Tag Archives: unit

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.

Advertisements

Zenith VRL2110 VHS VCR.

zenithvcr1

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.

zenithvcr3

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.

zenithvcr6 zenithvcr5

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…

zenithvcr4

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…

zenithvcr7

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.

zenithvcr9

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?

zenithvcr10

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.)

zenithvcr2

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.

Pioneer Laserdisc Player Model No. LD-V6000A (1989)

ld1

Found, forgotten and dusty in an oft-overlooked secret alcove of Time Traveler last night, my good pal Scott straight up gave me this incredible beast: A Pioneer Laserdisc player, model number LD-V6000A from 1989. Such are the perks of kinda sorta working there. It’s admittedly not in sell-able condition (I’ll show why in a moment), or I would have cleaned it up, slapped a price tag on it and put it out for the world to admire. Lord knows I don’t need another Laserdisc player, but this is the exact kind of electronic I’m a sucker for.

ld2 ld3

The remote is loooong gone, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to fast-forward or rewind from the unit itself. I’d think those would be standard features for a player manufactured as late as 1989, but hell, I don’t know. Compared to VHS and Betamax VCRs, I don’t quite know the history of Laserdisc players as backwards and forwards as I probably should. Which is puzzling, because I’ve got mounds of useless information on pretty much everything else.

A quick internet search on the LD-V6000A brings up multiple mentions of it being an “industrial unit.” Is that a code word for “enormous SOB?” Because that’s what this thing is. Granted, Laserdisc players were never the smallest things in the world, but compared to my other LD units, this guy is somewhat bigger and considerably heavier, undoubtedly because those are consumer models. There go my hopes of using the LD-V6000A as a kite. It’s not as hernia-inducing as my stupid Quasar VCR, but it’s certainly not something you’d want to juggle, either (supposing you were interested in having the world’s most-moronic circus act, that is.)

ld9

See, manufactured in 1989! Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t.

ld4

Somehow I didn’t notice the mention of “industrial” on the back until I was looking at this picture. How did I miss that? I should pay more attention to these things. So, what exactly constitutes an “industrial” Laserdisc player? Is it all the additional doo-dads on the back, heavier casing, A cord you’d need bolt cutters in order to sever? I assume this sort of thing was generally more available to businesses and schools, as opposed to what you could buy at your local electronics store? This is new territory for me, so please explain with patience and understanding, kindly reader.

(That last sentence just may be the most idiotic thing I’ve ever written on this blog, and that’s coming from a guy that inserted an awkward, Adam West Batman-style cliffhanger in the middle of his Death Drug review.)

Cosmetically, the LD-V6000A isn’t in bad shape at all. A little cleaning and this sucker would be loaded, cocked and ready to rock. So, why wasn’t it suitable to be placed before a hungry public that you just know would be fighting tooth and nail over it?

ld6

Because upon pressing the appropriate button, the damn disc tray refuses to slide out. Now, I’ve had plenty of vintage electronics with motorized disc trays that nowadays require a little prompting on the user’s part to get movin’. It comes with the territory, and indeed, my second Laserdisc player (which was also my first actual working one) needed a little help to get going in that area. So, the fact that the LD-V6000A’s motorized disc tray isn’t operating at optimal performance isn’t that big of a detriment. A little prying should do the trick…

…Except that isn’t remotely enough. Nope, this disc tray won’t come out for anyone or anything. I mean, it really doesn’t want to work. Something in the mechanism must be full-on broken.

It’ll be a cold day in hell before I let a mere Laserdisc player dictate what I can and can’t do. So…

ld7

Throwing caution to the wind, I yanked on the tray with all mah might, negligible though my strength may be. And I tell ya, you’ve got to REALLY pull on the tray door before it’ll give up the ghost. Nevertheless, from the picture above, you can see I was successful. Me: 1, LD: 0. Makes me feel like a big man.

In all fairness, I knew all this before I even brought the thing home. We tried it out in the store, ripped the tray out of it’s residence, and so on and so on. And we did put an LD in it, and it did indeed sound as if it ran. So, taxation of my muscles aside, that was a good sign, I guess. Then again, you never really know for sure until you hook it up proper.

The problem there is that I don’t have the right cables to hook it up proper. Scroll back up and look at that pic of the back of the unit. I have AV cables for the audio outputs, but the picture output doesn’t use those. I wasn’t prepared to invest any more time or effort in this thing other than what was immediately available to me. So, I plugged the audio cables into the front of my VCR, figuring that if I heard sound, I’d call it a success.

ld8

There was a good chance that even if the player didn’t work properly beforehand, the sweet, sweet voice of Phil Collins would snap it back into shape right quick. Ideally, I would have busted out my Bruce Springsteen Video Anthology 1978-1988 disc for this purpose, but that would have required back-breakin’ disc diggin’, and my interest in this whole thing was waning far too seriously for that.

Against all odds (get it?! BWAHAWHAWHAW!!!) and to the shock of millions dozens, I did indeed hear the appropriate sounds one would expect from a live Phil Collins Laserdisc. True, I couldn’t see the picture, but it didn’t sound like it was skipping or anything. Cautiously, I’ll file this one under “Workin’, yo.” I’d have never expected it to work, especially considering the motorized tray is all kinds of out-o’-order, but I guess it wasn’t an industrial strength LD player for nothing, huh?

ld5

There it be. It’s kind of a regal beast, ain’t it? Well, maybe “regal” isn’t the right description. I think “imposing” fits better. And what’s more imposing than a Laserdisc player that could easily flatten a car? I think next heavy snow, I’ll find a hill and use this thing as a sled. I’ll be the envy of all…?

Off in the distance, you’ll notice a portrait of Elvis, his visage watching over the LD-V6000A. It’s his birthday today, you know. I promise you I didn’t plan it that way, either. Twas just a happy coincidence.

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

mega1

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.

mega3

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.

mega5

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.

mega6

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.

mega7

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.”

mega12

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.

mega9

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.

mega10

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.

Memorex S-VHS Hi-Fi Stereo VCR – Model No. 16-705

svhs2

Look what I picked up at Goodwill today! An S-VHS VCR! I’ve never come across one of these “out in the wild” before! And for the low, low price of $5, no less! Goodwill is great about cheap VCRs, I’ve found some real winners there before. Today, they also had a Hi-Fi VHS VCR by GE from 1984 for the same price, but considering there was what looked like battery acid on the front as well as rust around where the tape loads, I didn’t even bother plugging that one in. Nevertheless, there’s a small part of me that still regrets not picking that one up anyway. But, I’ll survive; I bought a very high-end Panasonic Omnivision VCR from 1986 that works like a dream at the same Goodwill (also $5, if I recall correctly) last year, and since that’s not only my all-time favorite VCR “wild” find, but also my favorite VHS VCR period, well, in my mind there’s nowhere to go but down from there.

svhs1

Anyway, my newly-acquired Memorex S-VHS VCR. According to a bit of online research, this is apparently a “Model 35,” though all I see listed is the model number, 16-705. Looks like there was a door over the selectors on the front that is now missing, and there’s no date on it, but judging by the plastic casing, I’m guessing early-to-mid 1990’s, possibly late-1990’s (when did they stop making S-VHS units?). As a rule of thumb, I don’t like buying VCRs that new. By the 90’s, many VCRs were being made more on the cheap than they were in 80’s. So much so that with some of them, if they died, it was almost easier just buying a whole new one rather than having the old one repaired. That’s my general perception, though one of the best VCRs I ever bought (new) was a high-end VHS/DVD combo unit by Sony in 2005 that still creams anything you can buy new nowadays. So yeah, there were definite exceptions to my little rule. I’m guessing that because this is an S-VHS unit, it most likely cost more than your average VHS VCR back then (I mean, how could it not?), but I doubt this particular unit was any better than the models introduced in the U.S. in the late-1980’s. Don’t quote me on that, though.

svhs6 svhs7

I was under the impression that S-VHS was just the VHS equivalent of the Super Betamax; that is, you could use regular VHS tapes to record programs in a higher quality than a normal VHS VCR. But, it seems that’s not quite the case. You needed specific S-VHS cassettes to take advantage of the improved recording quality. According to Wikipedia, you could use a regular VHS tape, and the recording would look a bit better, but it would also become unwatchable after several months. Keep in mind that I have no first-hand experience in using an S-VHS VCR, I can only go by what I’ve read, so if I’ve got something a little wrong, go easy on me.

svhs4 svhs5

Alas, this unit may not work. Whatever tape you put in, the machine spits right back out, thankfully without eating it. Now, this may be because I don’t have any S-VHS tapes, only normal VHS cassettes, and the VCR recognizes that (however, from how I understand it, the machine should be able to *play* regular VHS tapes). Since there were differences, albeit apparently small differences, between the builds of the two cassettes, this makes sense. However, upon plugging the VCR in, it makes an audible ‘whining’ noise, which changes pitch slightly when “power” is pressed. I have no idea if this is normal for these VCRs or not. I knew about the machine spitting the tape out before I bought it (of course I plugged the thing in a grabbed a random tape lying about to test), and I actually put it back down, but my love of old VCRs got the better of me, and (obviously) I ended up buying it. Like I said, I’ve never come across one of these before, and cheap casing or not, I do actually like the look of the thing.

svhs8 svhs3

If this was a VCR that took regular VHS tapes but recorded in higher quality, I would have considered having it repaired and regularly using it (it has S-Video inputs! I could hook this up to my usual “recording” TV if I wanted!), but as it stands, it’s just another cool addition to my ever-growing VCR collection.

RCA VMT395 & General Electric 9-7675 VHS VCRs

Up till now, I’ve focused on cool things I’ve found on old videotapes. Now it’s time to look a bit on the old electronics side. I must apologize in advance if my pictures aren’t the greatest. For some reason, it’s a total pain-in-the-ass to get a decent VCR pic.

One of my hobbies that seems strange to some people is that I love collecting old VCRs. I think the fact I’ve gone through so many of them over the years has given me a weird affinity for them. Everytime I’m at a thrift store or the like and come across a unit that appeals to me and is a decent price, I pretty much have to buy it. Case in point: The two VCRs we’ll look at now.

rcavcr2

This first one I picked up several weeks ago for $10. Ten bucks is just a bit more than I like to pay for an untested unit, but I have no regrets. It’s not like it was a ton of money. Besides, I figured, even if it didn’t work, I’d rather have it in my hands than in a landfill somewhere,

It’s an RCA VMT395 HQ VHS VCR. Sucker even has Dolby stereo with the capability for noise reduction. It came with the original remote, but the thing was filthy enough that I could never in good conscience use it, even after a cleaning. There’s no date anywhere on the machine, but a bit of research indicates that it comes from 1986 or somewhere around that time-frame.

rcavcr1

Look at that, audio levels. When’s the last time VCRs came with that?  Given that and the number of functions this fella has leads me to believe that this may have been a relatively high-end unit for the time. I found a mega high-end unit for $5 a few months back (and which has become my all-time favorite VCR find for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that it performs beautifully and the number of functions it features is staggering), and while this RCA doesn’t feature as many functions as that one, it still does waaaay more than the cheapo VCRs being sold nowadays.

At the store where I found it, I grabbed a random VHS tape (one ostensibly used for testing) and tried out everything I could without hooking the unit up, and it seemed to play, rewind, fast forward, eject, etc. without issue. When I got it home, it did indeed work, although something in the store I didn’t notice was that while it rewound and such, it only did so with a fair bit of internal grinding.

When I tried the machine out again last week, it was no longer working properly, however. It didn’t eat any tapes, but it won’t actually play them, either. Oh well, still a pretty cool VCR.

This next machine I actually picked up yesterday, and I like it even more than the RCA.

gevcr2

It’s a General Electric 9-7675 3-Head HQ VHS VCR from 1987, also with Dolby stereo. I scored this sucker for $5, which is really my preferred amount to pay for untested VCRs. Well, I did test another random tape in it (should it have eaten the tape, I would have been out of one whole dollar), and this one seemed to work flawlessly. That doesn’t mean anything until you get it home and actually hook it up, of course.

gevcr3

Unlike the RCA, this one works like a champ. Really, I didn’t have any problems in any way. I didn’t try recording anything, but since I never buy old VCRs to record, that doesn’t matter to me one way or the other.

gevcr1

This one doesn’t seem to be as relatively high-end as the RCA, though it still does more than the bare-minimum machines sold within the last several years. The great thing about many (but not all) VCRs manufactured in the late-70’s, throughout the 1980’s, and even into the early-90’s is that they were built to last. I’ve had fairly good luck finding working units, and even units that don’t work are often worth having repaired (should I feel the need to do so).

By the mid-90’s or so, these things were being manufactured so cheaply that you were almost better off junking a dead machine and just buying a whole new one. My personal indicator of a cheaply made VCR? Plastic casing. I almost always pass those up. There have been exceptions, but that’s my personal rule of thumb.

This GE though? Nice solid metal casing, the way it should be. I think my biggest surprise regarding this unit (besides the fact that it works so incredibly well) is actually that it’s a GE, which is a manufacturer I’ve never really had any problems, but not one I’ve ever paid much attention to as far as VCRs go. Zenith, RCA, Panasonic, Sony, sure, but GE for some reason I always sort of associated with lower-end/cheap models.

Maybe that was unfair, or maybe I just lucked out and found a well-maintained machine. I couldn’t say one way or the other. All I know is that the GE was $5 well, well spent.