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Viracocha 01-30-2018 06:39 PM

Sears 30521 or Panasonic AG-1950; which VCR should I fix?
Hello. I have a Sears 30521 that used to be very good but now it is really sick. When playing some cassettes the hi-fi audio will go crazy, it will cut, the audio will have buzzing sounds... And the picture will be very messy. It also sometimes has these random picture glitches. If I rewind and watch the same part again, the picture will be perfect. So the sound and picture are really erratic and it keeps getting worse. My guesses are, the electronics are failing, or the video heads are too worn out. Not that I know anything on the subject but the heads do seem to be worn out...

I don't know where I could find a new upper-video drum and how to change one. And if it is the electronics that are failing, I would have absolutely zero clue on how to even find the problem.

My other VCR that I'd consider good is a Panasonic AG-1950. That one, back when it was still usable seemed to have had good picture and sound quality. I only ever tried it on a mono monochrome TV. What happened with that one is that it had a frozen mechanism. The grease had become extremely sticky, it would take multiple attempts to finally be able to insert and play a cassette with it. I read online that removing the old grease and putting new "SuperLube" could fix such problems. Unfortunately I did that and now it's worse than it ever was. Now it won't play at all, the tape guides start moving near the drum, and then the mechanism retreats and it gives up. I don't know if I put too much SuperLube or what and what the extents of the damages I've caused are. The construction of this VCR is extremely complex so I never delved too deep inside of it.

With the knowledge you guys have, which of these two VCRs would be easier/cheaper/more advantageous to attempt to fix? I guess there is the third option of finding another one but I live in Canada, a country full of crazed wasteful recycle-happy people. So finding a working VCR of equal quality to these two could be really hard.

My goal is to digitize my VHS cassettes to my computer. I am really poor and I've already spent a lot of money on digitizing solutions that do not work. I don't think I can just drop hundreds of dollars on good equipment from ebay unfortunately.

dpalomaki 02-01-2018 11:54 AM

IMO: Neither would be worth spending money to repair, even if you could find someone willing and able to work on them. Especially if your intent is to use the machine as a source for video capture. Both are ancient VHS without important features such as line TBC.

You can find AG-1950s for well under $100 on ebay - a potential source of parts.
I see someone in Canada has listed a Sears 30532 (the number looks like it might be an upgraded sister model).
You might be able to find manuals for these old machines through Sams Technical Publishing.

Keep in mind that gear from ebay is at best a crap shoot. Much of it is NOT in GOOD working condition, and you won't know that until you have it in hand to try out.

Depending on how many tapes you have it may be lower net cost and frustration to have it performed by a video transfer service.

lordsmurf 02-03-2018 02:53 PM

This is a really bad idea.

Since Sears is a consumer store, selling no pro video gear, I'm guessing this is just a low-end VHS-only consumer VCR. Furthermore, Sears just rebadged things, and usually from the cheapest manufacturers. VCRs sold by Sears in the 90s and 2000s were especially bad units. Of all the department stores at the time, that rebadged, Montgomery Ward was best because they used nice Sharp units.

The AG-1950 is just too old to give a quality signal.

eBay is pure gambling when it comes to VCRs/TBC/etc, and even the "working" decks usually do not function properly. The lister often has zero video knowledge, and as long as the VCR powered on, and showed any sort of picture "it worked". Nevermind that the power supply hisses at you, or the image has noise/problems.

What are you looking to do exactly?

Also note that I have a few -- very few at this point -- VCRs, TBCs, capture cards, complete workflows, and some other devices available for sale. More info on that in the marketplace forum, PM me if interested. Finding a working solution is possible.

Viracocha 02-07-2018 01:15 AM

Of course with the things you guys have my VCRs look awful! Back when the Sears still worked I really liked its picture and sound quality. I even did a recording with it and was satisfied with the results. But it just kept degrading and degrading... I guess the problem could also be caused by the motor of the video drum.

I still don't know why my AG-1950 doesn't work anymore. It uses a really horrible mode switch that you cannot open up. May make it impossible to clean if that's the problem. The mechanism does seem to work if I insert an empty cassette uhmmm interesting...

I get you guys' point that if I'm to digitize valuable cassettes I should do it with the best equipment possible but let's take the Panasonic AG-1980 for example, which seems to be the most popular option. Including shipping the cheapest ones are over 400 dollars on ebay. There's just no way I can spend that much money on some old VCR that may break after 5 uses. Most I could spend is around 200 CAD. I don't suppose you'd be willing to go that low... To think that thousands of these VCRs went and are still going to the death camps (recycling centers) each year :smack:

lordsmurf 02-07-2018 01:30 AM

That's a reason to not buy from eBay. It is gambling.

I have some JVC decks available, but for about 400 CAD. TGrant has refurb'd AG-1980 (but will not ship outside USA). The big difference here is (1) knowledgeable video people were using/maintaining these decks, (2) our gear is in prime condition, and will not break after 5 uses. There are some others, from time to time, in the marketplace as well.

Lots of VCRs ending up being recycling probably should be. Only S-VHS decks (or Betamax, U-matic, etc) should be kept for parts, to repair older decks. Your average Sanyo or GE or whatever $100 new VHS VCR is about 20 years old now, and was not that good to begin with.

Canada has a pretty lousy selection of VCRs, and has always nee a case of importing from USA. I've shipped VCRs to Canada twice in recent months.

Also remember: You can buy it, use it, then resell it when done. Keep in in good shape, and it will retain its value.

If you just really want to stay cheap -- and realize quality will lower because of it -- then I do see a few Sharp VHS VCRs on eBay Canada. Those are, at very least, some of the better low-end boxes out there. But all bets are off as to hardware functionality, since I can only read about these decks (and not view them in person).

Viracocha 02-16-2018 12:35 AM

What model are those JVCs and how do they compare to a Panasonic AG-1980?

Something that's been bothering me is what if I dislike the effects the TBC, DNR these high-end VCRs feature has on the picture? The only thing I dislike about the VHS picture are those white horizontal lines and jumpy picture when the tape is damaged. What if the picture of a tape is naturally unstable and dirty because the footage was shot on film for example, will it mess it up?

It's a shame I didn't manage to get my Panasonic AG-1950 working because I took it all apart. What I have found is extremely absurd. When the video head amplifier is disconnected, if you insert a recordable cassette in it it will successfully play for a few seconds. It must be a recordable because the record detection switch must be on for it to work. I find this extremely absurd and I have no idea what it has to do with me applying new grease. However if the video head amplifier is fully connected the mechanism will not play anything even if the record switch is shorted. The behavior of the VCR does not change whether a cassette is in it, an empty one or if you trick it, none at all. If only I didn't apply this magic new grease back in 2016! I don't see what grease has to do with the video head amplifier and record detection switch but apparently they are all linked :ohmy: :huh3:

So was Sharp better than GE and Sanyo? I did not know that.

dpalomaki 02-16-2018 07:43 AM

FWIW, VCRs contain logic circuits and sensors that monitor the power up, loading, tape motion and unloading processes. If the logic circuits detect an anomaly (i.e., something unexpected) they will try to protect the tape (ejecting it if it thinks it is safe to do so) and shut down. The point of shutdown depends on the when/where in the operating cycle the problem is detected. Grease may have found its way to one of the sensors and is causing an anomalous condition. Later model Panasonic AGs could show an error number on the front panel that may help in diagnosing the problem, but I don't know about the AG-1950.

On the better machines the DNR and line TBC can be turned down/off depending on the specific model of machine.

How many tapes are you planning to digitize?

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