels.
Last edited by BenKlesc; 2nd Jul 2021 at 02:29.
You can't input line level into microphone jack, it's too high. Hookup unbalanced line level to unbalanced line leve, Balanced line level to balanced line level and Mic to Mic, you can't mix them or you get a level missmatch.
I'd share more updates but my channel has two copyright strikes that expire on July 13th. Coming soon...
Okay. Iím just about Toots and Sweetsed out.
For this test I used about the cheapest and harshest converters you could find the Focusrite 2i2, paired with 99 cent television RCA cords so it was nothing special (lost my better RCAs). I will be using better converters and cables when I begin the project. I notice during the whistles it can be ear fatiguing, but it sounds much better on the front headphone jacks.
Also this tape had been played hundreds and hundreds of times from my memory, and there is noticeable buzzing on certain parts indicating a hard time tracking on both the Panasonic and the Sony in the same exact spots. Also the Panasonic because of the burned out caps will only track for ten seconds before it cuts out so I wasnít able to record full songs. However this test was not to find the best sound results, but was only trying to determine if there is a difference in perceived sound qualities between the two units. This is a fair test because both units were in unrestored condition. I imagine they would both perform better on VHS tape that was never played before.
From the Sony I recorded from the back XLR ports, and the Panasonic the back RCA ports. Both tracking Hifi. I recorded in 96kHZ 24 bit. There were parts that accidentally clipped when I set the gain too high, so I only selected the parts that were not clipping which was most of it. I level matched and made sure the channels both matched. Here was my conclusion.
The differences between the Panasonic and Sony are startling. You think the Sony sounds really good until you have the AG7350 beside you. The best way I can describe it is the AG7350 is way more transparent and musical. It has more revealing highs and musical bass, along with noticeably better stereo separation. Where as the Sony has a more flat response and dull or muffled bass and treble. The musical Panasonic can be more ear fatiguing in certain parts, but this could be tamed with better pres. When I first listened on the front headphones I wasnít sure this was what I was hearing but I confirm this in the video attached there is a large difference. You can even hear it across YouTube. Panasonic definitely knew what they were doing when they made their pro VCRs.
I made sure levels and channels were matched. Might have to turn it up a little. I've also attached an uncompressed WAV file.
Last edited by BenKlesc; 15th Jul 2021 at 16:49.
There are some minor, easily solved audio capture "gotchas" involved with the Sony pro decks that I think we may have discussed privately some time ago, but I'll repeat my suggestions here so you can avoid searching old PMs. Some of these issues may explain why your Panasonic 7350 seems to sound dramatically better thru your capture setup, tho of course its also possible the 7350 is indeed extra-special. To truly judge the 5800 and 7350 fairly, you'd need to have them hooked up in exactly the same manner: this can be a bit trickier to arrange with the 5800 but is certainly do-able (the audio connections of most large pro SVHS decks are designed similar to the Sony 5800, your Panasonic 7350 is unusual in having RCA connections in common with consumer VCRs).
Audio points to bear in mind with the Sony 5800/5600 (and many similar "studio" Panasonics/JVCs):
There are no built-in traditional "consumer" stereo line output connections using typical RCA jacks. The only RCA jack available for audio output is a rear panel monophonic mixdown output, meant for an edit desk "squawkbox" speaker or the mono speaker in a studio CRT video monitor. For stereo capture, you need to use the XLR outputs.
The XLR outputs can be a PITA to deal with if your capture gear only has standard RCA line-level inputs. XLR is easily converted to RCA with the right adapter cables, the "gotcha" is being careful to get good cables suited to the purpose (some are, some aren't, and pretty much all are generic so hard to evaluate). The person who turned me on to the big Sonys also tipped me off to a decent set of audio adapter cables, which were these specifically.
With the XLR-to-RCA issue solved, one is sometimes confronted by the output levels being a bad match for the capture device. There is an output level adjustment switch on the back panel, which lets you adjust the XLR output level in three discrete steps (-6 dB, nominal, or +4 dB). One of these settings should work perfectly for your hookup.
The next potential trip-up for unwary users of (most) studio VCRs is the lack of automation and convenience features one has come to expect with consumer VCRs. Aside from the oddball monophonic mixdown output, none of the XLR stereo outputs can be switched at will between HiFi tracks and linear tracks. There is no front panel switch or remote button permitting on-the fly audio mode selection thru a single stereo output, nor is there auto-failover from HiFi to linear output if the HiFi mistracks badly (in that case, the audio will simply go silent). The studio decks were designed for studio integration, where separate sets of outputs for HiFi and linear audio tracks were fed to separate inputs of an edit desk mixing board.
Used today for in-home capture, one needs to be aware of this design and work around it by deploying your own mixer hardware, or simply connecting directly to the specific XLR audio outputs you need for each tape (HiFi or linear). It is easy to slip up and connect to the wrong XLR pair: I've done it a couple times and failed to notice right away (because the Sony linear audio performance is so good it can briefly be mistaken for HiFi). So be sure you are tapping the dedicated HiFi XLR outputs on your Sony back panel, otherwise your 7350 will definitely seem superior with HiFi tapes . Note one pair of XLR outputs is dedicated full-time to HiFi, while the other defaults to linear but can be reprogrammed as an additional HiFi output via the VCR's crude function menu.
A non-standard "frowned upon" audio hookup that is sometimes helpful would be tapping into the Sony front panel stereo headphone jack (via a 1/4" stereo phone plug to stereo RCA Y adapter). This is the only audio output that includes the dual conveniences of continuously variable audio level knob plus direct on-the-fly selection of either HiFi or linear tracks. Depending on how compatible this kluge is with your capture device, it might be a quick-n-dirty option useful for some tapes.
In the end, it falls to how well your capture device RCA audio inputs cope with an adapted XLR feed. If you're very unlucky, the device may be so picky that adapted XLR input will always sound inferior to direct RCA-to-RCA connection. In that case, your Panasonic 7350 with its built-in RCA stereo audio outputs (unusual in a studio VCR) will sound obviously superior to your Sony 5800. All things being equal, of course: personally I think the Sony 5600/5800 audio playback is stunning, but its entirely possible the 7350 could be inherently better. I've never had a fully functional 7350 pass thru my hands, so could never fairly test one. The only VCRs I'm aware of with distinctive, known definitive HiFi upgrades were the JVC Japan-market WVHS analog HDTV decks (and a couple of very late JVC studio VCRs that also implemented the unique WVHS hifi audio head switch noise elimination technology).
Last edited by orsetto; 26th Jul 2021 at 18:43.
TISINO XLR Female to 1/4 Inch (6.35mm) TRS Jack Lead Balanced XLR to Quarter inch Patch Cable - 10 Feet
For the Panasonic I used TISINO RCA to 1/4, Gold Plated Pure Copper RCA Female to Quarter Inch Jack TS.
For both the Sony and Panasonic I used the Focusrite 2i2 at the same settings, levels, and channels. I listened back in post process to insure that both recordings were at the same volume. Made multiple recordings that had the same consistent differences.
*I'm going to buy the XLR adapter you recommend and see if it sounds any better. I have since sold the Sony SVO-5800 but have other equipment that has XLR outs and RCA that I can use to hear the difference between the one I bought.
Now this is where it gets interesting. I can say I listened to the front headphone jacks on both with headphones, and observed the same sound differences that showed up in the Focusrite recordings. It prompted me to hold up on selling them as I waited on adapters to arrive in the mail so I could record them from the back, because I wanted to rule out a faulty headphone jack and that it wasn't just my imagination.
I will also say that one doesn't sound "better" than the other. Both produced sound reproduction that is far better than my $10 VCR I have lying around. One had a different sound characteristic than the other. That then becomes a personal preference to decide which you prefer. If you click on the link it would be interesting to know if you hear a difference and prefer one over the other based on what you hear. I would have cast it aside as a fluke if I did not hear the same differences listening on the front with headphones.
Last edited by BenKlesc; 28th Jul 2021 at 11:55.
Why that would be I'm at a loss to explain. My own sample of Sony SVP-5600 has rich clear audio playback, the best of any VCR I've ever owned (ditto other samples of 5600 and 5800 I've demo'd). Not a hint of the hollowed-out quality in your sample. IIRC, you did have several other unrelated issues with this particular SVO-5800: perhaps it also suffered some age-related degradation of the audio circuits? This would be ironic, since one of the advantages of the 5600/5800 is the tendency of their electronics not to degrade horribly vs other Sonys or the popular Panasonic 7000 series (which often decayed like the proverbial cake left out in the rain in MacArthur Park).
Obviously for your purposes your sample of Panasonic 7350 is more suitable for audio capture projects than your problematic Sony 5800 was. So I do hope you can get your 7350 restored to fully operational condition: if you find a good tech who works magic for you, please report back. I'd be very interested in your overall evaluation of a fully-working 7350.
I'm actually going to be doing a full recap on the 7350 and will give updates. It's the caps on the servo circuit which are acting up and preventing it from tracking for longer than ten seconds. I'm liking it a lot and it's very nice that it has RCA ports instead of XLR for my workflow. I'm still going to test the cables you recommend, but I would bet you that your hunch is more likely that it could have been the internal electronics. After all these machines are 30+ years old and have never been worked on before. It's still a bit surprising.
I will say I am very impressed with the audio on the 7350. I will also say that the soundtrack on VHS sounds substantially better than what you can find on BluRay today. It has way more top end. The folks who mastered it back then must have known what they were doing. This particular recording was the 1994 digital remaster, but I'm also going to document still sealed 1984 HiFi CBS/Fox tapes. I don't think many have chronologically documented the audio of each version before that I believe should be preserved and compared.
Last edited by BenKlesc; 30th Jul 2021 at 19:03.