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Old May 20th, 2004, 01:02 AM   #1
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Performance Review---JVC HR-DVS3U

The JVC HR-DVS3U is the consumer version of their dual-deck VCR, that combines mini-DV and S-VHS. Since it appears to be the least expensive DV VCR available, I believe it would be of interest to many of you. It has a tuner and program timer and plays and records both SP and EP speeds in S-VHS, which are not included features in the pro model
SR-VS30U. The pro model does only SP speed in S-VHS, but it will play back (but not record)
DVCAM pre-recorded tapes. The HR-DVS3U won't play back DVCAM.

The cost of my newly-acquired HR-DVS3U was $694., from B&H Photo in New York. A 4-year extended Mack warranty cost $75.

I spent most of the day putting every possible feature and mode it offers to the test. At this point, I am so pleased with its performance, that I'm feeling a bit uneasy. But, why worry about functional problems until they occur?

My main interest in this unit is using the DV section to play DV camcorder tapes into a VCR-based editing system and to re-record many of the camera tapes and edited master tapes I have done on Digital8. I played Digital8 recordings from my Sony GV-D200 into the HR-DVS3U over FireWire, re-recorded them on DV and then played/recorded them back and forth between the two decks through several generations. I used both SP and LP and saw no hint of any glitch from either speed. I used Sony DVM60EXL cassettes, which is the higher-grade "excellence" type of their tape, but without the special memory-chip.

If there's any compatibility problem with the JVC deck and Sony tape, it didn't show up in several hours of operation.

The controls of this deck are easy to find and use and there's jog/shuttle wheels on both the front panel and remote controler. I won't go into the tuner/timer functions, but they are the most extensive I've found on any VCR, if you want to use either side of this unit for TV program recording.

I was pleasantly surprised by how quiet all the tape-transport functions were with both DV and S-VHS. Just a faint whirring on S-VHS and only a whisper with DV. On my last new JVC S-VHS VCR, the HR-S9800U, now in my boneyard of relics, any variety of fast-forward or rewind sounded like a small train-wreck was taking place inside. I was amazed it lasted as long as the 16 months it took for the power-transformer to go out. This new dual-deck seems to be a different breed of cat, judging by its smooth sounds and the quick response of its functions. I have the impression (and hope) that it's built with more solid mechanical components. The rewind and fast-forward of the DV deck is faster than that of my Digital8 equipment.

I did many freeze-frames on DV and captured several still pictures on my stand-alone floppy-disk recorder. The stills were sharp and without any artifacts. The stills taken from freezes were just as good as the ones I captured on the fly, from rolling tape.

This deck does analog/digital pass-through conversion and I played some Hi-8 pre-recorded tapes in the Digital8 deck, passed the output into the HR-DVS3U via S-Video and then ran its FireWire output into my Digital8 camcorder, re-recording it. The results of this digitized Hi-8 recording were very good, looking better than when directly played on my Hi-8 VCR.

I then re-recorded two hours of edited Digital8 master tapes, played on the GV-D200 and sent by FireWire to the DV unit. I set up a little 5-inch monitor to show a separate, analog output from the GV-D200, so its time-code and data code could be viewed, as its tape was played. The output from the DV recording deck went into my big monitor. The data code, embedded in the original Digital8 recording, showing the date, time and camera settings, couldn't be called onscreen, when I played back the DV re-recording. Whether I just couldn't figure out how to display the data code on the JVC DV deck or if it's unusable by this other brand of recorder, I'm not sure. Perhaps someone else has some knowledge about this. Note that this transfer was done by FireWire, not by S-Video, the latter of which wouldn't carry the hidden data code.

I hope to eventually re-record several dozen Digital8-recorded tapes, transfering them to DV for archiving. I don't want to be caught with non-working Digital8 equipment in the future and no way to play back the recordings, as there won't likely be any new Digital8 units available, before much longer. At least that's my take on the situation regarding Digital8, which seems headed for the last roundup.

On the S-VHS side of the HR-DVS3U, which does VHS and S-VHS-ET and SP and EP speeds, everything was working well also. You can internally transfer and re-record between both DV and S-VHS. The S-VHS side has a time-base corrector and when I tranferred a recording back and forth between DV and S-VHS, it took about 5 of these double recording generations, before the S-VHS playback picture showed significant signs of going south.

I hope no one regards this brief review as anything but a one-day mini-trial, as who knows how well this thing will run after I've driven it hard for awhile? I might eventually have to unload $1,200.,
$1,700. or $2,700., for one of the more expensive Sony DV VCRs, to make my system work properly.

But, anyone who needs a DV VCR to supplement and prevent extra playback wear on a camcorder and has no wish to spend bigger bucks for it, might consider this model. How universally this VCR is recognized by NLE editing systems, will have to be determined by someone else. Next week, I will have a Sony DV camcorder and we'll see how well the tapes recorded in it will play back in the HR-DVS3U. I will post a supplemental report about the cross-brand recording/playback compatibility of these units, as soon as I can.

Steve McDonald
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Old May 25th, 2004, 06:39 PM   #2
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Thanks for taking the time to post your review. I've been considering this deck for awhile but stayed away due to negative posts. Look forward to your sequel!!
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Old May 25th, 2004, 09:39 PM   #3
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Len, my "sequel" will be delayed another week or so before its release date. I just now received a tracking notice that my VX2100 has finally been shipped, after the dealer (who shall remain unnamed, unless he diddles around some more) held up on sending it for 8 days, just to clear a cashier's check I bought at my bank (mistakingly thinking this would speed-up the process). This is a different dealer than sold me the DV/S-VHS VCR.

I need to carefully check the playback of the VX2100's recorded tapes in the JVC
HR-DVS3U, before I can rate the DV side of this VCR properly.

After breaking-in both sides of this VCR for a week, it runs even more quietly and has me purring, too.

Although I said I wouldn't, I am going to say something about the TV-program features of this unit. After all, how many of us don't record and watch a few TV shows after our hours of editing labors are ended, late at night?

Unfortunately, like all VCRs I've bought in the last 5 years, the tuner is not so good on weaker broadcast signals. If you use cable or satellite for programming, you'd never notice a thing, as it would tune them just fine. On my JVC HR-S7300U S-VHS VCR, from 1997, its tuner pulls in distant signals in great fashion. If its tape functions ever break down, I may have to keep it as a supplemental tuner, to feed the new decks on those weak channels.

Perhaps you could repeat some of the negative reports you heard about the HR-DVS3U, so I could be on the alert for problems?

Steve McDonald
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Old May 26th, 2004, 09:20 PM   #4
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Here is one example, although it deals with a different model JVC dual deck -- http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?s=&threadid=2778&highlight=jvc. I seem to recall some other threads on this deck but don't recall which forum they were in. Do you know if there are any other dual deck options?
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Old May 27th, 2004, 09:30 AM   #5
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One negative I have had with the slightly higher end versionof this deck is the lack of audio metering/monitoring/level control. I frequently use this deck to record live-to-tape multi-camera productions. Sometimes, even though I believe my mixer is properly set - I get maxed out audio (distortion) yet the mixer never exceeds the yellow.
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Old May 29th, 2004, 08:03 AM   #6
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Next Chapter:

I got my VX2100 recently and shot some footage, just to test the recorded cassette in the JVC HR-DVSU. I was concerned how well this low-cost solution to having a DV VCR would work, when playing the camera tapes of the Sony.

Well, it played a tape from the VX2100 without flaw. There was nothing but a good, steady picture and sound. I used the higher-grade Sony "Excellence" DV tape and will continue to stick with that. I'm tempted to add some ravings about the great performance of the 2100, but I'd just be preaching to the choir here, on that.

It looks for the time being, at least, that the HR-DVS3U dual-deck will work fine for playing my camcorder tapes into another VCR for editing and copying. Not having to use the camcorder for playback is a big advantage and should extend its
service-life.

Steve McDonald
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Old October 22nd, 2007, 01:25 PM   #7
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Steve, if you're still around and still using this deck I'm wondering what you have to say about it a few years later. I'm looking at grabbing one now and was pleased to find this thread.

-Kevin
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Old October 23rd, 2007, 06:03 AM   #8
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JVC HR-DVS3U Still Running Fine

Kevin, I haven't had a bit of trouble with this VCR, after 3.5 years of service. I just excavated a long-lost S-VHS tape from my attic, that had been suffering from 19 years of extreme hot and cold temperatures. This had important footage and the HR-DVS3U played it back nicely and internally re-recorded it on DV tape. The TBC on the analog playback really made the video quality look good-----much better than it did when first played in 1988 on an older VCR. If anyone has an archive with old VHS and S-VHS tapes, this would be a great deck to use for conversion to DV or for sending to a DVD recorder. With the timecode it added, I then was able to do an upload over FireWire to a harddrive and the DVDs I've made from it, don't show much sign of its ordeals. This is not a simple, consumer VCR, as it has many complex features. Fortunately, it has a good manual and you need to read the details of each procedure. I might re-state that I can exchange recorded tapes back and forth that were made on my VX2100 and GV-D1000 and the JVC, with no incompatibility, on both SP and LP speeds. The HR-DVS3U doesn't play back DVCAM tapes, but you could send a DVCAM output into it over FireWire and it would re-record it in DV. Good luck if you decide to pick up one.

Here's a vid-cap from the old S-VHS tape I played on the HR-DVS3U. The footage came from an 8mm camcorder and was 2nd-gen. on the S-VHS tape. This used a composite transfer, with no TBC. After I converted it to DV in the JVC deck, I put the tape into the VX2100 camcorder and captured the still as a J-PEG onto a MemoryStick. Then, I used Sony's Picture Motion Browser to reduce it to 480 X 360, a size that minimizes this string of disadvantages it suffered.
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Old October 23rd, 2007, 09:02 AM   #9
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Have you had to do any service to it... like head cleaning? I'm thinking of getting one that's used that is still working and wondering if I should do any routine service to it right of the bat.

Thanks for the follow up!
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Old October 23rd, 2007, 10:51 PM   #10
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My policy about head-cleaning, is to never do it until a recorder shows signs of needing it. So far, this one hasn't. Besides, this model and many others by JVC have built-in head-cleaners. Everytime you load a cassette, the head-cleaner brushes against the head-drum for a moment. It doesn't clean the whole tape pathway, so any cleaning that would be needed, should be for doing that, plus lubrication. If cassettes are slow to load or refuse to do so, the tape-threading mechanism might need maintenance. I've had to have no repairs done to it.

I've never bought any used equipment, as I prefer to get it when it's new and unabused. Then, I take good care of it and never allow anything to be put into it, if I don't know everywhere it's been. I keep a VCR of ill-repute on hand, just to play cassettes of dubious virtue. I hate to say it, but if I received a DV cassette from an outside source, it would go into the JVC, to spare any risk to my Sony GV-D1000. The JVC is its designated cut-bear, as I think its sturdy tape mechanism may be better able to withstand a bad tape. Now, someone may tell me that all DV tape drives are made by Sony and there's no difference in them. If I had a pro model Sony DVCAM deck, I'd probably get the JVC pro version of the HR-DVS3U, that will play DVCAM recordings, as a companion for it.
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