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JVC HM-DH40000U D-VHS Player Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 March 2005
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JVC HM-DH40000U D-VHS Player
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ImageI remember one glorious day in the early 1980s when my dad and I traveled to the local shopping mall in Echelon, New Jersey in search of some new electronic gadgets. The store in the mall was called Video Concepts and it was like a surreal playground for a nine-year-old. My dad, in his mid-30s, seemed to be having some fun, too. He turned the event into a shopping spree of epic proportions. We bought a fold-down big-screen TV, an Intellivision game station, a good dozen games and a VHS videotape recorder that resembled something the military would use to record Soviet spy activity. With movies costing a mere $100 per, we picked out some classics but rented even more. I can remember the salesman suggesting that this VCR was built to last a lifetime – even at nine, that seemed like a long time.

21 years later, VCRs have finally given way to the DVD player as the preferred way of playing back movies in the home theater environment. In the past five-plus years, the DVD format has launched itself to superstardom in the world of audio/video, but for home theater enthusiasts with the latest DTV sets it has one terrible flaw – no HDTV playback. Much like the corner crack dealer, today’s home theater salesperson knows that once you get your plasma, LCD or rear-projection HD set home, you will be transfixed and drooling over the picture. The problem is that there is a limited quantity of content available on in HD.
This is where JVC’s D-VHS technology comes in. Using a hot-rodded version of the VHS technology, this deck can play back movies and content from a VHS tape in top HDTV formats, including most notably 720p and 1080i. This is a welcome addition to many a top home theater. Being able to watch HDTV on your time schedule was something that, up until Dish Network and DirecTV finally released their HD-DVRs, was damn near impossible.

The JVC HM-DH40000U is a $999 (retail) digital HDTV-capable VCR. As $99 non-HDTV VCRs clutter the shelves of every half-assed electronics retailer in America, you might ask yourself, why do you need such an expensive VCR? The main reason is the ability to play back uncompressed, striking-looking HDTV on your home theater with beaming 5.1 surround sound and a picture that will knock you dead in your tracks. Another reason harks back to that trip to Video Concepts in the Echelon Mall – this very likely is the last VCR you will ever buy. Many people have a lot of movies and special events, some hard or impossible to find, that hold tremendous personal value: home videos on VHS, wedding videos, classic sporting events recorded from TV.
The list goes on, but the most compelling reason to own a D-VHS deck is to play back HDTV on your home theater system.

I didn’t spend a tremendous amount of time recording with my JVC HM-DH40000U, because I use a DirecTV HD-TiVo unit (about $1,000 retail) to record most of what I watch, using the snazzy TiVo interface. You can record HD content on a HM-DH40000U onto a top-quality tape if you have a terrestrial antenna feed going into the D-VHS recorder. Most DVRs do not allow non-encrypted HDTV output. The one that did allow an HDTV output was the first-generation Dish Network HD receiver. A small cult of HDTV fanatics recorded everything they could get their hands on until the day Dish rendered each of those sets useless, replacing them with Dish’s HD-DVR.

Recording with the JVC HM-DH40000U is basically as simply as recording with a traditional VCR. The onscreen menu is needed to access a number of prompts. It is definitely harder to use than TiVo and, with the limited streams of content that can come into your recorder, I found recording on the JVC HM-DH40000U wasn’t anywhere near the reason I bought the unit. I would guess that people with HD camcorders might find a use for a D-VHS recorder to archive their home videos and play them back in their theaters.


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