I have recently acquired an 8 head Sharp VCR. It has a titanium head and I believe it's from the late 90s. Anyway, I've looked online and can't find any reference to 8 head players, with the exception of a post here from 2004 which didn't reveal much. Basically, what are those extra 2 heads for? I've noticed there's an 'edit' mode on my recorder so I wonder if it's possible to do fancy editing tricks? I also read on a thread about JVC S-Video decks that playing in 'edit' mode produces a better picture.
Anyone able to shed some light on this?
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I don't recall any VHS units going up to 8 heads. If so, it was a rarity. On 6-head VCRs, you had your 2 basic video playback heads, plus 2 additional heads for clean slo-mo, and 2 more heads for the Hi-fi audio tracks.
Are the extra heads for flying erase?
my guess is it's a normal 6 head on the drum vcr and some marketing scumbag decided to count the 2 linear stereo heads that aren't on the drum. all "6 head" hifi vcrs actually do have 8 heads.--
"a lot of people are better dead" - prisoner KSC2-303
At some point in the '90s, a minor "head war" erupted between second-tier VCR brands that suddenly wanted to re-position themselves at the high end. The idiocy topped out with either Toshiba or Hitachi fielding a 9-head unit, then the whole contest collapsed as quickly as it started.
In most cases the additional heads were alleged to provide better trick play, plus they always counted the flying erase head(s) and/or hifi audio heads, which most major brands (JVC, Panasonic, Mitsubishi) did not include in their claims. It was a deceptive but brief period in VCR promotion.
Without the VCR model number, you won't get complete info on your find, dave_van_damme: all we can do is guess. The 8-head count could mean several possible configurations: the usual 4 video heads + 2 audio heads is a constant among all these hydra VCRs, but the two extra heads could be anything. Two additional speed play/slo mo heads, two flying erase heads, or one flying erase + one trick play head. The ridiculous nine-head models had four normal video heads, two hif audio heads, two trick play heads, and one flying erase head.
The Edit switch by itself tells you nothing about the heads. All Edit mode does is alter the video line out signal in an attempt to make it dub better to a second VCR. Many VCRs had this switch, even some cheap 4-head models. Like every other aspect of VHS, the Edit mode has accrued mythical status which is not always accurate: it does NOT always provide a better video output signal than "normal" mode (just like "S-Video" connection isn't always better than composite). Depends on the specific VCR model, what you're connecting it to, and what tapes are involved. In several VCRs I've owned over the decades, "Edit" was a weird video variation of the Dolby idea in audio cassette decks: it boosted detail (and noise) to an unpleasant degree with the expectation the losses inherent in analog video dubbing would smooth it over, resulting in a somewhat better than average dub. Whether that version of Edit mode actually worked that way in practice is debatable, and the concept doesn't necessarily give the same result when transferring to digital. You'll need to run some test dubs and see what you think.
Last edited by orsetto; 27th Mar 2017 at 13:56.
Thanks for all the info everyone!
orsetto = I made a few captures using 'edit' mode and I wasn't too impressed so I'll try using the regular mode. BTW what does a flying eraser head look like? I've googled but can't find any images.
P.S. off-topic = I'm wanting to archive old EP mode cassettes, which brand is usually better Sony (early 00s) or Sharp (late 90s). I've made some captures of SP material and I find the Sony I own is sharper and less ghsoting than the Sharp but I assumed the Sharp to be better based on what I've read online.
A flying erase head looks like any other head on the drum, so its difficult to identify. To confirm it is in fact a flying erase head, you'd need the instruction book or mfr promotional brochure to claim it. Flying erase is a feature that often has no telltale external controls or indicators: you see its effect only when you edit a tape. Instead of a two second wind-back rainbow pattern and imprecise edit point caused by a stationary erase head in the transport path, flying erase accurately erases a few frames on the helical video/audio track right at the add-on point (assemble edit). The special head also allows "insert" editing (dropping a new segment into the middle of an existing recording with no disruption at the beginning or end). The "insert" feature wasn't always officially implemented: if your VCR has it, the tipoff would be an "Insert" indicator light (and possibly a couple extra buttons dedicated to it, used to set the start and end points of the dropped-in segment).
The only head configurations that you can eyeball-confirm flying erase would be the odd-numbered drums that seem to have 5 or 7 heads. Typical four-head models combine the four video heads into what looks like two heads, plus the two separate hifi audio heads. If you see a fifth head, its probably flying erase. Cylinders with 7 visible heads have additional or separated video heads, with the single leftover head again the flying erase.
For EP playback, you'll probably need to keep two or three different brands of cheap VCR on hand. Tracking compatibility of EP is very poor, so each tape will play well in some VCRs but not others. Multiples of the same VCR model will often track EP differently, so theres no guarantee any "recommended" model would be perfect for you. That said, Panasonic generally tends to be somewhat more forgiving with EP than JVC or Mitsubishi, and Sony is all over the damned place (a few Sonys are good, most suck a tailpipe). Sharp is OK with EP, the two-head models being better than 4-head for this task. JVC had unusually good EP and HiFi tracking in its 2005 dvd/vhs combo decks, but these are hard to find in working condition do to a power module defect. Many generic 2-head models from LG, etc, are decent EP trackers.
Perhaps the best EP trackers were the circa-1986 two-head models with big tracking thumbwheels, like the final top-load Panasonic-Quasar-Magnavox VCRs (not the ancient piano-key models, but the third gen smaller sleeker ones that look like recent VCRs aside from top loading). Next best would be Panasonic-Quasar-Magnavox two-head front loading models from the late '80s up until 1995. Check the the date label on the rear panel as a rough guide. Avoid the 1992 Panasonic variants, as these were unusually trouble prone (few survive anyway: their loaders tended to self destruct irreparably the day after their 90-day warranty expired).
Last edited by orsetto; 28th Mar 2017 at 20:27.