Philips VR-20D
(1999 - 2002)

Announced in 1994 in prevision of the future HD cable broadcasts, D-VHS was meant as a Bistream (the D stands for DATA) system of recording allowing for simultaneous recordings of different channels. It didn't really convince, especially since a unified European HD standard was then a matter of distant science-fiction - it still is...
When all plans for HD broadcasts were postponed due to the limited success of cable TV (the excellent analog D2-Mac standard in France) and the effects of an enduring economical crisis, D-VHS was forgotten almost at the same time it was announced.

The decks finally hit the streets in 1997/98, much too late as DVD was already only one year away... Too expensive they were, too,, especially for a format that seemed rather unsure - even for us lads who were spending a heck of a lot on imported US Laserdiscs to have quality video replay. And, from the moment DVD was announced, all tape-based formats seemed truly old-fashioned.
Now that DVD recorders are common and HD-DVD just around the corner, who'd care to fiddle with tapes I ask you? Image quality-wise, HD-DVD recorders will be the answer to non-compromising quality... whenever the giants will settle on a standard. D-VHS had it but it was an old standard :)

Anyway - a truly bad marketing campaign didn't help and one of the three decks presented (Philips VR-20D) was a rebadge of the initial JVC (HM-DR10000).
Said P
hilips made six mechanical versions (!), the first of which used a completely unadapted and dead-on-arrival Philips TurboDrive, the later ones oscillating between crappy Funai or crappy JVC.
Be careful when using the fast-forward function : always stop and rewind a little after a fast-forward cycle otherwise your precious D-tape is chewed.

Philips being a hugely important manufacturer in Europe, all this sounded quite fishy to many of us. To bury the format even more, the specific D-VHS tapes were almost unavailable, horribly expensive and the DV plug was INput only - that was the main blow.

As a result, very few decks were sold and most of the stocks wound up being heavily discounted. Philips quickly became totally mute regarding their "own" deck. Too bad - D-VHS is a great format and far superior to any DVD recorders indeed - with a data-rate in excess of 14Mb/s it isn't difficult !

Just as for the high-def' version of Laserdisc (MUSE), Japan saw quite a few D-VHS recorders and the market there was more "alive" or less dead if you like.
But given the lack of support, the virtual absence of a library of pre-recorded titles and the utter unobtainium of D-VHS tapes, the very dubious quality of the transport mechanism used in the Philips, the long-term reliability of the D tapes is in very serious doubt.
Given the absence of any European HD format, not even D-VHS' D-Theater high-definition version will ever save this excellent format from oblivion. Bye Bye.


(ps : this page was written in 2004)

JVC's own spec-pages: here. Professional version of D-VHS: here. D-VHS and (PC) computers: here. JVC's current HD-capable HM-DR30000 model. Be sure to visit Oliver's absolute reference page, this forum, too (although not much happens on it anymore) and this one, too (although not much happens on it [bis repetita]) and a review from when D-VHS looked cool right here.

The original HM-DR1000 (aka VR-20D) also existed in Japan as Sharp VC-DS1, in black.



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