VHS better than S-VHS for VHS playback?



I'm looking to buy a new VCR to replace my ancient one. My new Tivo will handle most of my new recordings, so I mostly need it to play the jumble of archived programmes I've accumulated over the years.

Are the new S-VHS decks, e.g. Panasonic, as good at VHS plyback as the dedicated VHS machines, e.g. Sony? I may want to archive some material recorded by the Tivo, so it's tempting to go for the better recording quality of the S-VHS. But my most important criterion is to get good playback of VHS, and I don't want to compromise on that for the sake of new recordings I might or might not make (a Tivo upgrade may remove the need).

A review I saw of the Sony SLVSE810 said that it had autotracking and various other features for compensating for poor quality in the tape it was playing back. I've never seen that mentioned for other VCRs, but that doesn't mean they don't do it. The manufacturer's websites are remarkably unhelpful, and reviews tend to focus on recording rather than playback. Any advice would be very helpful.
In my experience S-VHS decks play back VHS to a good standard, but no better than a standard VHS deck WITH THE SAME FEATURES (i.e. my S-VHS JVC does some fancy noise reduction stuff so the VHS picture looks better than my old Panasonic that had no such features). There were a few people in the press a couple of years ago who claimed that S-VHS decks played VHS WORSE than a standard VHS deck so that S-VHS looked even better, I have not seen anything to support this but do not deny that it could have been true that no emphasis was put on VHS quality. S-VHS is good, but don't expect the miracles in terms of quality that Tivo offers.

You would be hard pushed to find a VCR without autotracking, even the cheapest Chinese jobbie bought from ASDA would have it.
Thanks, that's helpful. Those VHS noise-reduction features are what I need. I'm having a tough time finding out what noise-reduction different decks do. In the few places where you get a comprehensive features list, you will just see a few smart marketing terms, like 'B.E.S.T. Picture System' that doesn't tell you anything. So far, the only one that has looked convincing is the Sony SLVSE820 with it's 'Smart Trilogic' that is at least defined in the glossary. Some people have suggested I would be better off with a Panasonic 825 or 830, but I can't find any information to compare the two on VHS noise reduction features.

Given Mart's comments on S-VHS, the Sony is still looking attractive. (The review was the 810, but I'm assuming the 820 has the same or better features...?). Mart, what JVC do you have? Does anyone have any further thoughts on the Sony?
I think it is the 7700, it's a few years old now and I only ever use it to show old holiday videos copied from camcorder. Other than that it just covers a hole in the hi-fi stand so that loads of wiring doesn't show :)

I only ever use Sky+ for TV recording and there is nothing in the world that ain't going to be shown again at some point so I feel no reason to archive!
Hope this is not too late and you bought by now.

techy stuff - digital recordings on your tivo or sky + will be approx 500 lines of resolution.... SVHS is up to 400 lines of resolution, while standard VHS is at best 250 lines resolution.

From this you will see that best option for archiving your wonderful digital recordings is SVHS ( not VHS ).

Do not be confused an SVHS VCR can play standard VHS tapes just as well as a VHS VCR ( I have many of them and can assure you of this ).

n.b. Sony dont make SVHS machines, so they will never suggest the benefits of that format.

SVHS machines are now very affordable ( and as such I cannot imagine why anyone would now buy a VHS machine ).... for me I would buy Panasonic every time.... the JVC svhs is quite good, but not quite the resolution of the Pansonics. You can pick up a Panasonic svhs for less than £200 now... they are a bargain.

Just one final consideration... SVHS blank tapes are more expensive than standard VHS, so you are paying slightly more for the quaility... its your choice. Actually this reminds me, for best quality ( vhs or svhs) always buy good brand tapes ( the cheapos in boots, comet etc etc, are just not worth it, and may also damage your VCR heads ).

Rgds Phil
Yeah that's true, S-VHS tapes are a little more expensive. Especially in your High street dixons for example. Online you can get them cheaper:

try: http://www.pricebuster.org.uk

Cheapest S-VHS tapes are JVC for £2.45 each.
Thanks for the feedback. No you're not too late, I'm still humming and hawing. I see this as a fairly temporary solution, as I will probably buy a DVD-R for long term archiving once the formats have stabilised. Tough decision, I'm still not sure what to buy. The pannys do get lots of points on this forum, and I like the look of the 830, so it might just be one of those.
I've heard the Pannys are supposed to be better than JVC. But again, I think some google searches and comparing performance reviews of models would be highly advisable. I always look for reviews online and compare before I buy anything.
Torque... couple more thoughts.

As you look at the VCRs ( svhs I hope ) do consider that for your purposes now ( basic dump down for archive and playback ) you simply need basic functions.... the more expensive vcrs are pretty much the same chassis as the basic models but with more features, ( ie edit facilities, jog shuttle dials, library features etc etc )... really all this stuff is not required for simple record and playback.

In case you are wondering, I have been running a Video Club for last 12 years ( no not those sort of Videos !!! ).

I and of course many of our members have owned many different vcrs in our time... vcr and tape quality has always been paramount for us as we create and edit our Videos... in the early days Sony have always led the field ( when we were all still on vhs ) but the introduction of SVhs changed all that ( and we took a leap forward in quality ) Panasonic led the Svhs manufacturers and still do... the only reason the prices are now knockdown is because they have been making them for so long ( manufacturing costs reduce ) and of course the introduction of digital tape formats is taking over... BUT the quaility of Svhs remains.

Final point... look for at least 2 scart sockets on the vcr ( or one scart and one 's' connector ) as you will likely need to feed signal in from your digbox ( record ) and back out to tv ( playback ). And as always use good quality leads when you connect it all up.

Good hunting. Phil

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