The 9 Best VHS To DVD Converters
We spent 44 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. If you have a box full of old home videos taking up space and getting dusty in your attic, you should consider bringing those memories up to date with one of these VHS to DVD converters. Most of the items on our list will not only let you burn the footage to disc, but also convert it to digital files that are ideal for uploading to Facebook or YouTube. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best vhs to dvd converter on Amazon.
A History Of The Vaunted VHS Format
In the 1950s, magnetic video tape was commonly used in the professional television industry, recording shows for later rebroadcast.
Magnetic tape was first used for audio recording, with viable application seen in the late 1920s.
The VHS cassette tape was first developed by JVC, a Japanese technology and electronics company, in the 1970s. VHS is an acronym for the Video Home System, and indeed that descriptive name is an apt one for these units. Understanding why merits a look slightly farther back into history.
Magnetic tape was first used for audio recording, with viable application seen in the late 1920s. Magnetic video recording tape was first developed some two and a half decades later. In the 1950s, magnetic video tape was commonly used in the professional television industry, recording shows for later rebroadcast. The complexity and expense both of early video magnetic tape and the machinery that processed it limited the use of the medium to professional media production and broadcast companies and to certain medical and scientific applications, such as with fluoroscopy imaging.
Flash forward another two decades to the 1970s, and we see the beginnings of what would be the first commercially viable home video platform. And indeed beginnings is the right word, as two competing formats of magnetic video tape came to the fore during that decade. One, produced by the Sony Corporation, would come to be known as Betamax, a video tape format that actually went on to see extreme success in various professional fields, and limited success as a format for home movie watching.
It was the Video Home System -- the iconic VHS video cassette -- that would soon be lining the shelves at video rental stores and tucked into cabinets and drawers in homes all around the world. The first functional VHS tape prototype was produced in the year 1973, after several years of development. The first VHS players and tapes readily available to the consumer marketplace came out in Japan in 1976, and in the United States in 1977. Despite entering the market more than two years after the release of the comparable (and arguably superior) Betamax format, VHS tapes soon became the ascendant platform thanks to a furious marketing effort and thanks to agreements between JVC and various other companies that saw the format used by multiple multinational companies.
VHS recorders/players, also known as VCRs, were a mainstay of living rooms, classrooms, offices, and beyond for more than twenty years, but the latter half of the 1990s saw DVDs begin to chip away at the platform's marketshare (in a way that laser discs and other video options certainly never had). Improved digital technology would sound the death knell of this fine analog format, though in fact VCRs were still being made right up until the year 2016, a testament to the lasting quality of the format and hardware, as well as to the power of nostalgia (and/or inertia) among many media consumers.
Why Converting Tape To Digital Is Essential
Venerable and celebrated though the VHS format may be, it is also vulnerable, too. Time is the greatest enemy of the Video Home System video cassette tape, with quality degradation slowly but steadily reducing the functionality of the tape, and with repeated viewings only speeding up the process. Video cassette tapes often deteriorate past the point of viable playability due to demagnetization, a process which can happen over time or that can occur rapidly in the event that a powerful magnet or a potent heat source comes into close proximity with the tape. A demagnetized tape has lost the ability to transfer the images and audio it once held to a video tape player.
Venerable and celebrated though the VHS format may be, it is also vulnerable, too.
Other factors that can speed the deterioration of a video cassette tape are humidity and/or direct contact with moisture or liquid. When a VHS tape is stored in humid conditions, or else when a fluid is spilled or splashed onto the cassette, it can cause the tape to become distorted, sticky, or otherwise compromised, leaving the very real potential that the stresses put on the tape by its next viewing will cause it to break completely or become distorted beyond viable use.
According to a survey of research conducted by various groups, including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and the Sony and Fuji corporations of Japan, even video cassette tapes stored under ideal conditions will deteriorate by an average of 15% of quality every 15 years, so eventually all tapes will be broken down beyond use or repair.
And then there is another factor to consider: the VHS cassette tape format, using its thinnest (and weakest) tape could allow for, at the very longest, less than five hours of playing time. A modern Blu-ray disc (and even many DVDs) can hold significantly more material, with a Blu-ray disc capable of storing nine hours of high definition content, and as many as 23 hours of standard definition media. The VHS format was all but doomed in the era of binge watching television and marathon viewing of movie series, its inherent degradation notwithstanding.
Choosing The Right VHS To DVD Converter
There are two basic approaches to converting VHS content to DVD content. The first, and the easiest, involves using a deck that has both a VHS slot and a DVD drive with burner capabilities. The use of these machines is plug-and-play simple, and perfect for those who want to preserve their media before it deteriorates but lack much technological prowess.
Second, there is the option to use a device that features older RCA inputs paired with an advanced USB or HDMI output. You will need to own a VCR to play your old tapes to make use of this approach, and you will need a bit of software and hardware knowhow to select the right program to record the media you are playing via that charming but outdated VHS tape.
The benefit with the latter approach is their potential for use with other mediums, such as for recording gameplay you wish to upload to social media or share with friends later.
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