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Old 15th Sep 2020, 5:17 pm   #1
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Default VHS Machine Brands - Tops and Flops

Hello all,

Just finishing up my video essay on VHS audio.

Just a quick straw poll (and please, feel free to paint in the broadest of brush-strokes) but for domestic VHS with HiFi capability which brands offer the best in terms of reliability and quality.

Obviously we can instantly discount any garbage from the Amstrad/Funai stable, coupled with the Bush, Alba, Orion and Matusi entry points.

I would go toward recommending JVC, Panasonic, Sony, Philips and Toshiba off of the top of my head but this is just guess work - I'll throw it wide open to your learned types in these matters. I know in the very last death throes of VHS a lot of the leading brands were rebadging some right old rubbish. Not sure where Sharp fits in, I have a working late 90s Sharp deck which seems fine but I get the distinct impression Sharp sat at the very bottom of the acceptable stuff.

Not really interested in recommending exotic brands (B&O, Marantz etc if they every made such things) nor anything not available in the UK.

No right or wrong answers, any really common models worth looking for or avoiding are welcome though.

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Old 15th Sep 2020, 6:26 pm   #2
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Default Re: VHS Machine Brands - Tops and Flops

I never really did much with the TV side of things - but a friend who did was a fan of Ferguson - by the mid-80s their stuff was decent enough both in terms of performance [the video playback quality being limited by the production-process at the plant where the tapes were recorded] and reliability [he was a Ferguson dealer, happy to sell a Ferguson knowing he probably wouldn't ever hear about it again!].

My parents had a Ferguson which worked just fine for their relatively-simple sharing-of-light-opera amongst their circle of friends. My late-father never got the hang of the VideoPlus+ "Pluscodes".

The coming of DVD in the mid-90s made VHS obsolete pretty much overnight, as studios stopped releasing their content on VHS.
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Old 15th Sep 2020, 7:04 pm   #3
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Default Re: VHS Machine Brands - Tops and Flops

Gotta agree with Ferguson, I just love their late 80's early 90's machines. Ive an FV20B, FV21R and and FV37H, all fully working, ive two dead ones two an FV41R and FV52L both have damaged boards...will never work again unless i find some donor machines.

I love the late 80's sharp machines, Ive an VC-H81 works perfect and I have to say their late 90's early 2000's machines Ive never had a fault with one (besides heads needing cleaning) ive a silver one from around 2005 that works perfect (cant remember the model) never ever had a fault on it.

Id like to throw into the mix Sanyo, always loved the Sanyo machines from the 90s Ive three of them VHR88 and VHR274 and another one i cant remember the model of, all have always worked flawlessly for me (two of the sanyo's i pulled from the recycling bin in an electrical shop, nothing at all wrong with them.

Ive a Goldstar machine too that had a dim display when i got it, little 22uf cap in the power supply, replacement sorted it right out, its my test machine now for when im working on CRTs to test the tuner.

Ive got a Grundig Machine that uses a Philips deck, cant remmeber the model, from 2000 i think, repaired a fault on it about 15 years ago where it was chewing tapes and its never gone wrong since.

Ive a few Philips machines too but they're nothing to write home about.

Got an old Telefunken model that i got at a car boot sale about 12 years ago for 2 euro, works perfect, the Ferguson Equivelent is an FV11R i think. Its a J2T machine anyway.

I had a few Mitsubishi Machines too that I loved but they ended up broken beyond repair when both of them fell while being moved to another location and could never get them working right afterwards.

I suppose the best use for a VCR now is a nice digital clock in the room, the bright VFD's on them make them excellent clocks, especially if your waking up in the morning and its still dark out, throw your eyes on the vcr for the time and realise i'll be late for work if i dont get a move on
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Old 16th Sep 2020, 1:20 pm   #4
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Default Re: VHS Machine Brands - Tops and Flops

From personal experience:-

Panasonic, NV830, NV850 & NV870, all offered HiFi Tracking for optimum reproduction. Later good models (which I still have), NV-F55. For S-VHS, the NV-FS90. I also have a late NV-HD950, but find the digital picture 'controls' make things look grainy. I did have an NV-HD100 & NV-HD680, now sold.

JVC, S-VHS, the HR-S4700EK, still have it and a whole bunch of spares, very good machine, came with Teletex adaptor too, which I still have.

The HiFi machines in the late 90's by Philips produced good results, cannot remember model numbers now, but they had the 'Turbo Mech!'

Sharp made nice calculators never impressed with the painfully slow VCR mechs, which would do 97,000 shuffles on initial power up, and in stop mode (from play), & would you believe it, before & after ejecting!

Toshiba had a couple of good'ns, V703B, particularly good on Nicam (No use now). There was another, my woolly head saying a V711(?) had bass-boost, which ruined everything, but if 'off' mode, was good & had HiFi tracking too.

Sony units seemed to age well, and rarely came into the workshop, aside from ageing Beta units. Only one I have now, a Red SL-C20.

B&O's were either Hitachi re-badged or Philips. Looked nice

Fisher 'Studio Standard' VCR's weren't too bad (Sanyo at heart I think), they also had no regard for Macrovision (apparently), as these VCR's had no AGC circuit(?) Dreadfully slow RR/FF, but worked well.

Slowly turning the 'to-do', into 'ta-dah'
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Old 16th Sep 2020, 1:39 pm   #5
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Default Re: VHS Machine Brands - Tops and Flops

Marantz made some machines for Philips in the late 1980's and early 1990's, so you might have encountered one without realising. They can be recognised by the Panasonic mechanism and the 'not quite Philips or Panasonic' electronics. In the turbo deck days they did make one or two multisystem turbo mechanism recorders as well, which were sold both as Philips and as Grundig in different European countries.

I don't remember Sharp machines as being particularly slow. I always thought of the Panasonic G mechanism as being particularly slow, though.
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Old 16th Sep 2020, 2:18 pm   #6
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Default Re: VHS Machine Brands - Tops and Flops


I always found the JVC/Ferguson machines to be the best overall for serviceability and performance. Many genuine spare parts were very reasonably priced including video heads. Panasonic being a close second, excellent performers but some machines were a little more tricky to service especially those that were fitted with the G deck.
Sharp, Hitachi, Philips and Toshiba all being good performers and reasonable for servicing. I had a few bad experiences with some Mitsubishi machines so never really warmed to them.

I found the deck mechanics in the JVC/Ferguson machines to be very easy to work on and the company's service information was second to none.
I never had much to do with Beta or V2000 systems so can't really comment on those.


Last edited by Philips210; 16th Sep 2020 at 2:31 pm. Reason: typo
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Old 16th Sep 2020, 2:27 pm   #7
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Default Re: VHS Machine Brands - Tops and Flops

JVC VHS machines were the ones that rental companies chose from the early 1980s, for the reasons Symon's outlined.

In terms of finding a plug-and-play machine which will play HiFi sound tapes well, I've found the late 1990s Panasonics with the Z-mechanism very good and in plentiful supply. However, there's a loading motor coupler (?) which routinely splits. Easy to replace, but are they still available? I doubt it!

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Old 16th Sep 2020, 4:06 pm   #8
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Default Re: VHS Machine Brands - Tops and Flops

Without doubt early Panasonic machines, they were heavily engineered and excellent performers, never got on with the g-deck jobs but electrically they were fine, after that Ferguson jvc and mitsubishi did some good stuff, Philips units were ok but quickly crumbled under the heavy use our particular customer base gave them, especially the pinch roller which would disintergrate with the use of wet head cleaners.
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Old 16th Sep 2020, 4:10 pm   #9
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Default Re: VHS Machine Brands - Tops and Flops

Ferguson 3V29,they run forever!
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Old 16th Sep 2020, 4:24 pm   #10
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Default Re: VHS Machine Brands - Tops and Flops

Originally Posted by HamishBoxer View Post
Ferguson 3V29,they run forever!
3V29/3V30 both favs for trouble free rental machines.

Always tried to avoid selling the Schneider badged vcrs which may well have been rebadged Amstrads but cant swear to it.
Oh I've had that for years dear!!
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Old 16th Sep 2020, 9:51 pm   #11
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Default Re: VHS Machine Brands - Tops and Flops

Ah yes, Schneider VCRs. Idler problems and damaged tapes seemed to be common faults at least in the ones that I encountered.

OT but I'll never forget having a Schneider 14" (STV1500 or similar?) portable in for repair. It had a severely arcing LOPTx. I duly ordered a replacement from the repair agents spares dept and received the wrong part. Returned item with accompanying letter and then again received the same wrong part. More phone calls and plenty of wasted time. Was told I must be quoting the wrong model number. Starting to get irate. I then returned the second wrong replacement together with the original faulty LOPTx. A few days later, I received, at long last, the correct part with no explanation or apology. What a saga for a rubbishy old colour portable. I was well out of pocket on that repair and to add insult to injury the customer was moaning about the repair charge ( which was very fair in my opinion). I never wanted to see one of those sets again and thankfully didn't.

Not such happy memories.


Last edited by Philips210; 16th Sep 2020 at 10:19 pm. Reason: typo
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Old 16th Sep 2020, 10:00 pm   #12
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Default Re: VHS Machine Brands - Tops and Flops

Agree with the comments. However, we have a Matsui VCR that still works perfectly, well almost but not the fault of the machine.

It had automatic time setting which stopped working in 2012. I realised this coincided with the analogue switch off.

Its ability to replay tapes recorded in the 1980s is second to none at equal quality to how they looked on older VCRs. Never used it for recording though.
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Old 16th Sep 2020, 10:39 pm   #13
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Default Re: VHS Machine Brands - Tops and Flops

I sought out a Panasonic FS88B and the FS90 is similar. Excellent audio and pretty decent vision, especially S-VHS over RGB SCART or S-Video.

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Old 16th Sep 2020, 10:46 pm   #14
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The Panasonic G deck: having a single motor perform absolutely all functions including tape carriage /ejection= lunacy. The minute one bit goes out of time the entire thing grinds to a halt and needs a complex rebuild. Then the airless PSU always needs rebuilding as the caps dried out. Excess voltage here can harm other components. Hi end models suffer form SMD cap leaking destroying the board (speak form bitter experience) Good picture when they do work!

Philips Turbo: interesting to see a VCR made almost entirely out of plastic! Fine for light use and has rapid response. A few well known stock faults like cracked loading pinion and original pinch rollers going hard and crumbly. Then when more wear becomes apparent they're scrap.

Panasonic D deck. Okay when they work but leave them unused for a while and the rubber idler or mode switch suffers. Plus, many have that annoying 'hold down' fast wind!

Late 90s Daewoo and LG: generally reliable, some mode switch trouble but easy to dismantle and clean

Thomson R 2000/ R3000 - Fine when they work but overcomplicated PSU. The R2000 has a weird pinch roller like the dreaded Philips Charlie.

JVC: fine until the mid 90s when they tried to imitate Philips with a plastic mech. Not pretty. I have a wonderful HR-D750 from circa 1990 which is among the last great JVC decks IMO.

Sanyo: the p90 mech was very responsive and service friendly. Later machines, from late 90s on, all seem to suffer mode switch problems notably tape tangling/looping on eject and mediocre performance.

Grundig: their early direct drive mechs were close to Betamax. very innovative.Their later ones were sourced from Panasonic and Philips.

Samsung: their 90s machines are quite nice but like the Panny Z mechs I find the controls rather unresponsive.The later '00s silver ones have very flimsy mechs ditto for Sony.

Hitachi/Sharp: very limited experience with these, though I have a Sharp talking handset (!) and monophonic multi-standard variants made by both.

My day to day preference is for the late 90s Sony. SLV-E820, SLV-E80 etc. The earlier SLV777 is a masterpiece.

It also has to be said that brands are by themselves not a reliable guide to acquiring a decent video. For example Philips has used Panasonic Sharp ad Funai mechs apart from their own. Early Sony used Panasonic G-decks and also the aforementioned Sanyo P90. Within a brand there can be huge variations in quality within the range (lower--> upper range models) and over time.

Last edited by ben; 16th Sep 2020 at 11:06 pm.
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Old 16th Sep 2020, 11:14 pm   #15
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Default Re: VHS Machine Brands - Tops and Flops

I certainly remember having many problems with Amstrad machines. The worst issue was tape edge damage due to a faulty clutch assembly. As with most awkward mechanical faults in VCRs, I found it a false economy fitting pattern deck parts. Some pinch rollers were quite warped which didn't help.

At one stage, I had quite a lot of trouble with Sharp decks where a pattern reel idler was fitted. It was difficult to establish the exact reason for its poor operation. The tyre seemed to be OK but believe it may have been excessive friction in the idler wheel. Also, when going from Rew to FF or vice versa the idler didn't seem to make a firm contact with the relevant reel turntable. Those idlers were therefore complete junk! Most pattern belt kits were generally OK though.
Genuine parts are cheaper in the long run for a reliable repair and for maintaining customer relations.

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Old 17th Sep 2020, 10:07 am   #16
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I can't only vouch for the late 1990s Sony going by my SLV-E730, though don't keep them plugged in unless you want to fry the caps in the power supply!

The similarly aged Philips that's given me no problems. Same with the compact Sharp VC-MH815 I got from the same reconditioning place in Macclesfield. The owner thought the Philips had a fault and threw in the Sharp for free! It turns out it was the power save mode kicking in.
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Old 17th Sep 2020, 10:52 am   #17
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A digital radio is the latest thing, but a vintage wireless is forever..
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Old 17th Sep 2020, 11:12 am   #18
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I can certainly agree as regards comments as regards the ferguson 3 v29-3v30,ntrymy preferemce was the 3v16 and also the jvc 3360, and also the panasonic nv8610 ,now although these are not hi-fi or stereo machines as the original post ,its just my 2 penny worth mostly worn heads because of bacj tension too high or belts and cassette lamps needing replacing some basic faults but fairly easy to repair and a basic level for owning a vcr ,and my personal favourites were the Sony SL-C9s and the SL-HF 950s
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Old Yesterday, 2:34 am   #19
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Default Re: VHS Machine Brands - Tops and Flops

Later machines I would always go with Panasonic G,K, and Z mech models.

Older models I'd say the vcr my parents had. It was a Granada branded Hitachi I believe similar to the VTR-800E. Out all my own recorded vhs tapes, the ones recorded on this machine have the best picture. I don't remember it ever giving my parents any troubles, nor remember it being serviced too, it was very reliable machine. It did eventually have a problem with it's loading cradle around the year 2000 and was put out of service, as I purchased a new Matsui machine for them that year as a Christmas present to replace it.
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Old Yesterday, 8:44 am   #20
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Default Re: VHS Machine Brands - Tops and Flops

Originally Posted by HamishBoxer View Post
Ferguson 3V29,they run forever!
Totally agree 3V29/3V30 loved them, very reliable, well designed, very unlucky to get a difficult one.
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