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Why’s it here:  The top end of the VCR market has been revitalised by the dramatic reduction in cost of Super VHS machines. Until now Panasonic has tended to stay out of the fray but now it has dived in feet first with the highly specified NV-HS960.

You have to be very determined to spend more than £400 on a VCR these days, and that includes most Super VHS models, so the Panasonic HS960 needs to be very special indeed to justify such a hefty price tag…


Any unique features: The HS960 is basically a high-end edit deck and home cinema machine. It has an abundance of video movie making facilities – the highlights are insert edit, audio dub, front AV sockets, syncro edit, timebase correction, digital noise reduction, manual audio level control. Impressive stuff but the headline features have to be S-VHS-ET and EP recording speed. ET or expansion technology allows Super VHS quality recordings to be made on ordinary VHS tape. EP recording speed triples tape running times so a 4-hour cassette lasts for 12 hours. Home cinema goodies include a sophisticated tape library system, Teletext and Close Caption subtitle display (it also records Teletext subtitles), there’s satellite control, album recording for archiving still images from a digital still camera, a super quick deck mechanism and it comes with a multi-brand TV remote.


How does it perform: Using HG tape there’s remarkably little difference between S-VHS and S-VHS-ET recordings, just a very small reduction in resolution – down from just under 400 lines to around 380 lines, and a barely noticeable increase in noise. Regular VHS recordings also look very good; resolution is a whisker under 250 lines with very little noise and good colour fidelity. EP recordings show a big jump in noise and noticeable reduction in picture detail – down to under 230-lines but it’s no worse than half-speed LP recording mode. It’s better in fact since still slomo and picture search are in colour, whereas trick play LP recordings are in black and white.


The stereo hi-fi soundtracks sound pretty good at all recording speeds, it has a flat wide and mostly uncoloured response, there’s a good deal of background hiss but it’s a little lower than average, compared with most other NICAM VCRs. 


Our Verdict: Between them the ET and EP recording options have a lot to offer demanding users. S-VHS-ET is a boon for movie-makers, especially since S-VHS tape is now getting expensive and harder to find. EP recording mode is not good enough for archiving but it’s great for serious time-shifting. The HS960 looks like a very good deal, undercutting the similarly specified but less camcorder friendly JVC S9700 by quite a significant margin.



Panasonic (08705) 357357, www.panasonic.co.uk




Features           S-VHS-ET, NICAM, stereo hi-fi sound, Video + timer with PDC, auto installation, NTSC playback, satellite control, multi-speed replay, audio dub, tape library system, timebase corrector, digital noise reduction, Q-Link, multi-brand TV remote, Album recording, manual recording level control, insert edit, syncro-record, Teletext and Closed Caption subtitle display


Sockets             2 x SCART AV in/out, S-Video in/out (mini DIN), composite video  & stereo line in/out (phono), 5-pin edit (mini DIN), Control L/Lanc (minijack), RF bypass (coaxial. Front: AV in (phono), S-Video in (mini DIN)                 


Dimensions            430 x 87 x 301mm     


Rival Buys

JVC HR-S9700, £550







Ó R. Maybury 2000, 2607



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