Tag Archives: hifi

Sylvania Hi-Fi Stereo VHS VCR Model No. VC3645GY01 (1985)

sylvania vcr 8 Hey, remember when I used to write about interesting VCRs and whatnot that I had come across? It’s sure been awhile! The reason being that while I have picked up several really good ones in recent months, I just couldn’t get sufficiently fired up enough to write about them. That changes now, because after a fairly long dry spell, I finally, finally came across a ridiculously cool VCR out in the wild that absolutely needs a place of honor (ha!) on my silly blog. Behold: a Sylvania Hi-Fi VHS VCR, model number VC3645GY01, from 1985! And it only set me back $5 last weekend! Cool winnins!

From the picture above, it may not look that interesting. I mean, sure, it has that classy black and silver, heavy duty 1980s design going for it, and it’s a 4-head, Hi-Fi stereo model, but is that really enough to get me to write about it? Plenty of other VCRs from the time period had the same characteristics, after all. Keep reading chief, you’ll see, the real horsepower of this beast is under the hood, so to speak.

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Outside appearances belie the advantages of this deck, because this thing is positively loaded with features. It all comes courtesy of an everlastingly cool fold-down door. Nope, a regular pull-down door just won’t do for the Sylvania; by pressing the appropriately-named “door” button, all the features drop down to your fingertips.

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Just look at ’em all! Besides the standard play-stop-rewind-fast-forward-pause-record options, you’ve got the ability to record in all three speeds, and even cooler, the ability to do freakin’ audio dubbing! You can adjust the audio levels, and/or fiddle around with the audio level meter display. I love the old-school tracking control knob, and even though I’ll never actually use it, the (relatively) easy-set clock/timer feature had to have been a blessing back in ’85.

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And look at that! Even more features! Sharpness control (which is a feature I absolutely love on a lot of these old VCRs), a regular TV or cable TV swich, you can even select normal or thin tape! Since I never really do any audio dubbing, I’m guessing that option was for that particular feature of the VCR?

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Something that’s really cool and which I wasn’t expecting at all is seen in the left picture above: That 1:37 isn’t the tape counter (indeed, this unit uses the old-school, 0000 tape counters, as opposed to the exact hours/minutes/seconds counters of later VCRs). Rather, that seems to indicate how much time is left on the tape. Swanky! That sort of thing was in vogue later on, but I was a surprised to see it used in a 1985 model.

The picture on the right demonstrates the slow-motion feature in action. You know, I’ve got that option on a lot of my VCRs (both VHS and Beta), and while it’s not something I ever really use at all, I still get a kick out of it being included. Go figure.

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And as if all that wasn’t enough, it’s even got an LED audio level meter, in an attractive red-and-blue color scheme to boot!

However, there are some sad failins afoot with this deck: it doesn’t quite work correctly. It seems like until it gets “warmed up,” it won’t really run a tape all that well, and when it finally does get warmed up, you get sound (really terrific sound, in fact), but no picture. Maybe the heads are shot, maybe they just need a good cleaning, I don’t know. I’m actually not too upset about this factor, though. The genuine coolness of this VCR was easily worth the $5 I plunked down for it, and besides, odds are it can be repaired in the future, if need be.

(From how I understand it, Sylvania VCRs were always just re-badged Panasonic machines anyway, which I kinda suspected in the first-place, so some parts swapping probably isn’t out of the question, if it came to that.)

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And yet more features on the back of the unit! You’ll probably have to click on either pic to enlarge them enough to see, but there’s an audio filter switch, camera remote input, right and left microphone inputs, and what really kinda surprised me, a Pay-TV knob. I’ve got a lot of old VCRs lying around, and while there may very well be a similar knob on one of those as well, I just can’t recall seeing a Pay-TV knob on any of them. And truth be told, I’m really not sure how exactly that would work. I’m guessing to record Pay-Per-View and whatnot? Or maybe used in conjunction with those old ‘special channel’ boxes? I have no idea.

And that’s all in addition to the necessary stereo RCA jack inputs and outputs.

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See, model number VC3645GY01, manufactured in late-1985. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t.

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I can’t even begin to guess how much this model cost back in 1985, and internet searches really aren’t revealing a whole lot of info about it or even any pictures of it, but this sure looks like it was a pretty high-end model back in the day, and high-end models weren’t exactly cheap at the time. It’s funny, a VCR that was undoubtedly several hundred dollars (at least!) back in the 1980s only cost me $5 last week, but hey, that’s the nature of electronics; it doesn’t take long for them to become obsolete. Well, obsolete to the general public, anyway. Me? I get fired up finding things like this just as much as I probably would have had I found it new in the stores back in ’85!

It’s not quite the best VCR I’ve found while out thrifting, but it’s up there, even if it’s not working correctly at the moment. No matter, because I was thrilled to come across this unit. Indeed, I wish I had more finds like it! It’s a welcome addition to my ever-growing mountain of ancient VCRs.

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GoldStar GHV-8500M Hi-Fi VHS VCR

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I found this absolutely terrific VCR at the State Road Goodwill two days ago. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a really good VCR/electronics find, at least one worth writing about, but boy, I fell in love with this one the instant I laid eyes on it. There was some random guy in the general vicinity of it when I first spotted the beast, and your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter was indeed prepared to do some violent shovin’ if it came to it. It didn’t, though. It never does.

It’s a GoldStar GHV-8500M Hi-Fi VHS VCR, complete with cool flip-front door to protect the precious insides. There doesn’t seem to be a lot about this particular model online. A Northeast Ohio Video Hunter exclusive?! Bonus cool winnins?!?! I’m not pathetic enough to believe THAT, but still, it doesn’t appear that this is an especially well-remembered model.

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The sad fact of the matter is I just don’t have many GoldStar products. As far as VCRs go, most of the GoldStars I come across are newer, cheaper-looking models, and thus are quickly passed up in lieu of other things more befitting my increasingly limited funds. This one though, it just looks classy. I can’t find a date on it anywhere, and online searches turned up only a kinda vague 1990-1991, but the style of it looks early-1990’s to me. I want to guess 1993, because the flip-front door (which is really what attracted this thing to me in the first place) reminds me of the last Betamax ever released in the U.S., the SL-HF2000. Not exact, of course, and nowhere near as cool, but reminiscent nevertheless.

Anyway, my 1993 guesstimate isn’t that far off from 1990-1991. It’s from somewhere around there, at least.

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Boy this thing is slick. It absolutely seems like a higher-end model to me. It’s Hi-Fi, it’s got the cool flippy door, and it’s got extra RCA jacks in the front. SIGNS O’ QUALITY, MAN. The number of options found inside the flip-door isn’t the most extensive ever seen on a VCR, but the few found here is still more than many other units from the same time period (in which you’ll have the standard power-play-rewind-fast forward-pause-eject buttons, the channel select buttons, and not a whole lot else.)

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There’s the back of the unit. More RCA jacks. Helpful power cord. So now you know. See, GHV-8500M. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t.

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The side of the unit, featuring some slick an’ stylish contours. So now you know. The molding on the side ultimately doesn’t mean anything, of course, but it does give the underlying impression that this model is “somethin’ special,” I s’pose.

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I absolutely love the fact it has a digital read-out of the audio levels. More evidence it may have been a higher-end unit. The cheapo models I’ve come across don’t have anything even close to that sort of thing. Usually, when I come across VCRs with this feature, the audio levels are found in the form of LEDs. I think I prefer them in the classic green and red LED form, but that’s no knock on the digital version found here.

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Luck o’ the Irish, it works! When I tried the unit out in Goodwill, sans any kind of picture obviously, it seemed that it worked fine except that it acted a little wonky when rewinding. At only $5, I gladly took the chance, because as previously stated, I really like this thing. But now that I’ve had the sucker hooked up, I can see that it was just reacting to the old-school memory counter hitting 0000. I really, really don’t like this type of counter; my feelings towards this style falls somewhere between annoyance and outright rage. I didn’t think anyone was even still using that system by the early-90’s, but hey, there it is. It’s probably the only thing about this VCR I don’t like, but since it’s not like I’ll be using this thing 24/7, it’s not too big of a deal.

Speaking of the counter, I can’t get any kind of related-display to show up on the VCR itself. I’m thinking this was a feature only accessed via the original remote. Since the original remote did not come with this unit, it’s a feature seemingly forever barred to me.

One more thing: when you insert a tape, the VCR practically vacuums it in. This isn’t a fault with the unit, it’s clearly how it was designed to handle tapes, and just like the superfluous molding on the side, it makes you feel like you’re going first-class.

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From start to finish, this is a slick unit; it must have displayed terrifically in the home entertainment centers of the early-1990’s. It has just enough late-80’s/early-90’s style to look, erm, stylish, but still fairly simple overall without going the full route to straight-up cheap lookin’ (that is to say, it doesn’t look as low-quality and generally unappealing as many of the VCRs manufactured in the 1990’s tend to, despite the plasticy gray appearance.)

Works good, looks good, this one’s definitely a keeper.

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.