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MTS stereo playback in VCR

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Steve_AS, Jun 20, 2003.

  1. Steve_AS

    Steve_AS Second Unit

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    I'm going through some decade-old VHS tapes containing cable TV shows that I *thought* I had recorded in stereo. However, upon playback on my current VCR (not the same one as they were recorded on, which I no longer have) , I find that they aren't played back in stereo...I can only get them to play back in 'NORM' (mono?) rather than 'HI-FI'. The current deck is a JVC S-VHS model that claims to have 'Hi fi stereo and MTS decoding'. I recall that the old deck had 'MTS stereo' but I don't recall if it was also labelled 'hi fi' (nor do I know if this makes a difference). I don't recall exactly how I recorded the old tapes, but it was most likely using a standard coax cable connection from a cable box to my old VCR (with the VCR input set to 'stereo' in its menu) ...and the shows were definitely broadcast in stereo (e.g. Arsenio Hall circa the early 90's).

    My question is, when a VCR claims to have 'MTS decoding' , as my new one does, does that mean it will automatically recognize MTS stereo recordings *made on other decks*, or does it refer to something in the *tuner* section of the VCR? Should I expect my new VCR to 'decode' these old tapes in stereo? I'm trying to rule that out before I conclude that in fact, I *didn't* really record these old tapes in MTS stereo.


    (The current VCR definitely *can* play back tapes recorded in stereo -- I tested that with prerecorded tapes, and with more recent tapes I've made on yet another VCR -- hwover on these I used the left/right/video RCA output jacks of my current cable box to do the recording, rather than the coax).
     
  2. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    MTS decoding is in the tuner. Once the signal is decoded, the recording is made in stereo (if that's how it was broadcast). AFAIK, the MTS doesn't enter into playback.

    M.
     
  3. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    MTS is a matrixed stereo encoding process, and is only involved in tuning OTA broadcasts.

    There are two kinds of stereo processes used on analog videotape: linear and HiFi.

    Linear was infrequently used on VHS machines, because with the low tape speeds of VHS, the sound quality was poor. There are some manufacturers that dabbled in it, though. In linear stereo, the audio is recorded in long, straight tracks along the entire length of the tape. (Pro gear frequently uses linear, but at a much higher tape speed).

    Hifi stereo uses the presence of the helical scanning video head to its advantage. Like the video, audio is recorded in diagonal stripes along the length of the tape, allowing for more surface area at a slow tape speed. This gives a much better sound quality at slow speeds, at the expense of editing flexibilities (which is whi Pro gear has used linear tracks).

    (This is all simplified for clarity...)

    Now, the question is, how did your old VCR record the stereo audio on the tape? Since so few manufacturers ever toyed with linear stereo, modern Hifi VCR's will only read one linear audio track instead of two. They look for the stereo audio to be embedded with the video track. If your old VCR recorded linear tracks only, you won't be able to listen in stereo on a modern deck.

    If your old VCR did not say HiFi anywhere, this may well be the problem.

    If your old VCR did say HiFi, and you're sure those recordings are in stereo, try playing around with the tracking control. Even though the video looks fine, you may need to adjust it to get the HiFi track.

    Most newer VCRs have "auto-tracking," but it often isn't good at optimizing the tracking for HiFi audio. Sometimes, there is no tracking control on these things, but usually pushing ch+ / ch- while a tape is playing will adjust tracking.

    -Scott
     
  4. Bill Will

    Bill Will Screenwriter

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    Just a thought, but if it was an older "Stereo" vcr as you said, it might not have been a "HI-FI STEREO" one meaning that the stereo signal was recorded at the top of the tape in 2 tracks just like a casstete tape deck does where HI-FI vcr's record the signal in the middle of the tape. I would test the old tapes on another HI-FI vcr just to make sure it's not your vcr. I do know people though that have recorded HI-FI Stereo programs on one vcr in the livingroom & then tried to play them in the bedroom vcr & the bedroom vcr just would not track the tapes correctly to play HI-FI Stereo but when they used them in the livingroom again they would work & vcr's that are trying to track at the slow speed even have more problems. Remember as your old vcr was recording it might have been getting slightly out of wack & the tapes would play fine on that vcr but it's not going to track correctly on another vcr & on the slow speed JVC said that it may not be compatible from one vcr to another, only the "Standard Play" was suposed to work on all vcr's with the VHS Format.
     
  5. Steve_AS

    Steve_AS Second Unit

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    My recollection was that the player these tapes was recorded on was an 'MTS Stereo' deck but definitely NOT 'Hi-Fi' -- the latter being pricey at the time if it existed at all IIRC (late 80's/early 90s). I remember worrying a little about this at the time.

    I have tested the old tapes on another modern 'Hi fi' VCR (not JVC) and they still do not play in stereo.

    Scott, have you any idea which mfrs offered 'linear stereo' recording on consumer-grade players circa 1989? My player certainly would not have been top of the line -- it would have been in the $200 range.

    I will try playing with tracking, but I suspect that's not the problem. I think either my old player recorded the MTS stereo signal in linear fashion, or else it didn't really record in stereo at all (either because it wasn't a stereo recording deck, or because I didn't have it set up right).

    Other than ebay, is there any source for old-technology decks?
     
  6. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    I think JVC put out linear stereo decks around that time, but there were probably others. HiFi was showing up on consumer decks by '89, but they would have been probably $300 and up.

    Some of JVC's SVHS decks came with linear and HiFi recording in that time frame (I've got one at work, and no you can't have it [​IMG]). That would be your best bet for a decent used deck of that vintage... plus you'd have the benefit of SVHS. I wouldn't spill too much money on anything that old, though... anything more than $40 or so is a waste. Parts are no longer available on many decks over 5 years old. You might check a mom & pop repair shop in your area and see if they can find something for you.

    -Scott
     
  7. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    Another thought too: I currently get the Sci Fi channel on digital cable. For some reason, used to be a stereo audio feed. Now it's mono. I dont' even know how long it's been that way.

    One other thought: if you adjust the tracking at all, any change?
     

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