VIDEO CAMERA 1995

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REVIEW

 

HEAD

FLAP-JAP

 

INTRO

They were first with on-screen displays and remotely programmable timers, now Akai continue to innovate, this time with the very first motorised display panel and cassette flap on the VS-G815, but what else can it do?

 

COPY

We can usually depend on Akai to liven things up, just when we feared mid-market VCRs were becoming rather predictable, along comes the VS-815. Weíll remember this machine for a lot of things, not least the AV performance and better than average movie-making facilities, but the feature that really caught our eye, and kept us amused for several hours, was the cassette flap. Itís no ordinary cassette flap, to begin with itís motorised, and the lightest touch makes it flip up out of the way, but it also doubles up as the VCRs main display panel as well, which may explain its lively nature. Moving it smartly out of harms way protects the delicate fluorescent display panel from being bashed and scratched every time a tape is inserted.

 

Fascinating though it is, thereís much more to this machine than a motorised cassette flap, Thereís Super I-HQ for instance. Super I-HQ is the latest in a series of developments that began back in 1985 with the introduction of the original HQ system. HQ is a set of standardised picture enhancements, concerning non-linear pre-emphasis, white clip-level, noise cancellation and inter-track crosstalk reduction, since you asked. In 1990 Akai took HQ processing one stage further with Intelligent HQ, first seen on the VS-650 stereo video recorder. I-HQ was in effect a tape tuning system that optimised the VCRís HQ circuitry to suite the the characteristics of the tape. Super I-HQ incorporates additional refinements, such as automatic colour level controls, recording current level control and precision recording heads which together produce a distinct improvement in LP recording quality, as well as top-notch SP performance. 

 

The 815 also has one of the best stereo sound systems weíve seen (and heard) lately. Not only has it got a manual recording level control, it has a microphone input and variable headphone output as well. That means itís well-equipped for video movie-making, but just as importantly, itíll give a good account of itself as a home cinema component as well, and in addition to twin SCART sockets it has a secondary set of phono AV inputs and outputs especially for a satellite receiver. However, back to movie-making, the 815 has a front-mounted AV terminal and the three phono sockets are protected by a small transparent cover that slides out of the way when theyíre needed -- a very neat touch. It has audio dub for the mono linear soundtrack, edit search (picture search in the record-pause mode) and multi-speed replay, controlled by a jog/shuttle control on the remote handset. The only thing missing is an edit terminal, but that would be asking just a little too much, wouldnít it?

 

Timerphobes will be glad to know the 815ís Ďone-touchí and remotely programmable timers are augmented by a Video Plus+ timer, with a PDC safety. However, as youíre doubtless aware PDC or programme delivery control, which corrects timer settings for overruns and late schedule changes, only works on Channel 4 broadcasts at the moment. Itís 16:9 widescreen compatible, another feature that not going to get a lot of use as there are no suitably coded tapes on the market right now (or likely to be in the foreseeable...).  The remainder of the features list is fairly routine, but weíll give a mention anyway; it includes index search and intro scan, a multi-lingual on-screen display and a fast, centre-mounted deck mechanism.

 

Setting up the 815 poses no special problems; all operations are controlled by the multi-lingual, menu-driven on-screen display. Time and date information is entered via the remote handset, and the is set to tuner seek out and memorise all of the locally available TV stations. Itís not the fastest system weíve used but in most cases it can be up and running in about ten minutes. The first time itís used the Video Plus+ timer requests channel data for each timer recording but these are memorised, and only have to be entered once. Normal operation couldnít be simpler, the 815 does what itís told without a murmur and the deck is fast and responsive, and itís easy to locate specific points within a recording. Super I-HQ tape tuning is manually activated  by pressing the I-HQ and record buttons after youíve loaded a fresh tape, the machine then automatically makes a short test recording, and analyses the results, so it can determine the grade and quality of the tape. That takes around 25 seconds, after which the machine is left in the record-pause mode. The VCR stores the settings until a new tape is loaded.

 

PERFORMANCE

Or sample turned in a very respectable set of results. Resolution was spot on 250-lines, recordings made on standard grade tape without Super I-HQ looked crisp, with well defined colours; there was a further small increase in sharpness with higher grade tapes and the Super I-HQ system engaged, we also tried it with Super VHS tapes, though the tiny reduction in noise -- compared with a good quality HG tape -- hardly justifies the extra cost. The biggest improvements were on LP recordings on HG tape, using the Super I-HQ system; resolution was over 230-lines, they could just about pass for SP recordings, only the wobby LP trick play and hissy mono soundtrack gave the game away.

 

Sound quality from the stereo hi-fi tracks is very good, tracking is clean and thereís no switching noise, background hiss is at a very low level. The NICAM decoder works well too, with very low noise levels.

 

THE VERDICT

If we sat down and really thought about it we could probably come up with a couple of minor niggles but that would be unnecessarily picky. Thereís nothing wrong with this machine, AV performance is excellent and it has the sort of features that will appeal in equal measure to video movie-makers, home cinema enthusiasts and TV time-shifters, in fact a real crowd pleaser, at a price thatís very fair indeed.

 

VCR SPECS

Make/model                         Akai VS-G815

Tape format         VHS

Guide price                      £480

 

TAPE DECK

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

Timer                               8-events, 365-days

Remote control                full function

 

VIDEO

System         PAL SP/LP, S-IHQ

Replay speeds         x1/10, x1/5, x2, x3, x5, x7 (forward), x1/12, x1/8, x3, x5, x7 (reverse)

 

Main functions             

Slow motion          yes  

Multi-speed           yes   

Insert edit:          no     

Jog/shuttle          yes

On-screen display          yes   

Videoplus          yes

Index search          yes   

Intro Scan          yes

Instant timer          yes   

LCD remote          yes   

PDC timer          yes   

Repeat play          no

Record search          yes   

NTSC replay          no

Quasi S-VHS replay          no     

Auto play          yes

Auto head cleaner          no     

 

Additional facilities    Display dimmer, blank search, return to zero, next mode

 

AUDIO      

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   

     

 

GENERAL

Sockets

Front AV terminal          yes   

Edit terminal           no

Microphone          yes   

Headphones          yes

SCART          twin  

Syncro edit          no

 

Dimensions          425 x 104 x 282mm

Weight          5kg

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution         250-lines

Colour fidelity         very good

Trick play stability         very good

Colour bleed         none

Audio performance         very good

Edit functions         good

        

VC RATINGS

Value for money         9

Ease of use         8

Performance         9

Features         9

---end---

R.Maybury 1994  1611

 


 

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