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Types of Video Cassette Recorders

VHS, S-VHS, DV, and Digital


Ever since the first VHS video cassette recorder was released in 1977, television viewers could function stress-free knowing their favorite program was being taped. As technology goes, the VCR has changed extremely from its first models to the digital HDTV units of today.

Here’s a look at the types of VCRs in today’s market, and common features included.


The most common of all models, the standard VCR varies in price and options. It comes in either 2-head or 4-head playback, and 240 lines of resolution. Low priced models will usually only provide mono and an assortment of record functions while high dollar models feature time lapse recording, Hi-Fi stereo, and security related functions like an alarm, tape end buzzer, and parental controls. Prices range between $50 and $1,000.


Super VHS is its namesake, offering a resolution of over 400 lines. S-VHS offers many of the same options as a standard VCR, but differs in format. Usually, you can’t play S-VHS tapes in a VHS playback unit, but can play VHS in S-VHS machines. On some S-VHS decks, you can record on less-expensive VHS tapes. S-VHS recorders will record digital will less picture loss than VHS.


A DV/Mini DV VCR records and play DV and Mini-Digital Video tapes. DV tapes are much larger than mini-DV, but are still smaller than Beta tapes. Many consumer camcorders feature the mini-DV format, while some professional models require DV. The strength of a DV playback unit is you can lessen wear and tear on your camcorder when playing home movies on your TV. The format is digital, and will offer a crisp, clear image. It’s important to note that you can play mini-DV tapes in a DV deck, but can’t fit a DV tape in a mini-DV deck, which is something to consider if you have access to both formats. The playback unit will have many of the same options as other common VCRs, but also boast a fire wire or 1394 connector. This deck is closely associated with home video making, and editing on a computer. DV and mini-DV decks cost in the $1,000 and up range.


A dual deck VCR is nothing more than two VCRs in one. Depending on the model, expect the same features you’ll find in a standard VHS recorder, but with the added benefit of being able to record tape-to-tape, play back while recording, and recording two programs at once. Dual deck recorders can cost a couple of hundred dollars.


An added convenience of technology is combining two different formats in one unit. Video cassette recorders come in combo units mainly with DVD players, but can also come in S-VHS/Mini DV. VCRs are also included in many television sets as an added feature, and should be considered for their shared space if in tiny quarters.


The Digital VHS recorder could be the last stand for VHS as a future consumer recording format. Built like the standard VHS, it offers high quality digital and high definition recording. They are quite expensive for a VCR, but play VHS, S-VHS, and D-VHS tapes. D-VHS tapes are made to record much longer than standard VHS tapes. The value of a digital VHS recorder won’t be clear until digital is the only signal available, and the public decides whether or not DVD recorders and DVRs are more convenient.

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