Boasting excellent recording quality and easy operation, Lite-On's VHS/DVD combo recorder is a perfect choice for beginners looking to turn their VHS tapes into DVDs. The LVC-9006's friendly menus take you step by step through the deck's playback and recording functions, its stellar VHS-to-DVD dubs are among the best we've seen, and it records to all four major DVD formats. While it won't automatically create thumbnailed chapter menus à la the , we'd still heartily recommend the affordable Lite-On LVC-9006 ($299 list) for novices who want to burn their aging tape collections to disc. Experts may bemoan the recorder's skimpy editing features and its lack of a front-panel S-Video input, but these are our only knocks on this otherwise extremely satisfying combo deck. Measuring 17 by 13.5 by 3.75 inches, the Lite-On LVC-9006 is bulky compared to your garden-variety DVD recorder, although it's about the same size as other VHS/DVD recorders we've tested. The deck's silver-mirrored face looks good with our other A/V components, and we like how the thin stop, play, and pause buttons blend in seamlessly with the front design, although the eject buttons match a little too well, making them easy to mistake for other controls. Below the VHS door is a handy one-touch dubbing control, while a set of A/V inputs (including FireWire but not S-Video) sits to the right.
The LVC-9006's friendly, easy-to-use remote will appeal to beginners. We like how the tuner and the playback and recording functions are split into clear, separate groups, with a five-way navigational keypad in the center. The menu, setup, and display keys are clearly marked, as are the VHS/DVD toggle keys. But if you're looking for advanced controls such as angle, audio, recording speed, or repeat modes on the remote, you're out of luck.
The deck's menus are exceedingly simple to use--in fact, this is one of the first VHS/DVD recorders we've seen that an A/V neophyte could use with ease. We especially like the Guider, which acts as a sort of home page. It leads you step by step through the recorder's main functions, such as playback, recording, erasing DVDs, and finalizing recorded discs. Unfortunately, the Guider doesn't lead you through the deck's initial setup, and experienced users may grow annoyed by the Lite-On's hand-holding approach. VCR-to-DVD (or vice-versa) dubbing can take place via either the step-by-step Guider menus or the one-touch Copy button. We like how the Lite-On LVC-9006's Guider asks you whether you want a tape-to-DVD or a DVD-to-tape dub, what recording speed you want, and so on, although the one-touch Copy function, which bypasses the Guider, doesn't prompt you for a recording speed. All that's missing is the ability to automatically create disc menus with thumbnailed chapters, similar to the YesDVD feature in GoVideo's VR2940 VHS/DVD deck.
As with most of the VCR/DVD combos we've tested, the LVC-9006 lacks an electronic programming guide à la TiVo. You can program recordings manually or using VCR Plus, but the deck doesn't have an IR blaster for changing the channels on your cable or satellite box, meaning you'll have to make sure the channel is set properly before recording. If you want cable-box control and an EPG, you'll have to go with a standard DVD recorder or DVD/HDD combo.
The LVC-9006 records on all DVD formats except for DVD-RAM, and it will even record to CD-R/-RW in VCD, SVCD, or audio formats, a rare feature for a VCR/DVD deck. You can record to DVD in all the standard speeds, including one-, two-, three-, four- and six-hour modes, although there's no flexible recording mode (as on the ) that lets you fit a precise amount of video on a DVD--handy for fitting a 130-minute title onto a disc without resorting to the three-hour mode. We like that the recorder automatically adds chapter stops at 5- to 30-minute intervals, but we were a bit disappointed by the recorder's paltry editing options; you can only change the title name, protect a title, mark it for overwriting, or delete it. You can't delete a portion of a title, merge titles or chapters, or add chapter stops manually, even when recording to the flexible DVD-RW/+RW formats. If you want these functions, check out a deck such as Sony's more-expensive .
The recorder comes with a solid set of connections. In back, you get component-video and S-Video outputs, an S-Video input, a coaxial digital-audio output, and the standard A/V and RF inputs and outputs, while on the front panel of the deck you'll find a set of A/V inputs and a FireWire input for a digital camcorder. The only real missing link is an S-Video input up front. Also take note that it does not have an optical digital-audio ouput, contrary to the online spec sheet.
Notably, the deck will upconvert VHS video for playback through the component-video output (either progressive-scan or interlaced), which is a huge convenience since you'll need to connect only one set of jacks to your TV or receiver. The LVC-9006 and other decks that do this conversion, such as the RDR-VX500 and the , avoid the annoying situation in which you need to run both a component cable and a composite cable from the DVD/VHS combo recorder to enjoy both progressive DVD playback and VHS playback. The Lite-On will play both DVD and VHS via the S-Video and composite outputs. We came away impressed by the image quality of the Lite-On LVC-9006's VHS-to-DVD dubs. In a test with an aging VHS tape, the deck delivered a clean, practically noise-free copy, complete with rich colors and without overdoing the brightness or contrast. In fact, we'd say the Lite-On's tape-to-disc recording quality matches that of our current favorite in this area, the .
The LVC-9006 scored well in our resolution tests, recording more than 450 lines of horizontal resolution in its one- and two-hour HQ and SP modes, about the same resolution of a typical DVD player. In its three- and four-hour LP and EP modes, the deck's resolution dipped to about 260 lines, making for a much softer picture, while the six-hour SLP mode managed only about 250 or fewer lines with noticeable blockiness in the background. In longer-play-mode recording quality, the vaunted Panasonic definitely comes out on top.
In our test recordings of Star Trek: Insurrection, the peasants fleeing the swarming alien probes looked razor-sharp in the LVC-9006's HQ and SP modes. The picture became much softer in the three-hour LP mode, but we saw little in the way of background blockiness. We noticed more murkiness in the deck's EP mode, especially as the peasants dashed across the frame, while the six-hour SLP mode looked much softer and more juttery. Switching to scenes of the dark, damaged Enterprise bridge, the deck's HQ and SP recording modes still looked sharp, although colors seemed to float a bit in the dark, smoky interiors, while the LP, EP, and SLP modes had a much tougher time rendering the smoke.
The LVC-9006 sailed through our 2:3 pull-down test, delivering the tricky bridges and haystacks during the Insurrection credits with nary a jaggy. The deck also performed well in our disc compatibility test suite, handling DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD-R, MP3 CDs, JPEG picture discs, and even MP3 DVDs. Only a few of the most difficult discs were unplayable.
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