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  1. Member
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    I dont know if this is right place to ask, but what is the ultimate betamax-player? that takes all formats and cassette-sizes?
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  2. Capturing Memories dellsam34's Avatar
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    Betamax has only one size cassette and the ED beta player is the one plays all of them, Though I don't think ED beta was a thing in Europe so you may stick with a Super Betamax player that can playback all BI, BII and BIII tape speeds.
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  3. There are no "universal" Betamax decks capable of playing all possible Beta variations in a single unit. Some Beta permutations were almost exclusively marketed in the Japanese domestic market only, others launched early in Japan and USA/Canada are not compatible with standard EU Beta decks which came a bit later, some were sold in all markets but were expensive/unpopular enough that they are now quite rare. Complicating things further are several incompatible "pro" Betacam formats, some of which use a tape cassette similar to consumer Beta but an in incompatible recording signal.

    Located as you are in Norway, the vast majority of Beta tapes you will encounter are ordinary common consumer PAL-format, so you'd really just need a simple ordinary PAL Betamax (as recent a model as possible). It is unlikely you will have a need to play NTSC-format tapes with their incompatible video system and different recording speeds: if so simply import a standard NTSC-format Betamax model as a secondary deck. Most of these do NOT play the ancient original "Beta I" NTSC mode tapes: for that you would need either a Betamax model so old it probably wouldn't work anymore, or one of the rare NTSC "luxury model" ED Betas made thirty years ago for wealthy Japanese videophiles.

    Playing HiFi stereo tapes would require a "Beta HiFi" model. Most PAL Sonys sold after 1988 included the HiFi feature, but some budget models did not. To confirm, make sure the deck has the "BetaHiFi" logo on its front panel, and audio level meters.

    "SuperBeta" is similar to "SVHS" in that it offered a better recording quality. Many PAL Betas sold from late 1980s and later included both SuperBeta and BetaHiFi, but here again Sony sold a few strange budget models that had SuperBeta without BetaHiFi. As with BetaHiFi, if you need the SuperBeta feature make sure you see the logo on the front panel of any Betamax you are considering.

    "ED Beta" was a later improvement on SuperBeta, with even clearer recordings, but this feature required a different tape formulation. All ED Beta Sonys also include SuperBeta, standard Beta and BetaHiFi compatibility. However ED Beta was not heavily marketed in PAL countries, so you are unlikely to encounter an ED Beta PAL tape or find an ED Beta PAL Betamax in Norway. ED Beta was primarily a Japanese NTSC home-market format, with a few units selling in the Americas and Canada.

    The professional Betacam format is completely incompatible with consumer Betamax, although some versions share a similar cassette. If you have need to play Betacam tapes, you will need a dedicated Betacam deck. Like Betamax, Betacam came in several flavors (Betacam, Betacam SP, Digital Betacam, etc): you would need the specific version of VCR to match whatever Betacam tape format you want to play.
    Last edited by orsetto; 14th Jun 2021 at 19:05.
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  4. Member Cornucopia's Avatar
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    @orsetto, It's been a while, so am quite rusty w/ those formats, but am pretty sure that there were a number of multi-format (aka backward compatible) pro Beta decks that could playback (but not record) other versions in the beta family. E.g. Digibeta could often play betacam + betaSP, betaSP could always play betacam, and beta SX and IMX were often able to playback a variety.
    Also, IIRC, a few pro decks could playback betamax I, II, or III, though maybe not all, but never heard of any supporting the later consumer variations (HiFi, Super, ED).


    Scott
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  5. Capturing Memories dellsam34's Avatar
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    Yes the Sony J3-SDI I have plays all standard definition Betacam formats in both sizes large and small, The reason I didn't dive into this is because the OP is asking about Betamax not Betacam, I usually wait until the OP corrects himself/herself about what exact video format he is talking about and then respond accordingly with new details.

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    I am digitizing films, and i am considering byuing a betamax-player that can handle most formats, a sort of universal player if you know what i mean
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  7. Capturing Memories dellsam34's Avatar
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    If you mean by most formats multi-standard like PAL/NTSC/SECAM then don't even try to look for one, Those are often very low end machines with mono, composite, and single or double speed only, For digitizing you need like a Super Beta HiFi with S-Video out and capable of playing back all the speeds (though it will be hard to find in Europe).
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    Originally Posted by dellsam34 View Post
    Betamax has only one size cassette and the ED beta player is the one plays all of them, Though I don't think ED beta was a thing in Europe so you may stick with a Super Betamax player that can playback all BI, BII and BIII tape speeds.
    Nitpick. Beta is the format. Only Sony machines are Betamax.

    A lot of about the different Beta formats and machine was discussed in this thread: https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/401907-Betamax

    In a nutshell, as orsetto stated, only a ED Beta machine, which is NTSC only, will play all consumer formats, βI, βII, βIII, βIS [βI SuperBeta], βISHB [βI Super High Band], SuperBeta, Beta Hi-fi. ED Beta βII, βIII.

    S-Video is only available in Ed Beta machines and the non-ED Beta SL-HF2100.

    mrbetamax.com has info for the U.S. Beta machines. It's unreachable for me right now, as is archive.org, where you can find a cached version of the site.

    Edit: Sony's naming prefix convention is SL for most of their mono machines. SL-HF for Hi-Fi machines and SuperBeta as a suffix for SuperBeta machines.

    Beta wasn't popular in Europe and didn't get any of the high end machines. This site lists all the PAL Beta machines https://www.palsite.com/tech.py?model=slc30tech.html

    Edit: Be aware that the European model naming convention does match the non-European naming convention. For example, it may seem the SL-HF950 is the equivalent of the SL-HF900, but it's a completely different machine. And the SL-C7 is the European version of the early SL-5000 series. Either the SL-5600 or SL-5800.

    As dellsam34 stated, multi-format Beta machines are rare, mainly made for use in the Middle East and no high end machines were made as Beta was never popular outside of Japan and North America, primarily the U.S.

    Edit: Playing a SuperBeta tape on a non-SuperBeta machine may show interference. When I played a SuperBeta recording on my SL-HF2700 and SL-5800, there was a herringbone pattern because of the higher bandwidth.
    Last edited by lingyi; 15th Jun 2021 at 11:55.
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    Bottom line. You'll need an ED Beta, which is NTSC only. A PAL SuperBeta Hi-Fi machine. A a multi-format machine to play SECAM and the various PAL variants, particularly PAL M, as well as NTSC M.

    Fortunately, in the last few years, a number of Japan only ED-Beta machines have been available on eBay. They're not cheap at ~$500+, plus shipping from Japan, but cheaper than a U.S. or Canadian EDV-9500/9300 or EDV-7500/7300.

    The SL-HF2100 (The 15th Anniversary Beta) is a great machine, but doesn't play ED-Beta and is $1500+.
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  10. @jonbang:

    As you can see from our replies, there was a larger number of Beta format revisions vs VHS. Even if we set aside the professional Betacam sytems, the global-market consumer range you are interested in is almost too extensive for any one individual to attempt to cover entirely.

    I suggest you consider the tapes you are most likely to play, and narrow down your VCR choices accordingly.

    You are located in Norway, a relatively small market for Beta back in the day and also a PAL format VCR market. The overwhelming majority of Beta format tapes you might have available to you would be in the original standard Beta PAL format, and possibly SuperBeta PAL format, with and without BetaHiFi stereo audio. These would require a single, fairly common SuperBeta HiFi PAL vcr to play. Such a unit would NOT play any NTSC format tapes, or the later ED Beta tapes.

    ED Beta models were very expensive and arrived after VHS had displaced Beta to become the most popular video format for consumers worldwide. ED Beta sold mostly to the Japanese market in NTSC format only, with some sold in North America. So the possibility you might need to play an ED Beta tape in Norway is almost zero: you needn't worry about covering the ED Beta format unless you expect to be handling a lot of NTSC collector/fanatic tapes imported from other countries.

    Unlike VHS, there were no widely available multi-standard (PAL-SECAM-NTSC) Beta decks commonly sold: by the time multi-system conversion decks became possible, Beta was nearly dead as a consumer format so there was no demand. If you really must have ability to play both PAL and NTSC tapes, you will need two separate Beta decks dedicated to each standard. The very old (usually 40+ years) "Beta I" NTSC tapes are not playable in most surviving consumer Betamax models, as explained earlier. Chances of encountering a "Beta I" NTSC tape (with a newer recording of interest) in a PAL country is very small, so I would not expend the effort or money to find a B-I compatible Betamax.

    It is important to note the "survival rate" of older consumer Beta tapes is unfortunately not nearly as good as with VHS. In my experience, Beta tapes do not age well at all: dropouts proliferate to the point of distraction. Generally the older the Beta tape, the worse it plays, although this isn't always consistent (some Beta tapes from the mid-1980s will play noticeably better than tapes made in mid-1990s because new blank tape quality declined in the 1990s). Most popular Betamax VCRs do not compensate well for this tape deterioration: "video healing" features were only available on rare models not easily found today. This is even more problematic with commercial Hollywood movie releases: these were always made in the cheapest way possible, on lowest quality tapes. The VHS versions were often poor and aged badly, the Betas being that much worse. The fastest surest way to clog the video heads in a Betamax is to load and play a 20 year old commercial Hollywood tape.

    @dellsam34 and @Scott:

    Of course you are correct about Betacam backward compatibility as the format evolved. I should have been more clear in my remark to "choose a Betacam VCR to match the tape format" that I was referring to the other direction: an older Betacam deck would not properly play the newer Betacam formats.
    Last edited by orsetto; 15th Jun 2021 at 12:58.
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  11. Capturing Memories dellsam34's Avatar
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    A nice resourse for Beta machines, camcorders and cassettes:
    http://www.betainfoguide.net/
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  12. Member Cornucopia's Avatar
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    I take exception to the remark about H'wood tapes and tape quality. As a lead dubbing techie at a mass plant in Dallas in the early 90s, I saw only medium high to very high quality tape (usually medium high Fuji) used on ANY project, VHS or Beta, and the H'wood projects were most often more exacting, not less. If you are/were seeing bad quality tapes, likely they were coming from either really small market dub houses, or from overseas.

    One thing the VHS tapes did those days was high speed contact print transfer (~120x). Though the quality of the coating was similar to normal tape, it was often thinner (to ease the magnetic transfer, as well as to make for longer spooling), but the transfer process imposed a somewhat weaker resulting signal overall, so there is that to overcome.


    Scott
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  13. The initial quality and long-tern durability of Hollywood tapes varied widely over the course of the tape era. My remarks are based on my experience as an avid video collector from back in 1981, and owning a video sales/rental store in NYC from 1984 to 1994. Nearly all the tapes purchased wholesale for my store were obtained from WIN Records & Tape, then the largest authorized distributor of pre-recorded audio and video on the East Coast (i.e., genuine domestic product). Others in different states, provinces or countries might have had opposite experience to mine, of course.

    Efforts at using decent tape stock and duping tech were highly dependent on the particular studio, sometimes the particular movie, and often which of several mass duping facilities across USA was contracted for the project. This was more apparent in the 1980s: by the 1990s mass production of Hollywood tapes was consolidated to fewer and larger facilities. Ultra-popular hits like action flicks were sometimes contracted to facilities all over the world to meet volume goals for USA/Canada, which could lead to some batches of the same movie being variable quality. The trade press sporadically noted which North American dupe houses had the newest tech and highest QC reps, and I do remember Dallas having a very good rep.

    Paramount, MGM, and Disney prioritized quality control more than Warner and Columbia, with Fox bringing up the rear as least consistent of the majors. Smaller independents that released B movie slashers etc could be anywhere from MGM quality to discount porn quality. After VHS vastly overtook Beta in the early 80s, mass production duping stocks and techniques evolved for VHS but Beta was left to languish. So pre-recorded Beta was more variable and tends to age/shed much worse, partially due to the slower linear tape speed of the standard Beta II exaggerating dropouts vs VHS SP. With pre-rec VHS you have at least a 50/50 chance a tape you bought new thirty years ago will still play relatively cleanly, Beta not so much.
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