Skip to main content

Are VCRs the World's Cheapest Hi-Fi Reel-to-Reel?

Are VCRs the World's Cheapest Hi-Fi Reel-to-Reel?

This may sound like a clickbait title to some, but how far off from the truth is it?  You may say I am stretching the definition of what defines a "Reel to Reel", but think about it for a second.  How different is a VHS tape being "spun" in your VCR than your tapes on your Tascam Half Track? I guess by that logic you can also call a cassette player a Reel to Reel....

OKAY FINE, I will admit I don't consider a cassette player a Reel to Reel. But still, a VCR capablee of Hi-Fi audio is sonically superior to a cassette. This may come to a surprise to most, but some old tape heads out there know this too be true.  When this Hi-Fi audio technology hit the market, many home recordists took full advantage of the full range frequency (20Hz - 20KHz) and the dynamic range of 90db!!  There's a little more nuissance to the audio quality, but hopefully I can get a conversation going and get some input from people who have used VCRs for mixdowns and bouncedowns in the past.  

I made a video on the topic where I go into more details.  I also do some tests where I compare several mixdowns that were done on my VCR (I go through the Hi-Fi audio system as well as the "Lo-Fi").  It's a fun one for sure and I hope you all can enjoy it. 

Cheers, 
Mario

Comments

paulears Thu, 11/10/2022 - 00:18

Hi fi video recorders sounded pretty good ….. then chewed the tape up, or found a section of the tape we’re the oxide got rubbed off, or the alignment drifted and the high track defaulted to linear, or the tape made a crunching noise and ripped up inside, or when the heads started to wear and all your recordings were faulty but they continued to play ….. for a while, or when your tape wont play on others and those cold winter days when those lovely metal heads got covered in condensation.

 

surely I don’t need to go on. VHS and beta were horrible machines when they started to wear. Which they all did. We used to rent them out because lots of people knew they’d suddenly die and didn’t want the expense of constant repairs. You can service and clean  a reel to reel easily, cassette too. Just a bottle of isopropyl and some cotton buds. Many people killed video heads by cleaning. Replacing video heads isnt that complex a process, but aligning the damn things is! You’d often end up with a machine that recorded and played fine, but refused to play your old tapes.

helical scan for anything other than domestic use, with pockets deep enough for the repairs is the wrong direction. Quality is absolutely great, but as a studio medium, it’s far, far too delicate and has all the bad news DAT had, and we were so happy losing those. 

Thomas W. Bethel Thu, 11/10/2022 - 03:17

paulears wrote:

Hi fi video recorders sounded pretty good ….. then chewed the tape up, or found a section of the tape we’re the oxide got rubbed off, or the alignment drifted and the high track defaulted to linear, or the tape made a crunching noise and ripped up inside, or when the heads started to wear and all your recordings were faulty but they continued to play ….. for a while, or when your tape wont play on others and those cold winter days when those lovely metal heads got covered in condensation.

 

surely I don’t need to go on. VHS and beta were horrible machines when they started to wear. Which they all did. We used to rent them out because lots of people knew they’d suddenly die and didn’t want the expense of constant repairs. You can service and clean  a reel to reel easily, cassette too. Just a bottle of isopropyl and some cotton buds. Many people killed video heads by cleaning. Replacing video heads isnt that complex a process, but aligning the damn things is! You’d often end up with a machine that recorded and played fine, but refused to play your old tapes.

helical scan for anything other than domestic use, with pockets deep enough for the repairs is the wrong direction. Quality is absolutely great, but as a studio medium, it’s far, far too delicate and has all the bad news DAT had, and we were so happy losing those. 

I agree with all of this. Reel to reel tapes that I made in the 1960s are still playable. Cassettes made in the 1970s are still playable. I doubt I could playback any VHS tape today that was recorded back when. Also the audio was not really all that great...maybe for the "time" but certainly not today.

 

audiokid Thu, 11/10/2022 - 05:38

Wow! It sounds like you guys had a nightmare with them. I thought "stereo VHS" recorded audio beautifully.

My history on mix-down decks went from Nakamichi cassette in the 80's to VHS in the 90's and the sound quality was significantly better. I however bought the higher end Sony which was what DJ's were using and recommended and couldn't have been happier until replacing those with DAT. From DAT I when to Pro Tools (which sounded worse lol) until they improved their converters.

I never had a problem with them. I still have my DAT and believe my ex wife still has the Hifi Sony VCR.

kmetal Fri, 11/11/2022 - 00:53

I definitely have alot more anxiety now about my VHS tapes which have been in the basement waiting for transfer. Most of it from the 90's or later. 

I mostly mixed down from my portastudio to my father's awia stereo, then later mixed down to a computer to running N-track studio software, which surprisingly is still around today.

x

Register