This has probably been explain in a few places already, but I can surely do it again! ....
The JVC and Panasonic series are not better than one another, but they are different. The JVC works best in some scenarios, the Panasonic in others. The "best" machine really depends on the sources, the condition of the tapes, and the project.
For most tapes, the JVC is best. For example, SP mode tapes, in relatively decent condition, not too far gone. Not too blurry, not too unstable. Most tapes fall in this category.
I deal with a lot of awful, miserable, what-the-blank-happened types of tapes. SLP mode copies of copies with unstable signals, jitter, you name it. The Panasonic AG-1980P can generally handle the long-play mode tapes, especially if there are tracking errors when played in the JVC. It's not necessarily because of the full-frame TBC in the Panasonic (as opposed to the line TBC in the JVC), but because the 1980 has nice wide heads and a better-built transport system.
The one trade-off, however, is that the JVC puts out a much cleaner and truer signal. The Panasonic can really process the signal, sometimes leading to banding/posterizing (color palette compression), with more grain noise, and artificial sharpness.
But let's remember restoring video can sometimes be about finding the least-worst signal, not creating a perfect signal. While that JVC may be cleaner, it can't always play all tapes. So you have to take what you can get.
When you have blurry tapes with tracking issues,the more stable false-sharpened Panasonic signal may look great! But if your tapes are already relatively nice, then that AG-1980P could make them seem worse quality in some ways, go with a JVC.
This is why professional services own multiple VCRs of different brand, model and generation -- at least they should, if they're any good at what they do!
One extra downside to the Panasonic line is those were made specifically for studios and broadcasters. Used units have often seen many, many hours of use. The power supplies, LED front display panels, and sliders/switches that control the unit's features can often be damaged. Watch for that. Don't just ask for cosmetic condition, be sure all of the controls move smoothly.
Very often the 1980 remotes are lost, too. You can't reset the VCR counter without it. You'd have to rewind the tape, eject, then re-insert to get 0:00 on the timer. For a casual user, this is fine. For those of us working off of a project cue sheet, it's a hassle to have to get up and play "in and out" with the VCR.
Yes, I prefer the JVC. But it may not always be the best unit. This month I've used a 1980 twice as much as the JVC 9800.
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