Buying Satellite





A combined satellite receiver and 2-speed VHS video recorder for less than £300, whatís the catch? Rick Maybury looks at the unbelievably cheap Matsui VSR-1500



So what is the catch? A halfway decent mono VCR costs at least £300, and you wonít get much change out of £100 for a full-spec stereo satellite receiver. The catch is fairly obvious, both components are very basic, and the VCR doesnít work very well. Itís not without its surprises though, the Matsui VSR-1500 which is sold exclusively through Dixons is actually built in the UK, though not by any of the major Japanese companies who have assembly plants here. A brief internal examination suggests it may have originated from the Orion factory; one thing is for sure, though, itís definitely not related to the Sharp BS97, the only other satellite VCR on the market,.


The VCR is a 2-head design with a mono linear soundtrack. Thatís unfortunate in view of the fact the STV tuner has a stereo output, with a reasonably effective Wegner Panda 1 noise reduction system. That means recordings of satellite channels made on this machine have all the hiss put back, and then some... Two recording heads mean manky LP performance, and no trick-play facilities to speak of, unless you count an almost unwatchable pause, wide noise bars and flashing colour during picture search. That wouldnít be so bad were it not for the indifferent SP performance. The manufacturers claim a horizontal resolution of 240-lines, out sample barely managed 230-lines, and that was being generous. On screen it translates into rather fuzzy looking pictures, a fair amount of noise and wonky colours. To add to its woes the manual deck controls, hidden behind a hinged flap on the front panel, are badly labelled and difficult to find -- loose the remote handset at your peril! The tuner set-up routine is slow and the front-panel transport mode displays are far too small and very hard to see from more than a few feet away.


The satellite section makes up some of the lost ground. The receiver is reasonably sensitive, pictures look clean and thereís only modest amounts of noise, even on the below par Astra channels, sound quality is very good. Unfortunately itís not equipped to handle broadcasts from Astra 1D, and the 48-channel memory is woefully inadequate. For some peculiar reason the TV tuner also has a 48-channel memory, which seems daft with only four terrestrial channels on offer (six if you live in a fringe area...). The satellite tuner is reasonably flexible though, with fairly good access to the tuner, and it has a generous 30-mode audio system. However, thereís no favourite channel option so users will have to use the channel skip facility to cut out unwanted channels, or go to the trouble of re-tuning the channel memory, and thatís no joke.


The cosmetics are plain, it has a sluggish centre-loading deck mechanism with an unusually stiff loading action. Itís bad enough trying to cram tapes into the machine but getting them out again is even harder; the eject button lives behind the front panel flap, and has been cleverly hidden amongst the score of so other little black buttons. It has a single card slot on the left side of the machine, itís uncovered so families with small inquisitive members might need to tape it in place. The hinged control flap on the right side is also not going to last more than five minutes, if thereís kids about.


On the back panel thereís three SCART AV connectors, plus a D-connector for an external decoder. Thereís also a pair of phono sockets for stereo line output, one F-connector for the dish, and a pair of RF sockets for the terrestrial TV aerial. The keys on the remote handset are shaped and fairly well spaced, though thereís rather a lot of them. It has a built-in LCD display panel, but this remains inactive most of the time as itís only used for programming the VCR timer. The handset is not especially easy to use, or logically laid out, and switching between satellite and VCR functions can be quite tricky. Indeed itís possible to get into a complete mess and end up recording the wrong thing without knowing it.


Not a big success then. The best you can say about the VSR-1500 is that itís very cheap and it simplifies the problem of making time-shifted recordings of satellite channels. Sadly those recordings donít look very good, and they sound even worse, which is a shame as the off-dish audio is quite good. The STV channel memory is hopelessly under-rated, the controls are awful and the operating systems make life very difficult indeed. Give it a miss.





Format/System                        VHS/PAL

Recording speeds             SP & LP

Audio                                       mono linear

Timer                                       4-events/28-days

Resolution                               230 lines

TV channels                             48



Receiver frequency                    964.25 - 1685.50mhz

IF Bandwidth               27Mhz

Dynamic range                        -30 to -60dBm

STV channels                          48

Audio                                       Wegner Panda 1

Sub-carriers                             30 mode

De-emphasis                            switchable 50us/J17



LNB inputs                               1 x 75-ohm  F-connector

AV sockets                               3 x SCART, 1 D-type decoder, 2 x phono stereo line out 

Retail price                              £299.99 (£350 with 60cm dish)

Mains supply                            240V AC50Hz

Dimensions                              430 x 370 x 100mm

Weight                         6.5kg



R. Maybury 1994 1110



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