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Editing decks have been a little thin on the ground so far this year but Sony are about to make up for that with the superbly equipped SLV-E90



Weíve been looking forward to getting our hands on a SLV-E90 ever since we saw the first pre-production models back in April, and for once itís been worth the wait. The E90 is an edit deck first and foremost, though thereís no doubt it can give a very good account of itself as a TV timeshifter or home cinema component, but to use it solely for such mundane tasks would be a sad waste of its talents. The features that are of particular interest to us are a Control L (LANC) socket, front-mounted AV terminal, insert edit, audio and video dub, multiple-speed replay, record search, manual recording level control, tape tuning, to name just a few, and we could go on... However, we should also point out this is a top-notch Hi-Fi stereo machine with a NICAM decoder, Videoplus+ timer and PDC (program delivery control).


You might be wondering how much all this costs? Well, thereís no point beating about the bush, itís priced at £650, making it one of the most expensive VHS video recorders on the market, youíll have to make up you own mind as to whether or not itís worth it.


Itís halfway there on looks alone. If VCRs were people this one would be a macho medallion man, a real smoothie with the front panel closed, open it up and youíre looking at a set of very purposeful-looking controls and displays. Sony have made no attempt to pander to namby-pamby technophobes with this one... Beneath the centre-mount deck thereís an illuminated LCD panel, with a clever cassette graphic showing tape speed and direction. The only trouble with LC displays like this one is theyíre monochrome, so thereís no easy way of highlighting a particular function, like record, for instance. In fact thereís no visual record indicator at all in the display window, instead thereís a red LED indicator on the right side panel, which is easily missed.


To the left of the tape hatch thereís the all-important AV terminal with sockets for line-audio and composite video, headphones and Control L (LANC) edit control. There are also controls for headphone level, recording level and recording balance. The drop-down front panel has an assortment of buttons for secondary functions, plus the main transport control. This consists of a rotary shuttle ring with a play/stop switch in the middle. The shuttle ring controls trick play speed and direction in playback mode, and rewind/fast forward when the tape is unlaced. The remaining controls are concerned with special playback functions  (PAL/NTSC) and a backlight control for the LCD display. Around the back thereís a pair of SCART AV connectors, a set of AV line output phonos, plus the usual aerial and power connectors.



Initial set-up routines for the clock, tuner and Videoplus+ timer are simple enough, the E90 has an easy to use menu-driven on-screen display. The graphics have been designed to look like a computer display, with selections made by a moving cursor, controlled form a set of four direction buttons. Most operations are controlled from the remote handset, which is covered with rather a lot of small buttons, though  not all of them are for the VCR, it will also operate key functions (on/standby, channel change and volume) of Sony TVs. Tape transport is controlled from a shuttle ring, stop/play switch, identical to the one on the drop-down front panel.


The deck is fast and response, maybe not as quick as some weíve seen lately but weíre only talking about a few fractions of a seconds here. Changes of speed and direction are very smooth and even though it hasnít got a jog dial the shuttle ring gives good frame by frame control.



Picture quality is outstanding, the E90 has a tape tuning system (OPC or optimum picture control) which automatically assesses the characteristics of each tape as it is loaded. It definitely seems to have a beneficial effect when using higher-grade tapes, where noise levels are well below average. Resolution on our sample topped 250 lines, you canít get much better than that. Noise levels in general were very low and colours looked sharp and well defined. Still frame, slomo and fast replay were all very clean and it was possible to completely eliminate jitter.


We tried our sample with a couple of edit controllers (Video Director and MPE 2000) both were able to control all of the machines replay functions without any problems. The quality of second generation recordings was excellent, and here the OPC system really earns its keep, minimising quality losses and noise when using higher-grade tapes.


The E90ís stereo audio system performs very well indeed with lower than normal amounts of background hiss on the Hi-Fi soundtracks. NICAM sound was very crisp; weíve no doubt this machine will find its way into a lot of home entertainment systems.



No ifs or buts, we like it! The E90 is an outstanding edit deck, equally capable as a source or record machine. Itís also a top-notch stereo machine that would compliment any home cinema system. Only the price counts against it, and unless youíre going to make full use of the Control L terminal and editing facilities it would indeed be an extravagance, but for anyone into movie-making, and not irrevocably committed to the rival Panasonic 5/11-pin control system this machine should at the top of your list.



Make/model                         Sony SLV-E90

Tape format          VHS

Guide price                      £650



Max playing time            8-hours (E-240 tape LP mode)

Timer                               8-events/31-days

Remote control                full function



System                             PAL SP/LP, HQ

Replay speeds          9x, 7x, 2x, x1/5 still (both directions)             


Main facilities

Slow motion          yes   

Multi-speed           yes   

Insert edit:          yes             

Jog/shuttle          yes

On-screen display          yes   

Videoplus          yes

Index search          yes   

Intro Scan          no

Instant timer          yes   

LCD remote          no     

PDC timer          yes   

Repeat play          no

Record search          yes   

NTSC replay          yes

Quasi S-VHS replay          no     

Auto play          yes

Auto head cleaner          no     


Additional facilities



Stereo Hi-Fi                yes   

Audio dub          yes   

Man level control          yes   

Level display          yes

NICAM sound          yes   

Line output          yes   

H/phone level control          yes   





Front AV terminal                    yes   

Edit terminal           yes/LANC

Microphone          no     

Headphones          yes

SCART          twin  

Syncro edit          no


Dimensions (mm)     430 x 110 x 372

Weight (kg)              5.9



Resolution         250-lines

Colour fidelity         very good

Trick play stability         excellent

Colour bleed         none

Audio performance         excellent

Edit functions         excellent



Value for money                 8

Ease of use                      8                

Performance                     10

Features                        9



R.Maybury 1994  2608



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