None of the VCR's that can be bought new are any good. The build quality is really cheap. If they last a year you will be very lucky. If you use them a lot, then 6 months of use is typical when problems start. The problems are mostly mechanical in the tape mechanism.
You are much better off looking for a used older model in near mint condition on eBay.
For fairly recent Panasonic models look for 4600, 4601, 4602. But then, I have a two Panasonic's that are 15 and 20 years old and they still work fine.
I bought an Emerson about a year-and-a-half ago. What a piece of doodoo. Admittedly, it cost less than $50, but it looks and feels like something you'd find in a cereal box. I looked for something more substantial, but had no luck. This thing worked okay for a while; then it started adding a really annoying wow to playback that I haven't been able to get rid of. The Panasonic I bought back in '87, and which succumbed to lightning, was built like a Spectral compared with this thing.
I would look for a recordable DVD player with a hard drive and a VCR. This way you can transfer all your VCR tapes you still like to DVDs, watch your VCRs, watch DVDs and even edit it. I think I have a Panasonic, and beside the remote, love it.
I got a Sony SLV-R1000 VHS VCR a few years ago, top of the line then -- semi-pro. There is a pro version called the SVO 2000. I don't use all the bells and whistles, but I expect they should employ Sony's best build quality, with better longevity. There's lots for sale on eBay, but they may be out of your budget range. Good luck.
I have a Samsung VR8807 purchased in 1998 that still gets used a few times a week but it saw over 1k hrs during its first 5 yrs, as I only bought a DVD 3 yrs ago.
Most of the hrs were put on by my kids.
Have always been very happy with the better Mitsubishi decks - the ones with S-Video etc. Have one hanging around that I've had for 12 years - admittedly its been very lightly used but as Sugarbrie says, they don't build 'em like they used to. I was in video production for many years and assuming it hasn't been beat to death the semi-pro stuff is what you want to find.
Sugarbrie, Hodie, Jameswei, Drive: Thanks for your comments. I realize that in the last few years VCR's have cheapened considerably, in price as well as quality. My dilemma is what's best I can do now.
Buying an older mint unit is an obvious thought, but I don't know how to go about that in a reliable way, if you can trust what people say on eBay about their used machines. Once I bought a few children's clothes on eBay and realized that anything that wasn't shredded got described as "mint". So I am nervous about used on eBay.
I'll see if I can find an old *unused* unit, however. Please suggest a few more well-made models from the past.
If I can't find them, I am still open to ideas on what will make most sense among today's models.
I've always been a fan of JVC VCRs. If you look around you can find a JVC DVHS 3000U or DVHS 4000U inexpensively. These decks do VHS and SVHS as well as digital VHS (480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i). They are built like the older recorders and are probably the last of the breed - DVHS is already dead with blu-ray and HD-DVD on the horizon. Both are superb VHS/SVHS decks with the DVHS as an extra. They feature built in VHF/UHF/Cable tuners and support VCR+.
You can check Agon's sister site Videogon. Sometimes good things show up there.
I don't think anyone makes VCRs anymore.
While brooding over what to buy to replace our dead VHS VCR, I became aware of one more consideration.
Presently we have one of the older analog TV's. Within 1-2 years we will probably buy an LCD HDTV. Given the uqality of broadcasts and our cable company, we are likely to continue watching off-air with antenna.
Question: what to I have to look for in the new VCR so it would work with my present TV as well as the future one?
If you can find a Panasonic AG-1330 commericial VCR, I highly recommend them. Built like a tank, with an excellent quality transport made mostly of metal. Very basic and bare bones - we use them in a university environment where they receive heavy use, and of the over 40 deployed in the field, none has ever been on my bench (aside from someone loading bad tapes into them). The only drawback - they're mono!!
You could also check local tech repair places near where you live. Many times they have VCRs they have cleaned and adjusted; and can give you a small warranty.
On eBay, just avoid the Power Sellers. They really don't know what they are selling. If it powers on, that is working to them.
Find a listing from someone that you can tell that they are just an regular person selling a VCR that they never use anymore, and can vouch that it works properly. Check their feedback.
As far as your new VCR and forwards compatibility - fuhgedaboutit.
What you have to do is make sure that there is a way to get a NTSC composite and or SVHS component signal into the new LCD you will select - in other words that the new unit is backwards compatible. You will always need a coax or RCA or S cable to output from the VHS deck. Ain't never gonna change though someone like Rat Shack will make an adapter for sure.
The VHS deck will never get any better then it is - it just is what it is. There is certainly no next-gen technology to look for - evolution pretty much stopped with S-VHS and pre-Tivo programming strategies...
Frankly I have no idea what could possibly keep you watching VHS that far into the future. My advice is to begin a transition to a newer playback medium sooner then later - lots to like in a $200 DVD player and NetFlix... Ease of use, plentiful media, pretty kidproof - like wash with soap and water....
If you have a lot of archival material, look into a DVD writer and burn the tapes to a platter before they deteriorate - half life of a tape is very finite especially if the transport is not regularly maintained (cleaned, de magged) and gentle tape handling is not practiced. Once that little sucker twists up you are SOL
PS to the above. The more I think about it:
#1 - what is holding you to a VHS instead of making a move for less money to a DVD? If you buy one with progressive scan out and HDMI connectors you will be ready for the future
#2 - forego the cable company and get DirectTV with Tivo. When you are ready to get that LCD with HD, upgrade to HD capable.
Net cost - perhaps $500
Ckorody: We already have a dvd player. We use vcr for two reasons. To watch legacy tapes we own (maybe these should be converted to dvd as you say), and to tape certain tv programs. If the latter can be done conveniently and inexpensively with a digital gadget, we might as well ditch the vcr.
What is the least expensive digital solution to for recording about 6 hours worth of programs? I am talking off the air tv, not tivo etc.
Tivo is the one I am familiar with. it is beyond brainless and kind of fun to use. There must be other hard drive based solutions - since we have satellite we just ordered it at the same time. I put a premium Toslink on it and the sound is very good for what it is.