Choosing S-VHS Decks for VHS restoration / quality playback: Sony SLV-R1000 vs. Panasonic AG-1980 vs

Discussion in 'Professional Video Production' started by Alec, Jan 17, 2004.

  1. Alec

    Alec Guest


    I am trying to pick a quality deck for [reasonably close to] optimal
    playback of some VHS tapes I am digitizing and archiving. Would like a
    high quality / sensitivity / stability mechanism and electronics for
    optimal signal retrieval. I may use it in conjunction with a time base
    corrector, but it would be good for the VCR itself to generate as
    little time base error as possible and have good audio and video S/N
    and other quality aspects.

    Would appreciate any insight, and particularly experiences of folks
    who have used a couple of the different VCR's listed in the title and
    could compare. I would like to keep the scope to Sony SLV-R1000,
    Panasonic AG-1980, JVC HR-S9911U, and similar class machines (I
    realize that a high-end studio machine with low hours on the heads,
    used with care, and meticulously maintained, might be better, but I do
    not have the budget for it).

    The intention is to buy one of these on eBay, use it with care, then
    sell (thus effectively paying just shipping and depreciation).

    Also, if anyone knows the service menu key-strokes to display total
    number of hours on the heads for these machines (if possible), I would
    appreciate it.


    Alec, Jan 17, 2004
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  2. Alec

    manitou910 Guest

    I'm not familiar with the JVC, but the Sony and Panasonic decks you
    mention are outstanding, among the finest prosumer VHS-format VCRs ever

    The Panasonic has a built-in TBC. The Sony does not, but is very steady.

    The Sony also is notable for its exceptional analog hifi stereo sound;
    if your tapes have high quality audio, this could be an additional
    advantage for dubbing to digital. I remember reviews comparing it
    favorably with the best pro digital audio recorders available during the
    earlier 90s.

    The preceding Sony SLV-RU5 also was exceptional (video even better than
    for the 1000 -- very low noise and very clean), but there were problems
    with a poor power pack which had to be replaced for a high proportion of

    Anything from ebay (or otherwise second-hand) may require maintenance,
    but the bottom line is these decks enable superior VHS playback compared
    with anything new in any price range that is currently avialable in
    consumer or prosumer categories.

    If you buy one in good condition, you'll probably want to keep it.
    Legacy VHS likely will be around for a long time.

    manitou910, Jan 17, 2004
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  3. Alec

    Alec Guest

    I'm not familiar with the JVC, but the Sony and Panasonic decks you
    Thanks, CPJ,

    So is the recommendatino then, tentatively, against the JVC HR-S9911U
    and in favor of Sony and Panasonic units?

    Truth be told about the JVC HR-S9911U, is that I like the fact that it
    includes a full-frame TBC, that it is one only one of the decks
    mentioned that is currently manufactured, and that it could be bought
    for less than either the Sony or, especially Panasonic, used.

    It is suspiciously cheap, indeed (around $370 brand new, while Sony
    SLV-R1000 is close to $500 used and Panasonic even more), but then
    again, JVC AFAIK [co?]invented VHS and has long been popularizing the
    cheaper S-VHS. So it might work out.

    I DO NOT need/expect pro level durability and mechanical robustness. I
    DO need high quality (about on par with the Sony and Panasonic) VHS
    signal retrieval / playback. I do not mind "getting what I pay for" as
    long as what I am NOT paying for is ability to perform well
    while&after being knocked around, or tape transport mechanism to
    handle hundreds and hundreds of tapes jammed in and yanked out, or
    heads to withstand professional volume of tape playback/recording. I
    would mind the JVC if it also meant less stable or noisier (audio or
    video wise) playback of an average tape as compared to the Sony and
    the Panasonic.

    Please tell me whether you think this JVC HR-S9911U can or cannot
    deliver that.

    Thank you for your insight.

    Alec, Jan 18, 2004
  4. Alec

    manitou910 Guest

    I'm aware some of JVC's S-VHS decks were very highly regarded during the
    earlier 90s. If the HR-S9911U includes a full-frame TBC I'd expect it
    to be extremely good. You should do a google or other search for
    comments and archived reviews for the deck.

    With older units there are no hard and fast rules re pricing. Supply
    and demand is the major factor.

    Good luck.

    manitou910, Jan 24, 2004
  5. Alec

    tweak Guest

    I used the panasonic AG line back when it was new. Worked very well
    for the money.
    I now have a Sanyo s-vhs edit master deck that does really good work,
    got it off e-bay.
    There's a production house that sells alot of reconditioned stuff off
    e-bay. Can't recalltheir name offhand, will look it up if interested.
    Just e-mail me.
    tweak, Feb 7, 2004
  6. Alec

    Ryan Boni Guest

    I'm a bit confused as to why you want to use an S-VHS deck to dump VHS tapes
    for archiving? You really won't be gaining anything in terms of quality. A
    VHS tape can only look as good as a VHS tape. S-VHS decks only give you
    added quality when utilizing S-VHS tapes.

    The bigger question is how you are going about digitizing this stuff and how
    much tape are you planning to do?? Through the digitzing process, you will
    never achieve better than VHS results, so I wouldn't go about spending a
    fortune on a deck. If you're looking to dump countless hours of tape, you
    may be better off just buying a few cheap decks. The TBC isn't going to do
    a whole lot to salvage the look of the VHS tapes. Personally, I'm really
    happy with our fleet of JVC-HRS 3000-series (I think they're up to 3911's
    now) S-VHS decks which go through a daily grind of playback of S-VHS tapes
    in our Public Access station and hold up exceptionally well and give a great
    picture day in and day out. Plus for about $80-$90 a deck, they are really

    Or, if you're looking to digitize a boatload of tapes, then you may want to
    look at a true S-VHS studio deck, simply for its durability.

    I've personally never been a fan of the 1980's and had a few bad
    experiences, but I know lots of people (they always seem to be working for
    sports teams!!) who swear by that deck.

    Actually, I've never used the Sony R1000 or the JVC 9911 basically because
    all of our S-decks are either the cheapo JVC playback decks or true
    studio/edit decks and not the lower mid-range prosumer stuff.


    Ryan Boni, Feb 10, 2004
  7. Alec

    manitou910 Guest

    This is not correct.

    The best S-VHS decks (such as the Sony and Panasonic units I discussed
    in previous posts) deliver _far_ superior image quality from standard
    VHS tapes than do cheaper garden-variety VHS decks from even the most
    established manufacturer.

    manitou910, Feb 10, 2004
  8. Alec

    WEBPA Guest

    I'm a bit confused...

    Correct. Only it isn't a "bit."

    You clearly do not know how the VHS system works. That is: How a video signal
    is processed for recording to and playback from tape. For either VHS or SVHS.


    I won't bore you with the details, but you will ALWAYS obtain a better
    reproduction (play...capture...view) of what is on a VHS tape from a (good
    quality, properly maintained, correctly adjusted) SVHS player than from ANY VHS
    machine. This is inherent is the way SVHS works.

    If you are (attempting) to duplicate a VHS tape, then a VHS player-recorder
    pair capable of direct FM-to-FM play-record will work better than a pair of
    SVHS machines. But this is not what the OP addressed.

    WEBPA, Feb 11, 2004
  9. Alec

    gothika Guest

    Let me ask you a question or two to get a clearer picture of what you
    really want to do.
    Are you wanting to use the S-VHS deck to archive the standard VHS
    tapes because of the better recording quality of industrial/broadcast
    VHS machines whether you record the archive tapes in either S or
    You won't gain any quality imagewise going up to a S signal from
    standard. It can only give you what you have and maybe minimize loss a
    bit in second gen.
    You will get the cleanest copy possible if the master deck is running
    at peak and is clean etc.... vs. a consumer deck.
    I picked up a reconditioned Sanyo broadcast S-VHS editor from a
    company off e-bay that does a really excellent job and I think I only
    paid about 250 bucks or so for it.
    The company runs a professional post production studio and has in
    house service facilities, so all decks they sell carry a rock solid
    If you want to go with the brands you mentioned I'd go with a
    Panasonic first. I used the AG line all the way from the 1950 to the
    1980's and all did really good work and were work horses. And at a
    really good price.
    Panasonic pro division(Matsushita) has always had a rep for making the
    best 1/2 inch decks for the money.
    gothika, Feb 11, 2004
  10. Alec

    manitou910 Guest

    Better playback quality for standard VHS tapes being dubbed to digital
    (which is what the original poster wanted).

    Aside from the reality that better S-VHS decks have overall processing
    that is usually superior to that of consumer VHS units, there is also
    the fact that even standard VHS records luma and chroma separately,
    which means using the S-Video capability of S-VHS decks generates some
    advantage when dubbing to digital.
    No one was suggesting this, as I understand earlier posts re this thread.
    This is correct regardless of format.

    manitou910, Feb 12, 2004
  11. Alec

    gothika Guest

    My apologies, I wasn't trying to dumb down the discusion.
    I'm backing up alot of old video of mine and I'm going the DVDR route.
    It may be a bit more fragile but if I archive them in airtight
    containers they should hold up better than my tape collection.
    gothika, Feb 12, 2004
  12. Alec

    Ryan Boni Guest

    I have no argument with that, but that's like saying the best image you can
    get a mini-DV tape would be coming from a DVCPRO50 deck (silly poor example,
    but the best I could think of at the time). Yes, but the inherent
    limitations of the original recording are only going to take the quality so
    far (that was the point of my original post which somehow got lost.) My
    point, which obviously I've confused some people, was that a poor quality
    VHS tape will not look any better just because it's on a S-VHS machine, ergo
    there's no magic way to improve the picture quality on only
    consumer/prosumer level. This can, however, be achieved with an industrial
    deck (starting with BNC outs instead of RCA), but it didn't sound like this
    person had an interest in spending $3K.

    It sounds to me like the marketing people have snowed quite a few people out

    I'll shut up now.

    Ryan Boni, Feb 13, 2004
  13. Alec

    Ryan Boni Guest

    Sorry, I added so much confusion.

    If the point of the original post was will a $1500-$3000 S-VHS give you a
    better picture than a $30 VHS VCR, than I say obviously. BUT, will a cheapo
    consumer S-VHS deck give you a better image playback (of VHS tapes) than an
    industrial or professional VHS deck, than I say not nescessarily so.

    I wouldn't necessarily class the R1000, AG-1980 or the 9911U the best that
    S-VHS has to offer.

    However, would an expensive VHS deck (like the Panasonic AG-6851H) give you
    a better playback picture than the JVC HRS-2902 S-VHS deck? I'd have to
    say, yes, although I've never seen the 6851 in action. My point was that
    just because it's S-VHS doesn't necessarily mean better picture on playback.
    If the person was asking about recording, that would be a different matter

    Let's just say, buy a D-VHS deck and be done with it (sorry, couldn't

    Ryan Boni, Feb 13, 2004
  14. Alec

    GMAN Guest

    You gain by not having to go thru a y\c to composite to y\c stage.

    Even regular vhs is stored on tape in seperate y\c . So using a svhs deck to
    output even a vhs tape has some noticeable advantages.

    You work at a studio and dont appreciate what advantages a proper TBC can
    give you?
    GMAN, Feb 13, 2004
  15. Alec

    someone Guest

    Well the truth runs counter to intuition here at least part of the time.
    The industrial decks ($3,000 range) expect very good video and have a rough
    time with the poorer examples of VHS tapes. A Sony SLV-R1000 or even a less
    expensive deck may do much better since they have automatic circuits to try
    and force the video to 'look good.'

    In any case, a full-frame TBC and a Proc Amp will make the output better. I
    find that the Studio One Proc Amp (now Sign Video) with its ability to
    replace sync pulses (not a TBC) helps.
    someone, Feb 14, 2004
  16. Alec

    manitou910 Guest

    Please see "someone"'s excellent reply. Maximum quality from VHS tapes
    ideally requires timebase correction _and_ 3D comb filtering. The
    latter was introduced by Sony in 1995 with the XBR100, which was
    universally hailed at the time as the best consumer television in
    history (it was digitally optimized for analog NTSC broadcast, cable,
    laserdisc and VHS). 3D comb filters now are pretty well standard on
    higher-end consumer and HDTV sets in North America.

    IINM the only VHS deck to include a 3D comb filter as well as a
    full-frame TBC is the Panasonic AG-1980.

    The higher price for industrial S-VHS decks reflects (as much as
    anything else) greater durability and quality control since some
    industrial gear may be in use 24 hours per day. Even the best prosumer
    gear can't take such use.

    Still, as I mentioned earlier the Sony SLV-R1000 and SLV-R5 decks, and
    the Panasonic AG-1980, deliver outstanding performance from VHS tapes
    and are ideal for dubbing/archiving VHS tapes to digital formats.
    Compared with cheaper decks, you'll really see the difference on a
    properly calibrated line-doubled/HDTV display or a pro monitor.
    I haven't tried these, but my guess is you are paying for the D-VHS
    elements and that playback of standard VHS and S-VHS probably isn't as
    good as for the older Sony and Panasonic prosumer decks dedicated to S-VHS.

    manitou910, Feb 14, 2004
  17. No one has mentioned that a digital VCR or other digital recording
    system, that would be re-recording the output of a VHS deck, would have
    a built-in TBC working on its analog input. The analog signal must be
    time-base corrected before it's digitized, so any digital recorder
    designed to directly receive an analog input must have a TBC.
    Therefore, if an S-VHS playback deck is used that also has a TBC on its
    output, this feature should be shut off, as otherwise, a double
    time-base correction would occur. This can cause picture artifacts and

    A BNC jack is electronically the same as an RCA jack, although
    mechanically different. Unless there was an inferior connection in a
    lowgrade RCA jack or plug, it would pass along a signal just as good as
    one through a BNC connector. BNC connectors are used on many pro units,
    as they securely hold the plugs and keep them from being accidentally

    All VHS and S-VHS recordings are laid down on a single track,
    except for the additional linear audio track or tracks on the tape's
    edge or both edges. The chroma (color) sub-carrier signal is lower in
    frequency than the luma (black & white) carrier and penetrates deeper
    into the recording layer on the tape's surface. The Hi-Fi Stereo audio
    is recorded on the same track, on an even lower frequency sub-carrier
    and goes still deeper into the recording layer. Each time the tape is
    played back and the video portion sent out on an S-Video connector, the
    chroma and luma components have to be electronically filtered and
    separated and routed onto their own circuits in the S-Video system.

    On an RCA-type video connector, these two components share the same
    circuit. When the chroma and luma travel on the same circuit, there is
    cross-talk between the two and some degradation of picture quality
    occurs. The less distance over which they share the same circuit, the
    less this cross-talk takes place. This is the primary advantage of
    using a playback VCR that has an S-Video output. Usually, you can see
    brighter and truer colors, when the signal is carried by S-Video.

    The recording and playback processes of VHS and S-VHS are the same,
    regarding the separation or combining of the components on the tape when
    they are laid down on it and extracted from it. The main difference
    between VHS and S-VHS, is the higher and wider luma frequency range,
    wider freqency deviation and higher top frequency peak of S-VHS
    recording, which produces higher picture resolution.

    A VHS recording played back on a high quality VHS deck, that was
    equipped with S-Video, could be just as good as a VHS recording that was
    played back on an S-VHS deck. However, with very few exceptions, VHS
    decks haven't been given S-Video, so S-VHS decks will give better VHS
    playback than almost all VHS decks.

    I swear, that's the last time I will ever say any of this, or
    likely even need to think about it.

    Steve McDonald
    Steve McDonald, Feb 14, 2004
  18. "Steve McDonald" wrote ...
    I would disagree. Most (all?) digital recorders assume stable
    CAMERA inputs and *DO NOT* have "built-in TBC" circuits.
    I have used only half a dozen different digital recorders and
    digitizers and NONE of them have anything like TBC functionality.
    Since most people don't need TBC, it is rarely included. It is
    assumed that if you need TBC, you will use an external unit.

    If you frequent these newsgroups, you will see quite readily
    that many people have problems capturing old VHS tapes
    for the very reason that conventional digital recording devices
    do *NOT* have TBC functionality. Some try to compensate for
    this by using cheap devices (like those made by Sima, et. al.)
    that only strip and re-generate sync, but perform no REAL time-
    base correction.
    If the first TBC did its job and corrected any time-base errors,
    the second one would simply pass the signal through without
    attempting to do any unnecessary correction. (Unless it was not
    operating properly).
    Perhaps for amateur/consumer purposes, this explanation is
    adequate. But there ARE *electrical* differences between RCA
    and BNC connectors, primarily impedance. There are even
    differences between conventional (50-ohm) and "video/digital"
    (75-ohm) BNC connectors.
    Since the Chroma ("C") and Luminance ("Y") are recorded on
    separate carriers (even on original, NON-S VHS) the chroma
    and luma components DO NOT have to be "electronically filtered
    and separated" on playback. That is why many of us prefer to use
    S-VHS VCRS even when recording/playing only conventional
    VHS tapes.
    True. But the other difference is that when using the Y/C inputs
    and outputs, you don't have the additional artifacts of chroma
    striping and combining.
    Assume you mean "haven't been given Y/C input and outputs".
    Richard Crowley, Feb 14, 2004
  19. Not all digital decks can handle an unstable analog signal. (e.g.
    my D9 decks trying to record a disturbed LD player output.)

    John S. Dyson, Feb 14, 2004
  20. Alec

    david.mccall Guest

    It is somewhat rare (perhaps imposible) to find a video tape recorder
    with a TBC and/or a proc-amp on the input. They are often found on
    the outputs of most profesional gear, and many prosumer items now
    have the equivilant of a TBC on the output. Of course the digital source
    only needs a small buffer to do it's job.

    I use an Digisuite card with Incite, and that does have a proc-amp,
    and some time-base correction on the inputs.
    Except that it will have to go through an encode/decode step
    no matter what the source. A cheap TBC will not be very
    kind to your video.
    Yeah, BNCs do have one problem though. If you trip over the cable, the
    camera/deck/whatever takes a nose dive onto the floor. An RCA might
    just fall out (if you are lucky). BNCs are often a beter made connector,
    and probably haf a thicker coating of Gold, chrome, or silver than a typical
    RCA connector. This would make it wear longer.
    There are different RCA connectors depending on the intended use,
    but the most obvious difference is the cable size. It is the cable itself
    that has the most impact on the signal and it's impedence.

    david.mccall, Feb 15, 2004
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