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How do I Choose the Best VHS Tapes?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

Choosing the best VHS tapes often depends a great deal upon how you plan on using the tapes and the amount of video you want to record onto them. How you plan on using the tapes is important because there are a number of distinct formats of VHS tapes available, and the best one often depends on your intended use. VHS tapes are also typically categorized based on the size of the physical tape itself within the cassette, which impacts how much video you can record onto a VHS tape.

A video home system (VHS) cassette tape is a plastic cassette that holds two spools across which a length of magnetic tape is connected. This tape is wound between to two spools as it is played; heads read image and audio signals from the tape and send those images and audio signals through a television or similar monitor. While this format for home video has been largely replaced by digital versatile disc (DVD) and similar digital formats, there are still some uses for VHS tapes. Choosing the best VHS tape typically begins with a consideration of what you plan on doing with the tape.

VHS tapes usually have a label that says how much recording time they provide.
VHS tapes usually have a label that says how much recording time they provide.

While all tapes use the same basic technology, you can find a number of different types of VHS tapes with different levels of quality. A standard tape only provides about 250 scan lines of video, which is far less than that provided by DVDs and modern televisions capable of displaying three or four times that many lines. You can find “Super” VHS tapes, often labeled S-VHS, which can display 400 scan lines and provide a sharper image with greater color clarity. A digital VHS tape, or D-VHS, uses digital technology with the physical tape to provide higher image resolution and superior picture quality than other VHS formats.

You should also consider the amount of video you wish to record as you choose the best VHS tapes for your needs. Most VHS tapes are labeled with a number that indicates the amount of video that can be recorded in minutes when in standard play mode. This number is often T-60 or T-120, meaning one or two hours of video can be recorded, though up to T-240 is available. While you can record in “long play” or “extended play” mode to double or triple the amount of video that can be recorded on a VHS tape, the picture and sound quality will typically decline severely when you do so.

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Discussion Comments


Very good point. There are also a number of devices people can use to transfer their own tapes over to DVD. If you only have one or two to transfer, it's usually easiest to have a professional do it. For someone with dozens or hundreds of old VHS tapes, however, it may be worth the investment in a DVD recorder.


VHS tapes were really cheap for a while and I think a few people stocked up on a lot of blank VHS tapes.

So if you want to get some, you might try garage sales or even second hand stores or charity shops.

I've even seen them in second hand book stores.

But do remember that they don't last forever and there's no guarantee that your tapes will work. You might even be better off buying used VHS tapes from a DVD store to record over, because at least it is more likely they were bought relatively recently.

It's funny, now I think about it, how suddenly it became the DVD store rather than the video store. I guess it will soon cease to exist altogether and become the download store.


You should always remember that VHS is not a permanent storage space like DVDs can be. No matter how carefully you take care of your VHS tapes, they will eventually begin to show wear.

I recently found an old VHS tape in the garage that probably has some family footage on it. I'm giving it to a specialist to convert to DVD. He told me that I shouldn't even try to play it, since it is about thirty years old and playing it even once might destroy the information.

He's going to play my vhs tape once to record the DVD but he doesn't expect we'll ever be able to play it again after that.

I'm just glad we knew someone who could do this for us. But if you find an old VHS tape that has value to you don't play it, take it to someone who can get the info off for you.

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    • VHS tapes usually have a label that says how much recording time they provide.
      By: windu
      VHS tapes usually have a label that says how much recording time they provide.