Tag Archives: high end

RCA Home Theatre S-VHS VCR #VR725HF (July 14, 1995)

Dig this intensely cool piece of 1990s home video technology I picked up! Found recently (at the end of January or start of February) at a somewhat-far-off thrift store, the RCA “Home Theatre” S-VHS VCR (model number VR725HF) came into my life…for only $4. Four bucks?! That’s a great price for a regular VHS VCR, never mind an S-VHS VCR! Needless to say, it became mine.

I was initially a bit apprehensive with this one. It was a little grimy, and while I plugged it in and tested it as best I could while there, it didn’t seem to be working quite correctly at first, though this was naturally all “sight unseen.” (I.e., it wasn’t hooked up to a TV.) Eventually it seemed to be running well-enough for me to take a chance on it, and besides, it’s not like I trip over Super VHS while out and about all the time anyway. And so here we are. The final verdict? Read on!

As you can better see in this closer-up here, not only was this a 4-Head, Hi-Fi model (as you’d probably expect of an S-VHS), but it was also part of RCA’s “Home Theatre” line. Not “Theater,” “Theatre.” Fancy! Around the late-1980s and up through at least the mid-1990s, RCA really pushed this concept, through swanky TVs, audio equipment, and as advertised on the deck here, even their own satellite receivers. Naturally home video was also part of that equation. This was all a relatively big deal in the 90s, as technology was advancing far enough to where the “home movie experience,” or at least something approximating it, was a progressively feasible goal for consumers. Back then, the better, more-advanced equipment you had, the cooler your living room was. Then again, this was almost-certainly true before and after, too; people always want the biggest and best, after all.

This model also has the VCR Plus+ feature. Lotsa VCRs around that time did. What was it? Next to programs listed in TV Guides and whatnot, there was a numerical code. Punch it in on the appropriate VCR menu, and it’d automatically record the show. I never used the feature back then, and I don’t think our VCR at the time even gave it as an option, but it’s a neat concept.

This isn’t the first S-VHS deck we’ve seen here in recent months. Astute readers (all two of you) will recall the incredible “prosumer” Panasonic AG-1970 that I wrote about back in September. That thing is a legit beast, and while no one will claim this RCA to be in the same league (it’s decidedly a “consumer” unit, as opposed to a “prosumer” one), it definitely lives up to the “Home Theatre” branding. If nothing else, it’s nicer than the Memorex S-VHS VCR I wrote about years ago.

I’ve mentioned before my ambivalent feelings regarding electronics, or more specifically VCRs, from the 1990s. In general, they seemed to become cheaper, flimsier, less-feature-packed, less-reliable than decks from the 1980s. That’s a generality of course, and naturally there were exceptions. Some (okay, many) VCRs from that decade fell into the “affordable” arena, often with plastic casing, 2-Heads, no stereo, etc. etc. etc. My old Zenith is a good example. BUT, some rose above whatever trappings the format had fallen into, be it through slightly more features, higher build quality, or just through a slick-casing. My rad ProScan is a great example.

Well, this RCA is undeniably one of those exceptions. You might be tempted to think that all S-VHS VCRs would be exceptions, since they were Super VHS and thus higher-end by definition. That wasn’t necessarily so (I direct you back to the previously-linked Memorex post), but luckily this RCA is one of the good’uns.

Though compared to my last S-VHS adventure, you may not think so at first. It doesn’t have a ton of options built into it. Or at least, none that I can see; the original remote was MIA, and hey, maybe there was more that could be accessed there. As it stands here though, you’ve got only standard play-stop-eject-rewind-forward-record-pause options at your fingertips. I can’t even access the much-ballyhooed VCR Plus+ option. Near as I can tell, anyway.

Luckily, much of what I can do is accessed through a jog shuttle. I do loves me a jog shuttle, even if it’s usually just for aesthetic reasons. Turn the knob for faster rewinding for fast forwarding, stop for still mode, hit play to get back in action, that’s how this RCA goes about things.

Also, there’s, uh, specific buttons for stopping and ejecting, and recording.

Speaking of recording, you didn’t have to record in S-VHS; you could use this as a regular ol’ VHS VCR, if you so desired. This is accessed through the little S-VHS button pictured here. The light sez it’s on. Since S-VHS required specific S-VHS tapes, and since regular VHS tapes were far more common, if you wanted to pick up a cheap blank tape at the grocery store, you’d just push the S-VHS button “off,” and then you were good to go! I don’t know if the recording quality for normal VHS would have been any better than usual, but 4-Head Hi-Fi is always a good thing anyway.

Unlike many mid-1990s VCRs, instead of a cheap plastic casing, the RCA VR725HF is housed in good ol’ metal, and with the black color-scheme, it’s a pretty slick-lookin’ beast. There’s some rounding on the front corners, but it’s mostly slim and boxy, though ridges (?) along the bottom almost give it a foot-stand-like appearance. I don’t know how to describe this, bu I tried to show you in the pic here.

I like the looks of this one. It has a heavy duty appearance and feel, yet a clean, elegant design. It almost (almost) comes off as minimalist, but in a good way. I may not go so far as to say it is minimalist, because it compares well to many of the other VCRs of the period in this regard. No, it doesn’t boast a ton of features, at least not on the unit itself, but what’s here is attractive. True to its name, this had to have look derned classy in the home theaters (theatres) of the mid-1990s.

Here’s the precious, precious back of the VCR shot you’ve all been clamoring for. I feel like I’m required to include these shots for this to be a full, proper review, but in truth, I never have all that much to say about them. It’s the connections area of the unit, okay? Antenna, AV, and S-Video jacks are all found in abundance. I do like that it has S-Video in and out ports.

Also, see, 7-14-1995. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t.

Even though I picked this machine up over a month ago, it wasn’t until this past Wednesday that I dragged it out, cleaned it up, and started fully testing it. You know why it didn’t seem like it was working correctly when I first did preliminary testing upon discovery? Because upon initial start-up, it brings up an option (via blue screen) to scan for channels. Pressing (most) any button will exit out of that, which is why it did seem to start running well shortly afterwards. Or maybe it just hadn’t been used in years and needed time to warm up, I don’t know. Like I said, it was sight unseen.

(I guess there’s some form of ancient memory inside, because despite unplugging the thing after doing a quick channel-scan, it hasn’t asked me to scan again upon subsequent power-ups; what was scanned has, erm, remained scanned.)

Anyway, I don’t know if it was serviced at some point or just built insanely well, but this VCR works wonderfully. Like I said, it was a little dirty when I grabbed it, and even now you can see some scratches on the front panel in my pictures (I did give the whole thing a good disinfectant wipe rubdown), but despite its former life and July 1995 birthday, it handled just about everything I threw at it like a champ. I tempted fate and kept it going for over four hours Wednesday, ran both a ‘good’ tape and a problematic one in it, and both displayed wonderfully and came through the ordeal unscathed. (This is good, because I’m fond of both tapes, and had one or both been eaten, there’s a good chance you’d have heard me yelling from wherever you are. “What’s that?” “Oh, it’s just North Video Guy screamin’ again.”)

The only issue that came up was that the stereo kept switching to mono with a few things I recorded back in 2012, BUT those were from the same channel, same brand of tape, same program even. It didn’t do that with other recordings from around the same period, so maybe it was a fault on the channel? Or the tape brand I used? I don’t know, but I’m considering this RCA “workin’.”

‘Course, I kinda wanted to see the actual S-VHS stuff in action too, you know? I mean, it handled my old, regular VHS just fine (indeed, phenomenal tracking, picture stabilization and sharpness, even with SLP), but when you’ve got a (relatively) super-charged machine like this, you gotta see it all.

Luckily, I had some S-VHS tapes. They were given to me a few years ago, and despite not having a (working) S-VHS VCR right then, it was really only a matter of time. So, I went digging for them, and came up with the 2003 CBS broadcast of Bruce Springsteen’s Barcelona concert. I’ve owned the entire show on DVD for years, but this was recorded in S-VHS SP, so hey, gotta check it out!

It looks terrific. Okay, sure, at the end of the day it’s still consumer videotape, it’s not as sharp as a DVD or something, BUT the higher-resolution is immediately noticeable. I mean, just look at Bruce here! The quality is, needless to say, superior to even a regular SP-recorded tape.

So, for only $4, I got a real bargain. An RCA S-VHS VCR that appears to work perfectly, and looks cool to boot. I hit up a lot of thrift stores, but things like this just don’t show up everyday, and certainly not at that price. RCA did good work, and that’s evident even now!

Back in the 1990s, for our home entertainment center, we had an RCA 4-Head Hi-Fi deck. Not an S-VHS, mind you, just normal VHS, but for years it served us well. I eventually ran it into the ground (young tape-head and all), but that was hardly a fault on RCA’s part. When it comes to 1990s VCRs, it was probably one of the better ones to be had. Dad was big into the entertainment center thing, so that deck coupled, with surround sound, it was definitely cool to watch (and hear!) big budget Hollywood product on that thing.

This RCA S-VHS VCR reminds me of that childhood deck, which is totally an added bonus here. All in all, another fine addition to my collection!

ProScan VHS VCR Model No. PSVR81

proscan4

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.

proscan6

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.

proscan1

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.

proscan10

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.

proscan15

proscan14 proscan13

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).

proscan7 proscan8

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.

proscan11 proscan12

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

proscan18

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).

proscan17

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).

proscan19

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.

proscan16

Adorable.

GoldStar GHV-8500M Hi-Fi VHS VCR

goldstar1

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.

goldstar3 goldstar2

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.

goldstar10 goldstar8

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.)

goldstar5 goldstar4

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.

goldstar6

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.

goldstar11

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.

goldstar13 goldstar14

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.

goldstar9

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.