All VCRs are easy to use - if you are under 18 years of age. If not, 2-3 evenings with the manual and you may be able to get the clock to stop flashing 12:00. The older one gets, the worse it is.
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I used to have RCA VCR with minimal controls and very darn simple that I bought in 1994. It's already a candidate for the donation in not working order. I now use Sony which is far more complicated but basic functions are all the same since stone ages. If you want something extra like magnifying pictures(to see some sexy close-ups) or activate a recording session during the night(with cable-compatible model) or any other extra-features than you should probably learn through manuals.
Sony VCRs have probably the best longetivity and descent sound.
Panasonics are probably the easiest to use nowdays.
I have the next-to-the-top of the line Panasonic (PV-4622), and it's pretty easy to use. I haven't had any problems doing anything with it, and it's less than $100, if you dig a little on price-comparison sites. Oh, by the way...for some reason, it never dawned on me that Sean might have gear that he isn't happy with. Hmmmm.
Brian: I'm capable of making the same mistakes that anyone else can. I rushed into purchasing this unit and now i feel the pain from my lack of research. As such, i'll chalk this one up to being a bonehead and move forward with ( hopefully ) a lesson learned. Luckily, this "lesson" did not set me back several thousand dollars : ) Sean
I bought a panasonic about 1 year ago and nobody can figure it out! I have a few degrees in physics and a pharmacy degree so I'm not technically challenged. The manual is inscrutable and I don't feel like starting a research project to master it. It replaced a 10 year old sony which was a breeze to use & program. I tried getting it back but the guy I gave it to wouldn't trade for the new one!
Get a VCR with "VCR+". Have you ever noticed the six digit numbers in the TV listings in the newspaper or TV Guide? They are the VCR+ numbers. You just enter those six numbers on the remote and it automatically programs the VCR for you.
They also automatically update the clock time if the power goes out. The time and the VCR+ updates are broadcast in the PBS TV signal.
Bob, my partner at work ( Dan ) also has an S-VHS machine. From what i can recall, he's pretty happy with his. I'll try to find out the specifics and let you know.
As far as the JVC goes, not only is the programming less than fun and the manual not very easy to follow, it also uses some funky "remote sensor" that you have to put in front of the cable box / satellite receiver in order to do auto turn-on, etc... I don't remember the specifics as i gave up on trying to get it to work. It was / is a total joke. Sean
It is as I feared. The present generation of designers cannot achieve an easy-to-use vcr. They probably also work on gps systems for cars and may have had something to do with Windows 98. The 10 year old Sony, formerly owned by Rphsvc, was apparently the peak and it is no more. Anyway, thanks for all the comments.
Hi there. Maybe I should add my two cents worth, given the fact that I own a commercial video editing and media duplication company. As several have already mentioned - most VCRs are less than "user friendly" when it comes to programming them. I've owned several dozen models since the early 1980s, and for pure simplicity the "VCR+" models seem to be the easiest to operate.
If you can find one, get a model that has S-VHS recording capability. The top of the line Sony models are generally pretty good - though quite expensive. Most of the current crop of stuff from JVC & Panasonic are just junk. In fact, in the televison industry we call JVC the "Junky Video Company" since many of their professional products are lacking - just as their consumer lines are.
Another idea you might want to seriosly look into, is to buy a home DVD recorder. Most of them have a built in tuner;
and the video quality is superb - much better than even digital video tape. And I think I can say that with some confidence, given the fact that my company has equipment for all but two of the broadcast high deffinition formats.
Tok2000's comment is a bit flippant, but it's dead on the money. Getting a Tivo to record your soaps is 999999999x easier than doing it with a VCR. (OK, so the VCR is .000000001 and very hard, so even Tivo isn't so easy, but hopefully you see my point...) If you really, really must put the stuff on tape, I'd suggest a Tivo and a dirt-cheap VCR. But you don't have to program the VCR - just tell Tivo to dump to tape, then press the record button on the VCR. If you botch it up, tell Tivo to play again and start over.
Of true VCRs, I have had a couple of Sonys (1992 and 1996), an old JVC (1986), a mid-range 1995 Mitsubishi, and a pretty new JVC S-VHS unit (HR-9600U, got it in 2000). The 1996 Sony is the easiest to program; the current Sonys are almost the same user interface, so should be the least bad of the lot. The HR-9600U is not nearly as a bad as the Mit or the old JVC. But again, none of these hold a candle to changing the paradigm and using Tivo or Replay.
I currently have two VCRs. One is a Sony SLV-R5UC (which was a top-of-the-line deck with all of the bells and whistles on it in 1991-92..... which I still have by the way. Might I add that it was the first "VHS" deck they made after they have finally abandoned the "Beta" format), and the other is a JVC HR-VP638U (not sure of the actual vintage, but I am willing to bet that it is a mid-to-late 90's deck), and out of both of them, the Sony is the easiest one to use believe it or not. But now, if I were to buy me a VCR today, I don't know which brand I would buy, nor would I know if one is easier to use than the other. But I would know this, if my beloved Sony SLV-R5UC was to kick the bucket today, and if I wanted another VCR like it, I would try to hunt down a used Panasonic AG-1980 somewhere on "e-bay", otherwise, I would buy an inexpensive one that has VCR+ on it.
But if you want a simple, easy to use one that is available now, I don't know which brand I would recommend that you buy, and frankly, I wouldn't care either. But just like I said, I would buy one that has VCR+ on it, and then when you first set it up after you get home, if your TV has a clock and a timer on it (like my TV does), then the VCR will practically set itself up. All you have to do is when you find a show that you would like to see later on, and if the VCR+ codes are in your TV Guide, all you have to do then is key in the program number code that is listed next to your favorite program in your TV Guide into the VCR's remote, and then press the transmit button on the remote. Afterwards, the VCR should do the rest for you. It will program itself automatically.
But for me, if I cannot find me a Panasonic AG-1980 after my Sony SLV-R5UC kicks the bucket, then I may forget about VCRs altogether and buy me a TiVo instead.