Why Do People Still Buy Betamax VCR's? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 184 Old 01-10-2008, 12:39 AM - Thread Starter
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I went to the #1 auction site the other day and was stunned at the very active bidding and buying market for these 8-25 year old units. It can't be just people that want to convert their Beta tapes to DVD with their DVD recorders. Very strange almost like a cult following.

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post #2 of 184 Old 01-10-2008, 05:30 AM
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Maybe I was smart in keeping my 25yr old Sony's....I was just thinking the other day, they were waisting shelf space. Were they actually selling, or just people posting them with a large value? Mine haven't been hooked up in 15? yrs. I guess I wont toss them just yet...I cant think of why people would want them to use, although they did work to feed a VHS video signal through, then they would remove Macrovision. No such luck with DVD signal tough. At least in my experience.
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post #3 of 184 Old 01-10-2008, 08:06 AM
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As an original Beta adopter back in 1984, I kept up with Beta until more recently. Sure, I switched to VHS in '87, but because stores were dropping prerecorded tapes and even blanks like flies. I cringed everytime I played back a VHS recording of mine when my Beta deck made an almost undiscernible copy of the rather poor PQ video of that time.

It was truly a sad day when my original Beta deck, and a spare I picked up from a co-worker, bit the dust in the mid-90's. I found this obscure little web site called "eBay" (I would find much later that it was only a year old when I first discovered it) and purchased my long desired ED-Beta deck; and the industrial model to boot. It still works to this day. Beta would last forever in my home now!

That said, I did look at the Beta listings over the holidays and did not find the market to be as hot as it was in the mid-90's when many were freaking like me. I thought I only saw about 85 listings, compared to the 5-6 pages of listings back then and it appeared that the prices were much lower than then. Maybe the units you happened to see were the much coveted higher end, last of units? The SuperBeta decks that could record in BI speed could still record a great video, with Beta blanks still available due to their use in the broadcast industry, and w/o all of the flakiness of todays cheap DVD recorders. I still feel sorry for the people, desperate to transfer their old Beta tapes, purchasing a Sanyo unit for that purpose; and pay good money for it too. Those are usually rated about as poor as a typical VHS deck in PQ.

Oh well, just had to put in my 2 cents. With the advent of DVD recorders, i could see no reason to use Beta except to transfer old tapes over. In the collectible video world, an old Beta recording is the holy grail. I rarely see anyone "bragging" about an old VHS recording; they are usually apologizing. Of course, I am talking about 70's and early 80's recordings. Beta, the descendant of Sony's 3/4 Umatic near-broadcast quality format, was about as close as you could get to broadcast quality in the consumer world. I don't want to offend any more recent VHS or SVHS users. I have gotten quite good, Beta like quality recordings from my 2001 $79 Zenith (Samsung) VHS before going DVD.

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post #4 of 184 Old 02-24-2010, 07:19 PM
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I would say because it was BETTER technology..

I hadnt ever really looked into it until recently,i guess they produced a better picture..

This tells i think 1 reason why they failed

http://www.betainfoguide.net/BetaBetter.html

People didnt wanna pay the $$$ for better quality basically....

I am a PURIST,i look for the BEST quality i can find....

I have loved VHS all my life,i wonder how BETA compared to an analogue movie on VHS,does anyone know?
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post #5 of 184 Old 02-24-2010, 07:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dude111 View Post


I have loved VHS all my life,i wonder how BETA compared to an analogue movie on VHS,does anyone know?

Beta mostly failed because of the marketing -- people wanted the longer recording time (even though the quality was noticeably lessened by recording at 6 or 8 hr speeds). Just because you can record a tape for that long a time doesn't mean you should. I have a lot of beta and beta hi fi recordings still, haven't listened to them in years, and just got a fairly late model Sony (not a high end model, unfortunately) from someone who was throwing it out. I have no idea if it works -- I 've heard the machines dont store very well and should be used frequently, while this one was barely used at all. Keeping fingers crossed that I can get it fired up and working and that my tapes aren't mangled into spaghetti by the time I'm ready to go. Have to say, I was really happy to get it. When my last beta machine bit the dust, it was a sad day.

Mostly I imagine people want these because they have a library of tapes they have never digitized, but also because (as mentioned above) these recordings weren't subject to macrovision so they were handy for dubbing. I was a big beta advocate -- but, as is often the case, quality is often trumped by lowest common denominator machines flooding the market. It's a niche audience, but a passionate one. I used my beta hi fi recorders for audio as much as for video, the sound was fine (for the time) and it was a great way to record radio broadcasts in their entirety in hi fi , without having to swap or flip cassettes. Remember cassettes?
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post #6 of 184 Old 02-25-2010, 11:32 AM
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The answer to the original question is that people probably want a means of playing back legacy software. I wonder if there's anybody out there who still uses a Beta machine for routine time-shifting......

Part of the reason why Beta ultimately lost to VHS was, as I understand it, Sony's "our way or no way" attitude. Early on, possibly even before they started actually selling Betamaxes, RCA execs visited Sony for a dog-n-pony demo of the system, and liked it and wanted to license it--with one caveat. Could Sony please bump up the recording time to 2 hours. Sony said take 1 hour or hit the road. So the RCA execs did and went to JVC, who, as we know, delivered not just 2 hours but 4 hours and ultimately 6 hours of recording time. And despite the poor picture quality, that's what consumers wanted: the convenience and economy of putting an entire week's worth of TV shows on one T-120 tape.

Back in the '90s, I worked with a guy who was the only editor in our building who had a Mac; the rest of the co. was on PC. I was kidding him one day and said, "I'll be you're one of those people who still say Beta is better than VHS." Ed got a really serious look and muttered, "Well, it is."
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post #7 of 184 Old 02-25-2010, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by artwire View Post

Remember cassettes?

Oh yes,still have alot
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post #8 of 184 Old 02-25-2010, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Dude111 View Post

Oh yes,still have alot

remember 1/2" audio tape in 4" reels

You got to be nuts; you want me to pay to watch commercials?
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post #9 of 184 Old 02-25-2010, 04:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doswonk1 View Post

So the RCA execs did and went to JVC, who, as we know, delivered not just 2 hours but 4 hours and ultimately 6 hours of recording time.

I agree with the rest of your post but take exception with the above statement. From what I remember RCA wanted a recorder that would do 4hrs/tape but JVC said no, it wasn't possible with the available technology to record 4hrs to a single tape and also retain good 2hr recordings. So RCA went to Matsushita (parent company of Panasonic) and they produced the 2 and 4hr machines. For the most part they looked like crap(even the SP 2hr speed because the 2 video heads were optimized for the 4hr speed). The 2/4 hr machines sold quite well and JVC countered the following year with a 2/6 hr machine which used 4 video heads(2 optimized for 2hr speed and 2 optimized for 6hr speed). These machines had OK 6hr PQ and SP PQ approached the SP only machines. The JVC machines begrudgingly played the Matsushita 4hr speed(with no special effects) but AFAIK JVC built machines never recorded in the 4hr speed.
Shortly after the success of JVCs 2/6hr machines Matsushita(including RCA and Panasonic to name a few) produced their own 2/4/6 hr 4 video head machines. The Matsushita machines did record in the 4hr speed but again had limited special effects. The 4hr LP speed was for the most part was only a stop gap effort until the 6hr speed became the norm for the average cheap consumer. To cut costs Matsushita also produced 2 head 2/4/6 hr machines with the 2 heads optimized for the 6hr speed. IMO those machines were one of the worst looking machines ever produced, close to the Matsushita 2/4 hr machines, you gained very little using SP on those type of machines.
I briefly experimented with the 6hr speed on my '82 Matsushita made RCA 4 head VCR but quickly found the PQ to be too poor and I used SP from then on. LP was slightly better than SLP(EP) but had very poor special effects. No wonder my VHS collection was well over 1000 before I switched to DVD. Using SLP(EP) it would have only been in excess of 333 tapes

I still only get between 2-3hrs/DVD but DVDs are sooooo much smaller than shelves of VHS tapes and 2-3hrs on a DVD looks a fair amount better than 2hrs on VHS.
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post #10 of 184 Old 02-25-2010, 05:13 PM
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I can vouch for the continuing popularity of Beta. I recently listed and sold a bunch of old blank and prerecorded Beta tapes on fleabay and the bidding was wild. I figured I'd give the auction one chance before I tossed everything.

Very surprising.
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post #11 of 184 Old 02-25-2010, 05:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doswonk1 View Post

And despite the poor picture quality, that's what consumers wanted: the convenience and economy of putting an entire week's worth of TV shows on one T-120 tape.

Part of the reason they wanted that longer recording time was that four hours could contain an NFL game. Don't underestimate that. Viewers went insane when "Heidi" preempted a game back in 1968, and that fervor hasn't diminished.

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post #12 of 184 Old 02-25-2010, 07:38 PM
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I bought my first VCR in 1985 and since I only archive concert videos, audio was very important to me. At the time only beta had AFM Hi FI audio tracks. VHS only had linear stereo with Dolby B. This convinced me to go beta. I knew that VHS was winning the war but Beta Hi Fi was so much more appealing to me.

SuperBeta having a much nicer picture than VHS, along with Beta having a better U-Load mechanism than the VHS M-Load system was a bonus. The different tape speeds didn't affect my decision because by 1985 beta had a Bll speed which holds 3hrs on a L750 tape. Most concerts I record off the tube, I'd say a good 80% run under one hour anyway. Beta also has a Blll speed that holds four and a half hrs but I never used that speed for archiving like I never used VHS-EP for archiving. BTW - beta HF uses the same heads for video and hi-fi audio, meaning if the picture tracks than the hifi tracks will play fine.

Shortly after I bought my machine a VHS Hi Fi unit with improved video circuitry (HQ) came out and a buddy bought one. The audio was at par with my Beta HF but home recordings of the SuperBeta Bll picture beat out VHS HQ SP picture quality. Although I must say that commercially recorded beta tapes played on a SuperBeta did not look much better than commercially recorded VHS tapes played back on my buddy's VHS HQ machine.

Shortly after this - JVC introduced a S-VHS Hi Fi unit and the picture detail clearly beat SuperBeta. Although chroma noise of Beta, SuperBeta is much lower than chroma noise of S-VHS VHS. Never the less, if I waited till 87, 88 - no doubt I would of bought S-VHS HF instead of SuperBeta HF.

I still own three Sony machines. A working 1984 beta HF (bought used) a working 1985 SuperBeta HF (bought used) and my original 1985 bought new SuperBeta HF. At today's beta value at eBay, I'd never sell my betas. They were going for a LOT MORE before the recession.

I don't use my betas anymore - other than to archive my precious concerts. First to S-VHS, now to DVDR and in the future who knows to what?
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post #13 of 184 Old 02-25-2010, 08:24 PM
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Originally Posted by ti-triodes View Post

I can vouch for the continuing popularity of Beta. I recently listed and sold a bunch of old blank and prerecorded Beta tapes on fleabay and the bidding was wild. I figured I'd give the auction one chance before I tossed everything.

Very surprising.

Thanks for mentioning this, Ti-triodes; I have a couple of big cartons of beta tapes (most recorded once but with the tabs still in, so they could be recorded over) stored away. I tossed a lot of unimportant VHS recordings recently, but couldn't bring myself to get rid of the beta 'archive'. I kept deluding myself with the argument that one day, when there's a lot of snow, I'll start to dub them. We had two feet a couple weeks back and I still didnt take a crack at it, so I was thinking about finally taking the plunge and getting rid of them. Maybe this is a better route. Did you offer the full batch at once, or did you separate them into smaller bundles -- and did auction them based on the recorded content or just as reuseable tapes?
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post #14 of 184 Old 02-25-2010, 08:48 PM
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I agree with the rest of your post but take exception with the above statement. From what I remember RCA wanted a recorder that would do 4hrs/tape but JVC said no, it wasn't possible with the available technology to record 4hrs to a single tape and also retain good 2hr recordings. So RCA went to Matsushita (parent company of Panasonic) and they produced the 2 and 4hr machines. For the most part they looked like crap(even the SP 2hr speed because the 2 video heads were optimized for the 4hr speed). The 2/4 hr machines sold quite well and JVC countered the following year with a 2/6 hr machine which used 4 video heads(2 optimized for 2hr speed and 2 optimized for 6hr speed). These machines had OK 6hr PQ and SP PQ approached the SP only machines. The JVC machines begrudgingly played the Matsushita 4hr speed(with no special effects) but AFAIK JVC built machines never recorded in the 4hr speed.
Shortly after the success of JVCs 2/6hr machines Matsushita(including RCA and Panasonic to name a few) produced their own 2/4/6 hr 4 video head machines. The Matsushita machines did record in the 4hr speed but again had limited special effects. The 4hr LP speed was for the most part was only a stop gap effort until the 6hr speed became the norm for the average cheap consumer. To cut costs Matsushita also produced 2 head 2/4/6 hr machines with the 2 heads optimized for the 6hr speed. IMO those machines were one of the worst looking machines ever produced, close to the Matsushita 2/4 hr machines, you gained very little using SP on those type of machines.
I briefly experimented with the 6hr speed on my '82 Matsushita made RCA 4 head VCR but quickly found the PQ to be too poor and I used SP from then on. LP was slightly better than SLP(EP) but had very poor special effects. No wonder my VHS collection was well over 1000 before I switched to DVD. Using SLP(EP) it would have only been in excess of 333 tapes

I still only get between 2-3hrs/DVD but DVDs are sooooo much smaller than shelves of VHS tapes and 2-3hrs on a DVD looks a fair amount better than 2hrs on VHS.

jjeff, I think you pretty well nailed it.

The only thing you missed was pornography. The pornography industry embraced VHS for it's lower cost and convenience compared to film.

And adult content was not available on Betamax, because Sony would not allow it.
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post #15 of 184 Old 02-25-2010, 09:15 PM
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Originally Posted by jjeff View Post

Shortly after the success of JVCs 2/6hr machines Matsushita(including RCA and Panasonic to name a few) produced their own 2/4/6 hr 4 video head machines. The Matsushita machines did record in the 4hr speed but again had limited special effects. The 4hr LP speed was for the most part was only a stop gap effort until the 6hr speed became the norm for the average cheap consumer. To cut costs Matsushita also produced 2 head 2/4/6 hr machines with the 2 heads optimized for the 6hr speed. IMO those machines were one of the worst looking machines ever produced, close to the Matsushita 2/4 hr machines, you gained very little using SP on those type of machines.

The first VCR my parents ever got was a 1982 Panasonic VHS. I remember they also rented 'Dragonslayer' that evening. It didn't hold my attention at all and to this day I still can't sit through it. The picture from recordings was passable, the tuner sucked, but it was built like a tank. I inherited it in 1992 or so. At that time it would not show anything on the screen except snow. I cleaned the heads/drums and got it working, and continued to work as new until 1995 or so when I tossed it out. I wish I still had it so that I could use it to play back all the tapes I recorded on it, as most of them were LP. The 1998 Panny I have still works as new, despite my wife and daughter's attempts to destroy it.
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post #16 of 184 Old 02-25-2010, 09:51 PM
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My parents had a Montgomery Ward VHS one. It could only tune channels 1-13, and each channel had a push button on the front. The "remote" was a wired thing that had one slider switch and two selections; play/record and pause.

The Goldstar 2 head non-hi-fi VCR we got to replace it seemed light years ahead of that with an actual digital readout and fully functional IR remote.

My uncle had two VCRs way back when, one Beta and one VHS. This was doubly impressive since it was back when they cost at least several hundred apiece. He also had laserdisc.

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post #17 of 184 Old 02-26-2010, 12:09 AM
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Minority formats always attract "cults", especially if they offer quality or convenience missing from the majority choice. Beta rides a roller coaster on eBay: some months even a pedestrian 25 year old SL-HF500 goes for $300, other times you can snag a more recent SuperBeta for way less than that. The ultra-rare ED Betas always go for big $$$ since they're considered "collectible" now, and if you're a wealthy perfectionist with a large existing ED library what else can you play them on? There also does seem to be a rather large subgroup of Beta users who prefer using the machines to play back their original tapes, rather than dub them to DVD, throw in those who need a Betamax for digitizing and you have healthy demand for a dwindling supply of decent Betamaxes. Thats why you almost never see a Sony Betamax sell for less than $100, but you find mint-condition VHS decks sitting on the curb every trash day in every neighborhood (huge supply, no demand).

Re the "why did Beta fail?" question we all rehash here periodically: jjeff covered it well. There were a number of reasons, major and minor, some due to consumer preferences and some due to Sonys blockheaded arrogance. The four primary killers came down sequentially over time: the first was their staggering stupidity in thinking a 1-hour recording limit made any sense at all in a consumer device to begin with (any idiot would have known 120 mins would be the bare minimum required). Blowing the deal with RCA was killer #2, it stranded Sony as the elitist boor at their own party. After foolishly rejecting RCA, Sony continued to drag its feet about reasonable recording times: killer #3 was not comprehending blank tapes were so horribly expensive ($18 in 1980!) that consumers were hell-bent on sacrificing quality to squeeze as much as they could on one tape. Even so, Beta still hung in as a strong alternative with 30-40% of the worldwide market for quite awhile- what finally did them in was the rapid rise of Mom-and-Pop video rental stores in North America, none of whom wanted to carry dual formats. These entrepreneurs saw the handwriting on the wall: Montgomery Ward wasn't selling Beta, they were selling VHS as the "house brand", and RCA had sprinted to the top of most consumer's dream VCR list. Rental stores: that was the final nail.

Ironically we're already seeing the whole "cult" pattern repeat with DVD recorders: they failed as a mass market item, but the higher-end DVD/HDD models continue to fetch high prices second hand from fanatical hobbyists like us. Pretty soon this will spill over into high-end DVD players like the Oppos as well: five years from now when stores have nothing but BluRay players on the shelf, many of them intentionally crippled with horrible DVD playback to make BD look more impressive, those with large DVD collections will be swarming eBay for the last of the great DVD players.
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post #18 of 184 Old 02-26-2010, 11:48 AM
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I agree with the rest of your post but take exception with the above statement. From what I remember RCA wanted a recorder that would do 4hrs/tape but JVC said no,.....

jjeff~ Yep, you're right. I was remembering a bowdlerized version of the story that I had since learned wasn't correct. I forgot about the whole LP vs. SLP/EP "war of the speeds." Our first VCRs were two General Electrics from Service Merchandise. They recorded in SP, LP, and EP. After that, my JVC and Mitsus would play back LP without special effects but would not record in that speed.

My original interest in VCRs was mainly for audio recording FM broadcasts, so since there was no difference in sound quality (that I could determine) between LP and EP, I always used the longest speed.

Citibear: "...it stranded Sony as the elitist boor at their own party." Great line!!
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post #19 of 184 Old 02-26-2010, 03:15 PM
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The only thing you missed was pornography. The pornography industry embraced VHS for it's lower cost and convenience compared to film.

And adult content was not available on Betamax, because Sony would not allow it.

No I didn't X tapes actually were available on Beta but in a much smaller quantity than VHS. Back in '82 AFAIK the only store that carried Beta X tapes in my metro area(of roughly 1M back then) was a place called US Video in the outer ring of Minneapolis. They had a huge X collection of which about 25% was Beta. Most mom and pop video stores rented X tapes back then but very very few carried Beta(I read the west coast had more Beta).
I've been noticing a similar thing with Blu-ray, a few online renters are finally starting to carry BR. IMO this is a good sign for BR, they wouldn't bother if they thought BR wouldn't make it like HDDVD or even Beta before that. The reviews I've read aren't very good and most are saying what is available is mostly upconverted SD, a complete waste of BRs bandwidth but it should only be a matter of time before the source actually catches up with the format.
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My original interest in VCRs was mainly for audio recording FM broadcasts, so since there was no difference in sound quality (that I could determine) between LP and EP, I always used the longest speed.

Actually unless your VCR was HiFi, linear audio was much better in faster speeds. On my linear VCR I recorded many musical events and in SP the sound ran close to 13k, in SLP it wouldn't crack 10k and closer to 8k or even 6k for junk VCRs. LP would probably be between the two(half the tape speed as SP but 33% faster than SLP). If your VCR was HiFi you're right, recording speed had very little to to with sound quality because the actual writing speed was the same(due to the rotating video/audio heads), only more area to record on if using a faster speed.
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post #20 of 184 Old 02-26-2010, 03:50 PM
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Back in the day, I noticed that more affluent neighborhoods had mostly Beta households, where the less affluent were mainly VHS. I attributed this to two things. First, Beta was out first! Sorry about that. Since it had almost a year headstart on VHS, but was very costly, only affluent people could afford it, so anyone who wanted a video recorder and could afford it, had to get a Beta unit. Once you had taken the step of deciding on a format, changing was difficult. And second, in very short order, there were ten or more VHS brands, from Mitsubishi, JVC, and Panasonic, to the cheapest of the cheap, but Beta was exclusively Sony, AND more expensive. People with less money could get into a VHS deck much easier than a Beta deck.

There was no question that Beta was betta, um, better, and I didn't know anyone who disagreed with that assessment, but, most people thought that VHS was good enough. The picture quality of both were worse than live, so the difference was liveable.

The people (like me) who cared about quality bought laserdisks (LV) of what we felt was worth having. I invested in CED disks too, talking about a doomed format. Laserdisks don't look too bad on my high def television today, but CED disks look unwatchable! Who knew how bad they really were!?

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post #21 of 184 Old 02-26-2010, 04:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjeff View Post

Actually unless your VCR was HiFi, linear audio was much better in faster speeds. On my linear VCR I recorded many musical events and in SP the sound ran close to 13k, in SLP it wouldn't crack 10k and closer to 8k or even 6k for junk VCRs. LP would probably be between the two(half the tape speed as SP but 33% faster than SLP). If your VCR was HiFi you're right, recording speed had very little to to with sound quality because the actual writing speed was the same(due to the rotating video/audio heads), only more area to record on if using a faster speed.

Yup, one of the things that pushed me to get my first hi-fi VCR (a JVC) was that I'd started using my GE for audio time-shifting and didn't want to suffer the sound quality loss from using the longer speeds. The GE could record in LP--4 hr--speeds, so I had to use that for time-shifting, say, a complete Metropolitan Opera broadcast. Symphony concert broadcasts are usually 2 hours or less, so then I could use SP......assuming I wanted to record only one program.

My video recording was actually pretty spotty until the late '90s, and even then I was pretty careless about PQ. Now I guess I care more about good PQ because.....with a DTV broacasting and a DVDR, I've come to expect it!!
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post #22 of 184 Old 02-26-2010, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Church AV Guy View Post

but Beta was exclusively Sony, AND more expensive. People with less money could get into a VHS deck much easier than a Beta deck.

I agree about the early early adopters going for beta but actually my second VCR was a Sanyo beta-cord Betamax. I couldn't afford another $1000+ good VHS(cheap ones were still >$600) so I bought the Sanyo for the ridiculously low price of $399(at Labelles later called Service merchandise). I used the BIII which was better than VHS SLP and even LP to make copies of VHS orignals and conflicting TV programs.
Sony may have been the only for the first few years but by the 80s they did license the Beta format for a few other brands. Zenith also comes to mind and I believe Sears.
I probably had ~60 Beta tapes when I bought another used VHS 4 head Magnavox(which was the exact same as my RCA which was the same as Panasonic and even Quasar) and I never really looked back at Beta, well except when I bought several used Sony made Betas for <$100 when Beta was tanking.
Contrary to the general belief I personally thought VHS SP was superior to BII, it had a faster linear tape speed. BI which was the first speed and quickly dropped in all but commercial machines did have a faster tape speed but I never had a machine that could record BI. I will say though that BIII was superior to VHS SLP or even LP.
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post #23 of 184 Old 02-26-2010, 05:41 PM
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Originally Posted by artwire View Post

Thanks for mentioning this, Ti-triodes; I have a couple of big cartons of beta tapes (most recorded once but with the tabs still in, so they could be recorded over) stored away. I tossed a lot of unimportant VHS recordings recently, but couldn't bring myself to get rid of the beta 'archive'. I kept deluding myself with the argument that one day, when there's a lot of snow, I'll start to dub them. We had two feet a couple weeks back and I still didnt take a crack at it, so I was thinking about finally taking the plunge and getting rid of them. Maybe this is a better route. Did you offer the full batch at once, or did you separate them into smaller bundles -- and did auction them based on the recorded content or just as reuseable tapes?


The pre-recorded tapes were listed individually, The blank tapes were listed in lots, but they were all sealed. I don't know what you'd get for used personal tapes, it could be nothing, or it may sell- I've given up on the "logic" of eBay, there really isn't any.

I had some head cleaners where the bidding got absolutely nuts. Multiple people were trying to work out early BIN deals. I believe people would have fought duels over these things!
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post #24 of 184 Old 02-26-2010, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by doswonk1 View Post

Yup, one of the things that pushed me to get my first hi-fi VCR (a JVC) was that I'd started using my GE for audio time-shifting and didn't want to suffer the sound quality loss from using the longer speeds. The GE could record in LP--4 hr--speeds, so I had to use that for time-shifting, say, a complete Metropolitan Opera broadcast. Symphony concert broadcasts are usually 2 hours or less, so then I could use SP......assuming I wanted to record only one program.

Like doswonk,I grabbed a lot of Met Saturday broadcasts --> beta hifi which saved many a weekend -- just set it and go .... The 80s/early 90s performances are irreplaceable, mainly because of who was singing back then, and because the met didn't release a lot of the performances subsequently (I've always heard it was because Levine got petulant and held grudges against some singers, but there may have been "technical issues" ! Some of these broadcasts may now be available by Met online subscription, not sure about that). Live opera can be so much more interesting than the studio recordings -- live rock concerts, even more so. I think I still have Live Aid on 4 beta tapes

I remember my first beta had a wired remote and was pretty clunky. Not a great machine, and remarkably unattractive, but it got me started. The silver Sanyo beta hi fi that followed seemed to be much more streamlined and it was pretty durable. Sanyo betas reportedly had a tape transport like a vhs, but accepted beta tape. The theory was that it would be easier to fix and wouldnt wear out the heads because it disengaged to ff and rewind. Yeah, right. They didnt mention the clunky mechanism and the tape jams. Aiwa also sold beta recorders, and there may have been a few others . Friends in South America were also using beta, so it remained a viable format there and in Japan long after the marketing in US came to a screeching halt. Once Sony switched to VHS, that was it, I think.

PS Headcleaners..... headcleaners.... *and rewinders? I think I may have a few of those tucked away too. Time for 'spring cleaning' Thanks for the idea, ti-triodes.
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post #25 of 184 Old 02-26-2010, 08:08 PM
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Hmmm....thumbs through old mags....The Video Amateur 1977...no, that's Cartrivision....hmmm...Videophile's Newsletter 1976 - 78...closer....Sanyo V-Cord II, Quasar Great Time Machine...ahh! Sony Betamax....no ads at that time for porn...maybe later. Oh, isn't it fun to just thumb through all this old video history?

Why keep the Betamax? Probably because of the many thousands of tapes that I and my friends recorded all those years ago, and not just TV but all the family videos. As for TV stuff, there are a couple things I dug out in the past few years that had existed as only written transcripts online. The original recorded tapes have long since vanished. Some grateful people got to see those. Still looking. I have about another 2,000 tapes to get through sometime in the next few months. Down to my last Beta Hi-Fi deck so it's time to check fleabay for others. I've found some dandy units in town but I can't get them fixed here anymore. For that matter, I can't get VHS fixed here anymore either. The techs have given up on them. Larger centers may have the manpower to do both but you might need connections. Many old time techs have retired and don't want to have anything to do with cranky equipment and repair info online (especially for Beta) is spotty at best. I'm sure we'll be discussing the same thing with DVD recorders in another 10 years....
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post #26 of 184 Old 02-27-2010, 02:23 AM
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The idea that Betamax had a "better picture" than VHS is revisionist myth. The formats were essentially the same in terms of image quality. The stupid myth only appeared in the last 5-6 years online, almost entirely in user forums.

At best, the myth is based on the last-generation crap VCRs against older well-maintained Beta deck. Put a couple of good 80s decks head-to-head, and you can't find much difference.

Porn is a revisionist myth too -- that was never a factor.

Where the formats ACTUALLY differed was licensing and runtime.

There is plenty of information offline and online for working with and repairing Beta decks.

For VHS, LP is closer to SP than to SLP (later named EP). The image is cleaner, less crosstalk, less grain.

Another reason for VHS winning over Betamax was similar to why Nintendo won out over Sega -- third parties. VHS (JVC) and Nintendo both gave a lot of leeway to third party companies, and they "won" those battles largely for this reason. Sony and Sega tried to death-grip their tech, and they screwed themselves because of it.

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post #27 of 184 Old 02-27-2010, 10:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post

The idea that Betamax had a "better picture" than VHS is revisionist myth. The formats were essentially the same in terms of image quality. The stupid myth only appeared in the last 5-6 years online, almost entirely in user forums.

Respectfully disagree- "Beta and VHS were essentially the same quality" is also a not-entirely-true "myth".

Especially in the early '80s, VHS was atrocious at making dubs: absolutely horrid. It was OK for pre-recorded playback, and passable for off-air recording at SP if you had fantastic reception, but gawd help you if you wanted to archive bits and pieces on a compilation tape or make copies of anything for any reason: VHS was terrible. I wasn't using "junk" decks, either: I rented the top-line 4-head RCA 650 and borrowed an early JVC (when JVC still gave a damn about quality construction). In frustration, I broke down and bought the top Betamax SL-5800 and it was a revelation: it made beautiful dubs, holding decent color/contrast/detail where VHS dubs would just be a mass of swirling chroma/luma noise. It is quite true that the Beta II two-hour speed was actually slower than VHS SP, and Beta II did suffer badly from crosstalk issues, but the better dubbing quality trumped all that and the crosstalk could be dialed way down by careful adjustment of the tracking control.

After my SL-5800 was stolen, I replaced it with a Toshiba (!) beta clone which was even better, then an NEC which was so-so, and finally the first Sony Beta HiFi SL-5200. That got me thru the MTV years , but its breakdown rate was infuriating. When VHS came out with its own HiFi technology, I picked up the first Panasonic 4-head hifi unit: beautifully built and elegant to use, but mediocre video with added crosstalk similar to Beta and terrible tracking issues with the new hifi audio system. I stuck it out with Beta until Minolta began selling a 4-head hifi VHS made exclusively for them by Hitachi. That Minolta was so stunningly good at even third-generation dubbing that I sold everything I owned to buy two of them. I was happy as a clam with my Minolta VHS decks thru the late 80s into the early 90s when they broke down and couldn't be repaired. Since then I've never found their equal- by 1990 VHS was a profitless commodity item so no mfr bothered to make stunning video quality a priority anymore. The best recording quality you could get was the top-line JVCs, but they weren't near as good as the Minoltas and about as reliable as the weather: I went thru JVC models like Kirstie Alley goes thru Doritos- no long-term joy.

Todays $159 Magnavox H2160 beats any $900 VCR I've ever owned by a mile, as do the more expensive Pioneers. I'm stockpiling both like crazy...
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post #28 of 184 Old 02-27-2010, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by vmalhotra View Post

remember 1/2" audio tape in 4" reels

Are you sure you don't mean 1/4" tape on 7" reels??

Certainly 1/2" existed, along with 1", 2", etc. and reels typically ranged from 3" to 14" but the consumer rarely, if ever, was exposed to them.

I've got some of all of the above along with my 21 vintage tape recorders (and one wire recorder ).

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post #29 of 184 Old 02-27-2010, 05:16 PM
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Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post

The idea that Betamax had a "better picture" than VHS is revisionist myth. The formats were essentially the same in terms of image quality. The stupid myth only appeared in the last 5-6 years online, almost entirely in user forums.

At best, the myth is based on the last-generation crap VCRs against older well-maintained Beta deck. Put a couple of good 80s decks head-to-head, and you can't find much difference.

Myth or not, your statement is absurd. When I bought my first VHS machine in 1988, I wanted to get a Betamax, because everyone I knew said they had a better picture. But there were far fewer movies available, so I went VHS, and later SVHS, since I didn't like the crappy VHS picture, and was recording a lot of cable stuff.
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post #30 of 184 Old 02-27-2010, 05:49 PM
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I partly agree with LS on this, that both were similar in their best consumer speeds, with comparable quality machines. Where I disagree is "The stupid myth only appeared in the last 5-6 years online, almost entirely in user forums". The myth goes as far back as I was using video tape, very early 80's, and I never read a online forum until the mid '00s. As I said before BIII was definitely better than VHS SLP(EP) but BII vs SP was basically a wash, IMO anyway.
I tried several high quality Beta machines in the day, the Sony SL-5800 Citibear mentioned, SL-5600, SL-5400 and a cheaper Sanyo which I don't remember the model number, and non bettered my RCA VFT-650's or JVC 6700U's.

Funny that both Citibear and myself had the same machines but saw different results. In the day I usually used HQ tapes at the best available recording speeds for my tests. I didn't do a lot of multi-generation copies, usually just one copy from the master or live off TV. The SL-5800 did have about the best special effects of the time though. With it's wired remote and jog/shuttle type wheel I think it could scan tapes at something like 100??X and slo-mo was second to none. Not to mention my AG-300 Beta-stacker where I could record something like 25 hrs of unattended events. Although one of my favorite options was the JVCs speedplay where with a voice correction circuit one could listen to the news in close to double time and understand it for the most part. DVD speedplay is much better though.
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