Grundig GV509M, Panasonic NV-FJ625 and Phillips VR 330 VCR/VHS Player/Recorder
In my store room I have a collection of three VCRs, Panasonic NV-FJ625, Phillips VR 330 and Grundig GV509M. The Phillips VR 330 was originally from the UK whereas the other two sets were purchased locally years ago. These sets have not been used for a long time and recently I decided to spend some time playing with them.
In terms of features, the NV-FJ625 is the best as it supports PAL/SECAM/NTSC. Both recording and playback are supported for NTSC. Some other VCR models which advertise NTSC playback (but not recording) will play NTSC tapes but simply produces PAL 60Hz output signal, which will only work if your TV supports such a format. Most multi-system TVs have no issues with this, however.
This is the front of the Panasonic NV-FJ625:
This is the back of the device, specifying the input voltage as 110-240V, 50/60Hz:
Although the device powers on just fine, it immediately ejects every single tape I tried. Usually, this is because the VCR can’t turn the tape, either due to a bad tape, or issues with the VCR mechanics. The tapes I tried are newly purchased from Amazon (yes, they still make VHS tapes), so the next suspect is the VCR itself.
Planning to investigate the issue, I opened up the VCR case and immediately found out the problem:
The black materials just below the drum are actually remnants of what used to be the rubber belt which links various VCR mechanics together. Without this belt the VCR will not be able to turn the tape and eject it. As I will have to spend time finding a belt of the correct size, I closed the case and proceed to next the next VCR.
The Phillips VR 330 originates from the UK. It has RF input/output which produces a UHF PAL I signal as well as a SCART output. This is the front of the VR 330:
This is the back, with the SCART to composite adapter:
Most multi-system TVs have no issues with the PAL I signal produced by the VR 330, including my Sharp Aquos LC-13S1M 14″ LCD TV. I lost the remote control for my unit, and although I did manage to program a Chunghop RM-88E universal remote control to work with this TV, I could not find an option for channel auto-scan from the TV menu. The CH-SETTING menu nevertheless contains various options for TV system (PAL/NTSC/SECAM), sound system (B/H/I/D/K) as frequency:
After much research, it turned out that the original remote control has a TV-SCAN button which triggers an auto-scan, which the RM-88E doesn’t support. I ended up manually setting the frequency and obtained a perfect picture. This VCR has no issue at all and is still working fine!
If the VR 330 does not work and simply produce a blue screen, it is important to turn off the blue background feature and check if you could see any pictures on the screen at all. The blue background feature simply hides the display unless the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) is above a certain threshold. Old tapes might have poor SNR even if they are still watchable. Also if there are issues with the microcontroller or EEPROM, the SNR calculation may be wrong and the VCR may produce a blue screen even for working tapes. This is a photo of the settings screen of the VR 330 on my 7″ portable TV, showing the Blue Background settings:
This is Mission Top Secret (1993-1995) being played on the same portable TV with the VR-330. I watched this series as a child in the 1990s and really loved it. In 2017 I purchased the DVD for the first season on Amazon and spent a week watching it. The second season has never been released on DVD.
The Grundig GV509M supports PAL/NTSC/SECAM. Only NTSC playback is supported:
At first this VCR could only produce a grainy screen with no pictures. I opened up the case; all belts were intact but I noticed dirty drum and head. Using an alcohol swab I carefully wiped the dirts from the drum, head and various other parts. After closing the case, the VCR could immediately produce a clear picture:
(The VCR can play in color just fine; the photo shows a black and white picture because the TV is a black and white set)
To note, you should never operate a VCR with the case opened, unless there is really a need to troubleshoot it during playback such as monitoring certain test points on an oscilloscope. Putting aside the risk of electric shock from the built-in power supply (which is very often not covered), there could be various LED sensors whose operations might be affected by light. If you play a tape with the case opened and observe strange behavior, use some cardboard to cover the top of the VCR.
If your VCR ejects a tape which you know to be working fine, check if the tape is in its starting position. If so, eject the and turn it over, then use something plastic to push down a button at the bottom center (highlighted in red), and use your finger (or a pencil/pen) to manually turn the left spool for approximately 30 seconds:
The reason why you need to do this is because a full T120 tape at its starting position could be heavy to turn, especially for a VCR with dying mechanics. Bypassing the first few minutes of the tapes and turning it would be less heavy, allowing the VCR to play it normally. Remember most VCRs will eject tapes which can’t be moved. For testing you could also use shorter VHS tapes, e.g. T60 or T30, or perhaps commercial (advertisement) tapes, which are usually of shorter duration.
With this, I’ve got myself two working VCRs. I hope I can find a belt of the correct size, or maybe a rubber band, or get the remaining VCR working again.
Experimenting with Casio Portable Analog TVs from eBay