Beta Lives!

Ron Hebb

E-mail: Betaphile*
Web URL:
Current Beta Machines: See below

I've been totally devoted to the Beta format since I bought my first VCR. There isn't a lot of information on Beta nowadays, even for those of us who still follow the format, so I hope your Home Page gets a lot of feedback from Beta enthusiasts.

First, a little background: I got my first VCR in 1979, Sony's SL5400. It's an old piano-key machine, heavy as heck, with a wired remote. It was a workhorse for a number of years, but doesn't get much use any more. Whenever I try it out I'm amazed at the quality of its picture. I remember we looked at both formats at the time, and decided that Beta definitely had a better picture, and besides, it was a Sony, and we're partial to their products. Over the years I've acquired 20 (yes, 20) more Beta decks, all but 3 of which are Sony, including the near-prosumer SLHF1000 and SLHF2100, and a large video collection, (more than 4000 titles), and even though I felt I was swimming against the tide all this time, as one manufacturer after another (Sanyo, Toshiba, Sears, Zenith, NEC) abandoned the format, and studios quit producing Beta versions of their movies I haven't regretted that original decision. I regret that I didn't acquire any ED Beta gear before Sony discontinued it. I remember seeing a news report when Sony introduced their first VHS machine. The reporter asked a Sony executive if this meant the end of Beta. The executive answered that, on the contrary, Sony now had a niche in every video format (true), and the extra revenues would allow them to enhance Beta further, especially ED Beta, which he considered to be the format's future. That was in 1988, and 4 years later ED was dead! I hope to find an EDV9500 one of these days.....

Sony still produces a consumer Beta VCR for sale in this country, the SLHF2000 (I own one of these as well). It doesn't give me a whole lot of confidence though when I consider that just 2 years ago they were still producing 5 models, including the fantastic SLHF2100! Anyway, the SLHF2000 can be had in Northern California, where I live, as well as through mail-order. Short of writing Sony directly I can't get information about whether they plan to introduce any future models.

I deal with a couple of mail-order houses which sell new and used Beta decks, as well as pre-recorded Beta videos, although new titles are becoming rare. Paramount and Disney continued to produce Beta versions of their movies until very recently ( for example I have the Lion King and Snow White on Beta), but late last year most distributers dropped Beta, so Paramount and Disney followed suit. The titles available now (at least two thousand, actually), are more than a year old. I'm not too concerned, though, because I now own a DSS system, and its fantastic picture enables me to make copies which rival pre-recorded. Thus far I don't have any trouble locating blank tapes. There are numerous retailers locally who carry both grades of Sony L750's, and I can also rely on mail-order if need be.

A couple of years ago I got the notion that I would try and obtain at least one of each Sony Beta HiFi model. I already had a number of decks, so I thought why not? People collect antique cars, or rare crystal, so I would collect Beta HiFi VCR's. I haven't given up the idea, but it's getting harder to find the models I'm lacking.

[I'm afraid you won't be able to get my SL-HF400 away from me, Ron. -Ed.]

Here's a list of my Sony Beta decks: SLHF300, SLHF360, SLHF450, SLHF550, SLHF750 (I own 6 of these), SLHF900, SLHF1000, SLHF2000, SLHF2100, SLHF2710, SLHF5200, SL5400. I also have 2 Sanyo Betacord top-loaders, an NEC front loader, and 2 Betamovie cameras. And yes, I do own VHS decks, 5 of them, including 2 Sony models. For the record, I'm not a video dealer, nor a professional. I'm just a hobbyist who sort of got carried away with video collecting.

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Submitted Tue Apr 9 19:47:09 1996