Tag Archives: quality

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.

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Sony Mega Watchman Model No. FD-555 (August 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 hug.

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 wanted.

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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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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 ol’ 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 upset. 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 electronics 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. This put my fears to rest, 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!

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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 one of my favorite MSB albums.

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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.