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Selecting a VCR for any purpose – even to copy VHS to DVD – can be confusing. Here are some basic guidelines. They are by no means comprehensive, but focus on basic feature areas that still hold true today.

First, consider how your VCR will be used. Do you need it to watch old VHS tapes? Will you use it to record movies when you are away from home? Do you want features, like slow motion or LP capability? Do you plan to use it for transferring one VHS tape to DVD or for converting VHS to DVD en masse? Think of what your immediate and future needs might be so the VCR will be an appropriate choice.

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During a VHS transfer to DVD, one of the most important features to look for in a VCR is its head count. VCRs have two to seven heads mounted on the video head disk. Only two video heads are used at any given time to record and play a tape, and every basic VCR has at least this pair of heads.

However, four head VCRs also have a second pair of heads, whose purpose is to record long play or extended play speeds. VHS recorders with four video heads generally provide better picture quality in the SP mode, since the one pair is devoted to SP and smaller heads are used for EP and LP. Conversely, in two-head machines, the same head is used for all quality levels, and also generally experience most wear and tear as a result.

You may also see VCRs that are six head! This is likely a VCR that possesses the ability to do Hi-Fi audio (handled by the third pair of heads). Some machines even have a special video head that is only used for improving special effects during playback. Because of this single head, you can also find VCRs that have three, five, or seven total heads mounted on the head assembly. However, these special effects heads have zero use when you transfer tape to DVD.

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Audio is also a consideration, especially when you VHS convert to DVD. Linear track or normal audio is standard on all VHS VCRs. The linear track uses stationary audio heads to record sound with traditional recording techniques. The process is identical to methods used by audio cassette recorders.

Higher-quality VCRs are also available with Hi-FI sound. As mentioned above, Hi-Fi requires extra heads that are mounted on the video head drum assembly. Hi-Fi VCRs produce sterero sound in excellent quality, particularly when converting video to DVD. Also note that on VHS machines, Hi-Fi may also be called high definition audio.

A good VCR is the most essential element to the playback picture – especially when making a VHS to DVD copy. If an excellent video picture is important to you, look for a VCR that contains an internal time-base corrector. An inernal, or "line" TBC, cleans a signal and improves the image reproduction. It can also help stabilize and track the image, but usually not as effectively as an external TBC.

But beyond that, VCRs that contain TBCs generally also have better heads and transport mechanisms than cheaper consumer VCRs. They therefore help in providing a more noise-free and clearer image, which is very important when transferring tapes to DVD.

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