How do I Choose the Best VHS Tapes?

Choosing the best VHS tapes often depends a great deal upon how you plan on using the tapes and the amount of video you want to record onto them. How you plan on using the tapes is important because there are a number of distinct formats of VHS tapes available, and the best one often depends on your intended use. VHS tapes are also typically categorized based on the size of the physical tape itself within the cassette, which impacts how much video you can record onto a VHS tape.

A video home system (VHS) cassette tape is a plastic cassette that holds two spools across which a length of magnetic tape is connected. This tape is wound between to two spools as it is played; heads read image and audio signals from the tape and send those images and audio signals through a television or similar monitor. While this format for home video has been largely replaced by digital versatile disc (DVD) and similar digital formats, there are still some uses for VHS tapes. Choosing the best VHS tape typically begins with a consideration of what you plan on doing with the tape.

While all tapes use the same basic technology, you can find a number of different types of VHS tapes with different levels of quality. A standard tape only provides about 250 scan lines of video, which is far less than that provided by DVDs and modern televisions capable of displaying three or four times that many lines. You can find “Super” VHS tapes, often labeled S-VHS, which can display 400 scan lines and provide a sharper image with greater color clarity. A digital VHS tape, or D-VHS, uses digital technology with the physical tape to provide higher image resolution and superior picture quality than other VHS formats.

You should also consider the amount of video you wish to record as you choose the best VHS tapes for your needs. Most VHS tapes are labeled with a number that indicates the amount of video that can be recorded in minutes when in standard play mode. This number is often T-60 or T-120, meaning one or two hours of video can be recorded, though up to T-240 is available. While you can record in “long play” or “extended play” mode to double or triple the amount of video that can be recorded on a VHS tape, the picture and sound quality will typically decline severely when you do so.