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Topic: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format? (Read 4253 times) previous topic - next topic
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Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #50
...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.
Regards,
   Don Hills
"People hear what they see." - Doris Day

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #51
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.

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #52
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.

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #53
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.

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #54
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.

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #55
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...

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #56
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.

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #57
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

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #58
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) then the opening DreamWorks part of Shrek (clip). 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 and the VHS recording.
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, 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.

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #59
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)!".
Regards,
   Don Hills
"People hear what they see." - Doris Day

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #60
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.

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #61
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.
The most important audio cables are the ones in the brain

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #62
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

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #63
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.

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #64
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.
The most important audio cables are the ones in the brain

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #65
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, 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.)

Memento: this is Hydrogenaudio. Do not assume good faith.

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #66
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.

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #67
"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.

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #68
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, 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.
The Loudness War is over. Now it's a hopeless occupation.

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #69
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.

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #70
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.

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #71
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.

Re: Why wasn't there ever a VHS based consumer audio format?

Reply #72
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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