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Any of the above can certainly do the job better than your present approach simply because, especially with the VHS (I hope THEY are originals and NOT dubs), you’re entering too much compression into the outcome by going that route.
You definitely want to achieve direct feed from original tape source to computer, without introducing the extra compression because that is very simliar to what happens with a copy, of a copy, of a copy of analog video source. Feeding from the tape player outlets without something to maintain the signal quality, such as a Distribution Amplifier, is another weak link.
Whatever device you use, you absolutely want the most direct conversion route possible getting the footage into your computer. That being said…
…I have directly fed VHS and other tape resources (admittedly now days mostly MiniDV digital tape sources) into a dedicated editing system hard drive via SVideo cable, then fed THAT directly via Firewire into my Mac for work. This has always generated image quality I can live with, and certainly better (that is if the original source was decent enough to begin with) than any other approach I’ve taken.
The other factor that might make a difference is that many of the current selection of brand names in DVD playback especially, and some tape playback units, have one or the other upconversion technology inside that can often enhance your video to the point that it doesn’t look half bad on a wide screen HD unit.
A digital/analog converter is probably your best bet, followed by a camera of some sort used as a feeder, preferably one with a Firewire outlet – hoping that your computer has one of those – and if not a fast USB connection. If your computer accepts analog input (doesn’t sound as if it does), a lot of cameras on the market today offer analog play through from outside source feeds such as VHS, S-VHS and MiniDV tape feeds.
I will soon be purchasing 2, maybe 3, Canon HV30s for the purpose of HD acqusition and feed, using one of them mostly for a playback unit when I make my first move to HDV from SD, currently using Canon XL1 and GL2 cameras.
Fortunately, I also have a Sony DSR11 MiniDV tape deck with Firewire – that comes in handy.