Who really made my VCR?

VCR Brands

There is a perception that some time-honored brands made better products than others. This may have been true in the early days of manufacturing. However, the dirty little secret is that most of these brands of VCRs (VHS Players) had become only marketing and distribution companies. Their products were actually made by one of several contract manufacturers (OEM or Original Equipment Manufacturer). This blog uncovers the myth of "brands".

Unless you have a keen to recognize the innards of these machines, it could be a mystery. There are other clues you can use to determine the true manufacturer.

FCC ID: Up until the early 2000s, most manufacturers included this ID number on the model label on the back of the machine. The first three digits represent the manufacturer. For example, a Toshiba-branded machine with an FCC ID beginning is A7R was actually made by Orion, a large contract manufacturer who also made VCRs and VCR/DVD Combos for Memorex, Sansui, and others. Other Toshiba-branded machines had and FCC ID of BEJ, which is LG, who also made products for Sanyo, Zenith, GoVideo, Philips, Insignia, and others. Sony machines with an FCC ID of A3L were made by Samsung, who also made some Toshiba models. All you have to do is perform a web search of the FCC ID and you will find the OEM and initial date that the product was submitted for approval.


Instruction Manual and Label: Often times the warranty statement will include the real manufacturer since they are the ones who covered repairs or returns. One of the largest OEMs was Funai, who was also the last manufacture in the world for VCRs. You will usually see Funai on the warranty page for Magnavox (and Phillips Magnavox), Emerson, Durabrand, LXI, Sylvania, Symphonic, SV2000, and others. You might even see Funai mentioned on the model label on the back of the machine.

So what's the difference between brands?
Time-honored VCR brands such as Sony and Toshiba were both made by Samsung (FCC ID A3L) from about 1999 onwards. They have similar build quality, picture quality, and reliability. The functional differences largely comes down to the remote control design and search features. Same is true for any comparison of "brands" made by the same OEM.

In the case of Funai-made products, many of the brands and model numbers were exclusive to each retailer, with very minor differences in features. This allowed retailers such as Best Buy, Costco, Wal-Mart, Sams Club, Circuit City, and others to avoid price comparisons since none of them sold the exact same model number. So a Magnavox might be 99% identical to a Sylvania, Symphonic, or Emerson product in function and quality.

The take-away is to not get too hung-up about the brand on the front of a product. Every machine we sell has been rigorously tested to ensure they play a wide variety of home-recorded and commercially-recorded tapes reliably and with acceptable picture quality.


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