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HIGH END NICAM VCRS

 

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NICAM VCR prices keep on falling so is it worth paying more than £350?  Rick Maybury has gathered together half a dozen of the latest top-end NICAM VCRs, costing between £400 and £500, to find out...

 

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The NICAM VCR is arguably the hardest working component in any home theatre set-up, so it pays to be selective if youíre in the market for a new one.  Whilst itís true that you can buy a perfectly acceptable NICAM VCR for less than £300, so-called entry-level machines tend to be quite basic. In fact only one or two of them are suitable for demanding applications like home cinema, and then only on the simplest of systems. Itís well worth spending a little extra on a mid-range or top-end model.  Theyíre likely to have more sophisticated picture enhancement systems and additional audio facilities. Equally important are the extra convenience features, that will make the machine easier to use, and more flexible.

 

Features to look out for include tape-tuning, satellite control, multi-brand remote controls, front-mounted AV sockets, multi-speed replay and NTSC replay, preferably with stereo hi-fi sound. Most tape-tuning systems are geared to optimising picture quality of LP recordings, or when using higher grade tape. Satellite control is a boon for those who regularly time-shift satellite programmes or movies. All you have to do is tap in the Video Plus+ code of the show you want to record into the VCR remote, and the machine does the rest.  Multi-brand TV remotes are a godsend if youíre forever trying to find the right button-box, and front-mounted AV input sockets save a lot of messing about if you want to hook up a video game or camcorder to the TV. Most NICAM VCRs have a range of playback speeds, but mid-range models usually have more of them, and theyíre easier to use, with facilities like jog/shuttle dials. NTSC replay has always been a must-have feature for movie buffs but stereo hi-fi sound accompaniment is a fairly recent idea, thatís essential if you want to do the job properly. 

 

In the past year or so the VCR market has settled down and prices have begun to stabilise. VHS is now a mature technology and we canít expect to see too many new features. There used to be a good case for holding out as long as possible, to see whatís around the corner but not any longer, now is as good a time as any to buy that new NICAM VCR, hereís six recent models to whet your appetite.

 

THE REVIEWS

 

Akai VS-G878, £450

VERDICT ****

At one end of the Akai NICAM VCR range there are three very well-equipped budget machines costing between £300 and £350, at the other thereís the excellent VS-G2DPL and VS-G2400 Dolby Pro Logic VCRs for £500 and £700. The problem Akai have, is how to fill the gap in between.

 

The task falls to the VS-G878, a curateís egg of a machine thatís surprisingly difficult to pigeonhole. Thereís a fair assortment of regular home cinema features, plus one or two unusual ones, like the switchable loudness and theatre mode sound options, plus manual recording level. However, the lack of satellite control and multi-brand remote is slightly unusual on a VCR in this price bracket. It has some handy video-movie making facilities, including front-mounted AV sockets, mike input and insert edit, but itís the built-in Fastext decoder that sets it apart from most other VCRs.

 

Teletext used to be a fairly common feature on VCRs four or five years ago, when it was used for timer programming. Akai have decided to reprise the idea. Text programming is almost as easy to use as Video Plus+  -- it has that as well, by the way --  it also uses PDC, to correct for late schedule changes. The programme title is displayed on a timer list, along with on and off times, so itís easy to check for mistakes. The G878 is also one of only a small handful of machines that can record teletext sub-titles, so it could prove very popular with the hard of hearing.

 

Auto set-up works well, thereís some extra fiddling around to set channel name and enter text page numbers for timer programming and sub-title recording, but this only takes a few minutes. Super I-HQ tape tuning improves the appearance of LP recordings no end, they look almost as good as normal speed  recordings. SP resolution on our sample was just over 240 lines. Colour accuracy is satisfactory, reds tended to be a bit overstated though. Noise levels are low and the picture looks very clean. Trick play is steady and the jog/shuttle control on the handset makes it easy to move around a recording. Itís good to see manual recording level control, though an automatic override would have been a good idea too as the control can be easily mis-set. The stereo sound track has a clean, flat response with very little background noise; the theatre mode didnít do a lot for us, but itís there if you want it.

Akai UK, telephone 0181-897 6388

 

UP CLOSE

Features             NICAM, hi-fi stereo sound, Video Plus+ with PDC, NTSC playback, auto installation and clock set, Super I-HQ tape tuning, Fastext, sub-title recording, program title record, multi-speed replay, manual recording level control, insert edit, audio dub, switchable loudness and theatre mode sound, display dimmer, repeat play

 

Sockets            rear: 2 x SCART AV, composite video in & stereo line audio in/out (phono), front: composite video and stereo line audio in (phono). microphone & headphone (minijack)

           

Picture quality            ****

Sound quality              ****

Ease of use                 ****

Features                     ****

Value for money ****

 

Critical Captions

Quite a pretty machine, the sliding transparent cover for the front AV sockets is a neat touch. Front panel controls are a bit on the small side, and the display isnít that easy to read across a room. The second set of video and audio inputs on the back could come in handy

 

A big lumpy remote, one of the few not to have any TV functions. The jog/shuttle is handy for picking through a recording

 

 

JVC HR-DD845, £400

VERDICT *****

JVC convincingly demonstrated the potential of their Dynamic Drum system on the award-winning HR-J935, now the feature is filtering down through the range, to this £400 NICAM machine. Dynamic Drum eliminates noise during fast picture search by rocking the head drum slightly, so that it tracks the tape more accurately. At the same time, audio from the tapeís mono linear edge track is fed into a sound buffer, and replayed in snatches, to accompany the picture. This feature, called Time Scan, also works in reverse picture search, with the sound replayed the right way around, as it were. The upshot is, you can watch a movie, or sports programme at up to nine times normal speed and still follow the plot or action.

 

Even if you ignore Dynamic Drum and Time Scan, the DD845 is still a well-appointed home cinema machine. This season JVC are big on teccy-sounding picture enhancements. Recording quality is optimised using JVCís  ĎBESTí (biconditional equalised signal tracking) tape tuning  system, and playback is treated to Ď3R Pictureí, otherwise known as resolution and response recovery. Theyíve also plastered it with stickers proclaiming ĎPlug and Playí, which refers to the auto-installation system, that fires up as soon as the VCR is plugged in. Operationally their system is no different to most others these days in that it tunes in all locally available stations, sorts them into the correct order and sets the clock. However, it is one of the slowest, taking over four and a half minutes to complete the job.

 

Thereís a couple of unusual extras to look out for, it has something called a Ďspatialiserí which is basically a stereo-wide effect, and the remote handset can control the main functions on a wide range of TVs, and satellite receivers. The express timer is rather neat. Start and stop times, the date and channel are set using a bank of rocker switches, itís quick and just the job if youíre in a hurry to go out and havenít time to mess around with long-winded programming routines or finding a Plus Code. Movie makers are catered for with front-mounted AV sockets, audio dub and a remote pause/syncro start facility, that works with some makes of camcorder (notably JVC) and edit control equipment. 

 

On screen performance is excellent, resolution is approaching 250 lines, with very little noise and clean, natural-looking colours. Trick play is brilliant, with virtually no reduction in sharpness across the speed range. The 3R system didnít seem to do a lot on most of our test recordings, though thereís a slight increase in edge definition on older recordings. Background hiss is minimal, a clean, uncoloured and full-bodied sound.

JVC UK Ltd, telephone 0181-450 3282

 

UP CLOSE

Features             NICAM, hi-fi stereo sound, Video Plus+ with PDC, NTSC playback,  auto installation and clock set, Dynamic Drum noiseless multi-speed replay and Time Scan audio replay in picture search, spatialiser sound effect, repeat play, BEST tape tuning, 3R picture sharpener, audio dub, multi-brand TV and satellite remote control 

Sockets            rear: 2 x SCART AV, stereo line audio in/out (phono), remote pause/syncro (minijack), front: composite video and stereo line audio in

 

Picture quality            *****

Sound quality              *****

Ease of use                 ****

Features                     *****

Value for money *****

 

Critical Captions

Not a bad looking machine, once all the stickers have been peeled off. The jog/shuttle control is very welcome but it would have been a lot more useful on the remote handset. The cover protecting the front AV sockets is doomed to get lost

 

Full marks for the express programming keys and main transport controls, the rest of the buttons are large and adequately labelled, though not very logically laid out

 

Panasonic NV-HD625, £400

VERDICT ****

One thing you could never accuse Panasonic of is pandering to gadget fiends. The NV-HD625 is verging on the austere, with a distinct shortage of bells and whistles. It has all of the home cinema essentials though, plus several features that we suspect Panasonic still consider luxuries, like satellite control, front-mounted AV sockets, a multi-brand TV remote and NTSC playback with stereo hi-fi sound.

 

The only notable extra, that you may not have come across before, is NexTViewLink. Itís a communication protocol used on some recent TVs and VCRs, using Pin 10 on a fully-wired SCART cable, linking the two devices together. It has been developed with the future in mind but for the moment it is used for downloading tuner information from the TV to the VCR, and vice-versa, and in this case something called ĎDirect TV RECí. We prefer the more descriptive ĎWizzywireí (wysiwyr or what you see is what you record), which neatly sums up what it does. Press one button on the VCR remote to record whatever youíre watching on the TV. Theoretically NexTViewLink works with TVs from other manufacturers, including Philips, Grundig and Sony, unfortunately theyíve all given their systems different names, like Easy Link, Smart Link and Megalogic. Confused? You will be...  

 

Auto installation kicks in when the VCR is switched on for the first time, itís reasonably quick too, taking just over eighty seconds to sort itself out and adjust the clock. The only other preliminary is to set up the satellite control system and channel list, for the Video Plus+ timer. The code for the TV multi-brand remote has to be entered into the handset as well, If you are going to rely on these features itís worth checking the brand lists for TVs and satellite tuners, we noticed a couple of quite well known names were missing.  The remote handset is not a pretty sight, the layout is not very illogical, with frequently accessed buttons hidden under a hinged flap.

 

Our early review sample was able to resolve just under 250-lines on test recordings, which is very good, and lower than average noise levels and crisp colours gave the picture an extra degree of sharpness. Still and slomo were fairly steady, but the rather crude transport controls make it quite difficult to analyse or step backwards and forwards through a recording. The stereo hi-fi soundtracks are generally uncoloured with no more than average amounts of noise.

Panasonic UK, telephone (0990) 357357

 

UP CLOSE

Features             NICAM, hi-fi stereo sound, Video Plus+ with PDC, NTSC playback, satellite control, auto installation and clock set, NexTViewlink (see text), Crystal View Control, multi-speed replay, multi-brand TV remote, display dimmer

Sockets            rear: 2 x SCART AV, stereo line audio out (phono), front: composite video and stereo line audio in

 

Picture quality            *****

Sound quality              *****

Ease of use                 ****

Features                     ***

Value for money ****

 

Critical Captions

A few more curvy lines than weíre used to seeing on Panasonic VCRs, unfortunately they make it look a bit podgy. The circular tape transport control on the right looks more useful than it is. Nothing contentious on the back, just couple of SCARTs aerial connectors and a pair of phonos for line-audio out 

 

The handset is a bit of a mess, with too many small, tightly packed buttons on the top, and big empty spaces under the hinged lid

 

Philips VR-676, £400

VERDICT ***

Oh dear, are Philips are slipping back into their old ways? Over the past three or four years Philips have produced a succession of more or less normal VCRs. Some of them have been very good indeed, equal to and in some cases better than their Far Eastern rivals. Then along comes the VCR-676...

 

To begin with, it looks strange. The silver trim around the tape hatch is a bit naff, the sort of thing youíd expect to see on a cheapo hi-fi, not a mid-range home cinema VCR. And what on earth is the ball-shaped knob on the right side of the front panel all about? Itís actually a rotary speed control, but not a very good one. It can be quite difficult to get hold of, itís spring loaded, so unless you get a good grip it keeps slipping. The features list is a bit brief. It has NTSC replay in stereo and... Well, actually thatís about it, unless you count the energy-saving facility, that turns off the front panel display. Oh yes, we nearly forgot. It has a Ďdirect recordí facility, that automatically records whatever TV channel you happen to be watching at the time. Ironically, this has nothing to do with EasyLink system, that Philips played a key role in developing, and is now featured on several rival machines. It simply reads channel information from the TV tuner via the SCART lead (assuming it is connected to the TV that way).

 

The on-screen display main menu is a bit strange too, it can only be accessed by pressing the auto-install button on the front panel, but selections and changes have to be made using the remote handset. This is one of the few machines that we can remember not to have auto-play (power on and play when a pre-recorded tape is inserted) and camcorder owners note, itís the only VCR in this round-up not to have any front-mounted input sockets. Happily auto-installation is fairly normal, and easy to use, though it takes its own sweet time -- around four minutes -- to work its way through the band.

 

Picture quality is actually rather good, our early sample managed to get within a whisker of 250-lines, lots of fine detail with very little in the way of picture noise.  Colours are reasonably faithful and thereís only slight agitation in areas of high saturation. Thereís little to complain about with the stereo soundtracks either; thereís some hiss but itís not intrusive, the frequency response is smooth with no significant weaknesses or vices.

Philips Consumer Electronics, telephone 0181-689 4444

 

UP CLOSE

Features             NICAM, hi-fi stereo sound, Video Plus+ with PDC, NTSC playback, auto installation and clock set,

Sockets            rear: 2 x SCART AV, stereo line audio out (phono)

 

Picture quality            ****

Sound quality              ****

Ease of use                 *****

Features                     ***

Value for money ***

 

Critical Captions

Some unusual cosmetics for a Philips VCR. The silvery surround on the tape hatch makes it look a bit like a gaping mouth and the front-panel speed control is decidedly odd-ball..

 

The banana-shaped remote handset is a swine to hold and use one-handed. It also controls the main functions on Philips TVs.

 

Sony SLV-E920 £500

VERDICT ****

Considering their well-earned reputation for innovation in virtually every area of consumer electronics, itís always a little surprising that Sony video recorders have a tendency to be, well, a bit dull. Of course thereís nothing wrong with that, provided it does the job. They can be a bit pricey too, but weíve rarely had cause to complain when it comes to performance. Weíd love to say the E920 is a break with tradition but itís not to be. In fact itís not vastly different from its predecessor (SLV-810). True, itís a little cheaper and thereís some extra features but they are mainly concerned with video movie-making.

 

Itís not completely devoid of novelty though. The 920 is the first Sony VCR to have SmartLink. This makes it theoretically compatible with a range of TVs made by Philips, Grundig and Panasonic with EasyLink, MegaLogic or NexTViewLink control systems. (Weíll have to take their word for it though as weíve yet to see one). When the VCR is connected to an ĎXXí-Link set by fully wired SCART cable (supplied) it can download the contents of the TV tuner, for easier set-up, and enable features like one-touch play (loading a tape and pressing play automatically switches on the TV) and TV Direct Rec (wizzywire or what you see is what you record).

 

Although most the video movie-making facilities have little direct relevance to home cinema operation, they are important, comparatively rare, and to a large extent justify the higher than average price. The Control L/LANC edit terminal is used to connect the VCR with an external edit controller and some types of camcorder; it means faster and more accurate edits. The machine also has a flying-erase head, this enables new sequences to be seamlessly inserted into existing recordings. 

 

The E920 has a reasonably quick auto-install system that takes just over ninety seconds to program the tuner and set the clock. It has a tape-tuning system called OPC (optimum picture control), multi-speed replay and  multi-brand TV remote. In fact the only features that count as unusual are a replay function, which rewinds and replays the last 10 seconds of a recording, and luminous green, glow-in-the-dark buttons on the remote handset.

 

Thereís no real surprises when it comes to picture and sound quality either. Itís a solid all-rounder with resolution just under 250 lines. On a good quality tape, and after the OPC has done its work, thereís negligible picture noise; colour rendition is as good as it gets this side of S-VHS and the picture is stable at all replay speeds. Audio performance is average to good as well; the stereo hi-fi soundtracks have a smooth and background hiss is barely audible.

Sony UK Ltd., 0181-784 1144

 

UP CLOSE

Features             NICAM, hi-fi stereo sound, Video Plus+ with PDC, NTSC playback, auto installation and clock set, multi-brand remote control, Smartlink (see text), multi-speed replay, instant replay, Control L/LANC edit control, display dimmer, audio & video insert, 

Sockets            rear: 2 x SCART AV, stereo line audio and video in/output (phono), front: composite video and stereo line audio in, Control L/LANC (minijack)

 

Picture quality            *****

Sound quality              *****

Ease of use                 ****

Features                     ****

Value for money ****

 

Critical Caption

A big, brash in your face sort of machine, that looks as though it means business. The display is very busy, but itís easy to see whatís going on.  Thereís a good assortment of sockets, the extra video input phono on the back panel is meant for a PALPlus decoder -- remember that?

 

Give yourself a fright in the dark! Some of the keys on the remote handset are luminous. Itís not that easy to use in broad daylight either, lots of small, densely packed, multi-function buttons 

 

THOMSON VPH-6790, £500

VERDICT ***

Hereís something you donít see every day, credits for ĎArt Directioní and ĎDesigní printed on the side of a VCR. Only Thomson would have the nerve... Theyíre clearly determined to make the most of their long-standing association with top French designer Philipe Starck. His distinctive minimalist style is obvious from the moment you clap eyes on the VPH-6790.

 

Once you get past the cosmetics, Thomson VCRs have tended to be rather ordinary. Not this time, the 6790 is definitely in a class of its own. Itís best described as a multi-standard machine, the sort of VCR your could take with you, if you were moving abroad -- the broad-band tuner will work just about anywhere in Europe, and it will happily replay any type of tape, whether its NTSC or PAL. The downside of all this flexibility is complete reliance on a SCART-to-SCART connection with the TV itís used with, moreover the TV must have an RGB input, otherwise you wonít get to see the very smart on-screen graphics, based on a rolling ball motif, first seen a couple of years ago. The auto-install routine is more interesting to watch than some TV programmes.

 

Thomson seem to think their globetrotting customers are also interested in video movie-making. The 6790 has been endowed with a fair number of advanced editing facilities. They include a built-in edit controller, that can be programmed to replay up to five sequences, in any desired order, whist at the same time operating the record-pause function on another, suitably equipped, VCR. It has a full set of front-mounted AV sockets, including jacks for a microphone and headphones. The remote handset is a gem, the ball in the middle works like a kind of one-dimensional mouse; rolling it under the thumb moves the ball on the screen, and selections are made by gently pressing it. Brilliant!

 

A crisp picture is guaranteed every time by the SCART link to the TV, our review sample managed to resolve just over 240 lines. Colours are cleanly defined and thereís very little noise. Still frame and slomo are both very steady and the on-screen graphics are so crisp, you could cut yourself on them.  Stereo sound is in the home cinema ballpark, but only just; background hiss levels are fairly average, and weíre sorry to say NTSC replay is in boring old linear mono only. Tut tut...

Thomson MultiMedia, telephone 0181-344 4444

 

UP CLOSE

Features             NICAM, hi-fi stereo sound, Video Plus+ with PDC, satellite control, auto installation and clock set,  multi-system operation including NTSC record and play, SECAM, multi-band tuner,  multi-brand TV remote, audio dub, insert edit, sequence edit (5 scene program play), child lock

Sockets           rear: 2 x SCART AV, stereo line audio in/out (phono), front: composite video and stereo line audio in, microphone and headphones (jack), remote pause (minijack)

 

Picture Quality            ****

Sound Quality            ***

Build Quality              ****

Features                     ****

Ease of use                 ***

Overall value              ****

 

Critical Captions

If you like your VCRs to look plain and undestated this one is for you, when the front panel is closed thereís just one button to be seen, and the display is very discrete. Itís not much more interesting with the drawbridge down...

 

It looks weird but the ball control really does work very well indeed. Itís quick and easy to use, and thereís no way youíre going to mix this up with any other remote

 

THE VERDICT 

Sorry Philips, we know you can do much better. Picture and sound quality on the VR-767 is up to scratch but the machine just looks and acts so weird. Itís very basic too, lacking many of the most useful convenience features, that weíve come to associate with mid-market, home cinema-oriented VCRs. We really like the Thomson VPH-6790. Itís a very stylish machine, with plenty of character and good all round performance --  love those on-screen graphics, and the ball-control remote! However, we feel the main feature -- multi-standard and system operation --  is a wee bit specialist. Itís the sort of machine weíd recommend to those who live or work abroad, or travel around a lot.

 

Ranking the next three machines wasnít so easy. The Sony SLV-E920 turned in a most impressive set of results and it would make a very capable home cinema machine, but like the Thomson 6790, itís main talents lie elsewhere. In this instance it is with video movie-making and editing; features like the LANC control terminal and flying erase head easily justify the higher than average price. The Akai VS-878 also has camcorder leanings, though itís nowhere near as well-equipped as the E920 in that department. The lack of satellite control and multi-brand lost it a few points too. Text subtitle recording is a very useful facility for the hard of hearing, though it might be argued that people with impaired hearing would go for a mono VCR, rather than one stereo hi-fi sound and NICAM... 

 

The Panasonic NV-HD625 has got everything a good home cinema VCR needs, though, it has to be said, not a lot else besides, but who need armfuls of gadgets? It works very well, looks okay and the price is fair. That makes the JVC HR-DD845 our tip for the top. In our view Dynamic Drum is the most exciting new VCR feature in a long while, and coupled with the Time Scan audio buffer, it adds a completely new dimension to watching movies and sports events. AV performance is up a notch on most of the opposition, it looks relatively normal and the price is realistic. In an ideal world it would have had satellite control as well, but maybe thatís being a bit picky. A genuinely innovative, high performance machine, recommended..

 

RIVAL BUYS

 

Akai VS-G2DPL, £500, HE 48

The first Dolby Pro Logic VCR to sell for less than £500, and very good it is too. A well-equipped VCR, thatís easy to use and a  boon for anyone looking for a simple way to set up a surround sound system. DPL performance is fine for normal-sized living rooms.

 

JVC HR-935, £500, HE 42

Dynamic Drum and Time Search had their first outing on this award-winning machine. The arrival of the DD845 has taken stolen some of its thunder but it remains a good choice for home cinema use, with outstanding picture and sound quality, plus plenty of useful features

 

Philips VR-668, £400, HE47

Just to prove Philips do know how to make a decent home cinema VCR, the VR-668 has almost all of the most useful features, plus several others, that will be of interest to video movie makers. It Ďs also one of the very few machines on the market that can record teletext subtitles

 

Toshiba V857B, £460, HE 48

Well executed re-hash of a home cinema favourite. Fully featured, with satellite control, multi-brand TV remote, front AV sockets and full auto install. Predictable and well behaved, easy to use, and it delivers one of the best pictures in the business, with pin-sharp hi-fi sound

 

HOW THE NICAM VCRS COMPARE

Make/Model                          Price            AV                   Sat            MBR            NTSC            TT

Akai VS-G878               £450            2SPFMH     -            -            */*            *

JVC HR-DD845                        £400            2SPFC            -             *            */*            -

Panasonic NV-HD625            £400            2SPF               *            *            */*            *

Philips VR-676                  £400            2SP                  -            -            */*            -

Sony SLV-E920                £500            2SPFL             -            *            */*            *

Thomson VPH-6790                   £500            2SFMH         *            *            */-            -

 

Key: AV = AV sockets, S = SCART, P = rear-mounted phono AV inputs, F = front-mounted AV sockets, M = microphone, H = headphone, C = camcorder syncro, L = Control L/LANC edit control. Sat = satellite control, MBR = multi-brand TV remote control, NTSC = NTSC replay, */* with stereo hi-fi sound

 

COMMENTS

Make/Model                         

Akai VS-G878               Lacking some home cinema features but it works well and features like text subtitle recording could prove useful to some 

 

JVC HR-DD845                        An outstanding machine, the Dynamic Drum turns a good NICAM VCR into a potential classic

 

Panasonic NV-HD625            Solid, dependable, hard working and capable of good performance, what more do you need?

 

Philips VR-676                  Odd behaviour and basic specification can make this machine difficult to live with, good AV performance, though

 

Sony SLV-E920                A great home cinema machine for those with an interest in video movie-making as well

 

Thomson VPH-6790                   A somewhat specialist VCR. Ideal for camcorder-owning globetrotters with an interest in home cinema...

 

BOX COPY 1.

HOW THE TEST WAS DONE

Itís relatively easy to assign numbers to VCR picture and sound quality, using electronically generated signals and recordings. We put each machine through a series of test routines, to determine how much fine detail they can process and colour accuracy. We also assess their ability to handle rapid changes in brightness and colour, the amount of noise the mechanical and electronic components introduce into the picture, colour fidelity, the stability of the picture, and the general performance of the stereo soundtrack. However, hard-nosed technical data only tells part of the story.

 

Very few VCRs spend their lives recording and playing back static test signals, so we also try the machines in real world conditions, recording and playing back off-air programmes, and replaying pre-recorded movies. This also gives us an opportunity to find out how easy they are to set-up and use, and live with. We make a special point of trying to get the machine up and running, and program the timer, without reading the instructions -- just like you! We see if we can find the buttons on the remote control in a dimly-lit room and check how easily the handset slips down the back of sofas -- just like you .We also use tapes covered in sticky fingermarks and we have a trained cat, that pees into the back of the machine, just like you... Only joking.

 

BOX COPY 2

INSTANT EXPERT

 

CONTROL L/LANC

Control protocol, used by editing equipment, to operate the tape transport systems in camcorders and some VCRs

 

JOG/SHUTTLE

Rotary tape transport control, the outer shuttle ring gives coarse speed and directional adjustment, the inner jog dial steps the recording backwards and forwards a frame at a time

 

NICAM

Near instantaneously companded audio multiplexing --  high performance  digital stereo sound system used by the BBC and ITV companies, capable of near CD sound quality

 

NTSC

National Standards Television Committee -- colour TV system used in US and parts of the far East, with 525-line/60Hz display. VCRs with NTSC playback partially trasncode NTSC recordings, so they can be viewed on a PAL (European standard) TV

 

PAL

Phase Alternate Line -- 625-line/50Hz colour TV system used in UK and throughout much of Europe

 

PDC

Programme delivery control - -formerly known as Startext. Signals transmitted by broadcasters correct VCR timer settings for late schedule changes. PDC teletext data is also used by VCRís with auto installation and time-check systems

 

SCART

Syndicat des Constructeurs d'Appareils Radio Recepteurs et Televiseurs -- Euro standard 21-pin connector system, used on VCRs, TVs and satellite tuners, carrying audio and video information, control and switching signals

 

TAPE TUNING

VCRs with tape-tuning facilities generally make a brief test recording on a fresh blank tapes, as soon as they are loaded. This normally only takes a few seconds. The machine then plays back the recording. By analysing the playback signal the VCR can determine the grade and quality of the tape, so that it can optimise its recording and playback circuitry for the best picture

 

VIDEO PLUS+

Near idiot-proof VCR timer programming system, that uses a simple digital code -- printed alongside TV schedules -- to set times, date and channel

 

BOX COPY 3

WHAT THE MAKERS SAY

 

AKAI

ĎThe concept behind the VS-G878 and the other NICAM machines in our range is to provide added value. As a key innovator in the VCR market for many years we know from experience that if a product is well equipped, with relevant features, consumers are prepared to pay a reasonable premiumí 

 

JVC

to come

 

PANASONIC

to come

 

PHILIPS

ĎThis distinctively styled NICAM machine, finished in cool grey and brushed aluminium is extremely simple to use. It is packed with features, including a fast Turbodrive deck mechanism, auto installation, on-screen menu, Video Plus+ & PDC. It can playback NTSC recordings and precision laser-cut video heads ensure top-notch performanceí

   

SONY

ĎThe SLV-E920ís many features include LP recording, Video Plus+ and PDC, auto tuning, Super Trilogic picture control, twin SCART connectors and a flying erase head for clean cut editing. Itís also SmartLink compatible, allowing users to benefit from optimal ease of useí

 

THOMSON

to come

 

 

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” R. Maybury 1997 1209

 

 

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