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NJRoadfan 05-21-2011 10:03 PM

Finally took the plunge on a AG-1980 Panasonic S-VHS VCR
Anything to look out for trouble wise on these? I managed to snag one cheap with remote. I figure for sub $100, an untested unit is worth a shot, there is a local repair shop here that can refurb it if needed. While the DVHS deck I have seems to track every EP tape I have thrown at it so far, I still don't trust it with VHS-C tapes.

For the curious, my test tape is going to be an EP recording of the original broadcast of the Duck Tales premiere movie off of WTAF-29 Philadelphia. For some strange reason we got that station on our cable system here in Northern NJ back in the 80s.

lordsmurf 05-23-2011 07:35 PM

What to look for:
- Chroma under-saturation -- video gets more B&W as the tape plays, near B&W after a minute or two
- Buzzing in the audio, caused by power issues
- "White streaks" when playing SLP (EP) mode tapes that were made on a lousy deck
- Sharpness slider should be less than "defeat" (aka: move left of midpoint), as it sharpens even at this level. Only sharpen if/when needed.
- Don't use the "edit" mode for playback, it's just noisy.
- TBC may may unstable tapes worse (same potential for problems as JVC VCRs -- TBCs are not perfect)

The AG-1980P tends to play marginal quality recordings better than a JVC deck, but it's far from perfect. The JVC 7600+/9500+/SR-V10+V101 are better for tapes that play fine in both JVC and Panasonic VCRs.

The Panasonic has a full-field (half frame, multi-line) TBC, thus "larger" than JVC. Of course, bigger doesn't necessarily equate to better.

The JVC may appear "softer" but that's because it's not amplifying noise and sharpening the edges of the image, like the Panasonic does. It's easy to find the see the "sharpening halos" (I'm apparently too tired to remember the technical term right now). If you search and/or browse the forum, info on this will turn up for sure.

All I can think of off-hand. :)

NJRoadfan 05-24-2011 05:29 PM

Well, I already have the SR-VD400US and the HR-S7800U. This deck will likely be for stubborn EP tapes and for handling VHS-C tapes for the most part. BTW, I did some research and found out that the AG-1980 came out in the beginning of 1996. It certainly was a long lived model if they continued to build it to 2001 or so. It would have been great if they updated the TBC to the full frame unit found in the AG-DS555 Superdeck that came out in late 96/early 97 as costs dropped.... sigh.

Tuco 05-24-2011 06:46 PM

I recently took the dive as well. Just got one the other day for $75. Supposedly tested for recording, playback, etc. No remote. I'm not expecting much, so we'll see...

NJRoadfan 05-27-2011 11:04 AM

Looks like I won 1980 Roulette. Got the machine today and it seems to be working perfectly fine. SP and EP tapes all play, transport has no issues that I can see. The remote works, as does the display and all the front panel controls and jog/shuttle dial (just like the ones on the pro Pannys I used in the past). One thing I like about this machine, the tape transport is snappy. Going from rwd/ff to play is quick unlike the JVCs and it threads/unthreads the tape quickly. Also, who said you need the remote to reset the tape counter? Just hit the reset button on the front panel.

NJRoadfan 05-27-2011 02:38 PM

OK, a few questions on switches.

What does the AUTO/WIDE/NOM switch do, and what should it be set at? The manual has a completely useless description for each setting.

What should the DETAIL/NOM/EDIT switch be set to? I can see an obviously difference in the EDIT mode (turns off the filters and looks bad), but no difference between DETAIL and NOM.

Unrelated, I took a look inside of the machine. Surprisingly clean with no dust/dirt. The pinch roller has very little wear, so its likely been replaced or the machine saw little use in the past. Its also kinda cool how it raises/lowers from the tape path when threading a tape. I did more tests to look for the infamous "herringbone" noise, and the output appears clean and interference free, looks like this machine is a keeper.

Tuco 06-01-2011 12:17 AM

I think there was a round in the chamber come my turn to play 1980P roulette, but it looks like I've only suffered a ruptured ear-drum and a grazed skull. We'll see what the doctors say.

So far the playback is fine and the transport works great. I can't seem to get composite-in to work via the BNC->Composite adapter, but I haven't fooled with it much. I don't see any herringbone noise or other video problems. The display is dim in places and when I put my ear to the power input I can hear an electrical noise. Not sure if this is normal or not, but the audio seems to be clear of any humm/hiss. I also do not have the remote, so I'm not sure if there are any features that are only accessible via the remote or not. I'll download the manual and take a look. I'm also going to look into correcting the dim display. Other than that, not bad for $75.

admin 06-01-2011 12:31 AM

  • playback is fine
  • transport works great
  • audio seems to be clear of any humm/hiss
  • don't see any herringbone noise or other video problems
  • display is dim
  • can't seem to get composite-in to work via the BNC->Composite adapter
  • can hear an electrical noise
  • do not have the remote
I don't think you had a round in the chamber. Maybe some lodged dirt shot out, but that's about it. :thumb:

All things considered, not bad at all. I think you scored okay on this one:
  • Dim display isn't important to operation of VCR.
  • Composite can be bypassed for better s-video anyway, or maybe as simple as bad BNC adapter.
  • Electrical noise does not matter, as long as it's not in the recorded signal.
  • Not remote isn't the end of the world. The Panasonic on-VCR buttons are more durable than JVC buttons.
There's an AG-1980, HR-S9800 and an SR-V10U down for the count here right now. :(

SR-V10 not an issue, 9800 a small nuisance, loss of the main AG-1980 is most aggravating. About 3 other decks down too, but not as much of an issue (and these 3 can be self-repaired, as simple alignment issues). VCRs suck. If your new addition is working that well, pat yourself on the back for a good buy. I'm actually jealous -- I'd love to have a $75 AG-1980P! Repair cost alone with be $75 minimum on this downed unit.

If you figure out the dimmed display issue, let me know. I've not had time to research it.

admin 06-01-2011 12:38 AM


Originally Posted by NJRoadfan (Post 15937)
What does the AUTO/WIDE/NOM switch do

Nothing. It's our understanding that this was a feature built into the original specs, but cut before production. Therefore it's a dummy/dead switch. It does diddly. A few members of other forums have confirmed this. Or at very least, we all share the same understanding.


What should the DETAIL/NOM/EDIT switch be set to? I can see an obviously difference in the EDIT mode (turns off the filters and looks bad), but no difference between DETAIL and NOM.
Nobody sees a difference in DETAIL and NORMAL. This may also be a designed-but-dumped feature set that was superceded by the sharpen slider. The DETAIL/NORMAL/EDIT is eerily familiar to the JVC options of SHARP/SOFT/NORM-AUTO/EDIT for picture sharpness control.


I did more tests to look for the infamous "herringbone" noise
Herringbone with this unit is not as common as magnetic dropouts.
Or the "ringing" sharpening artifacts when the slider is on defeat (base/zero/middle setting).

Tuco 06-01-2011 12:45 AM

Thanks admin! Yeah, the dim display isn't a top priority, but something that would be nice to fix as long as it doesn't involve risking damage to the unit ( I'm sure it actually does ). I'll look into it and post what I find.

FYI - I just got the composite input working. It turns out the connector wasn't securely fastened. Doh!

Also, I noticed the link to the 1980P service manual on this forum is broken. Was this removed on purpose? If not can we get an updated link? Thanks!

admin 06-01-2011 12:50 AM

Something just wasn't linked properly.
The original thread, with the original attachment, is here:
The dead link (now fixed) was only in the index thread:

There's some work being done this week, to add on the manuals available. There's a dozen or so to add. :)

Nothing new/more for the AG-1980 -- just more manuals for our other gear!

Tuco 06-01-2011 12:52 AM

Thanks again!

Sorry to hear about those dead decks. Bummer.

NJRoadfan 06-01-2011 08:31 PM


Originally Posted by admin (Post 15959)
I'm actually jealous -- I'd love to have a $75 AG-1980P! Repair cost alone with be $75 minimum on this downed unit.

I lucked out, this unit was a fairly late build (October 2001) and it looks brand new inside and out, just a few light scratches on top of the case. Keep in mind that the unit was listed "untested/as-is" with no photos of the machine turned on. If you have a dim/dead display, pick up the AG-A96 editing controller, I got one for $9 for the heck of it since it was so cheap.

Tuco 06-01-2011 09:08 PM

Well, the joy was short-lived. I was just testing my AG-1980 and doing some test captures when it suddenly failed to eject the tape. When I hit eject it sounds like it is going to eject and then powers off. Weird thing is, if I turn it back on and hit play it will play fine. But hitting the eject button kills the power. Not sure what happened because it was working fine just a little while ago. The unit is plugged into its own AVR-enabled UPS. I'm guessing its the usual power supply issues at the moment. I'll dig deeper after some sleep.

Anyone have any ideas?

Tuco 06-02-2011 05:05 PM

Woops, ignore the post above (#14). It turns out I had OTR on and once I turned it off, everything was fine; it ejects now. This is what happens when you test/troubleshoot when sleep-deprived. :o

lordsmurf 06-09-2011 10:33 AM


Originally Posted by Tuco (Post 16017)
This is what happens when you test/troubleshoot when sleep-deprived. :o

Same here. :thumb:

Ironically, however, some of my most advanced technical work has come after downing a few pints. For some reason, beer makes it easier to write complex PHP, write/edit device firmware, or install Linux from command-line only. Not that I would suggest it -- but it works for me. Have a few drinks with buddies, then suddenly get an itch to tackle that big project again (after failing the first time during the sober daytime working hours), and it works! Not drunk, just a wee bit buzzed seems to do the trick.

I've always been amused by that. :p

Tuco 06-10-2011 09:00 PM

I can confirm this from first-hand experience. It's weird, but it works. The guy at my previous office used to put Kalua in his coffee every other day and it sure didn't set him back.

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