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AKAI VS-G2400EK , £ 1000 *****

 

Whyís it here? Akai have a long history of firsts They pioneered on-screen displays, remote timer programming, and surround sound VCRs. Unfortunately, in the latter case they were well ahead of their time and back in 1991 the world just wasnít ready for home cinema VCRs. Now they judge the time is right, the VS-G2400 has a built-in Dolby Pro Logic decoder, plus a whole lot more.

 

Any unique features? Itís loaded! The DPL decoder has line-level outputs for front, centre and rear channels, for maximum flexibility. It comes with a pair of infra-red rear channel speakers, all you need to get it up and running is a hi-fi system and TV. Itís the first VCR to have twin flying erase heads, for perfect edits and inserts, and itís now the only video recorder with Startext, for timer programming from teletext pages; it can display text and record text sub-titles as well, a useful bonus for the hard of hearing. Akaiís S-IHQ tape-tuning system automatically optimises recording and replay conditions to suit the grade of tape; thereís separate recording level controls for the hi-fi soundtracks and  a next-mode facility, that sequences frequently used commands. Itís a smooth looking machine, with a drop down front panel, and a neat display, set into the tape loading flap. Thereís one other unique feature; at the time of writing Akai informed us only 200 G400s would be sold in the UK. Are they mad or what?

  

How does it perform? The G400 has one of the cleanest, sharpest pictures weíve seen on a non S-VHS VCRs. It really benefits from the use of higher grade tapes, particularly on LP speed recordings. Our sample managed to resolve in excess of 250-lines on a HG tape, with unusually low noise levels. Theyíre even lower with S-VHS grade tape. Colour fidelity is excellent, though reds are a little muted. The hi-fi sound tracks are very smooth, with hardly any background hiss; the DPL decoder is good at localising sounds. The back channel -- via the IR speakers -- is a little subdued and thereís some noise; it certainly benefits from a separate wired amp and speakers.

 

Our Verdict. Itís not a one-box home cinema solution as such, but having the DPL decoder inside the VCR  -- and a good one at that -- is very convenient. Akai tell us numbers are limited by production problems, and they may eventually be resolved. We predict the few that are available will sell like hot cakes, even at that price. Itís destined to become a classic, get your order in now!

 

AKAI VS-G2400EK , £ 1000

Features            Dolby Pro Logic decoder, stereo hi-fi sound, NICAM, Video Plus+ with PDC, Startext, NTSC replay, S-IHQ tape tuning, audio dub, next mode, index search, intro-scan, blank search, wide-screen compatible, jog/shuttle dials on front-panel and remote handset, multi-speed replay

Sockets            rear: 2 x SCART AV in/out, AV in/out, DPL line-level out (phono), front: AV in (phono), microphone , headphones (minijack)

Dimensions            425 x 104 x 289 mm

 

Picture Quality            *****

Sound Quality            *****

Build Quality              *****

Features                     *****

Ease of use                 ****

Overall value              ****

 

Competitors

Itís unique, there are no other DPL VCRs on the market!

 

Akai UK, telephone 0181-897 6388

 

HEAD

HAMA SATELLITE WINDOW ENTRANCE. £35 ***

 

Whyís it here? One of the biggest problems for tenants and leaseholders, wishing to install a satellite system, is the need to drill a hole in a wall or window frame, for the downlead from the dish to the receiver. The Satellite Window Entrance -- catchy name eh? -- does away with the need for a hole, by routing the cable around the frame of an opening window.

 

Any unique features? Itís a simple but ingenious design. Two standard ĎFí type sockets are connected together by a thin strip of flexible ribbon cable -- 135mm long --  that fits between the window and the frame. The cable carries the incoming signal from the dish, and DC power and polarity switching signals from the receiver, up to the LNB. It comes with a pair of unwired F-plugs and the connector modules are well protected against the ingress of moisture

 

How does it perform? Thereís really very little to go wrong. In theory the lack of screening on the ribbon cable could invite interference, particularly if itís close to mains wiring, or thereís a powerful RF source nearby, but in practice it didnít cause any difficulties during our tests. Picture, sound and receiver operations were all unaffected.

 

Our Verdict. A simple and elegant gadget that will enable a lot more people to install satellite systems, without upsetting their landlords. Itís a little pricey and thereís still the problem of fixing a dish to the wall...

 

HAMA SATELLITE WINDOW ENTRANCE. £35

Features            F-connector sockets joined by ribbon cable, supplied with two unwired F-connector plugs

Sockets            F-type

Dimensions            cable 135mm long

 

Picture Quality            *****

Sound Quality            *****

Build Quality              ****

Features                     ***

Ease of use                 ****

Overall value              ***

 

Competitors

A hole in the wall                                          85%

A hole in a window frame                         84%

Running the cable through a cat flap            33%

 

Hama UK, telephone (01256) 708110

 

HEAD

PANASONIC NV-DX1 DIGITAL CAMCORDER, £3000 ****

 

Whyís it here? Following the successful launch of the two Sony and JVC DVC camcorders, Panasonic have rubber-stamped the format with the DX1, a highly specified machine aimed the top end of the market, targeting serious and semi pro video movie-makers, with a price tag to match.

 

Any unique features? The shape is rather unusual; the large lens barrel is due to the triple CCD image sensors. Thereís one sensor for each primary colour (red, green and blue), for a cleaner, sharper picture and more accurate colours. The large viewfinder houses a colour LCD screen, that can be viewed directly, or at a distance. It has a 10x optical zoom, with 20x digital magnification, a turbo zoom mode zips from one end of the range to the other in a couple of seconds. The DVC deck can replay smooth slow-motion and thereís a snapshot facility for jitter-free still recording. It has two stereo soundtracks, that can be dubbed. The exposure system has a full set of manual overrides and thereís an electronic image stabiliser, to compensate for camera shake.  Editing facilities include a standard 5-pin control terminal. The machine records a proprietary digital timecode, that can be used by a suitable edit controller to give frame-accurate cuts; the first ones will be available next year. It will work with VITC-compatible controllers, though accuracy will not be as good.

 

How does it perform? Hooked up to a suitable TV, using the supplied S-VHS connecting lead, DX1 recordings could easily pass for off-air broadcasts. Pictures are exceptionally detailed, crisp and free of noise. Colours are vivid and natural looking, though our sample did tend to favour highly saturated reds. The exposure controls are smooth and progressive, a delight for die-hard knob-twiddlers with a distrust of auto systems. The hi-fi soundtracks are very clean, and the 2-channel, 16-bit mode, compares favourably with CD and high end audio cassette. Unfortunately the lack of line-level inputs means recordings and dubs have to be made using the on-board mike or an external microphone.  

 

Our Verdict. The price rules it out as a family snapshooter but the DX1 has a promising future in video movie-making, bringing near broadcast-quality video recording within reach of enthusiasts and semi-professionals.

 

PANASONIC NV-DX1 DIGITAL CAMCORDER, £3000

Features            3 CCD image sensor, 10x optical and 20x electronic zoom, colour viewfinder, auto/manual exposure and white balance, widescreen recording mode, image stabiliser, fader, digital timecode recording, PCM (2 x 16 bit/48kHz, 4 x 12 bit/32kHz) digital soundtracks, IR remote control, insert edit, audio dubbing, 5-pin edit terminal, lithium ion battery

Sockets            AV output (proprietary connector), microphone and headphone (minijack), DC power (multi-pin connector on base)

Dimensions            144 x 121 x 267mm

 

Picture Quality            *****

Sound Quality            *****

Build Quality              ****

Features                     ***

Ease of use                 ***

Overall value              ****

 

Competitors

JVC GR-DV1            £1800            HE38

Sony DCR-VX100 £3000            HE30

 

Panasonic UK telephone (01344) 862444

 

HEAD

Pace MSS 508 IP, £350 (ex. dish) ****

 

Whyís it here? Pace are rapidly cornering the market in advanced Astra receivers. The 508-IP is a cut-down version of the 1008-1P, the main difference being the lack of a Dolby Pro Logic surround sound decoder. That also accounts for the £50 price difference.

 

Any unique features? The 508-IP, like its more sophisticated stablemate, has a built-in antenna positioner, so that it can be used with a motorised dish for multi-satellite reception, which is the reason it doesnít come with a dish. The positioner is programmed with the location details and channel information for over 30 satellites. Itís particularly well suited to this kind of application, with two dish inputs, a 500-channel memory and the capability to work with a wide range of specialised LNBs, so it can cope with almost any kind of analogue satellite signal. Itís no mean Astra performer either, with twin smart-card slots, Wegner Panda 1 noise reduction and 8 categorised favourite channel memories.

 

How does it perform? Splendidly. The tuner has better than average sensitivity so it has no problems with any of the Astra channels. Reception of weaker signals, from other satellites, isnít a problem either, though itís worth pointing out that it works best with a high performance LNB and a dish thatís at least 1 metre across. Under favourable conditions noise levels are generally very low. It has a good range of audio facilities, including a simple set of tone controls (manual and preset). Background noise levels are kept in check by the Panda noise reduction system.

 

Our Verdict. Most multi-satellite receivers lack Videocrypt decoders, so theyíre not much use for straightforward Astra reception. The 508-IP offers the best of both worlds, with everything needed for some serious satellite-scanning, and the facility to pick up all the BSKYB channels. All that for less than the price of a separate Astra receiver and positioner box.

 

Pace MSS 508 IP, £350 (ex. dish)

Features            500 channel tuner memory with 8 category favourite channel memory, 4 sound shape (tone) control, built-in dish positioner, 8-event/31-day VCR timer, Wegner Panda 1 noise reduction, on-screen and front-panel station naming displays, twin smart-card slots, PIN coded parental lock, 6-LNB modes, 13 audio modes

Sockets 4 x SCART AV in/out, stereo line audio out (phono), 2 x dish/LNB inputs (F connector), RF bypass (coaxial), dish positioner (spring terminal)

Dimensions            73 x 360 x 335mm

 

Picture Quality            ****

Sound Quality            ****

Build Quality              ****

Features                     ****

Ease of use                 ****

Overall value              ****

 

Competitors

Pace MSS-1008 IP            £450            HE3X

Nokia SAT 1800    £300            HE30 (positioner extra)

 

Pace Micro Technology, telephone (01274) 532000

 

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” R. Maybury 1996 3007

 

 

MISSING SOCKET DATA FOR DPL SYSTEM REVIEW

 

Aiwa NSX-AV90

Sockets            1 x auxillary input (phono), headphones (jack), microphone (2 x minijack), digital output (optical jack), speakers (spring terminals)

 

Kenwood UD-505

Sockets            2 x AV in/out (phono), microphone (minijack), speakers (spring terminals)

 

Philips FW-672

Sockets            1 x auxillary input (phono), headphones (minijack), speakers (spring terminals)

 

Sharp C570H

Sockets            1 x auxillary input (phono), headphones (minijack), speakers (sppring terminals)

 

Technics SC-CH570

Sockets            3 x AV in/out (phono), rear channel speakers & headphones (minijack), speakers (spring terminals)

 

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