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A Reader Gets Serious
by Srikanth T. Narayanan <kamraj@sprint.ca>

I tried your suggestion of mixing to Hi-Fi VHS. Here are my results:

Experiment tools:

  • 4 head Hi-Fi Stereo VHS VCR
  • good quality brand new "hi-fi" VHS tape ($6 canadian)
  • 12 year old standard VHS tape with pre-recorded TV programs
  • Cr02 compact cassette tape
  • CD with classical guitar

Experiment -- Dubbed from the the CD onto 5 different recording modes

  • New VHS tape in SP mode
  • New VHS tape in SLP mode
  • Old VHS tape in SP mode
  • Old VHS tape in SLP mode
  • Cassette tape

and then compared them with the CD player as my standard


  1. New VHS tape in SP mode
  2. New VHS tape in SLP mode
  3. Old VHS tape in SP mode
  4. Cassette tape
  5. Old VHS tape in SLP mode


1) New VHS in SP mode records at CD quality. Maybe just a bit under. The signal to noise ratio is almost that of a CD player. Tape noise was pretty much inaudible with the volume up and my ear right next to the tweeters.

2) New VHS in SLP mode. Still sounds great but the overall timbre suffers compared to SP mode.

3) Old VHS w/pre-recorded stuff in SP mode. Sounds pretty good with some problems at the start and finish, but still very good sound.

4) Cr02 cassette. Sounds good from a distance but is very lacking up close. The tape hiss is very loud and the sound definition does not approach the VHS recordings or the CD at all.

5) Old VHS w/pre-recorded stuff in SLP mode. Lots of problems at the start of the recording as the VCR was erasing old data and writting new data. A big difference between SP and SLP mode for this tape. The middle still sounded a bit better than a standard cassette but noticeable worse than the CD.

note: I did all these formats to be scientific and thorough. I wanted to hear the differences for myself.

After we press REC, a VCR takes one or two seconds before it starts to record at its best quality. To be safe with your precious music, after you press REC and see the numbers moving, give the VCR 3-10 seconds to record before you actually begin inputting your stuff (what’s 10 seconds of VHS tape mean without your music on it?)

After I press STOP on my VCR (Toshiba), about 15 seconds of snow and white noise is left on the tape regardless of what was previously on it. I now suggest leaving some space after your music stops before you press STOP (let the tape roll for 20 or more seconds, there is plenty of room on a VHS tape). Before your next recording, rewind the tape to at least 5 seconds before the previous STOP and then begin to RECord from there.

Just last night we did a mix-down in a professional studio from Hi-8mm digital multitrack tapes to a DAT, to a Hi-Fi VCR and to a compact cassette. We know the story about compact cassettes. It will be a week before I hear the CD from DAT transfer, but the Hi-Fi VHS recording sounded very good in comparison to the digital multitrack. Very good. The recording engineer and I were both quite impressed with the sound quality of a medium that now begins to sell for $200 Canadian (before tax).

Tips for VHS Mastering

  • Use SP mode
  • Use the better quality tapes marked "Hi-Fi" or the like (around $5-$7 Canadian at a store like Wal-Mart)
  • At the very beginning of a tape, begin recording right away, but let the VCR record for at least 20 seconds before you begin playing (just for safety and for peace of mind)
  • Let the VCR record for at least 3 seconds before you begin playing (I'd say 15, based on previous experience, and I use 30 seconds between songs myself -- Dragon)
  • Let the VCR record for 20 or more seconds after you stop playing (...see? -- Dragon)
  • Rewind the tape to before your previous STOP to begin recording your next song
  • Keep the auto-tracking ON


Pretty much CD/DAT quality recording.

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