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Hydrogenaudio Forum => General Audio => Topic started by: Dusty on 2018-02-03 03:30:54

Title: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Dusty on 2018-02-03 03:30:54
I was never alive during the analog era's heyday, though since we were relatively poor I still used a VCR and cassette player through my childhood in the 2000s and never gave it much thought. However, in the last couple of years I have had an interest in digital audio and general and have been looking into it a lot. I also recently have been learning about analog audio formats and been messing around with them just for some fun.
Recently, I acquired a new Super VCR because my old VCR broke, and when I put in a movie I listened to the audio through my headphones and I was shocked to say the least. The Hi-Fi audio sounded way better than vinyl or cassette, it almost sounded like a CD! It was extremely close. I recorded into my computer and found that it did represent 20hz to a little over 20khz just fine! I first did rhapsody in blue from fantasia 2000 (clip (https://drive.google.com/open?id=1RbbxQk6y6LhoPBjorhB0Ok95MRyD4E5i)) then the opening DreamWorks part of Shrek (clip (https://drive.google.com/open?id=1pRtGY-YCWjpNbvAnrC3MEszMfvx2M7hz)). These both sounded very good for analog audio, but these tapes were extremely worn out and you can hear a soft buzzing in the right channel at times. I grabbed a blank VHS tape and recorded lossless All Star onto it, keeping with the shrek theme. And it sounded amazing! Nearly perfect. You can compare these two clips of the digital file (https://drive.google.com/open?id=1-z7_fhdFATkYg_zitBFNEg2GBVF0sjPD) and the VHS recording (https://drive.google.com/open?id=12a96WzZxV8VirjzWgSQICdCZBb1CzuA4).
This got me thinking: The majority of the bandwidth on the tape is going to the video, and yet the audio sounds so good! Even in LP mode, you can get 4 hours of very nice sounding audio on a VHS tape! And compared to something like reel to reel, VHS is much less expensive. This got me thinking. Why wasn't there a format that just used all of the bandwidth on a VHS tape for audio, and then you could fit a lot of good audio onto one? I looked and there was ADAT (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADAT), which allowed for 16 bit or 20 bit digital PCM onto an S-VHS tape. But that wasn't exactly for consumers. I think that this would've been a really neat thing for audiophiles back then.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Fairy on 2018-02-03 10:52:29
I guess the market wasn't yet ready for this at the time.

I remember my dad had some VHS tapes back then with music recordings on them and they sounded very good. I am not sure if there was some mode back then that allowed extra high fidelity audio to be recorded.

Later on came the DAT recorders. Basically the same technique (helical scan head), but much smaller and the full tape bandwidth was reserved for audio only.

Digital audio on VHS was possible, but with expensive pro equipment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnolxuHn130
Sony PCM-501ES

Edit: Just found out S-VHS used the helical scan head to record audio, resulting in a way higher bandwidth compared to the VHS method of a separate audio head. Guess that makes S-VHS very suitable for high quality audio, but for today the system is obsolete. These days you can play FLAC from any solid state device as small as a watch and even sound better.

Also an interresting topic about the same: https://techreport.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=119664
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: cresco on 2018-02-03 12:31:19
I was quite late I suppose getting VCR and my first was a VHS HiFi recorder circa mid 1985 or possibly 1986. The sound was very good but I think the tolerances between players may have been very tight especially when recording HiFi Stereo in that cramped available helical space which was mostly used up for the video. For example record something onto the HiFi stereo track and play it back and it sounded great. Take the tape and play it on a friend's HiFi VHS machine and it may not play back quite so great.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Porcus on 2018-02-03 15:58:01
Note that "HiFi" was an extension of the VHS format and not available originally. And for quite a while after the introduction, it was only on in the more expensive recorders. Stereo TV was also fairly new.

And what happened when people discovered that they had stereo TV signals? Did they hook it up to their stereo hifi? I kinda got the impression that people bought TV sets with two lousy speakers and still had no idea how good their VCRs could ever be, audio-wise. (I remember I was so impressed over the specs of the hifi VCRs that I started to experiment around with it for the audio's sake.) And then came LaserDisc ... well, maybe not in North America?
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Dusty on 2018-02-03 17:52:20
From what I can tell, LaserDisc never really made much of an impact in America. I haven't owned a LaserDisc player, though I would like to to see how the audio sounds and stuff. I also do need to acquire an S-VHS tape, to see how low the background noise goes with that. I'm interested to see how far above 20KHz you actually can encode onto a VHS with Hi-Fi.

Those PCM adapters seem cool, but I doubt I could ever get my hands on one of those.

Speaking of people having no ideas how good their VCRs could be, I remember as a kid since we didn't know any better, we always just hooked up our VCR to the flat panel through coaxial, not even Composite with 2 RCA audio cables. Probably part of the reason why I never noticed anything special.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: DVDdoug on 2018-02-03 18:32:40
There was technological experimentation & development going-on but the "record companies" didn't get behind any of the new formats until CD came-along and consumers didn't show a lot of interest either.    I think the record companies actually resisted distribution on high-quality recordable formats (for obvious reasons).    Cassettes were introduced before music was distributed  on Cassette, so people were already copying cassettes, and copying from LP, or radio, to Cassette, but there was "generation loss" Some "semi-professionals" were using VHS Hi-Fi to record live performances (with the video disconnected).   But, I assume the recordings were distributed on cassette.  

Home & "prosumer" reel-to-reel was pretty good before that, and there was DAT & MiniDisc, but these were "home recording" formats.   And when CD was introduced there was no CD-R.  It was a playback-only format so they weren't worried about piracy.

formats and commercial music wasn't (widely) distributed in these formats.    VHS (and Beta) were first introduced for home recording, but they really took-off when movies were commercially released for home viewing.    And, although there were concerts and music videos released on VHS it never caught-on as a major audio-distribution format.     MTV used to play play music videos 24 hours a day, but I don't know anybody who was buying music videos...  They'd watch the video and then go buy the record (or Cassette).

The same thing happened with DVD & Blu-Ray.   DVD & Blu-Ray aren't popular as audio formats and very-little music is distributed in surround sound (Although I have a shelf-full of concert DVDs). 

Quote
Speaking of people having no ideas how good their VCRs could be, I remember as a kid since we didn't know any better, we always just hooked up our VCR to the flat panel through coaxial, not even Composite with 2 RCA audio cables. Probably part of the reason why I never noticed anything special.
Even before stereo TV, TV audio was FM and "technically" pretty good (for the day).   But, most TVs had tiny little speakers and the sound was lousy.   And those older TVs didn't have audio-output jacks. 

Quote
Recently, I acquired a new Super VCR because my old VCR broke,
In case you don't know this, nobody is manufacturing VCRs.   I've been digitizing any of my irreplaceable tapes that I wanted to keep (which requires some illegal "tricks" for commercial copy-protected tapes).

   
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: cresco on 2018-02-03 18:43:54
Speaking of people having no ideas how good their VCRs could be, I remember as a kid since we didn't know any better, we always just hooked up our VCR to the flat panel through coaxial, not even Composite with 2 RCA audio cables. Probably part of the reason why I never noticed anything special.

You certainly needed to hear the HiFi VHS tapes with the RCA left and right outputs plugged into a standard hifi system for the best audio effect. The mid to late 1980s was a time when video rental shops were booming (even here in the UK) and routing the HiFi VHS audio signal (often found on pre-recorded studio films of that era) through a stereo amp and speakers sounded great to me.

Ever since first getting the VHS HiFi machine it was always routed through my HiFi stereo system. I cannot remember when stereo TV took off but our broadcasting corporation (the BBC) were always quite innovative and for special events they did 'simulcasts' where the TV picture would be shown and at the same time the audio could be sourced from an FM stereo signal on BBC Radio 2 or 3. In the late 1980s (I think) the BBC gave us NICAM stereo whereby TV tuners would henceforth be capable of decoding stereo from the coax ariel cable and NICAM would be built into VHS recorders. I was very optimistic about this but remember being quite disappointed listening to films decoded by the NICAM decoder and played back through the hifi system. It was far less dramatic than listening to pre-recorded studio films released on VHS with audio on the HiFi track. When that was routed through the hifi system the audio was really quite something. Maybe it was more to do with dynamic compression than the actual capabilities of NICAM stereo.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: 4season on 2018-02-03 18:53:25
Most people did not have VHS Hifi-capable machines (able to play high quality soundtracks found in the helical scanned video tracks, not the crummy linear tracks). That and S-VHS were premium-priced features right up to the very end.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Dusty on 2018-02-03 19:06:49

Quote
Recently, I acquired a new Super VCR because my old VCR broke,
In case you don't know this, nobody is manufacturing VCRs.   I've been digitizing any of my irreplaceable tapes that I wanted to keep (which requires some illegal "tricks" for commercial copy-protected tapes). 
When I said "new" I meant I just got another VCR as the old one we had broke years ago, and I got it for a similar reason, to mess around with but to also digitize a lot of the old tapes that we still had, and I have been doing that. I know that VCRs have been gone for a while.
Most people did not have VHS Hifi-capable machines (able to play high quality soundtracks found in the helical scanned video tracks, not the crummy linear tracks). That and S-VHS were premium-priced features right up to the very end.
Makes sense, by the time I was around it was well past VHS's heyday and anything was definitely very discounted.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: smok3 on 2018-02-03 19:21:05
I had a little internal format back then, video was feed from c64 showing song name and position in time (like a timeline) and audio was cd/dat sourced. Of course hifi s-vhs machines were used (in vhs mode).

I do seem to recall there was a digital format that used vhs video bandwidth for recording (not a consumer thing).

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADAT
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Glenn Gundlach on 2018-02-03 20:57:27
There WAS and it was rather expensive and I owned one purchased from Full Compass in Madison WI.

https://www.hifiengine.com/manual_library/technics/sv-p100.shtml

 Got mine in September of '82 for $2500. It was 14 bit EIAJ and compatible with the Sony PCM-F1. Later I bought a Sony PCM-701 which used the same boards as the F1 but was in an AC line powered version for $1000 vs $1800 for the F1. I still have the 701 and used it to play the early tapes last year. I'm still toying with the idea of adding a SPDIF output to get a digital transfer into the computer but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't pass an ABX test of the analog vs the digital.

Slick use for a HiFi consumer format was when I had an LP cut from a digital master delivered on BetaMax F1 format. LPs need advance audio to set groove pitch and depth. The engineer used the HiFi tracks for the advanced audio and the digital audio from the video to drive the cutter head. Being digital there was no penalty for going another generation down.

Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Dusty on 2018-02-04 05:30:37
I was testing to see how high VHS Hi-Fi actually represents, so I made a log sine sweep from 10hz to 48khz. Somehow, when I was recording to the VCR I did something wrong because the sine wave was extremely quiet, but these were the results.

(https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/394312972933136405/409581072049897473/spectrogram.png)

This really surprised me; that's definitely not distortion.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: dc2bluelight on 2018-02-04 09:16:04
There WAS and it was rather expensive and I owned one purchased from Full Compass in Madison WI.

https://www.hifiengine.com/manual_library/technics/sv-p100.shtml

 Got mine in September of '82 for $2500. It was 14 bit EIAJ and compatible with the Sony PCM-F1. Later I bought a Sony PCM-701 which used the same boards as the F1 but was in an AC line powered version for $1000 vs $1800 for the F1. I still have the 701 and used it to play the early tapes last year. I'm still toying with the idea of adding a SPDIF output to get a digital transfer into the computer but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't pass an ABX test of the analog vs the digital.

Slick use for a HiFi consumer format was when I had an LP cut from a digital master delivered on BetaMax F1 format. LPs need advance audio to set groove pitch and depth. The engineer used the HiFi tracks for the advanced audio and the digital audio from the video to drive the cutter head. Being digital there was no penalty for going another generation down.


Interesting. Yeah, I was pretty much surrounded with F1s, 701s, 501s, and finally 601s in the 1980s.  But I recall the 701 and F1 boards being  a bit different around the audio front end, and a somewhat different parts layout.  Same chips though.  These things started out as a consumer device, and did find a bit of use there, but they also got deep into pro and semi-pro studios, particularly in remote recording.  The company I worked for replaced a 10" reel Nagra 4S with Dolby A NR with a PCM-F1 and a couple of the matching SL2000 Beta portable machines.  We had a whole bunch of them, and the challenge was finding good reliable Beta machines to work with them.  We ended up using machines made for video duplication facilities.  They were more reliable and had little doors in the top cover that you could open to clean the video heads.  I even built a broadcast audio microwave link between a studio and transmitter site using a pair of 701s and a video microwave system, tapping off the error correction to trigger an analog phone loop fall-back.  I still own an F1, two 701s, a 501 and a Nakamichi F1, though I don't really know why. 

Back tracking a bit...Beta HiFi pre-dated VHS HiFi by a year, and was a big deal because Beta never had linear stereo audio tracks.  VHS had stereo analog tracks, I think even with noise reduction, but when it came to developing a HiFi audio system the VHS boys got to learn from Sony's mistakes a bit.  Both were AFM systems using a couple carriers and PLL demodulators along with pre-emphasis and analog noise reduction, but the Beta HiFi system suffered from head-switching noise more than the VHS system.  I, for one, did use Beta HiFi to record and play audio.  In the late 1990s I installed a pair of VHS HiFi machines in a radio station to record and archive 4 hour programs.  Both VHS and Beta HiFI systems were capable of reasonably flat frequency response to 20KHz, and had measured S/N ratios in the 80dB range, but both suffered from lots of raw noise in the system that demanded companding noise reduction.  That meant it was difficult to realize good measured THD because a tone would open up the noise reduction and surround the tone with all sorts of nasty stuff.  It worked OK for music and soundtracks, not well for test tones.  One video duplicating facility I was asked to consult with tried to pre-compress film soundtracks to keep HiFi track audio loud enough to hide the noise.  I recall it being a failed attempt.

Laserdisc audio was initially also AFM analog, and stereo, and while it did have wide band response it suffered from noise badly.  The slap-on fix was CX noise reduction, which was initially available as an external box, then internal on newer machines.  Laserdisc got PCM audio later, limited to 2-channel stereo 16/44.1, then eventually Dolby Digital/AC3.

However, there were other consumer-targeted digital audio systems.  Sony's Video8, in the home-deck version, had at least a couple machines with the ability to record/play digital audio for video, but also record PCM "Multi Audio", 6 stereo "tracks" of digital audio only, which at the LP speed let you record up to 24 hours of digital audio on a signal Video8 or Hi8 tape in 6-4hour passes.  I vaguely recall it wasn't 16 bits, though, possibly 12 bit, possibly 8 bit, with companding NR. I remember bench testing a unit and liking it, so it couldn't have been too horrible.  That would have been late 1980s. 

DAT (formerly R-DAT) was introduced by Sony in 1987, again as a consumer digital format.  Again, it was simply too expensive for consumers, but found its way into pro applications. DAT uses a rotary head like a video recorder, and can record stereo linear PCM at 16/44 or 16/48.  There were several Walkman-sized portable recorders.

Digital Compact Cassette was introduced by Philips/Matsushita in 1992.  DAT was first to market, never really penetrated the consumer market at all despite a few pre-recorded music releases, but did find application in pro studios through the 1990s and early 2000s, whereas DCC died fairly young.  It was supposed to be the less-expensive DAT and compete with MD, but none of that could beat the lowly analog cassette in the real market. 

Then there was the MiniDisc introduced by Sony (who else?) also introduced in 1992 to compete with DCC. It was a small-ish magneto-optical disc, the data was compressed (actually bit-rate reduced)stereo or mono audio using the ATRAC codec, an early data reduction scheme using psychoacoustic masking models.  Oddly, I just tested a home deck today! Worked fine, sounded pretty good.  The strength of the format was portability, they made portable players and player/recorders.  There were a few MD pre-recorded releases too.  The MD found pro use for recording interviews in the field, and there were a few semi-pro studio units, but it really never fully penetrated the market.  It survived quite a bit longer than DCC, but still not a big win.

All of the consumer and semi-pro digital recorders were at least partly responsible for the copy protection/prevention battles that started in the 1980s when we suddenly had the ability to make a pretty darn good digital "clone" of copyrighted recordings.  Lots of copy protection schemes, court cases, and the Home Audio Recording Act (google it). There was even one scheme that put tight notch filters into commercial recordings that theoretically couldn't be heard, but could be detected no matter how the recording was copied.  Weird times.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Arnold B. Krueger on 2018-02-04 12:04:08
This got me thinking. Why wasn't there a format that just used all of the bandwidth on a VHS tape for audio, and then you could fit a lot of good audio onto one? I looked and there was ADAT (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADAT), which allowed for 16 bit or 20 bit digital PCM onto an S-VHS tape. But that wasn't exactly for consumers. I think that this would've been a really neat thing for audiophiles back then.

Formats live or die based on the availability of pre-recorded music and drama. VHS Hi Fi was never taken seriously as an audio-only format.  I had a number of VHS HiFi machines. The first one was a RCA machine that was also S-VHS and cost me almost as much as my first CD player. The last VHS Hi Fi machine I purchased was under $70 but did not do S-VHS.

Sony was famous for their PCM-F1 which was a digital audio adapter tied to a Betamax video tape machine. I think that Panasonic promoted a similar digital adaptor for use with VHS tape, but somehow it did not seem to get traction in the marketplace.

The PCM adapters that required the concurrent acquisition of video tape machines were pretty quickly supplanted by DAT machines that combined the tape and digital adapater functions into one far smaller and more convenient package. 

It was the massive introduction and consumer acceptance of the audio CD that forced all other formats into obsolescence of niches. It was a playback-only format for a few years, but the introduction of CD-R media and compatible hardware that was the death knell for any other format in the consumer mainstream.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: dc2bluelight on 2018-02-04 19:29:25
I had a museum client in 1992 that used several custom-burned CD-Rs for environmental sound for an exhibit.  The cost to custom-burn one CD-R then was about $200 each, partly because the blank media was expensive (I think about $20/disc), but the CD burner and software was a $35K investment.  We were burning them with $200 burners and throwing them in the trash routinely less than a decade later. Today a USB burner is under $20, software is free, and blanks are around $0.10 or less in quantity.   And CD-Rs are so yesterday.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Porcus on 2018-02-04 21:08:27
I cannot remember when stereo TV took off but our broadcasting corporation (the BBC) were always quite innovative and for special events they did 'simulcasts' where the TV picture would be shown and at the same time the audio could be sourced from an FM stereo signal on BBC Radio 2 or 3. In the late 1980s (I think) the BBC gave us NICAM stereo whereby TV tuners would henceforth be capable of decoding stereo from the coax ariel cable and NICAM would be built into VHS recorders.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NICAM#Broadcasts_to_the_public , BBC started test-broadcasting NICAM (some programmes from some transmitters, but unadvertised) in 1986, and it was not officially introduced until 1991. 1991, then soon began the DCC vs MiniDisc format war.

I remember simulcasts (turn on the radio, mute the TV). It never actually struck me that (some) hifi VCRs supported recording from simulcast - grab picture from one source and stereo from another.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: cresco on 2018-02-05 09:57:26
I remember simulcasts (turn on the radio, mute the TV). It never actually struck me that (some) hifi VCRs supported recording from simulcast - grab picture from one source and stereo from another.

Live Aid (13th July 1985) was such a 'simulcast' event. Also I believe, the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Concert broadcast from Wembley Stadium London on 11th June 1988. I recorded large chunks of both concerts.  Live Aid audio was definitely sourced from FM radio. My VHS HiFi machine could definitely use an external audio source such as FM radio to lay alongside the video. I will have to dig out those old tapes and the machine itself.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Porcus on 2018-02-05 11:16:25
Live Aid (13th July 1985) was such a 'simulcast' event.
Yeah ... to the benefit of bootleggers ;-)
A few notable events are mentioned here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simulcast#Simulcasting_to_provide_stereo_sound_for_TV_broadcasts
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: splice on 2018-02-05 23:35:51
I used to make 3 hour mix tapes on VHS HiFi for parties and lock away the LPs. It prevented problems like arguments over what to play next, or drunken mishandling of the LPs and turntable.
The main problem with the format was that the audio heads switched for each field. Misalignment or weak signal caused fluctuations in the signal level as they switched, resulting in a "purring" noise in the audio. 2:1 compansion (similar to DBX) was used to reduce the effect. This had its own problems because different manufacturers implemented the compression / expansion time constants differently, resulting in audible "pumping" of the output if played on a different machine than the one it was recorded on.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: cresco on 2018-02-06 09:54:09
"splice" has given a better description of what I was alluding to in my reply #2. 'Purring' and 'pumping' are good descriptors for what I experienced when playing back my tapes on other people's machines.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: polemon on 2018-02-10 18:26:55
VHS as a medium for high quality audio was quite popular in eastern Europe. While it was more or less laughed at in Germany, in Poland this used to be quite popular. I remember in the early 90's this was actually so popular, that people had bootleg'd and pirated albums on VHS tapes sold at bazars.

Technically they never up-scaled the technology, afaik. I.e. only the stereo Hi-Fi helical track capability of VHS was used, the video track was either blank, or contained a still image, sometimes and endless loop something like a fireplace or a river. The way Alesis used S-VHS tapes as a digital audio tape, I can't remember. I don't think that kinda use was widespread.

I remember seeing them still being sold at bazars in 2003, that was around the time, where they started to disappear. I don't know, if the once I've seen have been sold for the pirated music on them, or just as VHS cassettes.

I've heard people talking about encoding PCM digital audio onto regular VHS tapes. The idea was to keep the analog video signal, but instead of an analoge AFM Hi-Fi audio signal, digital PCM values would be recorded onto the tape. I've never came across such tape, though, let alone a VTR capable of doing that.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Compact Dick on 2018-02-11 09:17:51
I've heard people talking about encoding PCM digital audio onto regular VHS tapes ... I've never came across such tape, though, let alone a VTR capable of doing that.
There's a clip on YouTube demonstrating what a PCM VHS tape looks and sounds like (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAE-c7aksxI).
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: polemon on 2018-02-11 09:58:38
There's a clip on YouTube demonstrating what a PCM VHS tape looks and sounds like (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAE-c7aksxI).

Oh, they're actually using the entire picture frames to encode the data! That's pretty neat! makes me want to convert this into an arbitrary tape data storage...
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Glenn Gundlach on 2018-02-11 10:17:49
<snip>
I've heard people talking about encoding PCM digital audio onto regular VHS tapes. The idea was to keep the analog video signal, but instead of an analoge AFM Hi-Fi audio signal, digital PCM values would be recorded onto the tape. I've never came across such tape, though, let alone a VTR capable of doing that.

PCM worked fine on both VHS and Beta tapes. I still have some 'masters' made back in the early '80s. The Technics machine I referenced earlier was VHS and self contained. The Sony  PCM-F1, PCM-501, PCM-601 and PCM-701 were encoder/decoders that converted analog audio to video and back. The video was monochrome 525 (no color burst) and could be recorded on any NTSC tape format. Personally I used Beta, VHS and U-Matic. I had access to broadcast 2 inch quadruplex and 1 inch SMPTE C machines but I never tried it. The drop out compensation in the broadcast machines might confuse the error correction. I believe the PCM switch on my Beta units disables the dropout correction. FYI Drop Out Correction (DOC) takes video from the preceding line and uses that to fill in the hole in the video. This is a must for video as black steaks in the video is bad. It gets a little more complicated to take care of the chroma phase reversal in each line of NTSC color video. That processing would be difficult to 'unprocess' for the PCM. It's much easier for the PCM to simply deal with the 'hole'.

IIRC there was 1 or 2 other manufacturers that made PCM processors. Hitachi and or Sansui might have made one too.

The commercial Sony PCM-1600 / 1610 / 1630 units were better for production as the data block size was tailored to fit in the video frame. This meant you could edit the audio like it was video on video frames. The consumer version might have been more tolerant of poorer tape performance but the data block size did not line up with video frames. Consequently you could not edit the video while the audio was playing. What I found out at the time was if the audio was in 'mute' so there was no data at the edit point you could  edit with no breakup. I built a box to process data from the PCM-701 that used lookup tables 1/16 dB per step and a hardware multiplier to fade in and out of mute. A 2 digit thumb wheel switch selected the fade rate in video frames and the record tally from the 3/4" (U-Matic) in insert mode triggered the fade up. A 'cut' was actually a 1 frame fade out followed immediately by a 1 frame fade up with the new source. In the BC (before computer) time it was OK. Adobe Audition and the like is SO much better but back then Apple ][s and TRS-80s were the norm and nowhere near capable of the data rate of digital audio. Now that's a walk in the park and HD video is no big deal for the average PC.

Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Glenn Gundlach on 2018-02-11 10:33:21

Oh, they're actually using the entire picture frames to encode the data! That's pretty neat! makes me want to convert this into an arbitrary tape data storage...

Whatever for? The data rate is a paltry 1.4 megabits/second. That's 635 megabytes per hour, AKA 0.635 gigabtye per hour. To add a little insult the error correction isn't great and consumer tape deck reliability was.....

 I bought a 2 terabyte drive last week at Fry's for $59. That is 2000 gigabytes that can transfer at 80 megabytes/second and fits in a shirt pocket. It also plugs into any computer with a USB port.

YOUR project however would be pretty secure as nobody could play and decode your tapes.

Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Porcus on 2018-02-11 10:41:04

Oh, they're actually using the entire picture frames to encode the data! That's pretty neat! makes me want to convert this into an arbitrary tape data storage...

Whatever for?

For fun and nostalgia? ;-)
I wonder whether that person with the "fuck you i'll keep downloading 32/192 rips" comment below the Youtube vid is audiophile or just sarcastic.

The data rate is a paltry 1.4 megabits/second.

But that is because it is constrained to be played back on with a conventional machine in realtime, right? So it is limited by SLP playing speed AND the PCM format?
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Thad E Ginathom on 2018-02-11 11:37:29
There was a system to use VHS as computer a data backup device. I remember refusing to take it seriously: compared to the metal-backed cartridges, it seemed cheap (which, comparatively, it was), fragile, domestic and somehow amateur! Which reveals that I was probably just being a snob. Years later I was happily feeding machines with the DAT cartridges.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Porcus on 2018-02-11 11:52:03
Here is one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ArVid
Max capacity: about one DVD±RW disc (single-layer, single-side).
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: polemon on 2018-02-11 15:41:04
There was a system to use VHS as computer a data backup device. I remember refusing to take it seriously: compared to the metal-backed cartridges, it seemed cheap (which, comparatively, it was), fragile, domestic and somehow amateur! Which reveals that I was probably just being a snob. Years later I was happily feeding machines with the DAT cartridges.

Not sure if you and @Porcus are talking about the same thing, but using VHS as a tape drive for computer data was somewhat popular in Russia, iirc. I've only seen it quite recently, at maker fares and other conventions. It worked with regular VHS VCRs, and it was basically something that attached to the parallel port on one side, and the Composite connector on the other. Similar to the Commodore Datasette, except it could be used with any VCR.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: polemon on 2018-02-11 17:04:38
Whatever for? The data rate is a paltry 1.4 megabits/second. That's 635 megabytes per hour, AKA 0.635 gigabtye per hour. To add a little insult the error correction isn't great and consumer tape deck reliability was.....

 I bought a 2 terabyte drive last week at Fry's for $59. That is 2000 gigabytes that can transfer at 80 megabytes/second and fits in a shirt pocket. It also plugs into any computer with a USB port.

YOUR project however would be pretty secure as nobody could play and decode your tapes.


As an electronics engineer and embedded developer, I like making things like that. Not for the practical purpose but just making quirky things like that is fun and sometimes has some artistic value to it.

A couple years ago I converted a D-VHS recorder to to a block device, by controlling the shuttle mechanism and packing arbitrary data into blocks that were copied into a static buffer, bypassing the MPEG2 video decoding section. The problem was, that I had to give the D-VHS VCR back to the owner. Apparently, they're as rare as dinosaur teeth and highly valuable and collectible.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: smok3 on 2018-02-12 06:37:13
There was a system to use VHS as computer a data backup device. I remember refusing to take it seriously: compared to the metal-backed cartridges, it seemed cheap (which, comparatively, it was), fragile, domestic and somehow amateur! Which reveals that I was probably just being a snob. Years later I was happily feeding machines with the DAT cartridges.

Not sure if you and @Porcus are talking about the same thing, but using VHS as a tape drive for computer data was somewhat popular in Russia, iirc. I've only seen it quite recently, at maker fares and other conventions. It worked with regular VHS VCRs, and it was basically something that attached to the parallel port on one side, and the Composite connector on the other. Similar to the Commodore Datasette, except it could be used with any VCR.

I have used something like that with amiga 4000, it could store about 1 megabyte per minute (irc).
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Klimis on 2018-02-13 17:16:30
Makes me wonder if any of those existing technologies behind modulating digital audio to magnetic media (like ADAT) could be modified to work a normal cassette tape that carries digital audio (lossy or lossless doesn't matter) instead of analog audio. It would prove a great middle ground for the niche market of people who recently returned to older media storage solutions for whatever reason. It could breathe a bit of new life to the anciented format. Is there a way to fit enough digital data reliably on the effective bandwidth of a regular old cassette tape? All solutions that I know of are either unreliable or their data rate is way too low for audio. There must be a way though with today's knowledge and technology.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: pdq on 2018-02-13 17:54:16
Back in the '70s I used a 600 baud modem to record onto cassette tape and read it back. Not very fast, but it worked.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Klimis on 2018-02-13 18:46:07
Back in the '70s I used a 600 baud modem to record onto cassette tape and read it back. Not very fast, but it worked.
600 baud is not enough data rate for audio. But we have come a long way since the 70s and old FSK modulation. I can think of a theoretical way that I could store nearly to 100kbps on a tape using two band folded modulated signals of two 56kbps modems on the most flat response parts of a tape but there MUST be a more educated and more efficient way to do it out there. The answer may be already on one of the methods used on VHS tapes that carried digital audio on a way or an other. There are videos on YouTube that show PCM digital audio being modulated in the video track of the tape and can be seen when played back with a regular VHS Player. There must be a way that this could be replicated to a cassette tape in a reliable way with a total capacity that could store an album of audio in a pretty good audio quality if not losslessly. Think of it like how D-VHS used regular SVHS tapes. The medium was the same but there is a lot of sophisticated modulation going on behind to end up delivering a total size of 25GB+ on a regular SVHS tape. Can't we somehow use these for Compact Cassette without changing anything as a hardware aspect?
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: dc2bluelight on 2018-02-13 19:05:17
100kbps?  Really?  Last time I checked, we've hit 2018.

(http://image.ibb.co/ccXYkn/could_should.jpg)
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Porcus on 2018-02-13 19:07:42
Makes me wonder if any of those existing technologies behind modulating digital audio to magnetic media (like ADAT) could be modified to work a normal cassette tape that carries digital audio (lossy or lossless doesn't matter) instead of analog audio. It would prove a great middle ground for the niche market of people who recently returned to older media storage solutions for whatever reason. It could breathe a bit of new life to the anciented format. Is there a way to fit enough digital data reliably on the effective bandwidth of a regular old cassette tape? All solutions that I know of are either unreliable or their data rate is way too low for audio. There must be a way though with today's knowledge and technology.

DCC used physically the same tape as the compact cassette, right?
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: dc2bluelight on 2018-02-13 19:10:27

600 baud is not enough data rate for audio. But we have come a long way since the 70s and old FSK modulation. I can think of a theoretical way that I could store nearly to 100kbps on a tape using two band folded modulated signals of two 56kbps modems on the most flat response parts of a tape but there MUST be a more educated and more efficient way to do it out there. The answer may be already on one of the methods used on VHS tapes that carried digital audio on a way or an other. There are videos on YouTube that show PCM digital audio being modulated in the video track of the tape and can be seen when played back with a regular VHS Player. There must be a way that this could be replicated to a cassette tape in a reliable way with a total capacity that could store an album of audio in a pretty good audio quality if not losslessly. Think of it like how D-VHS used regular SVHS tapes. The medium was the same but there is a lot of sophisticated modulation going on behind to end up delivering a total size of 25GB+ on a regular SVHS tape. Can't we somehow use these for Compact Cassette without changing anything as a hardware aspect?
The video bandwidth of a consumer VCR is somewhere around 3mHz.  The absolute maximum practical bandwidth of any consumer audio tape is around 20kHz.  You could figure this out even using the "new math" of the 1960s.  Unless we re-define "pretty good".   Why do you think tape, both analog and digital, have been abandoned?  
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: dc2bluelight on 2018-02-13 19:11:37

DCC used physically the same tape as the compact cassette, right?
Um.....no....
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Compact_Cassette
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Klimis on 2018-02-13 19:31:23

600 baud is not enough data rate for audio. But we have come a long way since the 70s and old FSK modulation. I can think of a theoretical way that I could store nearly to 100kbps on a tape using two band folded modulated signals of two 56kbps modems on the most flat response parts of a tape but there MUST be a more educated and more efficient way to do it out there. The answer may be already on one of the methods used on VHS tapes that carried digital audio on a way or an other. There are videos on YouTube that show PCM digital audio being modulated in the video track of the tape and can be seen when played back with a regular VHS Player. There must be a way that this could be replicated to a cassette tape in a reliable way with a total capacity that could store an album of audio in a pretty good audio quality if not losslessly. Think of it like how D-VHS used regular SVHS tapes. The medium was the same but there is a lot of sophisticated modulation going on behind to end up delivering a total size of 25GB+ on a regular SVHS tape. Can't we somehow use these for Compact Cassette without changing anything as a hardware aspect?
The video bandwidth of a consumer VCR is somewhere around 3mHz.  The absolute maximum practical bandwidth of any consumer audio tape is around 20kHz.  You could figure this out even using the "new math" of the 1960s.  Unless we re-define "pretty good".   Why do you think tape, both analog and digital, have been abandoned?  

Because none of the methods used in the VHS methods use even near to something that would need such bandwidth. All of the practical uses use a extremely tiny fracture of the available bandwidth and the rest is left unused. Also even then, the modulation methods used are pretty non sofisticated and don't target bandwith efficiency, they don't even try. With bandwidth efficiency in mind we could theoretically do something notable on regular compact tapes.

BTW, VHS has about 1MHz bandwith for luminance, so since everything is being modulated on the luminance carrier we will talk only about that.

Also one thing that I forgot to mention is that with the 1MHz bandwith of VHS you get around 28.5Mbps data rate. With the same math, I think that even with 20kHz bandwith we could achieve something that creates audio that wouldn't upset anyone (something around 192kbps).
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: dc2bluelight on 2018-02-13 19:58:56


Because none of the methods used in the VHS methods use even near to something that would need such bandwidth. All of the practical uses use a extremely tiny fracture of the available bandwidth and the rest is left unused. Also even then, the modulation methods used are pretty non sofisticated and don't target bandwith efficiency, they don't even try. With bandwidth efficiency in mind we could theoretically do something notable on regular compact tapes.
Hmmm... Well, the 14 bit EIAJ method used roughly a half of the available bandwidth (44.056x2x14=1233568) with just the raw PCM data, plus 34% error correction in a CRCC block, plus P/Q bits, plus you do actually need about double the actual bandwidth to get reliably recoverable 0-1 data transitions, so I guess it depends on how you define "extremely tiny fraction".  Sony "stole" the Q word for two more bits of audio, at reduced error correction to 24% (believe me, it wasn't always enough!). Sure, it's inefficient.  It was 1982!  But it fit in 3mHz of consumer video tape, and pretty much worked.  Anything you do to a raw 1.5mbps bit stream to get it into 20kHz will be audibly lossy, and that's not considering the error correction you''d need for analog 1/8" wide 1 7/8 ips tape.  You must have no idea of what kind of dropouts occur on that stuff.  I don't see why you'd bother, or why anyone would want to...ever. 

 Hence, my Jurassic Park thing.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: dc2bluelight on 2018-02-13 20:00:05
Also one thing that I forgot to mention is that with the 3MHz bandwith of VHS you get around 28.5Mbps data rate. With the same math, I think that even with 20kHz bandwith we could achieve something that creates audio that wouldn't upset anyone (something around 192kbps).
Gotta be something wrong with that math....
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Porcus on 2018-02-13 22:47:36

DCC used physically the same tape as the compact cassette, right?
Um.....no....
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Compact_Cassette

Um ... well?

The tape speed of DCC is the same as for analog compact cassettes: 1 7⁄8 inches (4.8 cm) per second, DCCs use tape that is the same width as that from analog compact cassettes: 1/8 of an inch (3.175 mm). The tape that is used in production cassettes is chromium dioxide- or cobalt-doped ferric-oxide, 3-4 µm thick in a total tape thickness of 12 µm,[6] identical to the tape that was widely in use for video tapes.

Isn't that the same as a CrO2 cassette tape? Same material and same width (and, about the same thickness)?
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: dc2bluelight on 2018-02-13 23:34:44

Um ... well?

The tape speed of DCC is the same as for analog compact cassettes: 1 7⁄8 inches (4.8 cm) per second, DCCs use tape that is the same width as that from analog compact cassettes: 1/8 of an inch (3.175 mm). The tape that is used in production cassettes is chromium dioxide- or cobalt-doped ferric-oxide, 3-4 µm thick in a total tape thickness of 12 µm,[6] identical to the tape that was widely in use for video tapes.

Isn't that the same as a CrO2 cassette tape? Same material and same width (and, about the same thickness)?

Audio and video tape formulations are different, even if they might share dimensions, speeds, etc.  There are trade-offs to be made between drop-outs, output, coercivity, linearity, etc.  DCC and the video portion of a VCR used more or less saturation-mode recording, whereas audio tape tries to avoid saturation of the audio portion of the signal.  Tapes were optimized for each use. 

Pardon my frustration, but why are we talking about this anyway?  DCC failed decades ago, and nobody in their right mind is recording PCM on video tape today, much less trying to put PCM on an audio cassette. 
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: dc2bluelight on 2018-02-13 23:43:12

Also one thing that I forgot to mention is that with the 1MHz bandwith of VHS you get around 28.5Mbps data rate. With the same math, I think that even with 20kHz bandwith we could achieve something that creates audio that wouldn't upset anyone (something around 192kbps).
And what's wrong is....

Frequency bandwidth and bit rate are not directly convertible.  Frequency bandwidth is generally defined as the area of spectrum between two -3dB down points.  While data can be carried on a frequency modulated carrier, the actual occupied bandwidth of the modulated signal is quite variable and impacted by things like modulation method, noise, etc.  There's no simple conversion between the two.  And so what if you could get 100kbps on and off a cassette?  Why?  Aren't we doing uncompressed FLAC/ALAC and at least 256k compressed?  What do you do about dropouts?  Speed instability (you want jitter?  I'll show you jitter!!!). 

You know, we can also communicate using two titanium cups and a single strand of Nichrome wire.... but why would we?
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Porcus on 2018-02-14 00:41:20
Pardon my frustration, but why are we talking about this anyway?  DCC failed decades ago, and nobody in their right mind is recording PCM on video tape today, much less trying to put PCM on an audio cassette. 
Because somebody started a "Makes me wonder". I don't miss cassettes - compact cassettes, DCCs nor VHS - but should that stop me from wondering what would be possible?
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: polemon on 2018-02-14 03:17:56
Well, a tape system that intersects video cassettes and storing arbitrary data very well, is Data8/Mammoth.
It used regular, but re-branded Digital8 camcorder video cassettes, which in turn are basically regular Hi8 tapes but with higher grade magnetic grain layer. The Hi8 tapes in turn are regular Video8 tapes, but with higher quality magnetic layer, themselves.

All tapes use the same mechanical structure, and the same transport and drive mechanism. Technically, you could use a regular Video8 tape for a Data8 system, but the error rate would be much higher.

And technically, a D-VHS tape is very similar to an S-VHS tape, which in turn is very similar to a regular-grade VHS tape. The only difference, is the tape itself. It would be quite interesting to find out the difference in formulation between D-VHS and S-VHS. I tried googling a bit, but it mainly turned out inconclusive. So technically, I think saying D-VHS is a VHS based digital storage system by design, although I've never seen it extrapolated as a data storage system for arbitrary data (apart from my own project which I've talked about in a previous post).

The highest grade of tape I've ever seen, is 9-track tape from the mid-80's. The tape was matte, and felt quite thick. It was almost totally black in color. In the days of 9-track tape - which was a very popular computer data tape format - different grades of tape were available. It depended on the tape drive and error correction constraints, as well as data density. Supposedly, the higher graded tapes would last longer, but when I've worked with them in 2006, they all were in great shape, no matter if they were of lesser or higher grade. 9-track tape is a linear format, though. Tape speeds could be quite high, the HP tape drive I've used for them was super fast, with an incredible noise. The acceleration and breaking, and reversing was in a blink of an eye.

A quick google for the tape formulations didn't turn up much, although in the case of 9-track tape, I believe the formulation was kinda kept secret.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: dc2bluelight on 2018-02-14 04:43:17
Because somebody started a "Makes me wonder". I don't miss cassettes - compact cassettes, DCCs nor VHS - but should that stop me from wondering what would be possible?
I don't mind the wondering, but when it moves from the sublime to the ridiculous, all it does is burn time.  "Possible", in reality, should include a dose of "practical", or it's just so much Blue Smoke.

How about a "practical" digital recording system that could make a relatively lossless record of a performance and the storage medium is a roll of paper?  Oh yeah, been done.  Fidelity was pretty darn good, the error rate was low, the media lasted for a century or more, but the playback device was cumbersome and expensive, the recording device even worse, and the reproducing system was essentially an instrument similar to the one that made the recording.  The practicality-o-meter isn't exactly being pegged. And that's why we don't do that today.  Could we? Yup.  And could we, on the same storage medium - a 7-foot roll of paper just under 12" wide - store high bit-rate uncompressed stereo PCM, using lasers for recording and reading data organized into a zillion parallel tracks running over 20 inches per second.  But why on earth would we? 
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Phanton_13 on 2018-02-14 05:16:03
Actually the capacity of an old casette is better than some imagine as is capable of a raw datarate per track ( channel ) of 115kbps assuming a bandwith of 10khz with a SNR of 35db and this mean for a stereo head a raw rate using both chanels of 230kbps enough to put Opus at 160kbps+70kbps of data correction, actually if we interface directly with the head and use a advanced motor control this can be pussed to a raw rate of between 172 to 230 kbps. Also the old streamer casettes, a derived format for data storage, had capacities of up tp 160MB.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Klimis on 2018-02-14 05:35:58
Actually the capacity of an old casette is better than some imagine as is capable of a raw datarate per track ( channel ) of 115kbps assuming a bandwith of 10khz with a SNR of 35db and this mean for a stereo head a raw rate using both chanels of 230kbps enough to put Opus at 160kbps+70kbps of data correction, actually if we interface directly with the head and use a advanced motor control this can be pussed to a raw rate of between 172 to 230 kbps. Also the old streamer casettes, a derived format for data storage, had capacities of up tp 160MB.
Similar to my thought. Now it could have been even better if you had a head like one of those multitrack cassette recorders for amateurs that recorded on all 4 channels of the cassette on the same direction, you could have double the rate of stereo. But even that wouldn't be that important. I will try with a generic modem to transmit a 50kbps audio file and record it on a tape and then I will try to reverse the mechanism to see if the data are stored well enough to be decoded properly. If that succeeds then I bet I'm into something.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Glenn Gundlach on 2018-02-14 05:46:46
<snip>

Because none of the methods used in the VHS methods use even near to something that would need such bandwidth. All of the practical uses use a extremely tiny fracture of the available bandwidth and the rest is left unused. Also even then, the modulation methods used are pretty non sofisticated and don't target bandwith efficiency, they don't even try. With bandwidth efficiency in mind we could theoretically do something notable on regular compact tapes.

BTW, VHS has about 1MHz bandwith for luminance, so since everything is being modulated on the luminance carrier we will talk only about that.

Also one thing that I forgot to mention is that with the 1MHz bandwith of VHS you get around 28.5Mbps data rate. With the same math, I think that even with 20kHz bandwith we could achieve something that creates audio that wouldn't upset anyone (something around 192kbps).

Talking about bandwidth on VHS and Betamax is in a seriously gray area because of the way the response is defined. Broadcast composite (2" quadruplex and 1" SMPTE C) machines are flat to beyond 4 MHz. Video CAMERAS were defined in 'lines of resolution' which has a direct correlation to bandwidth BUT the response is not flat. Looking at a sweep signal on a camera the scope response might resemble a Christmas tree on its side or a funnel shape. The specified number is when the signal falls to 5 IRE units, AKA -26dB. Remember people get sucked into numbers games and the funnel mode will keep the noise reduced but the stated resolution high. The number was WAY outside of what could even get through an NTSC system but by golly, brand X is much better than brand Y even if it looked bad.

The reason for the primer is that consumer video tapes are measured the way cameras were measured. From a practical standpoint VHS and Beta get in the 2.5 MHz range at -4 to -6 dB. BTW Beta measured and looked better (I'm a broadcast engineer for 40 years). Sony in their (lack of) wisdom made the cassette too small. Numbers game again. More time, maybe not quite as good but MORE TIME is better.

The early digital processors used what was available at the time. Could they have packed more bits? Probably but the CD was just about to be released and IT ran 44100 16 bits. Life was tough enough without inventing ANOTHER wheel.

If you want to be impressed with bang for the buck get a digital audio recorder like the Tascam DR-05. Less than $100, records on an SDHC card for many hours, multiple sample rates and bit depths, MP3 or .WAV. Much more performance than the PCM on tape and for 1.5% (corrected for inflation) of the cost.

BTW anyone experimenting with data on tape will find out a LOT about dropouts and error correction. As a comparison, over the air digital TV has a raw data rate over 33 megabits but after handling all the error detection and correction you're down to 19.34 megabits, all stuffed into a 6 MHz channel.

Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: splice on 2018-02-14 10:23:42
...I will try with a generic modem to transmit a 50kbps audio file and record it on a tape and then I will try to reverse the mechanism to see if the data are stored well enough to be decoded properly. If that succeeds then I bet I'm into something.
The squawking you hear when modems connect is them testing the line and agreeing between themselves on equalisation and modulation settings. They can't do that with tape record / replay. Modulation schemes for tape necessarily differ from "line" schemes.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: 2Bdecided on 2018-02-14 14:50:41
I used VHS Hi-Fi stereo analogue for audio recording from 1991 to 2000. It was better than anything else I had available.

As well as the problems noted earlier in the thread, you tend to get clicks in the audio corresponding to single line drop-outs on the screen (which VHS "HQ" machines routinely mask on the video, but they can still be audible on the audio). This was true when the tapes were new, but was better with better tape formulations.

Bass-light music tended to reveal the head switching rumble.

Today I have some audio recordings which only exist on VHS and regular cassette. The VHS has better frequency response, subjectively better dynamic range, lower wow+flutter, a longer uninterrupted play time, and no Dolby alignment errors. It has clicks (easily removed today), occasionally longer drop outs (catastrophic) and for some recordings the constant background rumble/flutter is objectionable (and I can't figure a way to remove it - it's already tracking optimally on the original deck which still works well). Basically VHS wins (and you can't say that very often ;) ).

Cheers,
David.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: JabbaThePrawn on 2018-02-14 15:28:59
I remember a work colleague from years ago who had set his VHS up for recording from the radio. The longer running time than a compact cassette and the ability to set a timed recording was his reason, as he liked radio dramas, which were often
1.longer than could fit on one side of an audio cassette and
2.usually broadcast during the afternoon, when he was at work.
He had built up quite a big collection, both in the number of recordings and the space all those VHS tapes took up.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: The Irish Man on 2018-02-14 16:43:52
I Work at a community radio station
and we recorded everything that went out on air on VHS tapes
between 1995 & 2006-7. We were using 2 to 3 VHS tapes a day
We now trying to make digital copies of every single VHS tape.
Which is a real Pain.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: polemon on 2018-02-14 19:52:48
I worked at a video production studio in 2005, and it was my job to take care of equipment, clean recorders, refurbish tapes and do small repairs, and also maintain the library, which was mainly DV, DVCPRO and MiniDV tapes, but also quite a few BetaMax and BetaCam (most of which were were BetaMax SP) tapes, and also maintain the digital library, as well as making backups, etc.
The library was pretty much kept as it was, with old tapes not digitized/copied to solid state unless needed.

Whenever old stock footage was needed the tape in question was either digitized in case of BetaMax, or streamed to solid state in case of DV, DVCPRO or MiniDV and then the tape was removed from the library and put into bulk storage. Digitizing or copying everything onto solid state storage entirely was too much of an undertaking. Backup of the digital files was done through a professional backup solution which also included LTO tapes (slightly ironically). However this was done only for backup purposes, the files were kept on a NAS for easy access to the producers. When I left the company, there were still around 300 Beta* tapes which haven't been digitized, mostly test footage, sometimes copies from cameras that used a different tape format in the late 80's. Most of them were BetaCam SP; the digital variant of BetaCam, "BetaCam SX" was never used (there were none present when I was working there, anyway).

The studio got rid of their old equipment as they went on. I still have a BetaCam SX recorder, I have no use for it. It sits in storage to eventually fetch a nice price on Ebay or wherever to a collector. They kept one of each older VTRs so they can read the occasional older tape, but most of them were removed from the racks. They were put into a small 19" rack on rollers and called "Life-support trolley".

In the bulk storage room, the tapes which weren't used anymore were stored. I don't know if they ever throw them out or not. I could take some BetaCam SP tapes with me, so I can play around with the machine I have, but I think as long as the room still isn't filled up to the ceiling, the tapes will stay with the studio. They stored their old equipment in there, too. Old cameras, but also old VTRs, including a VHS recorder or two. When I left the company, the room was quite filled, but still not filled up to the brim, they occasionally added new shelves by making the aisles narrower.

Audio was recorded on a reel-to-reel and later on DAT, if it wasn't recorded onto the same tape in a camera or such. Later they recorded everything using digital solid state recorders, as was the case when I worked there. The high fidelity of Hi-Fi VHS audio recording was common knowledge to the producers and editors, but they never used it professionally. Then again, it being a video production studio, they didn't really concern themselves with much audio engineering as such. Given they were not broadcasting live, I guess things like easy of playback wasn't that much of an issue anyway. Output formats where whatever the customer required, but it was always a combined AV format (no audio on a separate medium). Since the output format was pretty much always of lesser quality than whatever has been originally recorded as, it didn't matter too much. Media brought in by customers was transferred to a superior format of the time, and the original never used again. The copies used for working were then archived (which was where I ended managing them, many years layer).

At this point I'd like to end my tangent. I guess you could say I came in contact with professional video equipment, people in that industry knew very well about the high fidelity audio capability of VHS, but they never seem to have really cared. At least in this part of the world.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: rogeriol on 2018-04-16 17:43:10
I've used a VHS HiFi from 1987 to 97 in order to 'copy' CDs in SLP (6h) format. Audio quality is really good with VHS HiFi , reaching 90dB s/n ratio and full 20-20khz spectrum. Since my ears were much newer I could tell the difference between HiFi and a cassette tape copy, not only for the noise but also the upper limit of frequency response.
My VHS deck had a special mode where video was not recorded with the HiFi signal (they reside in different layers of the substrate) in order to increase the signal power. If video was recorded alongside it, the HiFi signal lost about half power (more susceptible to dropouts and tracking issues ).
After 97, when CD burners became available , I switched technology. Then came MP3, and so on...
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: rutra80 on 2018-04-16 22:53:10
In 90s there was a VHS-based backup system for Amiga computers. It was using black & white video signal in form of horizontal lines to store Reed–Solomon encoded data. One could fit ~500MB of data on a 4-hour tape.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: knutinh on 2018-04-17 09:24:30
I am surprised that no-one has mentioned Shannon:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Channel_capacity

If the channel can be characterized as AWGN with a bandwidth B, then the upper limit to the capacity is
B*log2(1+SNR)

This formula does not tell how to design the modem, but sets an upper bound to how good a modem can ever be designed.

Surely, tape systems have other imperfections besides SNR and bandwidth (saturation, wow & flutter,...)

-k
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Arnold B. Krueger on 2018-04-17 12:19:34
I was never alive during the analog era's heyday, though since we were relatively poor I still used a VCR and cassette player through my childhood in the 2000s and never gave it much thought. However, in the last couple of years I have had an interest in digital audio and general and have been looking into it a lot. I also recently have been learning about analog audio formats and been messing around with them just for some fun.
Recently, I acquired a new Super VCR because my old VCR broke, and when I put in a movie I listened to the audio through my headphones and I was shocked to say the least. The Hi-Fi audio sounded way better than vinyl or cassette, it almost sounded like a CD! It was extremely close. I recorded into my computer and found that it did represent 20hz to a little over 20khz just fine! I first did rhapsody in blue from fantasia 2000 (clip (https://drive.google.com/open?id=1RbbxQk6y6LhoPBjorhB0Ok95MRyD4E5i)) then the opening DreamWorks part of Shrek (clip (https://drive.google.com/open?id=1pRtGY-YCWjpNbvAnrC3MEszMfvx2M7hz)). These both sounded very good for analog audio, but these tapes were extremely worn out and you can hear a soft buzzing in the right channel at times. I grabbed a blank VHS tape and recorded lossless All Star onto it, keeping with the shrek theme. And it sounded amazing! Nearly perfect. You can compare these two clips of the digital file (https://drive.google.com/open?id=1-z7_fhdFATkYg_zitBFNEg2GBVF0sjPD) and the VHS recording (https://drive.google.com/open?id=12a96WzZxV8VirjzWgSQICdCZBb1CzuA4).
This got me thinking: The majority of the bandwidth on the tape is going to the video, and yet the audio sounds so good! Even in LP mode, you can get 4 hours of very nice sounding audio on a VHS tape! And compared to something like reel to reel, VHS is much less expensive. This got me thinking. Why wasn't there a format that just used all of the bandwidth on a VHS tape for audio, and then you could fit a lot of good audio onto one? I looked and there was ADAT (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADAT), which allowed for 16 bit or 20 bit digital PCM onto an S-VHS tape. But that wasn't exactly for consumers. I think that this would've been a really neat thing for audiophiles back then.

Panasonic tried to sell a digital audio adapator for VHS. Sony owned the market, but the market was not big.

VHS Hi Fi was introduced to close to the advent of CD so it never made a much of a splash.

In general, the poor mechanical reliability of tape doomed it.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: splice on 2018-04-18 10:03:15
VHS HiFi had one big flaw. It used DBX-style 2:1 compression. Level and time constant differences between decks often resulted in audible "breathing" or pumping if you played a tape on a deck other than the one it was recorded on. But I found it very useful for parties, with all other sources locked away it prevented the drunken exhortations to "play (my favourite track)!".
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Nikaki on 2018-04-19 13:29:41
For what it's worth, "metal class" cassette tapes recorded from CD on a good deck sounded pretty good to me. Most cassette releases of albums came on chrome tape and didn't sound too good. But when buying metal cassettes and recording from CD, the results were very good, even without using dolby noise reduction. Downside was that metal cassettes were quite expensive compared to normal or chrome ones, so I usually only had a few of them that I recorded over when I was a kid.

I don't think it would take much these days to come up with a true "HD" analog cassette format, since they did come quite close already in the 90's, right before cassette went out of fashion. Obviously there's no actual point in doing so these days, but you know, cassette was IMO way better than most people thought they are. It seems the majority of people just didn't get to experience good cassettes and mostly had the crappy ones, as that's what record labels were selling. If you record from CD on a good deck on a good metal grade cassette, I pretty much guarantee you're in for a big surprise.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Thad E Ginathom on 2018-04-19 18:55:13
Wouldn't the vast majority of cassettes be the ones we made ourselves? Back in the day (when the turntable was the prime music source) I used to wonder who actually bought commercial tapes.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Nikaki on 2018-04-19 20:03:50
Wouldn't the vast majority of cassettes be the ones we made ourselves?
Yeah. But... from what? FM radio recordings were going to sound crap anyway. And if you had a CD player, then you wouldn't bother with cassettes to begin with. And almost no one I knew was buying metal grade cassettes anyway, only normal and chrome. Which I why I believe that the majority of people don't actually know how good cassette can actually sound.

I found a video about exactly this subject. "Cassettes - better than you don't remember":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVoSQP2yUYA
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: JabbaThePrawn on 2018-04-19 21:01:25
Wouldn't the vast majority of cassettes be the ones we made ourselves? Back in the day (when the turntable was the prime music source) I used to wonder who actually bought commercial tapes.
I occasionally did buy commercial cassettes, when there was no alternative format available in the few, small shops available to me (before I moved to London from the countryside and spent ruinous amounts of money on records).
Two I recall buying were Zappa's 'The Best Band you never heard in your Life' (partially mangled when I lent it to a friend) and Paul Kelly's 'So much Water, so close to Home'. I'd have loved to have bought both of them on LP or CD, but with limited choice, I had to get my music by any means necessary.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Thad E Ginathom on 2018-04-20 19:37:49
Wouldn't the vast majority of cassettes be the ones we made ourselves?
Yeah. But... from what? FM radio recordings were going to sound crap anyway. And if you had a CD player, then you wouldn't bother with cassettes to begin with. And almost no one I knew was buying metal grade cassettes anyway, only normal and chrome. Which I why I believe that the majority of people don't actually know how good cassette can actually sound.

I found a video about exactly this subject. "Cassettes - better than you don't remember":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVoSQP2yUYA

Pre-CD-Players: I made cassettes of records with scratches. The lesser dynamic range slightly softened the blow, and I did not have to wince at what the scratch might be doing to the stylus.

Post-CD-Players: I didn't get one for quite a while. and even when I did, it was a while before cars caught up.

...And, portable music in general. Walking around with a couple of "albums" under one's arm was certainly a thing, but tapes were smaller, lighter, and loss or damage was trivial compared to the vinyl source. Not to mention the give-away copies that were claimed to be "killing music" or some such stuff they used to print on the sleeve.

Oh, portable music. I nearly forgot an era of portable tape players that seemed to go on for a long time.

Yes, I made a lot of tapes from LPs.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Porcus on 2018-04-24 00:37:55
Compact cassettes ... ahwell ...

And almost no one I knew was buying metal grade cassettes anyway, only normal and chrome.
Many tape recorders didn't have chrome/metal settings. According to the Wikipedia article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_Cassette), commercial releases on BASF chrome tape were treated as Type I (for compatibility, I guess?).

"Conventional wisdom": even among those with a type IV switch, many couldn't really record to metal tape.
Question: was that just audiophoolery? (I stuck to chrome myself.)

Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: polemon on 2018-04-24 01:18:58
Has anyone ever used one of the elusive Cobalt tapes? Supposedly, they're the best formulation ever, at least when it comes to bandpass. The bias and signal gain had to be similar to that of Chrome tapes.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Nikaki on 2018-04-24 01:26:14
"Conventional wisdom": even among those with a type IV switch, many couldn't really record to metal tape.
Question: was that just audiophoolery? (I stuck to chrome myself.)
No, type IV was actually superior. There's a demo of noise/hiss levels in the video I posted (starting at 15:25.) The sound is extremely clean. Back then it sounded very near to the CDs I recorded from. And that's without dolby noise reduction. With dolby, there's virtually zero noise. But a poor deck will always produce crappy results though. A decent deck is needed to get good recording and playback quality.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Engelsstaub on 2018-04-24 04:37:12
Compact cassettes ... ahwell ...

And almost no one I knew was buying metal grade cassettes anyway, only normal and chrome.
Many tape recorders didn't have chrome/metal settings. According to the Wikipedia article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_Cassette), commercial releases on BASF chrome tape were treated as Type I (for compatibility, I guess?)...

This isn't gospel (so someone correct me if I'm full of shit) but I think commercial recordings done on BASF true chrome tape were done at Type 1 settings because it just plain sounded better. Compatibility is a part of that but the 3 dB noise reduction in tape hiss always seemed to me a lousy tradeoff for the EQ you got at Type II settings. (BASF true chrome had very little tape hiss to begin with and IMO did well enough to not really warrant the use of Dolby NR.)

Type IV really required a better-than-average deck to make a difference. Even a BOTL Nakamichi, w/ user-controllable bias and levels, could push a Metal tape to its potential though. With a good tape you could hit +10 dBFS peaks and not have any serious distortion or saturation. Type IVs weren't worth it for most people though...including me and my cheap Kmart crap haha.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: polemon on 2018-04-24 05:51:06
No, type IV was actually superior. There's a demo of noise/hiss levels in the video I posted (starting at 15:25.) The sound is extremely clean. Back then it sounded very near to the CDs I recorded from. And that's without dolby noise reduction. With dolby, there's virtually zero noise. But a poor deck will always produce crappy results though. A decent deck is needed to get good recording and playback quality.
Yeah, I know Techmoan, but he also made this video:
https://youtu.be/I0beJZaOUYM?t=508 <--- Right where I linked this video (8:30), he explains how Cobalt tape was a 90's era improvement, although I read somewhere, that Cobalt was actually something that was kinda tried before, hence my confusion.

I've been using cassettes in the 90's myself, but I don't remember Cobalt tapes. I still have my collection of tapes, and there are some metal tapes, but no Cobalt tapes. No blank ones, and no pre-recorded ones. Metal particle tape was a 3M improvement from 1979, and as far as *I* know, Cobalt tape was released around 1974. However, Techmoan on the other hand, claims it's an improvement that came around in the 90's, so that's where the confusion comes from.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Nikaki on 2018-04-24 21:02:22
I've been using cassettes in the 90's myself, but I don't remember Cobalt tapes.
Interesting. I've never heard about cobalt tapes! Never seen them in any store back then, and I was browsing in many audio stores back then. The only "out of the ordinary" tapes I've seen where very expensive "ceramic casing type IV" tapes, but I suspect these were just BS. I guess these were the "gold HDMI cables" of their time :P

But cobalt, never heard of that one.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: polemon on 2018-04-24 22:42:13
The only "out of the ordinary" tapes I've seen where very expensive "ceramic casing type IV" tapes, but I suspect these were just BS. I guess these were the "gold HDMI cables" of their time :P
The highest quality tapes I've seen, were some programs for the C64, released on Datasette. Even though the C64 wasn't really breaking into offices and professional markets, there were some pro-sumer stuff available for it, both hardware and software. One of the programs I've seen was some sort of program for bookkeeping. The cassette was made incredibly sturdy, with parts of the case made of metal, and it had little felt flaps where the tape left the case. It was a Type IV / Metal tape, and had a running length of only 15min. It also had little guides for the tape, making sure the tape doesn't stick to the reels (called BASF Security Mechanism).

But cobalt, never heard of that one.
Yeah, hence me saying it's damn elusive. I've heard of it for the first time in Techmoan's and other retro-AV youtuber's videos, and I can't remember for the love of god if I've ever encountered them back in the day. To me, Metal / Type IV was always the highest quality, but there were also differences between manufacturers.
Title: Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?
Post by: Artie on 2018-04-25 13:10:36
Wow! This thread is definitely a trip down memory lane.  8)

I still have an old NEC Hi-fi VHS recorder that could be used in an "audio-only" mode using the spinning video heads. IIRC, it's frequency response and dynamic range exceeded the best R2R's of the day. It's been sitting in a closet for about 30 years.  :P

I also still have a couple of old 3-head Dolby B/C cassette decks. (A Nak and a Sony ES.) And, I still have a couple of car tuner/preamp cassette decks, that also had Dolby B/C. (A Nak and a Harman-Kardon.) The cool thing about the Nak was that it had a front panel azimuth adjust knob for making fine tweaks on the fly.

I need to dig those and play with them again.
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