Will VHS Be The New Vinyl? – Make A Test And Get Ready To Be Surprised

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Do you still remember the time when movies made you feel? How terrifying the horror movies were and how difficult it was to sleep after watching one. Or how an emotional movie made you cry. Yet, why your old favorites don’t have that effect anymore? And why must you turn up the volume when watching tv and movies to properly hear the dialog? By reading this post you’ll learn about a fascinating finding. Will VHS be the new vinyl? – Make a test and get ready to be surprised.

Will VHS Be The New Vinyl?
– Make A Test And Get Ready To Be Surprised

Regardless of what you might think about the heading, this post has a lot do with sound. But let’s talk about it more thoroughly after the introduction.

As a teen in the 80’s and 90’s me and my buddies watched a lot of movies. Back then the format was Video Home System aka VHS that was connected to a tube television. I clearly remember how when still in primary school, we watched Nightmare on Elm Street. As I was way too afraid to walk from my friend, I ran all the way home as fast as I could.

The winner of eight Academy Awards, Amadeus was one of the movies I watched with pre-Children Of Bodom members. They were still called Inearthed at the time. On the first two Bodom albums you can hear strong references to both the movie and the music of Mozart. And then there are the solo albums of the keyboard-wizard Janne Wirman where the titles and themes are inspired by the very same movie.

For some reason I no longer enjoy watching movies as from a DVD or TV they no longer seem to grab me at all. I often find myself checking Facebook or starting to do something completely different during a movie. What’s wrong with me? Why do movies no longer seem to cause any emotional reaction in me? Have I become cold and emotionless without the ability to concentrate for 90 minutes?

VHS movies grab the viewer almost inevitably right from the start.
Ivary Vimm, “a blacksmith that’s about to become a Doctor” (LUT University)

VHS – Suspiria

VHS comparison

I’ve told you how I constantly make A/B comparisons about everything. This has led me to enjoy a better coffee, music listening format, recording and many many more awesome things. I do think that life is way too short to waste on anything half-decent. So, this time it was movies that raised my interest to begin comparing.

I’ve participated several times on Anssi’s demonstration about the difference between analogue and digital. They are always interesting, yet the VHS part on the latest “updating education” opened my eyes enormously.
Veli-Matti “Masa” Maijanen, bass player for Hector / Broadcast / Hoedown / Hell of a Band

I connected my old VCR to a flat screen TV and picked up a few of my favorite movies as VHS. But to my surprise there was no difference to DVD’s or to TV channels. I had connected the VCR to TV using a scart cable that delivers both sound and picture. The flat screen TV converts them to digital, so no wonder why the difference wasn’t there.

It was only when I connected the audio from the back of the VCR to the amp using RCA cables and bypassed my Yamaha amp’s digital circuit by using Pure Direct mode. Now that made a huge difference! Exactly as explained on Vinyl Records And How To Improve Enjoying Music blog post that has over 1.100 shares on social media with both the English and Finnish version combined. There you’ll learn how analog signal path audio literally comes out of the speaker cabinet and touches the listener. This is the “warmth” that so many of us describe when talking about vinyl records and cassettes. Yet, it seems to apply to VHS as well.

I watched Die Hard and on the following evening big Arnold’s Commando from VHS with my kids. They stood completely still on the couch during both movies. We didn’t even take any toilet breaks. Usually they’re on their phones and talk all the time, but not when watching a movie from VHS.
–Tero Haiko, movie and vinyl record enthusiastic

Do you know the feeling when you have to crank the TV volume up to hear the words properly? Actually there’s nothing wrong with your hearing. As I clearly show in my demonstration the digital audio is to blame. When you listen to analog signal chain vinyl records you can hear each word without any effort. The same applies to VHS films. The video cassette audio track specs may look crappy on the paper, yet it clearly beats any digital format when it comes to readability, clarity and especially delivering the emotion.

What makes this phenomenon even more peculiar is that the VHS sound comes even more closer to the listener compared to vinyl records and cassettes. Then again, if you connect the sound to a flat screen TV, a digital amp or to a device that has digital processing, the sound stays inside the speaker cabinet and does not surround you at all. The difference is much bigger than what you’d dare to imagine and this is why VHS is now a firm part of my acclaimed demonstration.

VHS – Audio out

The horror movie club

I showed my findings to the local university people who, like me, already as teenagers were huge movie enthusiasts. One of them used to fight the movie censorship and won! Thanks to him and his colleagues Finland allowed uncensored movies for people over 18.

I’ve seen The Exorcist dozens of times, but from VHS it feels more vivid compared to DVD. The telephone seems to ring in the room and knocking at the door sounds like someone knocks the wall next to you. For a long time it hasn’t had the impact like when enjoying on VHS.
Tommi Tuhkala, horror movie enthusiastic

On a regular basis we get together to watch old horror films on VHS. After a very long time they once again make us feel scared. It’s pretty neat as films like Evil Dead had no effect on me since the late 90’s. No matter if I watched it on DVD or any other digital format. From now on I’ll demonstrate not only the vinyl records but also the huge difference in movie formats to musicians who arrive to me for a session.

…nostalgic memories, the attitude of “back in the days things were better” and the good company at the horror movie club may distort my objectivity and affect the movie experience, yet as a major consumer of movies I dare to claim that the VHS has some kind of “magic” that makes both the pictures and story become alive.
Ivary Vimm, “a blacksmith that’s about to become a Doctor” (LUT University)

There was a time when bands used to watch movies almost every evening after recording at my studio. We even spent the day offs watching several films a day. Nowadays musicians tend to stay away from both movies and television during the session. Even though they have all the movies in the world by a push of a button. Something must have changed.

Then again, thanks to the return of VHS, the bands and I watch movies and live performances several times a week. Without exception every member is blown away by how strong emotions the format makes them feel. In addition they tend to sleep better after a dose of VHS.

VHS – Horrormovies

What about other than horror movies?

One of my most favorite movies is Ang Lee’s amazing four Academy Awards winner Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon from the year 2000. I’ve seen it over a dozen times and usually at the end scene there’s a tear, or in the best case scenario two, in my eye.

Once I got excited about comparing, me and my girlfriend watched it on VHS with analog signal chain audio and my amazement was huge! Not once or twice but three times I bursted into tears during the movie. The end scene had the strongest impact as it took several minutes for me to be able to talk. Luckily this time too there were no outsiders to see, as it would have been way too embarrassing to reveal that I can be such an emotional crybaby…

Do you recall how the lobby scene on The Matrix or the disembarkation on Saving Private Ryan felt when you first saw them? On VHS with analog signal chain audio you are right in the middle of the scene and there is no need for surround speakers. The stereo audio coming out of only two speakers almost magically surrounds you.

All in all VHS is a perfect experience. Place the cassette into the VCR…static…ads…movie. The value of waiting, excitement. A little flickering isn’t an issue…actually the opposite. Warm picture and warm sound. A time-machine to when everything was valuable and desired. VHS.
Erno Salmela, “Doctor who also studied Metallica” (LUT university)

Hold on, hold on. When was it that the surround speakers became the norm? Ah yes, the DVD era. And this DVD is digital. As Frank Drebin would put it: “I understand.”

If you like to take things to the extreme, you too can get an old 80 kg tube television. Based on my observation watching a tube TV doesn’t strain your eyes that much. A LUT University math teacher told me that VHS is based on the picture that doesn’t have any sharp edges. And then again sharp edges is what DVD, Blu-ray and other high definition formats are all about. The teacher explained that our eyes are drawn to sharp edges and when there are lots of them, that puts more strain on both our brain and eyes.

VHS looks smooth and is more pleasant to watch. It feels a lot different as it’s more easy on the eyes compared to HD. After enjoying a VHS movie from a tube TV I don’t want to watch the dead and 2D-ish flat screen TV.

Make a simple test at home

To have a more emotional movie experience at home, here is what you’d need:

  1. A functioning videocassette recorder aka VCR
  2. Flat screen or tube television
  3. A scart and two RCA cables
  4. Stereo amp that has no digital circuitry or a mode to bypass them (Pure Direct on Yamaha)
  5. VHS Media Care cleaning cassette
  6. VHS films

Connect the VCR to television using a scart cable. When using a flat screen TV you’ll need an analog amp, while with tube TV you can use either the built-in speakers or an external amp. Connect the audio from the rear panel of the VCR to the amp using RCA cables.

Please note that when it comes to audio, several VCR’s use mono aka one channel audio. Those capable of delivering stereo are usually clearly marked on the front as  “Hi-Fi” or “stereo”. Bypass the amp’s possible digital circuitry (Yamaha has Pure Direct mode) and enjoy the movie. Avoid digital amps and digital processing as they remove a huge amount of information from audio.

If your VCR hasn’t been in use for years, you should use a cleaning cassette to clean the heads. I clean my VCR heads after 30 hours of use as instructed. Pro’s can open the VCR hood and with extreme care use IPA and cotton swabs to clean the metal parts.

VHS – Philips VR502 Hi-Fi Stereo Video Recorder

Live concert and music videos on VHS

From my experience no other format compares to enjoying a live show from a VHS. As a funny side note, you can notice how even on DVDs released in the 90’s the sound comes out of the speakers. That is not happening on the DVD’s made today. If you have been to my demonstration, you can easily spot the difference.

Also live concerts and music videos sound a lot better on VHS compared to DVDs.
Tommi Tuhkala, horror movie enthusiastic

It was a pleasure to watch a Pink Floyd live performance from the 70’s with the top Finnish musicians. They clearly hadn’t experienced anything like it for a long time. The mood in the room was as heartfelt as at the revival meeting to say the least.

During the recent years we have settled for the ever deteriorating sound quality. Today it is only a shadow of how it was just 20 years ago. Thanks to the analog signal path we can enjoy music with all the emotions not only from the vinyl records but also from VHS.

VHS – Music videos

Is VHS the salvation of movies?

I do not think so. According to our tests nowadays something highly important is lost from audio during the first A/D conversion. After that it is almost impossible to revive it. Transferring today’s movies to VHS is as vain as putting computer recordings and digital files on vinyl and cassettes. What I mean by this is that the information lost during the first A/D conversion stays lost and you’ll just have a difficult-to-use format without any benefit in the sound quality. Those who focus will easily hear the difference and it is much much bigger than you could ever dare to think.

The movie industry woke up already some time ago to the importance of using film. Many of the Oscar-winning movies and big tv series are shot on film. But then again, what’s the point as the end product is still going to be digital?

Here applies the same rules as with music. When your music is captured on magnetic tape it delivers more nuances and emotion even from a poor quality MP3 online. Hence the movie makers will to invest hundreds of thousands to shoot on film while the end product is still going to be digital.

VHS – Anssi Kippo and a fistful of movies

The movie theater that starts showing old classics from film with analog signal chain audio will be a huge success. Every single person on the planet can feel the difference. The difference is anything but small nuances. It actually is so huge that once you experience it, you don’t want to go back using digital formats.

VHS films have that special something that is nowadays highly uncommon. Its audio track gives you goosebumps, excellent storytelling and innovative camera angles offer a memorable experience again and again.
Ivary Vimm, “a blacksmith that’s about to become a Doctor” (LUT University)

VHS – The Shawshank Redemption

Will VHS be the new vinyl?

VHS has restored my passion for movies and I feel privileged to share the spark with so many others. From the bottom of my heart I hope that you will do the test described on this post. You too will spot the difference once you keep the signal chain analog. The analog signal chain is the key also when it comes to movies.

The “magic” with the VHS movies is the same as with vinyl records. Like it is somehow present and binds/draws you towards it… It is difficult to explain, yet the experience is darn clear.
–Tero Haiko, movie and vinyl record enthusiastic

The return of this ancient format is also seen as growing the number of members on several VHS-related Facebook groups. The following claim sounds totally ridiculous to the one who has not made the comparison between the formats: I strongly think that VHS will be the next vinyl. Without exception everyone who has been to my latest demonstration gets their VCR and VHS tapes from the storage and starts enjoying movies in this much more emotion-delivering format.

Thank you very much for sharing these cool findings about movies and especially their audio track with me. If this post was helpful, please share it on social media. This way you will help your friends to benefit from the information.

To learn more about the difference between analogue and digital audio and how to enjoy both music and movies on a much deeper level, clicking here and let’s continue from there. Thank you very much and all the very best!

Learn more about the difference between analogue and digital audio:

Astia-studio is a full analog recording studio located in eastern Finland with over 25 years of experience. Bands and artists from all over the world including USA and the furthest corner of Russia, Vladivostok have arrived to us for tape recording sessions.

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