No more VCR's with RF input

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Those of you who haven't switched to digital tv and monthly subscription DVR's: What are you recording with now? I need a new VCR, but none of them have RF input anymore that I can find. The other year I found a DVR with almost 400 hours of storage in it that didn't require a subscription, but it has been discontinued and the ones still being sold are very overpriced. Even though the tapes can be a pain, I still would really like to stick with VCR's for now. I'm wondering if I can find one with at least RF out and possibly get a converter for the RF input cable?
 
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First, I should point out that cable boxes and DTV converters have composite video outputs, so you don't need to use the RF input of the VCR. To answer your question, I can think of very few VCRs made over the last decade that I would buy. All my decks (I have three) are eBay purchases. I'd hunt there for lightly used decks. For standard living room duty, I am partial to Mitsubishi "F decks." That's a common chassis used in several models, which are all units with model numbers HS-U51 through HS-U82, excluding numbers 58, 70, and 80. Because of age, an F deck will probably need a belt replacement (still available and super easy), but it will keep running forever. Many are S-VHS units, which is really nice to complement the improved picture of digital TV. As you can tell, I am quite fond of VCRs. I have a DVR as well, so I'm not a luddite.
 
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I'm recording Off-The-Air HDTV (not a cable/sat subscriber) with a $30 Hauppauge USB dongle. These also get cable "Clear QAM" which as I understand it is just the broadcast channels anyway on most systems. You can get a pretty cheap computer dongle with RF in if standard def analog TV is what you want to capture. The next logical step is to make a "home theater PC" that you can also watch amazon, hulu, or netflix on. Many are designed around quiet operation. I've also built for my in-laws a custom PVR computer using "mythtv" software, aka "Freevo". Check out videohelp.com for ideas. The interesting thing is obtaining/ paying for tv program/ schedule listings. I understand windows media center includes these listings somehow. "Freevo" includes stuff like automatic ad skip which the "real" PVRs aren't (weren't?) allowed to do.
 
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I bought a VCR/DVD recorder combo a few years ago, and was dismayed to find out some cable programs embed a signal that signals the recorder that it's content protected. If I hit record it will pop up a message on the screen saying it can't record because it's protected. D'oh... I broke down and upgraded to DVR at that point. I don't know if over-the-air DTV does the same scheme or not. Unfortunately my old VCR died. I was really curious if an older machine would not recognize this content protection, or if it's just Macrovision used on cable.
 
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Digital: I had no idea that there are none with no RF input. Even though the switch to digital OTA has benn made (right?), I would think there has to be an off the shelf way to record it. I have a near new JVC HM-DH40000 D-VHS deck I want to get rid of that was high end stuff a few years back. It has the 1394 connector to record the digital stream right off STBs with a digital output. However, I cant see how it's internal non-digital tuner can record current OTA signals on it's RF connector.
 
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Originally Posted By: Stu_Rock
First, I should point out that cable boxes and DTV converters have composite video outputs, so you don't need to use the RF input of the VCR. To answer your question, I can think of very few VCRs made over the last decade that I would buy. All my decks (I have three) are eBay purchases. I'd hunt there for lightly used decks. For standard living room duty, I am partial to Mitsubishi "F decks." That's a common chassis used in several models, which are all units with model numbers HS-U51 through HS-U82, excluding numbers 58, 70, and 80. Because of age, an F deck will probably need a belt replacement (still available and super easy), but it will keep running forever. Many are S-VHS units, which is really nice to complement the improved picture of digital TV. As you can tell, I am quite fond of VCRs. I have a DVR as well, so I'm not a luddite.
I actually have a mitsubishi U52 VCR still; it needs some part, I forget what, but it worked awesome, great picture.
 
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Originally Posted By: Digital2k2
I'm wondering if I can find one with at least RF out and possibly get a converter for the RF input cable?
This wasn't directly addressed but if you get your TV exclusively off the air you can get a set top convertor box that will have RF ch 3 out. You should hook up with the video/audio RCA cables though for a more clear picture. Most set top boxes (digital convertor box or "coupon box") have a pre programmable timer mode where they change to the appropriate channel. Going through the menu for this then also setting up a VCR is an exercise in determination!
 
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Originally Posted By: tomcat27
I've got 3 JVC's and a Panasonic lying around. a couple of gen II Tivo's too. interested?
Digital: I know you like your tapes, but if tomcat27's Series II Tivo's have lifetime service, take him up on it. If not, there are plenty of them on eBay. I'm still using my Series II Tivo's and our VCR's are all collecting dust somehere. If you want to keep a program permanently, you can use the "Save to VCR" option to save it to a VCR, or (cough, cough) a DVD recorder.
 
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Originally Posted By: tomcat27
I've got 3 JVC's and a Panasonic lying around. a couple of gen II Tivo's too. interested?
Post up the VCR model numbers and I can make a recommendation. Both JVC and Panasonic have made some good decks in the past.
Originally Posted By: Dave Sherman
I bought a VCR/DVD recorder combo a few years ago, and was dismayed to find out some cable programs embed a signal that signals the recorder that it's content protected. If I hit record it will pop up a message on the screen saying it can't record because it's protected.
That's called the "Broadcast Flag." Since a court ruling in 2005, there wasn't any legal obligation to obey the broadcast flag, and as of August 2011, it's obsolete. Unethical broadcasters may still set it in hopes of fouling up owners of old equipment. When purchasing digital recorders, always check the Internet to see if the device ignores the broadcast flag.
Originally Posted By: Jeff_in_VABch
I have a near new JVC HM-DH40000 D-VHS deck I want to get rid of that was high end stuff a few years back. It has the 1394 connector to record the digital stream right off STBs with a digital output. However, I cant see how it's internal non-digital tuner can record current OTA signals on it's RF connector.
D-VHS ... extremely rare. I've never played with those things. The 1394 connector is not for digital STBs; it's for camcorders. There's no way to get the OTA digital signal into the D-VHS VCR without using a computer or converting to analog. If you were local I'd totally come take it off your hands just for curiosity's sake, considering it has nearly zero value. At this point, it's just an S-VHS VCR (and not a good one) with some extra obsolete features. It might be a good option for Digital2K2--you both appear to be in the same state and it does do what what he needs it to do.
Originally Posted By: eljefino
This wasn't directly addressed but if you get your TV exclusively off the air you can get a set top convertor box that will have RF ch 3 out. You should hook up with the video/audio RCA cables though for a more clear picture.
I did say that, but thanks for restating it in a less jargony manner.
 
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Magnivox makes one with a digital tuner. They also make a DVD/HD/VCR unit that has a lot of support on the home theater forums. You can order them through WalMart, but they don't stock them. Search for a Magnivox DVD recorder and it'll come up. BTW, my now 27yr old JVC VCR still works like a champ though the analog TV tuner is now obsolete. I have to feed it from a Zenith DTV tuner. I also picked up a working Panasonic DMR-ES15 DVD recorder at a garage sale last year for cheap. The analog tuner is obsolete but it'll take a composite, SVHS or mini-DV video signal. My TV is OTA only!
 
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Magnavox made several models of a DVD/HDD recorder- it did not contain a VCR. Good news- a new series of models is to be released in September. I use a M-vox 2160A daily, & have a two-models-later version(the 515) waiting on deck in the box. They have both analog & digital tuners, & a co-ax direct pass-through(slightly amplified) for your cable/antenna to your TV, so you can record one thing while watching another. Or- neat trick- you can actually watch one hard-drive recording- or a DVD- while the machine records something else onto the hard drive. It doesn't record Hi-Def, but you might be surprised at how good a clean std-def signal looks even on your flat panel TV. It *Will* pass through, direct to your TV, whatever Hi-Def signal your antenna or cable provides- just won't record in HD. Here's a link to the DVD recorder section of the AVS forum. See stickys at top of page- mod named wajo has done an outstanding job of troubleshooting, documenting procedures etc for the previous Philips versions, the Mvox 2080, 2160, 2160A, 513, & 515. The new-to-come Mvox HDD/DVD recorders already have model #s & other info available, seems a sure bet they'll be available soon. Forget a DVD recorder only- hard drive + DVD is the way to go. Link: http://www.avsforum.com/f/106/dvd-recorders
 

Digital2k2

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Thank you for the detailed information! It looks like trying to find used VCR's will be the best way to go unless I try a DVD recorder or some type of DVR. I should have mentioned that we have standard cox cable, so no cable box or digital tuner, just a coaxial cable coming from the wall to connect to either a TV or VCR. Thank you tomcat27 and Jeff_in_VABch for offering your old units. How much would you want for them? tomcat27, If it's possible to ship them without damage I might be interested in the VCR's. Could you post the model numbers? Do the Tivo's have lifetime service like OilNerd mentioned? Never looked into them too much, but if they don't have a subscription cost to work that sounds good. Jeff_in_VABch, Does your JVC HM-DH40000 D-VHS have RF input? Trying to check the specs for it online I'm only finding an RF output, but I'm probably just missing it somewhere. Most of the older units always had RF in and out. VA beach is a good enough drive, but I'm always looking for a reason to go for a drive haha. Dave Sherman, I have that exact problem with my Magnavox ZV450MW8. It's what I'm trying to replace since it's eating tapes left and right and will not record onto DVD's (at least the last time I tried around last summer). My only working VCR is an RCA VR637HF that has been my favorite so far, but for the past year has started making a pretty loud moaning/groaning noise while playing and recording. I have it sitting on top of a 15 year old RCA 27" TV that its control works with, so it's a very convenient setup.
 

Digital2k2

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Stuart Hughes, you posted while I was typing up that huge post. The DVR that I wish I had gotten before they discontinued it was a Magnavox MDR-513H/F7 320GB DVR and DVD Recorder. If they're working on a new version similar to that then I'll be very happy. Reading reviews on the discontinued one, it really sounded like a decent unit. The only downside being that you can't watch recorded shows on another TV without moving the whole unit or finalizing the recording on a DVD.
 

Digital2k2

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Stu_Rock, What type of tapes do you use? I'm looking for a decent deal online. Walmart carries some, but they are 11.98 for a 5pack and don't seem to be very good quality. I ended up getting another RCA like the one I have since I couldn't find a decent looking Mitsubishi on ebay. It seems to work well with the exception of a high pitch ringing noise (just like the ringing noise you get in your ears if subjected to loud noises without ear protection) a lot of times while playing and recording. It'll have to do for now.
 
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Originally Posted By: Digital2k2
Stu_Rock, What type of tapes do you use?
Good question. I am using up an old stash. Since I only have S-VHS decks, I favor S-VHS cassettes or ultra high-end VHS cassettes. I punch a hole in the VHS cassettes to use them in S-VHS mode. They seem to work OK for about a dozen recording cycles. If I need more, I'll probably hit up eBay for actual S-VHS tapes. My stash will probably last for several more years, though. It's been about five years since I acquired my stash, so I don't know how good current VHS cassettes are. There was a lot of consolidation in that industry that made it hard to keep track of who was making what, where. I just checked on Amazon, and some of the old brands that I used to like are still around (Maxell HG and TDK EHG). Unfortunately the most recent reviews for both are negative, so they might all be junk now. I'd maybe still give Maxell HG a try. They used to perform as well as the commercial "P/I Plus." In my stash, I have a bunch of Samsung HG and Sony Premium that appear to be from the same supplier in Mexico. They are OK, but not as good as HG tapes from the 90s were. If the Mexican tapes are still around, they might be the best things out there.
 
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Originally Posted By: Stuart Hughes
Magnavox made several models of a DVD/HDD recorder- it did not contain a VCR. Good news- a new series of models is to be released in September. I use a M-vox 2160A daily, & have a two-models-later version(the 515) waiting on deck in the box. They have both analog & digital tuners, & a co-ax direct pass-through(slightly amplified) for your cable/antenna to your TV, so you can record one thing while watching another. Or- neat trick- you can actually watch one hard-drive recording- or a DVD- while the machine records something else onto the hard drive. It doesn't record Hi-Def, but you might be surprised at how good a clean std-def signal looks even on your flat panel TV. It *Will* pass through, direct to your TV, whatever Hi-Def signal your antenna or cable provides- just won't record in HD. Here's a link to the DVD recorder section of the AVS forum. See stickys at top of page- mod named wajo has done an outstanding job of troubleshooting, documenting procedures etc for the previous Philips versions, the Mvox 2080, 2160, 2160A, 513, & 515. The new-to-come Mvox HDD/DVD recorders already have model #s & other info available, seems a sure bet they'll be available soon. Forget a DVD recorder only- hard drive + DVD is the way to go. Link: http://www.avsforum.com/f/106/dvd-recorders
I got a magnavox 2160 dvd recorder. it was a good device for a year until the digital transition came. I'm basically unable to use with comcast cable since we now use digital boxes. I get that digital copyright warning. I am able to record, but unable to set it up to record in advance for some reason. I have to leave it on the channel to record, I summed it up to that stupid comcast box. they want me to buy their dvdr box and pay a monthly fee.
 
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Jeff, I would be interested in your JVC HM-DH40000. I need to digitize about a dozen technical VHS tapes and I understand that this is one of the better machines to use. I have sent you a PM with my personal contact information. Please contact me offline. Kind Regards, Duane
 
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