Betamax Tape Damage

Raymond Moran

E-mail: texray1014*  replace * with @
Current Beta Machines: SLHF750

I'm in the US. I Googled Betamax and came across PALsite.

My biggest complaint after many years of owning Betamax VCR's is that the tape gets damaged by the spinning video heads just by repeated rewindings. The playback picture shows white left to right streaks on the screen. Obviously the spinning heads are shaving the oxide coating off of the tape. A long while back, I saw the innards of a Sony U-Matic VCR. Sony had the good sense to retract the tape away from the video heads for rewind and fast forward modes, but the dummies at Sony decided to let the tape stay threaded around the video heads for the Betamax. When VHS VCR's came out and for years afterward, the tape was retracted from the heads during rewind and fast forward, and the tape didn't get damaged. Then years later, VHS copied Beta and left he heads in contact with the tape during rewind and fast forward. Then the same type of tape damage happened but it was much less noticeable. I found out why. I stuck in a VHS tape in a hi-fi VCR recorded only the audio from a radio show. When I played the tape back, I could see lots of white streaks in the black TV screen image, black because there was no video source recorded. I had a video recording on the tape before I overwrote it with the audio only recording, and hadn't noticed much of a streaking problem. But ! when I saw the playback of the audio only recording on the TV screen, I saw lots of streaking. As I said, the image was black because their was no video on the tape any longer. The amount of streaking with the black screen told me that the drop out compensation circuitry couldn't do it's job, obviously because it requires Video input to make it work. The newer VHS machines (this one was from about year 2000) had better drop out compensation circuitry than the old Betas from the 80's did, so the streaking was more noticeable on the old Betas. Not only was there more streaking, but the picture would jump and tear as well as streak on tapes that were played and rewound a bunch of times.

So there's the terrible truth I experienced with both Beta and VHS machines that caused this type of tape damage. Sony must have something on this. Way back when, I had an SL8200. A service tech took the upper head drum out of the VCR and showed me that the tape polishes the head drum from enough passes over it. He said that the tape requires an unpolished surface that provides a cushion of air to keep the tape from sticking to the head drum. He said that the upper head drum had to be replaced, or he could use some emery cloth and said the drum until the polished surface wasn't polished anymore.

So there's my Beta lore story. I'd be happy if somebody sent me feedback (email address above)


Raymond Moran
Austin Texas

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Submitted 2 May 2013 08:00:00 GMT