While standard VHS tapes dominated the videotape market during the 1980s and 90s, S-VHS was an improved version that offered higher-quality consumer video recording. That meant better resolution for your most precious home videos.
Since 1999, Capture has preserved videotape memories including both VHS and S-VHS as well as VHS-C and other types of videotapes like MiniDV or Betamax, but many of our satisfied customers have difficulty understanding the differences between these formats. That’s why we put together this comprehensive guide to S-VHS tapes.
Keep reading to learn what S-VHS tapes are and how they differ from standard VHS, why people still like to use them, how they compare to modern digital formats, and where to buy S-VHS tapes and VCRs in 2023.
- Understanding S-VHS
- The Appeal of S-VHS in the Digital Age
- S-VHS vs. Modern Digital Formats
- S-VHS for Filmmakers and Videographers
- Finding and Restoring S-VHS Equipment
- Building a S-VHS Collection
- The Future of S-VHS
At the height of 1980s popular culture when everybody was still using the most common 80s sayings like “radical” and “bodacious,” JVC, or the Victor Company of Japan, introduced the S-VHS format in Japan. In 1987, they released what is called Super VHS, or S-VHS, as an improved version of their VHS standard.
At the same time, they released the JVC HR-S7000 S-VHS VCR to play these new and improved tapes. Pretty soon other companies like Toshiba, RCA, Sony, and Panasonic were also making S-VHS recording equipment like VCRs, camcorders, and blank cassettes. While they never sold nearly as much as standard VHS tapes, they offered superior quality in several ways.
While S-VHS tapes look very similar to regular VHS tapes, unlike the significant size difference between VHS vs Beta, there are many differences that demonstrate that S-VHS is the superior option. For example, the video resolution of standard VHS is a horizontal resolution of 240 lines while S-VHS has a horizontal resolution of 400 lines.
Also, Super VHS videotape VCR, or Video Cassette Recorder, could record signals in a MegaHertz range of 5.4 and 7.0 MHz, for a much greater picture quality than standard VHS machine luminance bandwidth. For even greater video signal and chrominance, you could choose PAL format S-VHS tapes over the typical NTSC found in North America.
Both analog VHS tape formats have similar audio capabilities, but S-VHS video cassettes have higher carrier frequencies so it’s possible to record more sound detail without white noise or distortion. That made them a great choice for use with a camcorder in crowded gatherings like weddings, graduations, or other family memories.
If you’re trying to figure out how to watch old video camera tapes, then it’s important to know that if you got a VHS player when VCR first came out, then it won’t be able to play S-VHS. In fact, you need a dedicated Super VHS deck to play S-VHS tapes. There are some combo players that can work for both high-quality S-VHS tapes and standard VHS tapes, and you might even be able to find some that include a DVD player as well.
The Appeal of S-VHS in the Digital Age
There is a lot of nostalgia for everything to do with the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Like 80s clothing, music, and other pop culture, VHS tapes evoke lots of nostalgic memories for people who grew up during that time. While the nostalgia is primarily focused on standard VHS formats, the S-VHS format offers the same nostalgia with higher quality that’s closer to the high-quality digital formats we are used to in 2023.
Because of that, S-VHS tapes have become a collector’s item and a niche market for lots of people. Some people like to record new memories in the analog format they find nostalgic and fun to use. Others like to find S-VHS camcorders, tapes, and VCRs for sale to then sell again at a profit.
Finally, some people like to collect the rare movies that were released on S-VHS like Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, The Terminator, or popular horror movies from the 80s. However, while standard VHS releases are typically pretty easy to find on eBay or Amazon marketplace, S-VHs tapes are much more rare, more expensive, and hard to find, which is certainly part of the appeal in the digital age.
S-VHS vs. Modern Digital Formats
Compared with regular VHS, Super VHS might be superior, but when it comes to modern digital formats it falls short. In fact, the closest to modern digital formats that VHS came was the D-VHS, which was a digital video recording format released by JVC, Hitachi, Matsushita, and Philips in 1997, the same year that DVD was released to the American market.
While people still like S-VHS ET, PAL, and NTSC formats, the release of high-end DVD recorders and later HD Blu-Ray discs meant that the picture quality and analog Hi-Fi stereo were outdated. Just like people began to convert cassette to CD, people began to convert VHS to DVD and the end of all VHS formats, including Super VHS, had begun.
DVD video resolution is 720 horizontal pixels by 480 vertical pixels and nowadays with HDMI adapters, HD streaming, and crisp playback even on mobile devices, S-VHS just doesn’t compete. That being said, a vintage camcorder for S-VHS tapes does offer some charm that you might not be able to achieve with modern devices.
There is some artistic value in analog formats as well. You can make physical adjustments for practice special effects or even create complete films without any digital use at all. In fact, some filmmakers use S-VHS for this reason.
S-VHS for Filmmakers and Videographers
If you are looking for the highest possible video and audio quality, then S-VHS is far from the best choice. However, that doesn’t stop filmmakers and videographers from using S-VHS and other analog formats as a creative tool.
With S-VHS, you can splice in different formats, create gaps, add practical effects, and create a bridge between the physical artifact and the visual content it contains. Plus, some filmmakers like the hands on use of an old video camera compared to mostly point and shoot or excessively high quality digital video cameras.
Super VHS also offers a unique retro aesthetic that even with the latest filters, editing tools, and features is hard to achieve with digital recording methods. That means that despite the last VHS movie being released years ago S-VHS is still being used by filmmakers as well as collectors and analog media enthusiasts.
Finding and Restoring S-VHS Equipment
It can be somewhat hard to find S-VHS equipment and if you’re wondering, “do they still make VCRs?” the answer is no. That means you have to find preowned S-VHs tapes, camcorders, and VCRs, but luckily there are plenty of people looking to recycle VHS tapes and wondering what to do with old VHS tapes including Super VHS gear.
You may have to clean the equipment before it works properly. You might have to clean it inside and out, splice some of the magnetic tape, or even replace some parts. You can usually find replacement parts at the same places that sell S-VHs equipment.
Start with places like Craigslist, eBay, and other online marketplaces. If you don’t find what you’re looking for there, then try local pawn shops, antique stores, and garage sales or browse online for VHS forums like VideoHelp.com.
Building a S-VHS Collection
You can build a large and valuable S-VHS collection over time. Any major releases on S-VHS are rare and quite valuable, especially the biggest releases like Top Gun. S-VHS combo players with standard VHS capability are also great collectors’ items.
However, if you plan on building a S-VHS collection, it’s important to know how long VHS tapes last and how to store them to maintain their quality. The most important thing is to make sure you store them away from moisture, sunlight, and extreme temperatures.
You can also convert VHS tapes to digital format to preserve the content while still keeping the original copy. This ensures that deterioration never loses your home movies or Hollywood releases forever.
Finally, you might want to join groups of VHS collectors like the Facebook VHS Collector group, Reddit analog format groups, and other online forums. This can help you grow your video connections for better sharing, information, and more.
The Future of S-VHS
While S-VHS and other VHS formats have been growing in popularity due to increased interest and nostalgia, they aren’t being made anymore. That means they will only get rarer and more valuable. Despite that, the future of S-VHS looks bright in niche communities that are still trading, buying, and selling the equipment.
This has led to a S-VHS resurgence and people are clamoring for more S-VHS cameras, tapes, and VCRs.
The same goes for all analog formats because they are intertwined with our deepest memories, childhood moments, family experiences, and overall identity.
Owning your favorite movies on S-VHS or recording new memories on the obsolete analog video format can be a great way to invigorate memories and evoke wonderful feelings of nostalgia.
S-VHS tapes were better than standard VHS in almost every way other than popularity. They offered higher quality video resolution and better audio and were a great way to capture memories exactly how you remember them. Because of that, S-VHS collectors and enthusiasts have contributed to a resurgence in the format. Plus, filmmakers like using the format for creative experiments. It appears that the end of the S-VHS era might be further away than it appears at first look.
If you have S-VHS tapes or other old videotape formats, it’s important to preserve the content as digital copies. Capture can help you do so in the highest possible quality using professional equipment and expertise. Click here to learn about our exceptional video conversion services.