2 vs 4 head VCR  THE REAL STORY

Jul 21, 2000 (Updated Sep 15, 2000)

I just read a review named “2 vs 4 head VCR” and it made me unhappy. The member who wrote it says that 4 head VCRs have more moving parts than 2HD VCRs and should be less reliable. Also she says that that there is no difference in picture quality and recommends staying away from 4 head VCRs.

This is complete nonsense. How can you write about VCRs without even bothering to read somewhere what the additional 2 heads do? Also the fact, that makes me more unhappy, is that the review is rated mostly HR. I wonder, if members who rated it HR read it at all, or they rated it based on the word count?

Making assumptions in technical areas (as electronics) and writing reviews on how to choose something, based on these wrong assumptions is a bad habit.

The only way to make me happy again is to kill… Sorry, I didn’t mean that, I mean to write a review that describes a real difference between 2 and 4 head VCRs. And hope that people will read it instead of original review, which is based on the wrong assumptions.

All VCRs and camcorders use so-called helical scanning system. The tape moves along the rotating metal drum that has video heads (and in case of Hi-Fi models, audio heads).
The drum may include 2 video heads located at the opposite ends of the drum, 4 heads located at 90 degrees of each other, or more in professional models. The rotation of the drum is directed with an angle to the tape so it fills the entire tape's surface with magnetized lines that contain information about image - brightness of different areas and such.
It is impossible to achieve good still picture with two heads - it will be distorted, noisy and usually has a vertical "noise line". 4-headed models allow the perfect still picture/slow motion and several recording speeds.
As you can see, the 4HD VCRs have the same amount of moving parts as 2HD VCRs do – there is one rotating drum with video heads on it.

4-head machines provide 3 speeds, allowing you record up to 9 hours using T-180 tapes or 6 hrs. for T-120, better quality when using still and slow modes.

The 4HD Hi-Fi models bear a premium of just $10-30 over simple 2HD mono sound models and should be your first choice. The sound they provide is really of CD quality and you can save on tapes when recording shows that do not require highest possible visual quality by using lowest SLP speed.

By the way, even 4-head models use only 2 heads when working on standard SP speed, so the image quality at this speed will not depend on number of heads, it will though in slow, still and search mode.

The list of the reliability of different brands of VCRs (data taken from “Consumer Reports Magazine” reliability survey results - Consumer Reports Buying Guide 2000, page 37), is shown below.
Brands are listed starting from the most reliable (best) to least reliable (worst):

1. Panasonic <- produced by Matsushita Electric
2. Quasar <- also produced by Matsushita Electric
3. Samsung
4. Sanyo
5. Toshiba
6. Sharp
7. ProScan
8. GE
9. Hitachi
10. Philips
11. RCA
12. JVC
13. Symphonic
14. Emerson
15. SONY
16. Optimus (Radio Shack)
17. Mitsubishi
18. Zenith
19. Series LXI (Sears)
20. Fisher

My advice - get Panasonic 4-head Hi-Fi VCR (they are also inexpensive - a bit more than $100) and be happy! It will last 10+ years.

Bottom line: 4HD models provide better quality in still and slow motion mode, allow you to use 3 speeds, so you can fit 6 hours of video (instead of 2) on a standard T-120 tape, at an expense of video quality. And if you want a reliable VCR, get a machine from the manufacturer, known for it.

And don’t write reviews about subjects you know nothing about, just based on assumptions.


P.S. For my review on features of VCRs (flying erase head, jog/shuttle control, etc.), go to my review on how to choose a VCR at http://www.epinions.com/elec-review-4677-115108C-394C3540-prod1

Read all comments (4)

About the Author

Epinions.com ID:
Location: California
Reviews written: 858
Trusted by: 541 members
About Me: I love to push buttons on electronic (audio and video) equipment. It makes me happy.