RE 6-head VCRs.
Note – when I say 6-head, I mean 6-heads dedicated for recording / playing back video. I don’t mean an extra pair of heads for Hi FI sound nor do I mean an extra pair of heads for special effects.
In 1994 Toshiba and Sharp both introduced VCRs with 6-video record/playback heads.
I know of no Panasonic or any other manufacture offering a true 6-head VCR.
These Sharp and Toshiba VCRS had the following record/playing back heads:
(Head-1 58-micron Head-2 46-micron giving a slight guardrail between the head switch)
Pair one (26-micron)
Pair two (19-micron)
Only one EP pair at a time was used.
Prior to 1994 VHS VCRs used 26-micron heads for EP recordings. Whether you used a 2-head multi-speed recorder or a 4-head multi speed recorder -- EP recordings were laid using 26-micron heads. This is not ideal for EP recordings as the EP track width is only 19-micron and 26-micron heads will “overlap” and cause unnecessary video noise.
In 1994 the technology became available to cheaply precision-cut video heads all the way down to 19-microns. Since this was a new thing – Toshiba and Sharp kept the old 26-micron EP heads on the drum for best backward compatibility with EP tapes recorded on older VCRs using 26-micron EP heads. Of course the 58-m SP heads are kept on the drum thus the birth of the “TRUE” 6-head VCR.
By 1996 most manufactures started dropping the older 26-micron EP heads in favour of the superior 19-micron EP heads but kept a 4-head system having 58/46 SP and 19/19 EP heads. Most if not all of the last Toshiba and Sharp VCRs used the 4-head system droping the 26-micron heads. Although some manufactures use slightly wider EP heads, around 21-microns.
Note- 2-head SP only recorders and 4-head multi-speed recorders used and still use standard 58-micron heads for SP recordings(head 2 is slightly narrower to allow a slight guardrail). But multi-speed 2 head recorders used and still use 26 to 31-micron heads for SP and underlay the tracks wasting space and producing a poorer S/N ratio.
Getting back to the 6-head (4-EP- the dual off spec 26-micron and on spec 19-micron heads+ 58 micron SP heads) system – many folks with tons of EP recordings will favour a Sharp or Toshiba true-6-head machine for this reason. They have EP tapes recorded on various decks – some EP recordings recorded with 26-m EP heads and some EP recordings recorded with proper 19-micron heads.
Do note- most VCRs have more than 4-heads when all heads are counted. You can add 2-Hi Fi heads to most modern VCRs. The more advanced VCRs also have a flying erase head. And ALL VCRS have a stationary audio head and a stationary erase/control track head.
Lastly, for good tracking performance – I personally like and highly recommend JVC as they invented VHS, SVHS, Hi FI, HQ and just about everything VHS. Other manufactures started doing uhm ah “of spec crap” I never, never ever used a VCR that tracks better than my JVC SVHS decks. Believe me I used many brands.
From the Toshiba 1994 manual"
Manually switching on the new 19-micron EP heads.Toshiba 6-head manualToshiba 6-head front panelToshiba 6-head Remote