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Panasonic AG-1980 FAQ's

These FAQs also apply to the very similar Panasonic AG-5710

Please scroll down to view all of the FAQs

Note: The below content  is copyright TGPSales & TGrant Photo. Copying or use on another website is prohibited

About the Panasonic AG-1980  "DETAIL-NORM-EDIT" switch

This three-way switch, located on the AG-1980's flip-down control panel, controls several options.

The "edit" switch on the Panasonic AG-1980 operates differently from the "edit" selection found on many JVC VCRs. On a JVC VCR the "edit" position provides a relatively "unretouched" playback image. The "edit" position of a JVC doesn't apply any artificial filters or sharpening to the picture. However, the Panasonic AG1980 "edit" switch is used for a different function.

On the Panasonic AG-1980 there's an "edit" connection on the back of the unit. This connection is used to join two AG-1980s together for editing, or when the AG1980 is recording from a source such as a camcorder. When they're connected like this, you place the DETAIL/NORM/EDIT switch on the front panel in the EDIT position. For normal playback the DETAIL/NORM/EDIT switch should be in the NORM position, per page 28 of the AG1980 instruction manual.

If you playback a tape on an AG-1980 in the "edit" position, it's normal to see some noise and a somewhat blurrier picture. You'll see this on all AG1980's when in the "edit" mode. On the AG1980 schematic, the "edit" position bypasses several important parts of the chroma-video circuits to allow it to "mate" with another AG1980. If you view the "edit" video output on a waveform monitor, you'll see that resolution is reduced in a bad way.  Again, use "norm" for regular playback as suggested in the instructions, "edit" position only your AG1980 is recording from another source.

The "Detail" position of the switch actually shows a bit more detail, but you'll only notice the difference if you're viewing a high resolution S-VHS (super VHS) tape.  S-VHS recordings have a resolution approaching 400 horizontal lines, compared to a standard VHS tape which has about 230 lines.


Can I stack other equipment on top of my AG-1980?

No. The added weight is just enough to distort the metal plate above the tape loading mechanism. Any slight distortion to this metal will hang up the loading process. For optimum operation, keep at least a 2" airspace above and behind your AG-1980.


How can I prolong the life of my Panasonic AG-1980 VCR?

Unplug your VCR when it's not being used.  We have all our equipment on power strips so we can switch it all off at night. If you can get at the power plug easily, unplugging is even better. One of the reasons for unplugging is that you protect the VCR against any power surges coming through the AC line. Another reason is that most VCRs use what's called a Vacuum Fluorescent Display (VFD). These displays operate in similar fashion to the old-style TV picture tubes, there's a filament that glows to activate phosphors. Over time the emissions decrease and the phosphor efficiency is reduced. If your VCR has a VFD display and it constantly stays plugged in, you may notice that the clock just doesn't look as bright as it used to.

All that being said, capacitors in your VCR benefit from having some voltage applied to them from time to time. There's electrolyte inside the capacitor. When a capacitor has voltage applied to it, this keeps the electrolyte from changing or "forgetting" it's characteristics. This doesn't require much attention, maybe just turn the VCR on for 15 minutes every few weeks. This is one reason why someone that's stored a VCR for a couple of years is surprised when they plug it in and find it's not working! Rubber belts also develop a "set" from being in one position for too long. So as with everything in life, a little exercise is always good!

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The Hi-Fi sound crackles, or no Hi-Fi sound, even when the tracking is adjusted

When the Panasonic AG-1980 is in HI-FI mode it utilizes four video heads. One pair of video heads are used for the video image, and another pair of video heads for the HI-FI sound. A special "head switching" circuit controls the timing of when these heads are active. If the head switching timing is wrong it can affect the HI-FI sound, and/or the vertical sync.

Clogged or damaged video heads can seriously affect the HI-FI sound. The Hi-Fi sound can be completely gone, and you may be fooled because the video picture will still display properly. If there's no Hi-Fi sound available the AG-1980 switches to the alternate linear sound track. First, check the "audio select" button to make sure you have the Hi-Fi sound enabled. If that doesn't work, try carefully cleaning the video heads, following our instructions. If problems continue, please contact us for repair services.


Audio buzzes rhythmically along with the flashing front display

With no tape in the AG1980 you hear a continual buzz through the TV speaker, plus a rhythmic buzzing in time with the flashing of the front display clock (much like the noise of an alarm clock). This is a rare problem that we've only encountered a few times. Try unplugging the AG-1980 for 5 minutes, then plug it in again. If this doesn't fix the problem, let us know, we can repair this for you.


When I go from REW to PLAY the AG-1980 shuts down with an error code

This often indicates bad brakes in the transport mechanism. Just like your car, the brake pads ensure that the tape stops quickly and promptly. If they slip or fail, tape starts unspooling inside the mechanism. This requires professional service.

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After my tape rewinds, it automatically starts to play again

A sensor switch in the mechanism is bad and needs repaired. Professional repair is indicated.


I see a small white felt roller near the video heads, what is it for?

This is the automatic head cleaner mechanism. When a tape is threaded or unthreaded, it quickly (and gently) dabs against the video heads.


All my tapes play fine except for one. I'm thinking of adjusting the tape guide rollers.

Please don't do that! Back in the heyday of VCRs, people often tried to "improve" the playback quality of their tapes by tinkering with the tape guide rollers. This resulted in entire batches of tapes that wouldn't play correctly on other VCRs. Sure, they'd play fine on the VCR that was "tinkered" with, but they were outside standard VHS specifications.

When you purchase a Panasonic AG-1980 from TGrant Photo, it has been aligned and peaked to known standards that allow it to play a wide variety of tapes. Adjusting the tape guide rollers without monitoring the waveform envelope will ultimately give you mediocre performance and will void your warranty.

If you have just one VHS tape that seems to be "off track" your best bet is to buy a VCR at a thrift store and try to adjust it's tape guides to accommodate your "off track" tape.


The tracking changes, or drifts.  This is especially noticeable when I eject, then re-insert and replay the same portion of the tape.

This usually indicates loose or worn tape guides. This is something we carefully look for when you send in a AG-1980 for repair.


Will adding a cooling fan help prolong the life of the AG-1980?

In our experience, no it won't. The Panasonic AG-1980 is well designed with cooling slots on the power supply. Adding a fan often has the undesired effect of bringing additional dust and contaminants inside the machine.


Please don't smoke!

There's a good reason that VCRs at broadcast facilities were often housed in "clean rooms". Particles in the air end up inside a VCR. If you're a habitual smoker, the cigarette residue is all over the circuit boards. We often have to bathe heavily contaminated circuit boards in a cleaning solution. What's good for your lungs is good for your VCR :)


Why does a Panasonic AG-1980 from TGrantPhoto cost more than the ones I see on eBay?

There's a big difference; several days of refurbishing several circuit boards, time spent electronically aligning and testing, careful packaging and shipping plus a 90 day warranty. We can't speak about how other sellers repair their VCRs, but at TGrant Photo we stand proudly behind our work!


My Panasonic AG-1980 VCR is showing the picture in black & white only

1.) check the VCR's  COLOR/B-W switch. It may be set to B/W
2.) check and/or change the output S-video cable. Sometimes if the S-video connector isn't pushed in properly it will show an image, but the color is missing or messed up. A bad S-video cable might also be the culprit. Also try using the RCA video output.
3.) Try different VHS tapes of known quality.
4.) If you're running through a capture device, try connecting  the output of the VCR directly to a TV/monitor and see if the problem continues.

If none of these suggestions fixes the problem, your Panasonic AG1980 might have a problem in the color-video circuit board. Give us a call, we can repair this type of problem.


The playback picture is really bad. The picture jumps up and down. When I look at my tape it's wrinkled all along the edges!


Stop using your VCR immediately! There's something out of alignment and your VCR is crinkling the tape edge as it plays. Your tape is getting irreparably damaged! This indicates that your VCR has some sort of mechanical or alignment problems. Also, your videocassette might be sticky, moldy or have defective internal rollers. We offer full alignment & servicing on Panasonic AG1980s, so give us a call. ~ Art Argalby




I love the jog dial on my AG-1980. I like to pause the picture and look at the details.

Be careful!  Even though the tape is "paused", the video heads are constantly spinning to produce an image. We don't recommend pausing for longer than 60 seconds, since the tape can get "scalped". The magnetic oxide gets worn off the portion of the tape that is paused, this can cause a diagonal line on the actual tape surface.



What about Panasonic AG-1980 capacitor related problems?

The AG-1980's VCRs have a video board that has about 25 surface mount capacitors (SMDs) they're nearly always bad when we get them in for repair; the picture is either black, messed up with color bars or showing some other color problem related to the bad capacitors. Every Panasonic AG-1980 that we sell has its entire Y-C circuit board rebuilt.  It takes us about 2-3 hours of intensive work to replace the bad SMD caps on a Panasonic AG1980. The replacement capacitors have improved chemical composition, and will last a very long time.

After the capacitors have been replaced, it's important to have the VCR realigned as a whole unit. Video levels and other values change with the addition of the new parts. Other circuit boards that interact with the Y-C board may also need adjustments or repair.

We often receive AG-1980s that, in addition to having bad capacitors, are badly aligned. This is often caused by technicians trying to compensate for the aging capacitors.

If you plan on purchasing a Panasonic AG-1980 elsewhere, you want to be sure that the color Y-C  capacitors have been changed and that the unit has been mechanically and electrically aligned. If the AG-1980 still has the original capacitors (i.e. "new in-original-box"), it may work for a while, but after a few months you'll start seeing color worms, or worse.  ~ Tom Grant

Important note: Some customers have asked if we sell rebuilt Y-C boards for a D.I.Y. repair. We don't offer this service for several reasons. Unless you're very familiar with the AG-1980, there's the chance of damaging the main circuit board and cables when you remove the Y-C board. Also, just replacing the bad capacitors on one board does not give optimal results. Several circuit boards on the AG-1980 interact, so problems in other circuit boards show up as video problems even though the Y-C board has been replaced. At TGrantPhoto, after we replace capacitors, the whole VCR is re-tested and aligned as a complete working unit. This is the only way to return it to factory specifications.



Why do I see a good video picture, but no HiFi sound?

The Panasonic AG-1980 has four video heads. Two heads are used for video playback, and the other two heads are used for the HiFi sound. It's entirely possible for one HiFi head to be clogged (or broken) while the video picture can be viewed normally. More information about clogged video heads is here

My VCR's video head drum has a small bump in it, just below where the video heads spin

This is purposely put there by the manufacturer. The "bump" allows a little bit of air to get underneath the tape so it doesn't stick to the video head drum. Without this "bump", the video head drum would become highly polished, and so smooth, in fact, that the tape would actually stick and drag as it travels around the drum.


I hear a high pitched squeal when I play back any VHS tape

This usually indicates a problem with the "skew" adjustment. There's too much back tension on the tape as it leaves the video cassette and feeds into the machine. Unfortunately this is a complicated adjustment, requiring realignment of the mechanism. If you have a Panasonic AG-1980 or AG-1970, give us a call, we can perform the adjustment. Note: This could also be related to mold or stickiness on the tape. Try a tape that's known to be good and see how it plays.


Several of my VHS tapes screech like a banshee when I rewind them

There's a couple of possibilities:

Back in the 1980's, VHS T-120 tapes cost about $15, but there were overseas "knockoff" brands like Certron. You could buy these for $5 or $6 a tape. Guess what? They weren't made as well as the" Big Name" brands and certain shortcuts were taken in manufacture. It's usually these "off brands" that get very noisy during rewind. To make matters worse, off-brand tapes often had uneven oxide coatings that shed more than the "Big Name" brands.

However, if your Panasonic AG-1980 has never been properly serviced, it's very possible that all of the drive parts are dried out and require proper lubrication. This will create a loud screeching sound as your tapes rewind or fast-forward. Lubricating the parts correctly involves disassembly of the gear train. Special care must be taken not to get lubrication on the clutch mechanism and brake surfaces. The clutch is the heart of the tape transport, if it ever gets oil in it, you'll have a world of trouble! Panasonic recommends cleaning and lubrication every 500 hours of use, this prevents needless replacement of worn drive parts. If you need our help, we offer cleaning and lubrication services for the AG1980.


What's the difference between off-brand videotape and expensive name brands?

Videotape (and also audiotape) was manufactured on large mylar rolls, about 4 ft wide by about 1000 ft long. Onto this mylar base, magnetic oxide was sprayed and adhered with a special binding agent. Towards the end of the process the large roll is slit into the various widths for different uses. The best quality recording tape would come from the middle, where the oxide particles were distributed evenly. The outer parts of the tape had mediocre oxide distribution, this went to the budget tape sellers. Obviously, if you used high-quality, brand name VHS tape, you have a much better chance of retrieving good images from your archived recordings. Cheaper tapes didn't record as well, and after all these years they'll probably shed oxide much more easily.


I hear an echo from the audio playback!

Check the front panel HIFI/NORM MIX switch. When this is turned "on" the Hi-Fi audio is combined with the linear audio track. This often produces a strange echo effect. For most applications, leave this switch in the "off" position.


The power supply is hissing at me!

The power supply is located in a silver box at the left rear of the mechanism. It supplies various voltages to all the boards inside the VCR. Any hissing noise coming from the power supply indicates that some circuits inside the AG1980 are overloading. This indicates the need for professional repair.


Tape piles up inside the VCR when it comes out of rewind

Sometimes you won't even know this is happening unless you operate your AG-1980 with the cover removed. In other situations, the AG-1980 will go into STOP mode to protect itself. This indicates failure of the braking mechanism. It's especially noticeable when coming out of rewind while the tape is near the end, with very little tape on the left spool of the cassette. The braking mechanism is unable to stop the right tape spool in time, and the excess tape spools out behind the pinch roller. This is one of the problems that we look for when you send your AG-1980 in for full service.


The front panel display is black or very dim

The Panasonic AG-1980 uses a VFD display (Vacuum Florescent Display). It works in a similar fashion to old style TV cathode ray picture tubes. Inside the vacuum sealed display panel, there's a heated element that discharges electrons. Segments of the display are coated with phosphors. The electrons hit the phosphors and induce them to emit light.

Unfortunately, over the years, the phosphors wear out causing a dim display. This is especially noticeable on the AG-1980's time display. It's always "on" all the time the machine is plugged in, and it's usually dimmer than other segments of the front panel display. When you send your AG-1980 in for repair, we rebuild many electronic parts in the display panel. Additionally, we employ proprietary methods that rejuvenate the brightness of your VFD display. The repaired VCR that you receive will have at least 85-90% of it's original brightness!


My AG1980 won't turn on, even the power LED is off

This could indicate a bad component inside the AG-1980, but first there's a couple of things you should try:

First, unplug the unit (remove the power plug from behind the unit) leave it unplugged for five minutes. This gives any instructions in the memory a chance to clear.

You should also check the power strip or a.c. outlet that's feeding the VCR. If you're getting power to the VCR, the clock on the front display should light up (dimmer than when it's turned on). Also suspect the power cable. You might want to try substituting another one (it takes the same type as mainframe computers).

The cause of the "power off" condition might be an anomaly from a power line spike during an electrical storm. The AG1980 does have internal spike protection in the power supply, but a voltage spike still might have rattled it's brains, so to speak. Also, large appliances, like heat pumps or electric furnaces in your home can create voltage spikes when they turn on!

It's safer if you can power the AG-1980 through a power strip that has an on/off switch and a spike protector. Then you can shut down the power to it when it's not needed. The best thing, of course, is to completely unplug it when not in use.


The "ON" button has no effect. The "ON" LED does not light even though the VCR plays correctly

This is a common problem and is usually the result of the VCR being shipped without correct packing. The circuit board inside breaks from a sharp impact during shipping. This is something we can repair for you.


The Jog Dial has no effect even though the VCR plays correctly

This is a another common problem and is usually the result of the VCR being shipped without correct packing. The circuit board inside breaks from a sharp impact during shipping. This is something we can repair for you.


How do I remove a jammed tape from inside the AG-1980?

Please follow our instructions here


Audio playback lacks volume and is very muffled

If the Hi-Fi sound playback is normal and crisp sounding, but the linear audio is badly muffled, look at the audio-control head (AC head). The AC head is located after the spinning video heads and just before the tape goes through the rubber pinch roller. It looks very much like an audio tape playback head. Tape debris and loose oxide can clog this head. Dip a cotton swab in some isopropyl alcohol and carefully clean the AC head. This should restore the linear audio playback to normal levels. Important: Do not use cotton swabs on the video heads.


Does using the SCAN jog-dial feature during rewind wear the video heads?

On the Panasonic AG1980 the tape always stays threaded around the video head drum, even in regular rewind mode. The design theory was that this gets the tape back into the "play" mode a lot faster that re-threading after a REW or FF function.
In REW mode the tape is slack around the video head drum, rubbing loosely against it as it rewinds. However, when the tape is in FF scan or REW scan, (either using the jog dial or pressing the FF or REW twice) there's a slight difference. The pinch roller is in contact with the capstan, creating tension to keep the tape tight against the video drum so the tape can be "read" by the spinning video heads. So, yes, there's more wear on the heads in FF scan or REW scan. The wear is the same as you'd experience in "play" mode, but for less time of course, because you're watching at a high speed.
Some of the earlier VCRs manufactured before 1985, (as well as the more recent Panasonic AG1970), unthread before rewinding. So if you want zero head wear, look for one of those. Stay away from the stand alone tape rewinders. These are basically toys and most don't slow before the tape reaches the end.
But that being said, I wouldn't let that stop you from having fun with the AG1980 jog dial. It's very handy for quickly finding the beginning of a show, or for zipping through commercials, and the audio "search sound" is another great feature that'll impress friends and family :)
Can the AG1980 play back just Linear Audio instead of HiFi?

Panasonic didn't overlook that option when they made the AG1980. On the back connector panel there's a dedicated linear audio output RCA jack (linear audio is mono). This plays the linear audio all the time, even if the tape has a HiFi audio track.

Also, on the front display, below the vertical volume LEDs there's two small rectangular boxes. They light up when the AG1980 is playing HiFi audio. On the flip down panel press the "audio output" button and you can toggle through Stereo HiFi, Left HiFi, right HiFi and finally Linear audio. When the AG1980 is playing linear audio, both of the rectangular boxes below the volume LEDs should be OFF (not illuminated).

In the period before VHS HiFi was available, a few VCR models had stereo (two track) linear audio. However, the recorded tracks were very narrow and it wasn't a reliable system. Most VCRs have mono linear audio, and in the rare circumstance that you do run across a stereo linear audio tape, the tracks will be combined together, creating mono when the AG1980 plays it back.

When those two rectangular boxes below the volume LEDs flicker, it indicates the HiFi isn't locking in. Try adjusting the tracking control. If the HiFi isn't working well on many tapes, it's probably the first sign that the video heads are getting worn.

The "audio out" button on the remote control does the same thing as the "audio out" button on the AG1980's flip down panel, it toggles between HiFi and Linear. Just watch the rectangular boxes on the front display for the audio status.


Old black and white movies play back with color noise in the picture ~

That's a common problem with old B/W movies taped off TV.  Prior to the 1990's, the FCC required TV stations to turn off the color burst signal when they broadcast a B/W movie. This was so old style TV sets wouldn't show color noise when they received the broadcast. The design of TV sets improved over the years, so removing the color burst signal was no longer necessary.

If you play a tape recorded from that early time period on a Panasonic AG1980, you'll see that color noise unless you use the switch on the AG-1980 to change from COLOR to B/W. This is do with how the AG1980 decodes and plays back B/W tapes with no color burst signals. All AG-1980s work this way. On other VCRs, such as the JVCs, you won't have this problem, their circuitry takes care of blanking the color noise on a B/W movie.

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While in the "play" mode, the tape suddenly pauses and shows a frozen image.

These symptoms typically happen when the capstan and pinch roller get a little grease on them. The tape slips between the capstan and the pinch roller, mimicking a “pause” function. If it was an electronic or mechanism problem, the AG1980 would eject and display an error code.

This is a relatively easy fix. Get about 10 Q-tips and some 91% Rubbing alcohol. Remove the bottom metal plate of the AG1980 (there's 9 screws around the edges). Underneath the mechanism you'll see a grey 4” diameter round flywheel, it's attached to the capstan shaft.

With one hand above the machine, dip a Q-tip in alcohol and clean the shiny capstan shaft. Move vertically up and down as you clean. Change the Q-tips frequently.

With the other hand, carefully rotate the grey capstan flywheel a little bit, then clean the capstan again. The idea here is to get all surfaces of the capstan shaft clean, Keep changing Q-tips as you clean.

After the capstan is clean, direct your attention to the black rubber pinch roller. Keep cleaning it vertically, rotating frequently. The q-tip will come up black most of the time, that's normal. After a few cleaning rotations the pinch roller will be clean.

While you're at it, it's good procedure to clean the rest of the tape path, follow my video head cleaning instructions using paper dipped in alcohol. Never use Q-tips near the delicate video head tips.

Finally, allow 15-20 minutes for the alcohol to evaporate. Playing a tape too soon will cause the tape to wrap quickly around the wet video head drum.  Hopefully this will solve the problem.


Note: The above content  is copyright TGPSales & TGrant Photo. Copying or use on another website is prohibited