Review of the JVC DVS2 MiniDV+SVHS VCR at DVinfo.net

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Old April 27th, 2002, 12:54 AM   #1
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Review of the JVC DVS2 MiniDV+SVHS VCR

Note: this review was originally posted to the Canopus User Forums several months ago. I have reposted it here because there continues to be sufficient interest in this and other SVHS decks. I have had no further problems with the deck since the original posting of the review.

I have the JVC DVS2 which is the newer version of the combination MiniDV/SVHS deck. This is the "prosumer" version of the deck. JVC also sells a similar deck that sells for considerably more, but has no additional features. They call this the "professional" version of the deck. I'm still fuzzy on what the differences are. The deck can be found for right around $1000; I bought mine from etronics.com, which I have found to be extraordinarily reputable (i.e., they're not a bait-and-switch shop, they won't con you into ordering overpriced accessories, and they will honor your warranty).

I've had mixed feelings about my JVC DVS2 deck.

The first problem that I had with it--more of a gripe than a true fault--is that the default audio bit depth on the deck is 12 bit. You can switch it to 16 bit mode, but be sure to do so each time you unplug it and plug it back in, otherwise, all of your MiniDV tape dubs will have only 12 bit audio on them. I can't find any reasoning for this unusual default setting.

The second problem--and this is mentioned NOWHERE in any of the manuals, tech specs, etc.--is that IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DUB A MINIDV CASSETTE FROM AN EXTERNAL ANALOG SOURCE THROUGH THE FRONT (F-1) INPUTS. The only way to go from analog in straight to the DV deck is to use the SVHS or Composite jacks on the BACK of the deck (L-1 inputs). If you plan on mounting the deck as part of a rack or cabinet system, this isn't the deck for you, as you'll require frequent access to the back of the deck. The reason for this problem seems to have been an engineering oversight on the part of the designers at JVC. It's a bit complicated, but as I understand it, it boils down to this: when you have the DV deck recording and the front input (F-1) selected, the deck recognizes only the firewire jack, and not the analog inputs. Again, this isn't mentioned anywhere in the documentation, web site, etc.--as far as I know, I'm the first person to publish anything about this on the web. Even the tech support guys at JVC were perplexed. They insisted it should work, so I sent my first deck back to the retailer and got a replacement. When the replacement exhibited the same problem, I made the tech support guy get up and test it out on his own demo deck, and JVC finally acknowledged the issue. I asked him to publish the issue to an online addendum to the printed manual, but as far as I know, this never happened. The lesson of the story? If you want to dub from an external analog source to a digital MiniDV cassette tape, you need to plug into the back of the deck.

My third problem with the deck is some unusual audio issues. I've had some strange audio dropout that occurs only occasionally and I haven't really determined whether it's the JVC deck or my DVStorm or my Canon XL1S or some combination thereof. It might be that it's not the JVC deck's fault at all. I'll keep looking into this and report back if there's further interest.

My fourth and final issue, overarching all my other problems with the deck, is the apparently shoddy craftsmanship of the internal components. For example, the drive motors are clunky and noisy, and it can take a while to accept or eject a tape. At one point, the deck ate a VHS tape and wouldn't eject the tape enough for me to pry it out; rather than opening the case and voiding my 1 year warranty, I took the deck in to a JVC-authorized service shop and kissed the deck goodbye for ten days. (Aside: the the service shop had to verify that etronics.com was an authorized dealer in order to honor the manufacturer's repair warranty. Before actually verifying this, the man behind the counter practically assured me that my deck had been purchased from scam artists and that I would have to pay for the repairs. In the end, there was no such problem, so, I conclude that etronics.com is as good a place as any to send my business.) When I got the deck back, I asked what the problem had been. Why had the deck eaten the VHS tape? I expected to hear something about bad servos or misaligned heads. The improbable answer I received was that the technician found a broken solder joint where a microprocessor connects to a PCB. This resulted in null signals being issued to the circuits that controlled servo speeds, preventing the proper functioning of the deck. OK, whatever, guys. You're the ones that are JVC authorized. Just so long as my deck doesn't eat any more VHS tapes.

It hasn't eaten any more tapes to date, but I haven't trusted any important tapes to it since. Overall, I feel this $1000 deck is less reliable than $50 consumer VHS decks which have been put through their rigors in testing labs and are expected to last millions of hours of rewinds and fast-forwards over their operational lifetimes.

Well, that's enough about my negative experiences. On to the positives:

The deck is highly multifunctional and has enough inputs and outputs to please most prosumers. No RGB composite jacks, but I don't use those anyway. It's nice to have a single stationary deck to use as input and output from my DVStorm.

Archiving VHS tapes to MiniDV (or making VHS copies from a digital tape) is a snap with the dub feature. Just put in source and blank tapes, set whether you want MiniDV -> SVHS or MiniDV <- SVHS, and hold down the DUB button for two seconds. The deck automatically rewinds both tapes and records all the way through the destination tape, then rewinds both tapes again. (If you only want to dub a certain portion to a certain queued portion, it's only slightly more complicated.) I haven't yet tested whether the DUB feature defeats Macrovision copy protection, but again, if there is interest, I can report back on that.

The deck squeezes the best resolution out of my old VHS tapes and its autotracking functions seem to be sufficiently advanced.

All-in-all, I'd rate this deck about 6 out of 10. This would easily move up to a 9.5/10 if JVC did a little more to convince me of the hardware's robustness--the tape-eating issue was particularly disconcerting--and documented the front input issues a little more thoroughly. The amount of time it has saved me, and the amount of wear it has saved my XL1S, are worth half of its price.
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Old April 27th, 2002, 03:44 AM   #2
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Is there a firewire port on the back of the deck? I would be driven nuts if it is only on the front. JVC has had shoddy craftmenship on even their high end products for at least 4 years now. They use cheap components and it shows. They are not built to last. I wish Mitsubishi would build a nice MiniDV/SVHS deck. Also, can it copy from the firewire input straight to SVHS without any MiniDV tape in the unit? It would be nice to record straight from the computer to SVHSor VHS without having to put it on a MiniDV tape first.
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Old April 27th, 2002, 07:52 AM   #3
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Good news and bad news. Good news first.

You can copy straight to SVHS from firewire without a MiniDV tape.

But. There's only one firewire jack (4-pin type), and it's in the front.
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Old April 27th, 2002, 10:34 AM   #4
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Robert, would you mind if I put this up as a page in the Articles section of the DVinfoNet site?
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Old October 25th, 2002, 11:57 PM   #5
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Hi Chris,

Yes, by all means! Though by the time I responded to you, it's probably out of date!
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Old October 26th, 2002, 01:00 AM   #6
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I had heard negatives on all of the JVC combo decks and decided to go the separate route. I wound up with a pana dv1000 and I'm planning on a JVC5911 SVHS deck. This works out to very little difference in cost and I get a robust and fuller featured DV deck and the same SVHS VCR .
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Old October 26th, 2002, 04:22 AM   #7
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What additional features does the DV deck have?

The thing I most appreciate about a combined deck is ability to make tape copies with just a single button-press and the ability to dub back and forth with ease. I just can't see myself sitting, manually queuing up two separate decks to try to record to just the right spot on a tape after being spoiled by the JVC deck.

Also, I don't know of any VHS decks with FireWire out.

I would be interested to know what differences exist between the JVC DVS2 and DVS3. I can't seem to find anything comparing the two decks on the web.
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Old October 26th, 2002, 01:04 PM   #8
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The SR-VS30U is the current pro double deck.

My advice to anyone interested is go and view the decks. The JVC was a feather weight DV/SVHS dubbing deck. The pana DV1000 was for my purposes a lot more versitile and robust. I've always stayed away from multi purpose products.
I suppose I could spend alot of time detailing the differences, but for me they are blatently obvious.
I admit I didn't even bother to try the JVC as I was so turned off by it's flimsy build and seemingly start set of features. Two dealers and several end users suggested that I not waste my time and money. I did make an effort to examine the build of the product very carefully.

I had wanted to wait to see what new crop of SVHS/VHS/ or HD VCR products was available before I buy the second half of my rig. It seems that i'll just buy a 5911 with the front SVHS input and the flying erase heads.
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Old October 26th, 2002, 01:14 PM   #9
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FWIW, I also use and like the Panasonic AGDV1000 (miniDV-only) deck. I think it's an excellent value and would certainly meet the needs of most hobbyists or part-time videographers who shoot only miniDV. It's extremely small, lightweight and features very low power consumption. It is fully compatible with FCP and with the Contour Design shuttle controller.

I also looked at the JVC combination DV/VHS deck at the time I bought the Panasonic (1.5 yrs.). In the final analysis I concluded that combination decks could be more trouble than value. If one portion of the deck fails you could potentially lose the other when the entire unit it out for repair. It would also preclude the relatively easy and inexpensive upgrade of one format (ex: DV or VHS).

Just my experiences and thoughts.
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Old October 26th, 2002, 05:57 PM   #10
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"I admit I didn't even bother to try the JVC as I was so turned off by it's flimsy build... I did make an effort to examine the build of the product very carefully."

So, you looked at the product's case? You picked it up and shook it? You took the deck apart? I'm not sure what the judgment criterion is, or the resultant implication is. A VCR doesn't pass muster unless it weighs 40 pounds?...

"Two dealers and several end users suggested that I not waste my time and money [looking at the JVC dual decks]."

I've heard the same criticisms... shoddy components, etc. But it's hard for me to give credence to such complaints without being qualified by reliability data, especially when the primary objection is "flimsy build," which is really just arbitrary conjecture. A current $50 consumer VCR weighing three pounds is just a reliable as the first heavy-as-bricks $300 VCR we all owned in 1985.

Also, I haven't heard anything in the way of explanation as to how the DVS2 differs from the DVS20, DVS3 from the DVS30, except in the way of price. (The warranty isn't any different!)

If a VCR works, it works, right? Unlike a BMW, which, I suppose one can argue, drives better than a Ford, a VCR either performs its functions without flaw or failure, or it's broken. No?
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Old October 26th, 2002, 09:46 PM   #11
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I calls em as I see them, I personally see no reason to waste more time trying something that doesn't pass muster. I'm a technical person and a very good judge of quality.

Your entitled to your opinion, I'm just expressing mine.

So far as the difference between the units, the DV-s2 and vs 20 were last years model. Your right though the only apparent difference with the VS30U and the S3 consumer model is price and the allusion that it is a commercial deck.

The analgy that as long as it works then so what would be the same as comparing a work light with an Arri, Strand or lowel.

I'm not trying to be difficult, I'm just telling how I feel. To be honest though, i'm an old fart and have "made do" in the past. Now I buy what I consider to be the better stuff and to hell with the cost.

As I said, I can gang a JVC 5911 to the Panny and it'll cost very little more than the combo deck.
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Old October 26th, 2002, 10:10 PM   #12
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Howdy from Texas,

<< As I said, I can gang a JVC 5911 to the Panny and it'll cost very little more than the combo deck. >>

An advantage to this approach is, if one unit breaks down you still have the other. On a dual deck, if one side breaks down, you have to send the whole thing in for service. However combo decks take up less room and fewer cables. There's a plus and minus to everything.
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Old October 26th, 2002, 10:29 PM   #13
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I won a RCA VHS VCR in 1977. It retailed for well over $1,000 ($1,299?) and had to weigh between 50 and 75 pounds. The longest tape was an hour (almost impossible to find) and cost $30. Nothing flimsy about that beast. You could have used it for a boat anchor.

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Old October 27th, 2002, 01:26 AM   #14
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Jeff,

Cool story about your boat anchor, I mean VCR. I bet it had the tape carriage that popped up from the top like all those old VCRs. Yet I would be surprised if it still worked today. Those old units tended to have EPROMs with shelf lives of 20 years.

My whole point to this thread, I think, is that you can't judge a piece of gear's functionality/usablility by whether its cabinet is plastic or brushed aluminum. Without seeing the factory's quality control data, or a good sampling of anecdotal user histories, one shouldn't be tempted to disregard a piece of gear as "low quality" or "flimsy" just because it can't double as an elevator counterweight. I suppose if you're carting your gear around a lot, back and forth to set for example, you want something that stands up to the pressures of moving and dropping and so forth. But the durability of the electronic and servo parts in a VCR can't be determined by looking at the case.
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Old October 27th, 2002, 01:16 PM   #15
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"My fourth and final issue, overarching all my other problems with the deck, is the apparently shoddy craftsmanship of the internal components. For example, the drive motors are clunky and noisy, and it can take a while to accept or eject a tape."

If a product has a shoddy exterior , that would certainly make the rest suspect. If your happy then fine . Different people have a different level of expectation and a different standard as to what's acceptible.
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