Trouble Free VCRs

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targeteye
Member
1414
Jun Wed 21, 2006 12:56 am
Houston, Texas

Trouble Free VCRs

Post by targeteye »

Question for you guys that used to work on these things. I would like to source a working VCR to use with an old Sony TV i have. Other than the industrial units and s-vhs units (which both seem to command a premium) are there any out there that are particularly reliable and/or easy to maintain?
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zeno
Member
1004
Apr Sat 06, 2013 1:18 pm
Mason, New Hampshire

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by zeno »

Look for "Made in Japan". Big names only like Sony, JVC, Panasonic. US names Zenith, RCA etc.
Best ones were from the 80's, still fairly rugged but feature filled. Newer ones get
flimsy & non Japanese not as good. VCR's by there nature are not very reliable.
Most problems will be mechanical. Old tapes will mean more cleaning.

73 Zeno 8)
LFOD !
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box13
Member
591
Nov Sun 18, 2007 7:26 pm
Mission Viejo, Ca. 92691

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by box13 »

Some of the most reliable VCRs were made by Panasonic, especially those made in Japan from the mid 1980s through the late 1990s. I've had good luck with the later models from that era; typically these have model numbers like PV-7XXX, PV-8XXX or PV-9XXX. I also had a Sony model SLV-795 from the same era (just OK), a Magnavox VR9060 (worked well, but cheaply made) and several JVC Hi-Fi models (nothing but trouble).
irob2345
Member
2044
May Sun 07, 2017 10:35 am
Belrose, NSW, Australia

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by irob2345 »

Panasonic generally good but avoid the G series, they suffer badly from fragile mechanical bits. Mitsubishi often overlooked, most models very reliable.
Most Sony tape will be unplayable due to stiction. 3M tape seems to have lasted better, all depends on storage though.
Wax, paper, bitumen, cotton, high voltages - what could possibly go wrong?
ACORNVALVE
Member
3754
Jan Wed 15, 2020 11:29 pm
Queensland, AU

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by ACORNVALVE »

When I saw the thread title it made me smile, because there is no such thing as a trouble free VCR.

I worked repairing VCR's (Umatic & VHS) of all brands back in the 1980's.

I became an expert on servo systems in VCR's and also deployed that technology to make a servo system to phase lock a 16mm film camera DC motor to a video signal , so as to be able to film a CRT image without a rolling bar in the image. Imagine that ? who would want to accurately film a CRT image to convert it to rolling film ? There was a customer who wanted it, so I did it. I worked in a professional video equipment service workshop, largely supporting the VCR's and Time-base corrector equipment and Digital Effects generators and VDU's that TV studios used.

I ran training courses on how to repair VCR's.

This started out not from my own making, but what happened was, a major domestic TV service repair company (who shall remain nameless because their management stupidity was embarrassing); the Managers decided one night, over a couple of bottles of wine (presumably) that the TV service company they ran, was suddenly the country's premier VCR service center. And they put a massive advertisement in the city's newspaper. The TV techs woke up the next day and started reading that at smoko. And they started phoning around desperately to find out how VCR's actually worked. I ended up getting the job to train them.

In any case, I have worked on all the early generation VCR's with the mechanical latch buttons and the all 4000 series Cmos logic control systems, right through until CPU's took over the mechanism controls. I can repair these machines with a blind fold on and my hands tied behind my back, I know many of them so well and most of the schematics are etched into my brain.

A very good compact VHS machine you could get is the JVC HR-2200. The came out just after JVC transitioned to CPU control systems. The service manual for this machine is very detailed, and if you get the manual, you can keep this machine running semi-indefinitely.

This is an example ;

https://www.ebay.com/itm/183927175082" -="window.open(this.href);return false;?

But the ultimate advice is, don't even dream about getting into bed with a piece of equipment as complex as a VHS machine, unless you have the service manual:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/195585359482" -="window.open(this.href);return false;?
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targeteye
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1414
Jun Wed 21, 2006 12:56 am
Houston, Texas

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by targeteye »

ya.. i guess the title is an oxymoron. :) Thanks for your feedback
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ac
Member
956
Jan Thu 01, 1970 12:00 am
Austin, TX

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by ac »

The best VCRs were made in the mid-late 80's, but they're approaching 40 years old. They will need new rubber parts, and probably some capacitors plus other random repairs. For this reason, I would aim for something newer, unless you want to repair it yourself, or buy a fully restored one.

As flimsy, and unsatisfying as they are, later generation VCRs (or DVD/VCR combos) generally will just work unless something is broken. They're all just about a good or bad as each other. I'd just clean the tape path, and hope for the best.
ACORNVALVE
Member
3754
Jan Wed 15, 2020 11:29 pm
Queensland, AU

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by ACORNVALVE »

ac wrote:The best VCRs were made in the mid-late 80's, but they're approaching 40 years old. They will need new rubber parts, and probably some capacitors plus other random repairs. For this reason, I would aim for something newer, unless you want to repair it yourself, or buy a fully restored one.

As flimsy, and unsatisfying as they are, later generation VCRs (or DVD/VCR combos) generally will just work unless something is broken. They're all just about a good or bad as each other. I'd just clean the tape path, and hope for the best.
Though, curiously there were a lot of repair parts made for the earlier generation machines, they were subject to more repairs at the time and spare parts abounded. Later ones, it was hard to get anything. Last time I looked Heads for the HR2200 and other parts for the machine were still available.

In a lot of later designs they moved to rotary encoders on the mechanism, many were cheap assemblies that didn't last long and them mechanism would go berserk. They were often harder to get for later model machines. Also, the manuals started to become hopeless to non-existent.

The manual for the HR-2200 is excellent and very detailed. A VHS machine, will always require repairing at some point, so a repairable machine is better.

Now, I'm not just waxing lyrical here. I have attached a photo of one of the many fold out pages from a JVC manual from the era of this machine. You don't see anything like this anymore (by the late 80's it was disappearing) complete with all the oscillograms you could dream of.

The OP asked: Question for you guys that used to work on these things... I am certainly one of those guys.
Attachments
manual.jpg
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ac
Member
956
Jan Thu 01, 1970 12:00 am
Austin, TX

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by ac »

I used to work on them in the 90's. The OP needs to specify whether he's looking for a project, or just something disposable to plug in and use occasionally. I'm only in Austin, so I might be able to assist with repair work.

Panasonic (pre G mech) was excellent, but they're going to need new caps in the switching power supply since they were already failing 30 years ago. Mechanically, they were very robust, and usually lasted until the heads wore out. There were 2 easy to replace belts, and the idler was a gear (instead of rubber) in the 86/early 87 models. Any 80's Panasonic will damage the tape edge unless you replace the dried out pinch roller (also was becoming a problem 30 years ago). G-mech started in mid 87, and should be avoided.

My personal favorite was probably JVC from about 84-88. Very solid mechanism without too many belts. Even their pinch rollers are usually still good to this day. Heads also seemed to last forever.

Hitachi was decent, but their belts will have turned to goo by now.

Avoid anything made in Korea since Samsung, and Goldstar were both junk back then. I was never a fan of Sharp, or Mitsubishi. NEC was almost great, but they made a few mistakes which caused constant problems unless you knew how to fix it properly. The big one was their press fit tape guides that constantly went out of alignment. They also tended to be hard on belts and tires.

By about 1990, most manufacturers had become very flimsy. Often, the loading motors were stronger than the gears they were driving, so if something jammed, the gears would be stripped. Sony's early VHS decks suffered from this.

By the late 90's things were still flimsy, but they had finally figured out where to do the cost cutting, and where not to. VCRs were becoming a disposable commodity, so I'm not surprised parts were less available.

To sum it up, 80's VCRs were built to last, but also needed maintenance, like belts, and rubber parts. Then there was an awkward transition period where things tended to just fall apart. After that, they became bland appliances that were meant to be used for 5-10 years, and replaced.
Blustar1
Member
7584
Jan Mon 04, 2010 1:52 am
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by Blustar1 »

Some of the Sharp VCRs that were manufactured after the turn of the century were totally reliable, and one that comes to mind was the Sharp VC-AH990.
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Electronic Memory
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2401
Nov Thu 11, 2010 5:03 pm
Pewaukee, WI

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by Electronic Memory »

Blustar1 wrote:Some of the Sharp VCRs that were manufactured after the turn of the century were totally reliable, and one that comes to mind was the Sharp VC-AH990.
+1
Circa 1996 my parents got me a Sharp mono deck with SQPB and rapid rewind for my birthday (I was something like 5-6 then)...I used that VCR HEAVILY until I was around 16 and lightly there after* and despite 5 house moves and god only knows how many hours it still works good.

*It's use declined when I procured a stereo deck....Years later during the ~5 year period around 2012 where everyone was dumping their decks at the thrift shops and I grabbed every S-VHS decks I could find I was probably most pleased with finding a sharp S-VHS deck. It may not be the highest performing S-VHS deck out there, but I expect it to outlive me.
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Eric H
Member
11113
Jan Thu 01, 1970 12:00 am
Redlands CA

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by Eric H »

Forget the old clunkers, they are complicated and full of hardened grease and bad rubber.

The newer ones 90s and up (Black Plastic Crap) are greatly simplified and have fewer parts to go wrong, most of the parts are plastic and don't even use grease. You can find them at Thrift Stores for $10-$20 so get several.

My 93 Sony still works fine (I think it's Funai built). brands like Funai and Orion are better than you think if you don't have Kids jamming tapes in them too harshly.

Go for Hi-Fi sound, it's light years better than Linear, or Stereo sound, especially at slow speeds.
Blustar1
Member
7584
Jan Mon 04, 2010 1:52 am
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by Blustar1 »

Here are a couple of vintage videocassette recorders that I have from the 1980s, and are they ever heavy. As one might surmise, the Hitachi VT-15A videocassette recorder on the bottom is a top loader.
Attachments
RCA VLT385 SelectaVision Videocassette Recorder & Hitachi VT-15A Videocassette Recorder.jpg
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ac
Member
956
Jan Thu 01, 1970 12:00 am
Austin, TX

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by ac »

I used to see those RCAs (Hitachi) all the time. The biggest problem back then was the DC to DC converter on the clock/timer/tuner board. They would run very hot and fail. I could often get them going by replacing the capacitors around the DC-DC, removing, and resoldering the connections on the bottom of the DC-DC, and replacing the blown fuse. If that didn't work, there was a repair kit available which included all the needed parts, including the DC-DC converter. The replacement DC-DC converter had a heat sink on it, and the new caps were a better grade. If yours still works, and recommend preemptively replacing the caps, and resoldering the underside of the DC-DC converter.
Blustar1
Member
7584
Jan Mon 04, 2010 1:52 am
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by Blustar1 »

ac wrote:I used to see those RCAs (Hitachi) all the time. The biggest problem back then was the DC to DC converter on the clock/timer/tuner board. They would run very hot and fail. I could often get them going by replacing the capacitors around the DC-DC, removing, and resoldering the connections on the bottom of the DC-DC, and replacing the blown fuse. If that didn't work, there was a repair kit available which included all the needed parts, including the DC-DC converter. The replacement DC-DC converter had a heat sink on it, and the new caps were a better grade. If yours still works, and recommend preemptively replacing the caps, and resoldering the underside of the DC-DC converter.
I replaced the DC-DC converter on the RCA VLT385 videocassette recorder back in the late 1980s with a beefed up one as you mentioned, but I can't recall if I changed the capacitors. I likely did if the DC-DC converter came as a kit , but that was a long time ago. Yes, the RCA VLT385 still works good as new.
Last edited by Blustar1 on Dec Thu 21, 2023 3:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Electronic Memory
Member
2401
Nov Thu 11, 2010 5:03 pm
Pewaukee, WI

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by Electronic Memory »

DC to DC converter caps are still a problem. On my favorite JVC S-VHS-ET deck a few years after getting it used it went comatose and some sniffing around with an ESR meter found the bad cap that fixed it.
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Blast
Member
210
Aug Sat 27, 2011 12:59 am
Kansas City, USA

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by Blast »

ac wrote:I used to see those RCAs (Hitachi) all the time. The biggest problem back then was the DC to DC converter on the clock/timer/tuner board. They would run very hot and fail. I could often get them going by replacing the capacitors around the DC-DC, removing, and resoldering the connections on the bottom of the DC-DC, and replacing the blown fuse. If that didn't work, there was a repair kit available which included all the needed parts, including the DC-DC converter. The replacement DC-DC converter had a heat sink on it, and the new caps were a better grade. If yours still works, and recommend preemptively replacing the caps, and resoldering the underside of the DC-DC converter.
Yep. RCA part number 163818. We used to sell that kit for about $15-18 + labor. I wonder how many dozens of them I replaced in the 80's and 90's.
Blustar1
Member
7584
Jan Mon 04, 2010 1:52 am
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by Blustar1 »

Eric H wrote:Forget the old clunkers, they are complicated and full of hardened grease and bad rubber.

The newer ones 90s and up (Black Plastic Crap) are greatly simplified and have fewer parts to go wrong, most of the parts are plastic and don't even use grease. You can find them at Thrift Stores for $10-$20 so get several.

My 93 Sony still works fine (I think it's Funai built). brands like Funai and Orion are better than you think if you don't have Kids jamming tapes in them too harshly.

Go for Hi-Fi sound, it's light years better than Linear, or Stereo sound, especially at slow speeds.


Do you mean the black plastic crap like this one?
Attachments
Sharp VC-A410U Videocassette Recorder.jpg
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zeno
Member
1004
Apr Sat 06, 2013 1:18 pm
Mason, New Hampshire

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by zeno »

Blast wrote:
ac wrote:I used to see those RCAs (Hitachi) all the time. The biggest problem back then was the DC to DC converter on the clock/timer/tuner board. They would run very hot and fail. I could often get them going by replacing the capacitors around the DC-DC, removing, and resoldering the connections on the bottom of the DC-DC, and replacing the blown fuse. If that didn't work, there was a repair kit available which included all the needed parts, including the DC-DC converter. The replacement DC-DC converter had a heat sink on it, and the new caps were a better grade. If yours still works, and recommend preemptively replacing the caps, and resoldering the underside of the DC-DC converter.
Yep. RCA part number 163818. We used to sell that kit for about $15-18 + labor. I wonder how many dozens of them I replaced in the 80's and 90's.
TNX I needed that RCA part ## ! I have a Yaesu FT1000D & the DC-DC went up in smoke.
Parts are disco but I bet that will work to get my display back. And yes I also changed many & I was not even the VCR man
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Electronic Memory
Member
2401
Nov Thu 11, 2010 5:03 pm
Pewaukee, WI

Re: Trouble Free VCRs

Post by Electronic Memory »

Blustar1 wrote:
Eric H wrote:Forget the old clunkers, they are complicated and full of hardened grease and bad rubber.

The newer ones 90s and up (Black Plastic Crap) are greatly simplified and have fewer parts to go wrong, most of the parts are plastic and don't even use grease. You can find them at Thrift Stores for $10-$20 so get several.

My 93 Sony still works fine (I think it's Funai built). brands like Funai and Orion are better than you think if you don't have Kids jamming tapes in them too harshly.

Go for Hi-Fi sound, it's light years better than Linear, or Stereo sound, especially at slow speeds.


Do you mean the black plastic crap like this one?
My first VCR was basically that Sharp only mine has a VFD instead of idiot lights, and extra front inputs. I ran the snot out of that machine for almost 30 years and it has yet to die. Those era of sharps are great. Look for one with HiFi sound and IF possible S-VHS those are higher end, but still just as reliable.
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