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STANDFIRST

Philips joins the fray at the budget end of the Super VHS VCR market with the VR1000

 

COPY

The badge on the front panel might say Philips but inside the VR1000 beats the heart of a JVC machine, itís based on or is very close to the HR-S7600 budget S-VHS deck. Apart from the obvious similarities in the general specification, panel layouts and on-screen display, JVC pioneered features like Rec Link and  R.A.Edit are a dead give-away (more about them in a moment). Not that thereís anything wrong or unusual about badge engineering, it has a long and honourable history in VCR manufacturing but itís a bit of a shame in this instance since Philips has come up with some cracking S-VHS machines of its own in recent years, including the brilliant VR969 (the one with the nifty white faced analogue clock inset on the front panel).

 

It seems likely that Philips cannot build Super VHS video recorders as cheaply as JVC, which is not surprising, it is a part of the market they know very well and it is they who have been calling the shots over S-VHS VCR pricing for the past three years, with some incredibly low-priced machines. But whatever the reasoning behind the VR1000 it gives Philips a much-needed presence in the newly invigorated budget S-VHS sector with a modestly well-specified and attractively priced machine. The street price is likely to be in the region £330 to £350. Itís not much to look at though, especially when compared with several recent eye-catching offerings from Philips, this is plain vanilla black box technology for those who like their AV components to look anonymous. 

 

In addition to all of the usual NICAM VCR home cinema bits and bobs (stereo hi-fi sound, Video Plus+ timer with PDC, auto installation, NTSC replay and a multi-brand TV control covering 16 makes) notable extras include a digital timebase corrector -- for de-jittering old worn or noisy tapes -- thereís 4-mode (auto, distinct, sharp or soft) picture processing facility called SmartPicture, and DSPC or digital studio picture control. This is basically a tape tuning system that checks the condition of a tape before commencing recording or playback, the test routine starts when a tape is loaded for the first time and takes around 7 seconds. Thereís also switchable digital noise reduction called 3R, which is linked to the timebase corrector. By the way, frequently used buttons on the remote handset light up when you use them (just like some JVC handsets) and around the back of the VCR there is twin SCART connectors, a pair of phono sockets for stereo line output and a remote pause jack.

 

Those Rec Link and R.A.Edit features we spoke of earlier are worth a quick look. Rec Link is a simple satellite recording system. Usually VCRs with a satellite recording use their on-board timers to switch the sat box on and set the channel by transmitting IR commands. With Rec Link itís the other way around, you program the timer in the satellite receiver, when it comes on the video signal present on the SCART lead Ė connecting the sat box to the VCR Ė puts the VCR into record mode for the duration of the program. Donít get too excited about the R.A.Edit socket (R.A stands for random assemble), itís the remote pause socket we mentioned a moment ago; the key point is that it works with JVC VCRs that have built in R.A.Edit control facilities.    

 

Sadly, apart from the inherent advantages of Super VHS picture quality and to a lesser extent, R.A.Edit compatibility, thereís not much to get a budding video editorís juices flowing. Multi-speed replay and the jog/shuttle dials on the front panel and handset are always welcome of course, as are the front mounted AV sockets (S-Video, composite video and stereo line audio inputs) situated behind a little flap on the front panel. The wired remote pause will almost certainly work with some other types edit controllers (no, we donít know which ones) and it does have audio dub, but that is about it. Features that sound they should be of interest, like the timebase corrector and noise reduction/picture sharpener systems are really only of use when using this machine as a source or replay deck. Donít get us wrong, weíre certainly not suggesting it wouldnít pass muster as a competent high-band recording machine in an editing set-up but functionally the VR1000 is better suited to home cinema applications.

 

Itís an easy VCR to get to know and auto Installation fires up automatically the first time it is plugged into the mains and switched on. Even so it is unusually slow and out sample took well over four minutes to sort out the five locally available terrestrial stations. Slow it may have been but it was thorough and it ignored weak or unstable stations, it also managed to assign station names to the five stored channels and put them into the correct order for Video Plus+ timer operation. It wasnít so clever with the time and date though, and these had to be set manually for some strange reason.

 

PERFORMANCE

The deck mechanism is very responsive, able to change speed and direction with minimal fuss or grinding of gears. Philips couldnít resist slapping a Turbo Drive logo on the shipping carton but JVC decks are not noted for being especially quick, our sample managed to wind a three hour tape from end to end in just under 2 minutes.

 

On screen it looks good, low-band VHS resolution came in at just under 250-lines, noise levels are a little lower than average, colours are clean and reasonably natural looking. Resolution jumps to a little over 380-lines on S-VHS recordings and if anything noise levels are a whisker lower, though this is probably down to more efficient tape formulation. Trick play stability is excellent, still frame and slomo are both very steady and noise bars in picture search are well suppressed, though some heavy-duty processing is evident and the picture takes on a unusual texture.

 

The Smart Picture options were a bit harsh and it was usually better to leave it in the Auto mode. 3R noise reduction also gave the picture a slight but noticeable texture and fast movement sometimes looked a bit fuzzy. 

 

Sound quality on the stereo hi-fi soundtracks is fine, there is some background hiss but itís no more than normal. The response is typically wide and flat and well inside the home cinema ballpark.

 

THE VERDICT

Shop around and you probably wonít find thereís too much difference in the street price of this machine and budget Super VHS video recorders from other makers. Thatís a pity because the VR1000 has little else to make it stand out from the crowd. Itís definitely not going to win any beauty contests and thereís comparatively little in the way of features that will appeal to serious movie makers, there is the Philips name though Ė even if it is only the name Ė which still has a certain cachet.

 

VCR SPECS

Make/model                         Philips VR1000

Tape format          Super VHS

Guide price                      £330

 

TAPE DECK

Max playing time         8-hours (E/SE240)

Timer         8-events, 365-days/Video Plus+ with PDC

Remote control         full function multi-brand TV

 

VIDEO

System         PAL, SP, HQ, NTSC

Replay speeds         slomo & picture search

 

Main facilities

Slow motion          yes   

Multi-speed           yes   

Insert edit:          no     

Jog/shuttle          yes

On-screen display          yes   

Video Plus+          yes

Index search          yes   

Intro Scan          no

Instant timer          yes   

LCD remote          no     

PDC timer          yes   

Repeat play          yes

Record search          no     

NTSC replay          yes

Quasi S-VHS replay          n/a    

Auto play          yes

Auto head cleaner          yes   

 

Additional facilities

Auto installation, NexTViewLink, digital timebase corrector, digital noise reduction, multi brand TV remote, tape tuning, Rec Link auto satellite recording

 

AUDIO

Stereo hi-fi          yes   

Audio dub          yes   

Man level control          no     

Level display          yes

NICAM sound          yes   

Line output          yes   

 

GENERAL

Sockets          rear: AV in/out (2 x SCART), S-Video out (mini DIN), line audio out (phono) remote pause (minijack), Front: AV in (phono), S-Video in (mini DIN)

 

Front AV terminal                    yes          /no

Edit terminal           no

Microphone          no     

Headphones          no

SCART          twin   

Syncro edit          see text

 

Dimensions (mm)            435 x 94 x 343mm

Weight (kg)          4.8kg

 

PERFORMANCE          VHS/S-VHS

Resolution         <250-lines/>380-lines 

Colour fidelity         good/good

Trick play stability         good/good

Colour bleed         negligible/none

Audio performance         average/average

Edit functions         fair

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money         9

Ease of use         8       

Performance         8

Features         8

 

---end---

” R. Maybury 2000 1201

 

 


 

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