A VCR Player and Recorder Buying Guide

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A VCR Player and Recorder Buying Guide

Sony released its version of the VCR in 1976. Dubbed the Betamax, the machine only recorded video for an hour. RCA trumped the Betamax with the introduction of its VCR a year later. The new machine ran VHS tapes, which were higher in quality and record more video than the tapes produced by Sony. VHS tapes quickly became the standard for VCRs, and thus, sales of VHS-friendly VCR machines exploded. VCRs revolutionised the way users watch television programmes and films. The dual players and recorders allowed users to watch their favourite programmes on their own time, instead of having to adhere to a strict viewing schedule. VCRs remained the industry standard for almost two decades, before DVD players took over the technology at the turn of the 21st century.

Consumers can still find VCRs stocked in big box electronics shops and smaller shops that specialise in selling audio and video equipment. However, eBay offers the widest selection of VCRs that contain all of the most important features. Before shopping for VCRs, consumers should first learn about the prominent VCR components, the features offered by most VCR manufacturers, and a few tips on how to purchase a VCR.

Components of a VCR

Many consumers erroneously believe that VCRs are simplistic versions of DVD and Blu-ray players. In fact, the system that operates a VCR is quite sophisticated. Therefore, consumers should have a basic understanding of the important parts that comprise VCR players and recorders.

Power Transformer

Located near the rear of VCRs, the power transformer converts the 120-volt alternating current to the low-voltage current that the circuit board components can handle. The rectifier changes the alternating current into direct current that supplies power to the machine.

Circuit Board

Possibly the most important VCR component, the circuit board guides the low-voltage current to each of the electrical components that help power the machine. Tuner circuit boards decode signals from cable systems, and then encode the signals to display images on televisions.

Loading Motor

VCR users who experience videocassettes jamming in the machine have faulty loading motors. The loading motor gently pulls videocassettes, and then releases them when users hit the eject button. A tape sensor or switch activates the loading motor when a videocassette is within activation range.

Video Head Drum

When the play function is depressed, video head drums interpret magnetic image patterns embedded into the videocassette tape. The heads store electrical current as magnetic image patterns when the VCR records video.

Audio Head

The audio functions in a similar manner as the video head drum. It interprets magnetic sound patterns in play mode and stores electrical current as magnetic sound patterns when the VCR is in play mode.

Capstan Motor

Capstan motors drives a belt around the flywheel, which turns the videocassette reel tape. The motor is a durable metal shaft that rotates against the grain of a pinch roller to guide the tape's movement. Dysfunctional capstan motors cause tapes to shred.

Fast-Forward and Rewind

The mechanism that allows users to speed up and rewind videocassettes to reach points in a video production that they want to review. The fast-forward and rewind buttons revolutionised the way television and film viewers watched videos.


The device adjusts tracking speeds, which improves video quality on the television screen. It is typically located on the front of the VCR as a tracking adjustment potentiometer.


Located on the front panel of a VCR, the eject mechanism releases the video tape from the loading shelf. Newer VCR models release the tape directly from the machine, while older models require users to lift the tape out after hitting the eject button.

Features to Consider in a VCR

Consumers must consider a number of factors before they decide on a VCR. Some features increase the cost of VCRs, especially if the machines are in mint condition. Early model VCRs come with standard features, while VCRs constructed at the height of the machine's popularity possess more advanced features.

Picture Quality

More video heads translate into improved picture quality. Two-head VCRs were the standard for years until manufacturers began to produce four-head machines. While they cost more, four-head VCRs provide users with considerably cleaner free-frame, fast-forward, and slow motion functions. Towards the end of the VCR's popularity, manufacturers produced machines that contained six-heads.

Sound Quality

Users who plan to connect their VCRs to high-fidelity or home cinema systems should consider purchasing a hi-fi stereo VCR. Most VHS films are recorded in stereo or surround sound, which only hi-fi stereo VCRs can accurately project. Consumers who do not place having cinema sound coming from their VCR can opt for lower price mono sound VCRs.

Audio/Video (AV) Inputs and Outputs

AV inputs and outputs connect additional electronic devices to the VCR, which can include stereos, camcorders, digital cameras, and video game consoles. Most VCR manufacturers locate the AV connector jacks along the backs of VCRs. Newer models provide users with more convenient front panel AV connector jacks. Look for newer VCR models that have multiple connector jacks located along the bottom front panel of the machines.

Super VHS (S-VHS)

Super VHS VCRs project higher resolution screens than standard VCR projectors and recorders. Higher resolution screens mean enhanced video quality. Standard VHS VCRs provide resolutions of up to 240 lines per 2.5 cm. S-VHS VCRs can project over 400 lines over the same screen area. Users who want S-VHS video quality need to own a television that has an S-VHS cable connection, which is called S-Video.

Remote Control

Since virtually every VCR comes with a remote control, the question boils down to which type of remote control consumers want. Universal remotes programme to not only operate a VCR, but also television and cable systems. Some manufacturers only allow users to operate multiple devices if the devices represent the same brand. Users who want to control their video systems in the dark should look for glow in the dark remotes. The best remote controls are produced with different size and shaped buttons that enable users to recognise button functions by touch.


Search features should allow users to advance or rewind videocassettes over specific programmed time intervals. The search feature is popular with users who want to skip 30-second commercials or rewind the tape a few minutes to catch a favourite film scene. Index search allows users to fast-forward to the end or rewind to the beginning of a video recording.


The tamper-proof feature prevents anyone from using the VCR, without user approval. Manufacturers added this feature for parents who do not want their children to have access to the VCR when they are not around. Users set a pass code that renders the machine inoperable.

Automatic Head Cleaners

VCR head wear and tear can cause damage to the machine and videocassettes played in the machine. Automatic head cleaners prevent dust and other particles from damaging VCR heads by automatically cleaning the heads every time a tape plays or records.

How to Buy a VCR Player and Recorder

Consumers should expect a number of standard features on most VCR models, even the models that are at the low end of the cost spectrum. Expect to find the auto clock set, commercial skip, fast rewind, and VCR+ features on any VCR model that is considered for purchase. Before the buying process, check the connections on the television or home cinema system to determine which types of VCR connection are required. Consumers should look for VCRs that possess the highest quality connectors, starting with S-Video, and then moving down in quality to composite video and antenna/cable connections. Consider VCRs that present higher quality sound and video features, such as S-VHS, high-fidelity stereo audio, and at least four, and preferably six, heads. Choose a VCR model with audio and video connectors along the front panel for more convenience. Since VCRs have fallen out of consumer favour, most electronics shops only stock returned models. The best shopping venue for a high-quality VCR is at the leading auction website, eBay.

How to Buy a VCR Player and Recorder on eBay

eBay offers a wide selection of VCRs that possess many of the important features you should want in a VCR. Utilise eBay's powerful search engine to find the seller who meets your shopping criteria. The best approach to finding the right VCR or VHS tape seller is to search by brand name. For instance, type "JVC VHS tapes" into the search engine, and then navigate through the search result pages until you find the right sellers. Once you find the right seller, click to the seller's product page to review accepted payment methods, delivery terms, and return policies.

Consider purchasing a VCR from one of eBay's Top-Rated Sellers. These sellers have demonstrated that they sell high-quality products and run fair auctions. eBay designates the top-rated sellers by placing a ribbon icon next to qualified seller product photographs. You can also review customer feedback that eBay compiles on seller product pages. You want to consider sellers who have amassed positive feedback over the past year and have garnered high praise for selling television and home audio/video accessories. Once you establish a business relationship with an eBay seller, check if the seller runs an eBay Store where you can buy future products directly.


The invention of the VCR dramatically changed the way viewers watched their favourite programmes and films. Instead of having to be home at eight o'clock on a Monday night to watch MASH, viewers had the capability of recording the programme and watching it later in the evening or a week from Saturday. The earliest VCRs provided users with fundamental features that manufacturers eventually enhanced during the machine's almost 20-year popularity run. By the turn of the 21st century, advanced technology in the form of DVD players, and then Blu-ray players, almost rendered VCRs obsolete.

While many electronics experts predicted the demise of VCRs, the fact remains that many VCR users held onto their VHS tapes, and thus, provide a solid market for VCR purchases. Consumers in the market for VCRs should consider a number of features before they make their purchasing decisions. The important features to consider include four or six heads, S-VHS capability, video quality, sound quality and the number of AV connections and the location of those connections. Consumers also need to learn about the primary VCR components so they can perform their own maintenance to ensure a long-lasting video recording and playing machine.

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