Tag Archives: deck

RCA DRC6350N 6-Head VHS VCR & DVD Player (March 2006)

After writing about my neato RCA S-VHS VCR the other day, I’m in the mood for some more RCA home video action. This one’s a bit newer than the S-VHS, and while not exactly cutting edge anymore, it still somehow ‘fits’ with the current home theater landscape. Or something like that. You figure it out.

Dig this: from March of 2006, it’s the incredible RCA DRC6350N combo unit, boasting both a DVD player and a VHS VCR…a 6-Head VHS VCR. That’s cool. And as you’d expect, it’s all in Hi-Fi. Cool winnins!

This was a recent thrift find of mine. Well, I found it a few months back, before the new year. It’s not quite as recent a find as the S-VHS, but it hasn’t been so long that the allure has faded from my mind yet, either. Or something like that. You figure it out. At any rate, I really, really like this one. I forget how much it was, five or six bucks, I’m pretty sure. To find a machine of this quality at a thrift shop for that price is an increasingly rare happening nowadays.

I know what y’all is thinking: “Hey North Video Guy, what’s the big deal? Companies made combo decks forever! They’s a dime a dozen!” Well, yeah; by the time VHS breathed its last (*sniff*), basically the only VCRs you could find new for sale were VHS/DVD combos. In the U.S. anyway. Or at least in my part of the U.S. anyway. Or something like that. You figure it out. Point is, for the last ten years or so that the format was on the market, odds were that if you needed a new VCR, you were going to get a DVD player with it whether you wanted one or not.

And here’s the deal with many (but I’m not saying all) of those VHS/DVD combos: by the time the 2010s dawned, many of these units were readily found – some with DVD recording capability and some without – but the one thing they (almost) all had in common was that they were, well, kinda on the cheap side. They made okay beater units, they did their job, but high-end or particularly long-lasting they were not. I know from experience that getting some of your EP or LP tapes to track properly and stably was often an exercise in bitter frustration.

Things weren’t always that way though. I can very literally turn my head to the right at this very moment and gaze longingly at a VHS/DVD recorder I purchased new from Best Buy for around $500 back in 2005. It was top of the line at the time, or at least the most top of the line deck to cross my path of vision. Sleek, classy, relatively powerful and solidly built, just five or six years later it was all but impossible to find a newly-made deck of similar high quality. I don’t use that machine very much anymore, though it mostly still works, and even if it didn’t, I paid $500 for it so not only will it never be thrown out but I’m also probably going to insist on being buried with it.

Anyway, now that I’ve provided some backstory, rest assured this RCA VHS/DVD is one of those good VHS/DVD combos…

It says “Hello” when your turn it on! Wild, man…

Many of the combo decks that started showing up in larger quantities around 2010/2011 were so light you could palm them. No kidding, I can literally turn my head to the northeast and glare at one such example right this very moment. This RCA is not one of those. It’s relatively heavy, with a nice metal casing and cool rounded top edge. It just feels like a well-built machine, and the silver-and-black color scheme is still attractive here and now, 12 years later.

‘Course, you might not be able to realize that quality from my picture here, because my phone just refused to focus up to my satisfaction. Or maybe the pop I drank gave my hands the jitters, I don’t know.

Some videophile is probably going to show up in the comments and tell me why I’m so very utterly wrong, but to me, there are definite benefits to using a 6-Head model, as opposed to the common 4-Head variation. 2-Heads? We don’t talk about 2-Heads.

First off, the VHS portion of this machine works very, very well. For the most part anyway; every once in awhile, after stopping, rewinding, and then hitting play, it was almost like the VCR wouldn’t “pick up” on the tape and I’d be left with a blank screen. I’d have to stop and hit play again to get it to “snap” back in place. But, that can’t be a flaw inherent to this unit; rather, it’s almost certainly a consequence of being 12 years old and used for who-knows-how-much before falling into my hands. In the grand scheme of things that’s nothing, and otherwise, it loaded, played and displayed very well.

So yes, the VHS side does work quite nicely, showing some real quality and reliability – VHS was still current enough at the time to warrant such things, and sadly, said such things would not be evident on the general marketplace a whole lot longer. Plus, it’s a 6-Header! You just didn’t see many of these! The beauty of 6-Heads is that you’ve got excellent tracking, stable picture, extra clarity, and crystal-clear forwarding and rewinding in playback mode. Really, really nice quality on this one.

The DVD side works fine too. Or at least appears to. The drawer was smooth and responsive and it loaded up whatever I threw at it, but It was kind of a toss-up as to whether I could watch something or not. That is, I don’t have the original remote for this machine, and some discs require the usage of an “enter” key to get a title playing proper. The ones that respond to a simple press of the “play” button were fine, but for the ones that didn’t, well, staring at menus endlessly isn’t my idea of entertainment.

What I did get to play, I mean really play, worked fine and displayed well. I mean, it’s a DVD player, what’d you expect? Still, the original remote would be nice here; it’s not a huge deal for me, but if needed, I could always get a universal one.

(Again, none of this is a fault on the player itself; it’s just that after 12 years, remotes get lost, man.)

The left side…

For a nice as this machine is for the time it came out, at the end of the day it’s still from March 2006; unfortunately, the days of loading a VCR up with feature upon feature were looooong gone by then. As such, you only get the bare minimum of controls (though again, I’m operating without a remote, which almost certainly bars me from options such as setting the VCR timer, fiddling around with the clock, and so on and so forth).

…And the right side.

So at your fingertips you’ve got play, stop, eject, open/close, record, pause, rewind, fast forward, channel selection, a VCR/DVD toggle, the prerequisite power button, some additional A/V inputs, and…that’s pretty much it. Granted, you don’t need much else on the front panel, provided you weren’t planning on setting a timer recording. I suppose you couldn’t ask for a whole lot more for the time this was released. Well, you could, but realistically, this was the best you could hope for.

There’s certainly a nice selection of inputs and outputs along the back. Unlike the previously-linked S-VHS, there’s only S-Video output here, but as this was nearly 11 years newer, you’ve got component outputs for the DVD side, which is certainly welcome. Plus, there’s the standard red-white-yellow outputs (and for the VCR, inputs), along with the RF jacks. Also, a coaxial plug, because yeah.

(Like I said last time, to be full proper review, I feel shots of the back of these machines are necessary, but in truth, I never have all that much to say about them. My hope is that my pics will provide specific info for the right person when and if they come looking for it.)

Also, whoever owned this before me took the time to label the antenna in and VCR/DVD out jacks. I probably should have removed those tags, but whatever.


I like this one a lot. I’m apparently not the only one; most of the old reviews on Amazon are glowing.

Nowadays, it’s not too tough to find VCRs at the thrift store(s), though prices naturally vary. The problem is, in my experience a good many of them are of the lower-end variety; I typically don’t come across genuinely solid, well-built decks that often. I mean, yes I do, but it’s not like every single trip, and at this point, there’s got to be something really special about it to get me buy one, besides.

And as for DVD players, meh, dime a dozen.

Make no mistake though, this RCA VHS/DVD combo is special. True, it’s not particularly feature-packed, but the overall quality, from build to function, is just so nice and solid. I like everything about it, but most of all, if I’m being honest, it’s the 6-Heads. They really do make a difference!

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ProScan VHS VCR Model No. PSVR81

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It’s all about the contours with this one. I’ve got so many VCRs at this point that anything outside of the mid-1980’s ‘sweet spot’ almost has to be all about the contours (in other words: it’s gotta look cool, or have enough features to make up for not looking cool, which in and of itself is cool. Dig?). And boy, this unit has “style” to burn; the sleek black casing and overall elegant design practically scream “classy product, yo!” Which is why I pretty much flipped when I happened upon this deck at a thrift shop recently. It actually took me a moment to realize it was a VCR; at first glance the design, as well as the fact that the flap-door blends right in with said design, fooled me into thinking this was a stereo receiver or something. The second I realized it was instead a slick-lookin’ VCR, it became mine (well, I held on to it for dear life; it didn’t *technically* become mine until the appropriate amount of cash was thrown down at the register, but you know what I meant).

I have only limited experience with ProScan products, but according to this Wikipedia article, they seem to be on the higher-end of things. The sole ProScan product I had prior is the best Laserdisc player I’ve ever owned: a really terrific unit with auto-flip (i.e., no getting up to flip the disc) and some other snazzy features. This is the player I always have hooked up (yeah, I still watch Laserdiscs from time to time; love ’em) and it has always performed like a champ. So yeah, what experience I have with ProScan has been 100% positive.

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I don’t know what year this hails from, but my gut told me around 1995, and this page more-or-less confirms that feeling with a “1994-1995.” It looks like a product of the 1990s, but in a good way. I’ve mentioned time and time again my ambivalent feelings towards the electronics of the era, but there are exceptions, and this unit more than any other qualifies.

(The deck I talked about in this post exemplifies the “cheap 1990s” look I usually avoid; strangely, that post and the VCR it’s about I had both completely forgotten about until it showed up on my WordPress dashboard as having been viewed by someone recently. It took me a moment to even remember where I stored the thing; that’s how forgettable some 90s electronics were/are!)

Eagle eyes will notice that this deck uses the VCR Plus+ get up. I never had any first-hand experience with VCR Plus+, but basically you could input the number codes found next to listings in TV Guide and whatnot into the VCR and it would automatically record the program. I don’t think I ever had a deck that used VCR Plus+ (back in my ‘real’ taping days, I mean), I always manually set the VCR timer, which wound up being a good thing, because I got complete versions of programs that would have been cut-off by running over their timeslot otherwise (VCR Plus+ didn’t adjust for that sorta thing, from how I understand it).

Oddly enough, despite the fact it means fairly little in regards to a VCRs functionality, at least nowadays, I’ve seen units with the VCR Plus+ moniker marked higher than other VCRs at thrift shops and the like. Maybe that’s just skewed perception on my part, but it sure seems like that’s what folks are doing, and if so, it fills me with a burning rage you can’t begin to fathom.

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The thing actually says “Hello” when you turn it on. That’s adorable. It’s a small touch, but it adds an even more classy quality to a machine that already looks pretty darn spiffy. Sure, it’s just a small gimmick that doesn’t really mean anything, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

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Remember that time I gushed about the audio level readout in this post? Of course you don’t. Anyway, I always get a kick out of it, particularly on newer (relatively speaking) units such as this one. I could be dead wrong on this, but it seems like this was a feature that was by and large phased out on VCRs as the 1990s progressed. Again, I could be dead wrong on that, but I know that I’ve found far fewer 1990s decks that sport audio levels when compared to 1980s VCRs.

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In addition to the usual fast forward/rewind/play/stop buttons, the PSVR81 also features this stylin’ jog wheel, though I still call these “swing shuttles,” which was Sony’s (and others?) name for the feature. It lets you access pause, slow-motion, etc. Admittedly, I never really use the jog wheels, but I also admit that they look really cool to me. Anytime I come across a deck with a jog wheel, it’s almost assuredly a must-purchase (unless preliminary testing proves that the deck doesn’t work correctly).

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The not-immediately-noticed panel along the bottom of the front features a number of other options, including a button that awards the ability to record in all three speeds (SP, LP, SLP), blank search, input select, and a set of AV input jacks. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing tracking control anywhere on the unit, which means it was almost certainly a feature accessed via the remote, which was MIA with this particular VCR.

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On the back: AV inputs and outputs and antenna in-and-out jacks. See, PSVR81. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t.

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As with any thousand-year-old VCR, the million dollar question is “how does it work?” This PSVR81 runs incredibly well. Maybe it was serviced at some point in the past, but I have a feeling it was just well-maintained on top of being high quality in the first place. All of the functions perform like new, and the picture is terrific. Me being me, of course I used an old Magnum, P.I. tape for screencap purposes, because no VCR would dare chew up Magnum (but just in case, I tested tapes I didn’t care as much about beforehand).

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This really is a fantastic machine, and it must have looked swanky as all get-out in mid-1990s entertainment centers. While the design isn’t identical, it actually would compliment my aforementioned ProScan Laserdisc player nicely, if I didn’t already have too many things hooked up in that particular center. I don’t know if I’d take take this deck over some feature-packed models from the mid-to-late-1980s, but this is certainly up there as one of the best 1990s VCRs I’ve ever found while out and about. Personally, it’s probably a tie between this and that Goldstar as my favorite *as far as thrift/second-hand store finds go* (a high-end Sony Hi-Fi VHS VCR from 1990 that I bought online is my best and favorite of the decade, period).

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Just for fun, there’s my three latest thrift store VCR acquisitions. The Goldstar I talked out before is on the bottom, this ProScan on top (duh!), and in the middle a fairly decent Toshiba I nevertheless couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to write about. It’s a nice machine, but the real reason for my purchasing it? Jog wheel man, jog wheel.

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Adorable.

Zenith VRL2110 VHS VCR.

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In the past, I’ve mentioned by general dislike for ‘newer’ VCRs; that is, anything mid-1990’s on-up. Of late, however, I’ve had a softening of heart regarding these obsolete beasts. True, I still prefer decks from the mid-to-late-1980’s, but I guess I can live with the newer, cheaper models. That said, I haven’t had a good, ‘old’ VCR find in the wild for some time now, so maybe my resolve is just weak. I’m an enigma that way.

…Wait, did I seriously just say that my resolve is weak in regards to VCRs, and that somehow makes me an enigma? That’s dangerously close to the stupidest thing I’ve ever written on this blog, and that’s really saying something!

I found this sucker at Goodwill last night for the low, low price of $6, which truthfully was a dollar more than I would have preferred paying, but it really has been quite awhile since I’ve bought a VCR, any VCR, from the joint, so screw it. The deck is, as the title so aptly states, a Zenith VRL2110 VHS VCR. I have no idea what year it’s from; there’s no date to be found anywhere on it. I’m gonna say “circa-1995.” Could be from a few years earlier, could be from a few years later, or I could be dead wrong from the get-go. There’s just no way to be sure.

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What I am sure of is that, regardless of when it came out, this certainly isn’t even close to a high-end VCR. If anything, this model sort of exemplifies everything that makes up my (usual) reluctance to purchase decks from this era of VCR: cheap plastic casing, no special features whatsoever, and the sixth-sense-like feeling that just looking at this thing cross-eyed during playback will cause it to eat my tape with so much reckless abandon. Also, the facts it’s clearly marked as having only 2-heads and it is not a stereo VCR are also red flags. they didn’t stop me from buying it though, so what am I even complaining about? Plus, it’s not like there weren’t cheaper VCRs in 1980’s.

‘Course, it’s a Zenith, a brand I’ve had good luck with in the past in regards to vintage electronics, so that’s a good thing. A low-end Zenith VCR is still a Zenith VCR, after all. I can live with 2-heads, but I do really wish it was Hi-Fi.

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It may be made of plastic, but it does have a cool rounded look to the front of the unit that I find appealing. Also, I’m mildly surprised it records in all three modes: SP, LP and EP. For a deck clearly intended for the decidedly more frugal purchaser, I would have expected only SP and EP. The front brags about on-screen programming, but since no remote was included, those features are evidently forever barred from my usage. Oh the pain…oh the torture…

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See, Zenith, VRL2110. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t. If you didn’t believe me, you could have looked at the front of the unit, but I guess that would have been too easy. Nothing I do is ever good enough, is it? I thought I had a picture of the A/V jacks on the back, but apparently I don’t, and I refuse to drag the VCR out for another picture taking session. Simply put, it only uses the yellow and white jacks, no reds. Trust me on this.

I can whine about how cheap the thing looks all night and/or day, but that would be ignoring the figurative elephant in the figurative room: does the sucker work? I have no shortage of tapes to use as test subjects, but a title I purchased along with this VCR last night will serve that purpose nicely…

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An ancient, 1984 copy of It’s A Wonderful life, from back when that title was public domain (it’s not anymore, is it?) There’s something about Video Film Classics and their big giant clamshell boxes that always make me snap them up with lightnin’ quick speed, despite their artwork being of only the most generic quality. Plus, I really, really like It’s A Wonderful Life, and the sheer number of old budget copies I have of it is, quite honestly, semi-embarassing. I mean, it’s not like I have a hundred or anything, but there’s probably enough to last me a lifetime.

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The moment of truth. Will I soon be delighted with classic Christmas images and the everlasting adorableness of Donna Reed, or will I be crushed beyond belief when the damn VCR chews the tape beyond the point of no return (he asked as if he didn’t already know the answer prior to this post)? Also, isn’t the lil’ red light on the power button cute?

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It lives, it lives! And aside from fast-forwarding and rewinding, which, thanks to there only being 2-heads, is pretty tough viewin’, it works pretty good. It’s a nice surprise, considering it really can be difficult to find VCRs of this particular vintage in working condition. ‘Course, as previously stated, it ain’t exactly a high-end model; this is not a machine you’d use to make the best possible DVD conversions of VHS tapes, but it’ll do in a pinch.

As for It’s A Wonderful Life, there are worse prints out there, or at least were out there. I wasn’t expecting much from it, but it looks nicer than I’d have guessed it would. Maybe it looks even better when played on a higher-end VCR. Or maybe the screencap above is an accurate representation of the tape’s quality. I now see the folly in my choice of testing (i.e., I should have used a flick that’s a bit newer and high-res.)

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There it be, my Zenith VCR from 19–. Is it the best VCR in my collection? Hardly. Is it the most notable VCR in my collection? Not even close. Will I ever use it again? Who knows. And yet, for some odd reason, I really don’t mind plunking a cool $6 for it. It means no harm, it’s just out there doin’ it’s thing, despite the numerous odds stacked against it. Maybe there’s a life lesson for all of us, buried deep in there somewhere.

Or maybe I just had no idea how to end this post.

Nintendo GameCube AM/FM Stereo Cassette Player.

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Found this odd little number at Goodwill the other night. I usually don’t go for portable cassette players this ‘modern.’ I prefer the more heavy-duty models of the 1980’s, even if they are, generally, considerably bulkier. But, this one was just too strange (to me) to pass up, especially since it was only $2; less, actually, since it was customer appreciation day, which knocked an additional 35% off. Cool winnins!

It’s a portable AM/FM radio and cassette player. Nothing too unusual about that, except it’s branded with the Nintendo GameCube logo. It just seems like such an odd combo to me. I can understand Nintendo throwing the GameCube logo on clothing, keychains, mugs, or what have you. That’s just the nature of the promotional beast. But a cassette player? Honestly, and I can’t place my finger on why exactly, but it just seems a little ‘off’ to me. A portable radio and cassette player just isn’t something I’d have ever thought I’d find the GameCube logo on.

Then again, a quick search shows that there were portable cassette players with Game Boy Color and Nintendo 64 insignias made prior, so maybe it’s only unusual in my sad little world.

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At any rate, it sure looks GameCube-y. I mean, they got the colors down right, not that that’s really an amazing feat or anything, but it’s fitting all the same. If they just had to make a cassette player adorned with GameCube propaganda, I suppose this was the best we could’ve hoped for. Actually, no it’s not: a cube or at least rectangular player made to look vaguely like the real GameCube would have been pretty badass, especially if they included the handle. I should be getting a million dollars a week for these ideas.

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You got yer headphone jack, yer AM/FM switch, yer tunin’ knob, and yer tape/radio switch. You have to manually open and close the case to insert and/or remove a cassette. Obviously, it’s a pretty bare bones set-up, not that I’d expect a high-end audiophile unit anyway. It works, but truth be told, this thing plays and feels pretty cheap. Maybe the headphones I was using weren’t up to the task, but audio quality on both cassette and radio was pretty spotty. Something tells me my GameCube radio thing couldn’t have cost more than $15-$20 originally.

Now initially, I was a little puzzled as to why Nintendo would want to hook-up with the cassette player format. I don’t know when this thing was released (there’s no date anywhere on it), but the GameCube hit the U.S. in late 2001. But even if this were released that year, cassette tapes were still pretty far along in their path down the mainstream pipe, right? But, the more I thought about it, I guess it makes some kind of sense. Cassettes may not have been priority number one for new, mainstream releases, but it stands to reason that people still had stacks of tapes lying around; the format wasn’t that obsolete. I mean, they’re still making new VCRs, and the VHS format has been dead for, what, about 10 years now? And yet, they still make new blank tapes (they still new blank cassettes too, come to think of it), so there’s some kind of demand. The day they stop making new VCRs will be a sad one for your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter (it will also make my, erm, job somewhat harder to perform), so, yeah, I’m glad they were still supporting those that held dearly to the cassette format.

Also, there’s no manufacturer noted anywhere on this. Did Nintendo make it themselves? Somehow I doubt it, but I don’t know. If by chance they didn’t, well, why not get the GameCube logo on it if someone else was footin’ the bill? And if this came later in the 2000’s, when the ol’ Cube was slipping behind the Xbox and waaaaaay behind the Playstation 2 in sales, a little extra promotion sure couldn’t have hurt.

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See, AM/FM radio and cassette. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t. Also, it takes two AA batteries. So, yeah. The handy belt clips allows you to, say it with me, clip it to your belt.

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I guess it has now become mandatory to include a picture of my cassette copy of The River every time I talk about a cassette player, so there it is. I suppose if I really wanted to blow minds left and right, I could go walking down the street listening to a 1980 tape on a weird GameCube-branded cassette player made some 20 years later. Maybe it would elicit cries of approval. Or protest. Of course, knowing my luck, I’d probably get jumped. I couldn’t really blame the muggers, though; who wouldn’t want a set-up like that?

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Sony Mega Watchman Model No. FD-555 (1991)

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Lookit this cool beast! It’s Sony’s Mega Watchman FD-555! This is early-1990’s technology at its best. Not only do we have a TV and AM/FM radio, but also a cassette player. The large speakers and the presence of a surround sound button make it clear: this ain’t no regular radio! This sucker is a legit boom box! And if it’s not, it certainly aspires to be!

This guy is kinda sorta similar to the Panasonic Desktop TV/Clock Radio I reviewed back in September. I had this Watchman loooong before I had the Panasonic, but I think I like the Panasonic more: it’s older, it has a cool mirrored clock thing, and fake woodgrain, all aspects that fill me with glee. The Panasonic gives the impression of something a businessperson, college student, or high school kid would keep on his/her desk and turn on during late night whatever sessions. This Sony Watchman, on the other hand, feels like something that should be used in the garage while someone works on a car, which is unfortunate in my case, because me working on a car is recipe for total carnage and/or bloody tragedy. On the other hand, being from the sweet spot of the early-90’s, 1991, this Mega Watchman also seems like it’s well-suited to being carried down the street, blaring the latest smash hit single on cassette tape, while you and your backwards-hat-wearing hoodlum friends look for shenanigans to cause. And when you were done creating a ruckus, you could watch Blossom.

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The flash on my camera illuminates every lil’ thing I thought I had cleaned off. Aside from dust in some of the crevices and sticker residue that refuses to leave the top of the cassette player, this thing is actually pretty clean, honest! I love the sleek look and black coloring, and the presence of the old “It’s a Sony” logo is always the mark of something I want to hold during the night.

Oddly enough, there’s no clock anywhere on it. A digital clock somewhere seems like it couldn’t have been too hard to add, but I guess the ability to tell time had to be sacrificed in order for you to listen to the Too Legit To Quit cassette whenever you damn well pleased.

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The back. I forgot to take a picture with the handle extended, but I’m sure you can imagine how that works. There’s a  few various ports, including one for an external antenna, as well as vertical hold controls. The cord can be unplugged from the unit and eight size-D batteries (a bottom-compartment, which I also forgot to take a picture of) used instead, which is helpful, because otherwise, the whole “portable” motif would fly right into the toilet. There’s also a port for a DC adapter, which seems a bit superfluous since you already have a plug and the ability to take batteries, but I guess they wanted their bases covered.

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Damn dude, August 1991. I was all of five years old! The early-90’s are at the tail-end of my personal preferred electronics-picking period. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll buy anything if I find it interesting (and cheap enough), but I generally want the things from the early-1990’s (1990-1993) on down, and particularly the stuff from the 1980’s or before.

That said, with the rounded curves, big ass speakers and revolutionary surround sound technology, this is certainly a nice example of early-90’s electronics, and it probably wasn’t cheap, either. I’m not saying it would set you back too much, provided you weren’t only relying on allowance or grass-cutting funds, but I’m guessing it wasn’t a budget item, either.

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The TV (and radio) both work perfectly. Since everything is digital now, it goes without saying that I’m not actually picking up any TV channels. I suppose if you took advantage of the external antenna jack, you might be able to rig this thing to play real television, but I really have no idea, and while I like my Sony Watchman, I’m not that interested in going to extreme lengths to make it “go.”

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I’ve had this unit for years, and while I tested the radio and TV functions when I got it (at least I guess I did, it’s been awhile), I had no idea if the cassette player worked until today when I decided to do this review. Now, the old GE clock-radio by my bed has a cassette player, and for quite awhile I liked to fall asleep to certain tapes. Unfortunately, the player died, leaving me at the mercy of the radio. That being as it is, provided this Watchman’s cassette player works (he typed as if he didn’t know the outcome already), I could conceivably haul this thing upstairs and once again fall asleep to The Ghost Of Tom Joad. I probably won’t, but I could.

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I grabbed a few cassettes laying around for testing purposes. The first one I put in was Billy Joel’s The Stranger, not so much because I had a burning desire to listen to an album I also own on other, better formats, but rather because if the Watchman ate the tape, I wouldn’t be pissed. Sorry Billy, I like you, but when it comes to Mega Watchman-testin’, you’re expendable.

To my everlasting joy, the cassette player works! Like a champ! I’m not all that surprised though, Sony has always put out a quality product; it’s one of my more trusted brands when it comes to old crap like this. However, the sound of the cassette was insanely muffled. Had the tape been played into the ground, or was the cassette player itself at fault? Further testing was required.

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Next up: Bruce Springsteen’s The River, which is in my top ten all-time favorite albums. Bruce put my fears to rest (as he so often does), because the sound quality was much better. A little spotty, someone obviously played the tape quite a bit (as well they should), but the difference in sound quality was very evident. This means I can old school party to “Sherry Darling” whenever I like! Or rather, whenever I don’t feel like messing with my turntable. Northeast Ohio Video Hunter top tip: The River sounds best when played via a nice vinyl. In comparison, the CD pressing is in desperate need of a remastering. I’m no audiophile and even I can plainly hear the difference (and I’m far from the first to point that out). But, I digress.

mega11

Still not satisfied, I decided on one last test: The Michael Stanley Band’s You Can’t Fight Fashion. This is an XDR (Expanded Dynanic Range) cassette, and man, the sound quality was terrific, this Watchman is capable of producing some great sound output! One of the benefits of being a Northeast Ohioan is that we’ve got our hometown hero, Michael Stanley, and Fashion is right up there with Heartland as my favorite MSB album. You’d do well to pick up a copy yourself, regardless of format.

mega4

So, how about the surround sound? Upon pressing the button, I expected to have the sound blast me in the face not unlike that old Maxell advertisement, but much to my chagrin, it only made things slightly louder. I have no knowledge of the inner workings of something of this nature, so I’m just guessing that when it’s not on, the speakers are simply not used to their fullest. When it is on, they are. How’s that for deductive reasonin’! I know, I know, “duh!”

Don’t get me wrong, though. This unit has very nice sound for the portable nature & time it came out, and I guess it can be room-filling if you turn the surround sound on and crank the volume & tone dials waaay up, but don’t go in expecting a high end set-up, okay?

mega2

There it is, my Sony Mega Watchman FD-555, from August 1991. It’s a very cool piece of old school electronics. Sure, it doesn’t come off all that impressive nowadays, but back then, this was assuredly “to the max.” I’m seriously thinking about throwing some batteries in it, grabbing my cassette copy of Don Johnson’s Heartbeat, and going rockin’ down the street with “Love Roulette” blasting at top-volume.