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Philips VCRs have been a pretty mixed bunch over the years but it looks like they’ve could have a winner on their hands with the VR-747



To say we were disappointed with the last Philips VCR we reviewed would be an understatement. In truth the VR-948 was a fine machine, but we preliminary information suggested it would be a LANC/Control L compatible edit deck, when it was nothing of the sort. Philips are being a bit more careful this time, and haven’t given the VR-747 any sort of build-up, which is a shame as it deserves to get noticed, not just as a well-specified stereo hi-fi NICAM machine, but as an edit deck as well. It meets our basic criteria, namely that it has a front-mounted AV terminal, audio dub, insert edit and a jog/shuttle dial, plus, for good measure, a syncro-edit system that’s on nodding terms with Control L and Panasonic 5-pin protocols.    


The 747 is an upgrade of the VR-727, the most visible differences are a completely re-designed front panel, the addition of the jog/shuttle dial and front AV terminal. It might not sound much but those changes have transformed what was a mediocre mid-range stereo VCR into a versatile all-rounder, that’s capable of holding its own as a simple-to-use timeshifter, stereo source component or movie-making tool.


The timeshifting facilities include Video Plus+ programming, with a PDC (programme delivery control) safety net. This system, currently only used by Channel 4, automatically corrects timer-controlled recordings for any late changes to the schedule, the other TV companies have still to commit themselves, so don’t buy any VCR on the strength of that one feature. Manual timer programming using the LCD remote is also very easy; Philips have adopted a Sony idea, whereby each item of information (time date, channel etc.) has it’s own dedicated ‘up/down’ switch, so the user isn’t forced to do things in a specified order. Its’ simple to set up too, it’s not quite in the ‘auto-install’ league but the automatic channel search works well, identifying and storing all locally available channels in the tuner memory. Mind you, if you want to do anything more than accept the default settings it starts to get a bit involved. Part of the problem is the lack of an on-screen display. The multi-lingual alphanumeric front-panel display is quite informative, but the amount of information it can show is limited, and not always easy to see across a living room.


Rounding off the features list there’s NTSC playback, 16:9 compatibility (maybe we’ll have something to watch one day, though we’ll have to get a widescreen TV first...), index search and intro scan, plus a remote handset that works the volume and channel up/down functions on Philips and Grundig TVs.



Some things never change, including Philips’s penchant for indeosyncratic control systems. To be fair this one isn’t too bad, though it still doesn’t have a proper pause mode -- pressing the ‘jog-on’ button halts the tape transport, after about half a second -- and to get it running again you have to press play. That’s bound to cause problems with edit controllers. There’s no on-button either, the standby key switches the machine off all right, but you have to press one of the other button to make it come on again.  Apart from that it works well, the deck mechanism is very good, fast and agile, and the jog/shuttle gives accurate control over tape speed and direction, including forward and reverse frame advance.



Picture quality is good, with resolution just over 250-lines. Recordings look clean, with bright, lifelike colours, and very little additional noise. Still slomo and fast play are all very steady, even on recordings not made on this machine.


Audio dubs are clean, insert edits are a bit hit and miss, we rarely managed to get to within less than a second of the designated edit out point.


The stereo soundtracks have a good dynamic range, with very low levels of background hiss. There’s no manual recording level control, in spite of the fact that it has a winking level display. The ALC has the usual problems coping with ‘busy’ musical soundtracks, that have large variations in volume, though most of the time it sounds fine.



Philips have not tried to be different with this one; it’s a refined and well thought-out stereo machine that video movie-makers should consider adding to their edit deck shortlist. Perhaps the biggest compliment we can pay is to say that it could almost pass for a Japanese designed machine...



Make/model                         Philips VR-747

Tape format         VHS

Guide price                      £460



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

Timer                               6-events, 31-days

Remote control                full function



System                             PAL SP/LP, HQ

Replay speeds          still, x1/5, x1/3, x1/2, x2, x5, x9 (forward), x3, x5, x9 (reverse)               


Main facilities

Slow motion          yes  

Multi-speed           yes   

Insert edit:          yes             

Jog/shuttle          yes

On-screen display          no     

Videoplus          yes

Index search          yes   

Intro Scan          yes

Instant timer          yes   

LCD remote          yes   

PDC timer          yes   

Repeat play          no

Record search          no     

NTSC replay          yes

Quasi S-VHS replay          no     

Auto play          yes

Auto head cleaner          yes   


Additional facilities

16:9 compatibility, station name display



Stereo Hi-Fi          yes   

Audio dub          yes   

Man level control          no     

Level display          yes

NICAM sound          yes   

Line output          yes   

H/phone level control          no     





Front AV terminal          yes   

Edit terminal           no

Microphone          no     

Headphones          no

SCART          twin  

Syncro edit          yes


Dimensions (mm)          380 x 343 x 98

Weight (kg)          5.4



Resolution         250-lines

Colour fidelity         good

Trick play stability         good

Colour bleed         none

Audio performance         average

Edit functions         good



Value for money         9

Ease of use         8

Performance         9

Features         8


R.Maybury 1994  1412



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