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VCRs Glossary

Heads up!

Welcome to this article from the Crutchfield archives. Have fun reading it, but be aware that the information may be outdated and links may be broken.

Audio dubbing
An editing convenience which lets you record a new soundtrack, while keeping the existing video portion of the tape as it is. (Only the linear mono audio track can be replaced — the HiFi soundtrack can't be re-recorded without erasing the existing video.)

Auto channel set
Quickly programs your channel lineup, usually skipping unused or unavailable channels.

Auto clock set
Automatically sets the time and date once the VCR is plugged in and the antenna/cable is hooked up. Clock and date information is based on a signal from your local PBS station (available almost everywhere). This feature is typically able to reset the time and date after power outages, and for Daylight Savings Time.

Auto picture control
Picture-optimizing circuitry that automatically monitors the grade and level of wear of each videotape and adjusts the VCR's electronics to provide the best possible video signal in both playback and record modes. It also optimizes video head life by adjusting the signal current to compensate for the amount of wear on the heads. Manufacturers have different names for this type of circuitry: "Auto Picture," "APC," etc.

Auto speed-switching
Some VCRs can automatically switch timer-recording speeds, from SP to EP, if the VCR determines that the recording time exceeds the amount of remaining tape. You can record at the higher-quality SP speed for as long as possible, without worrying about running out of tape. Manufacturers have different names for this feature: "Auto Tape Speed," "auto SP/EP recording," etc.

Cable box control
Allows a VCR or hard disk recorder to change channels on most cable boxes. If you use a cable box, this feature is needed to make unattended timer recordings from different channels. It also lets you change cable box channels with your recorder's remote during regular viewing. Many recorders with this feature can also change channels on a digital satellite receiver.

Commercial Advance?
A VCR record/playback feature that lets you watch recorded programs without commercial interruptions. When you engage Commercial Advance during recording, the VCR inserts electronic markers on the tape at the beginning and end of each station break. During playback, the VCR detects the markers and automatically fast-forwards through the commercials.

Because this technology relies on factors like darkness and audio levels to determine where the markers should go, effectiveness may vary.

Digital video recorder (DVR)
Device that records TV shows without tape. A DVR lets you pause and replay live television and, when used with a program guide service such as TiVo®, can find and record shows automatically. Also sometimes called a hard disk video recorder or "personal video recorder" (PVR).

Stands for "Digital VHS." When connected to a compatible HDTV tuner, a D-VHS VCR can record HDTV programs in full resolution, along with their accompanying multichannel soundtracks. D-VHS currently offers the highest resolution recording and playback of any consumer video format.

Flying erase head
A recommended feature for editing tapes on your VCR. The flying erase head is mounted on the head drum at the same angle as the video record heads. It erases a portion of the tape a fraction of a second before a new image is recorded. Scene transitions and recording stops and starts are almost undetectable, with no glitches or "rainbow" effects.

Four-head design
VCRs with four video heads have separate playback and record heads for both the SP (two-hour) and EP (six-hour) tape speeds. This design results in better picture quality in EP mode, plus clear playback effects (slow motion, still frame, etc.) with little or no video noise, at both tape speeds.

HiFi stereo with MTS stereo TV reception
VHS HiFi stereo sound provides full-range stereo audio playback and recording, with frequency response of 20-20,000 Hz. In addition, the HiFi stereo soundtracks on many videos and MTS stereo TV broadcasts are encoded with Dolby® Surround. A HiFi VCR passes these stereo signals to your Dolby Pro Logic receiver, which in turn converts them into multichannel surround sound.

HiFi stereo is a necessity for any VCR used in a home theater system. All of our VCRs are HiFi models.

In VCRs, the ability to place electronic "bookmarks" on a tape, making it easier to find the beginnings of taped segments. Automatic indexing means that every time you start recording, the VCR places an index mark. Manual indexing lets you insert a marker at any time during recording.

Insert editing This feature of many VCRs lets you record new video to a tape while keeping the existing linear mono soundtrack. (See also audio dubbing.)

Jog and shuttle functions
On a VCR, a combined jog/shuttle control may take the form of a large dial, button, or joystick. This convenient, all-in-one control usually provides most or all tape playback modes including play, stop, and pause, as well as fast forward, rewind, slow motion, and frame-by-frame.

The shuttle function lets you move through the tape rapidly or in slow motion, but it's not precise enough to stop at an exact point. For that, some VCRs also include a jog function which is able to advance the tape one frame at a time.

Memory backup
Maintains clock, channel setting, and timer recording information during power outages (or if you need to unplug the VCR briefly to move it).

Movie Advance®
Allows a VCR to automatically fast-forward through any trailers or ads, either one at a time or all at once, allowing you to proceed directly to the main feature on pre-recorded videos that you rent or buy. Because this technology relies on factors like darkness and audio levels to find the end of a preview, effectiveness may vary.

Recording speed
VCRs allow you to record at up to three different tape speeds — most VCRs let you choose between SP and EP, but some also add LP. The faster the tape speed, the better the picture quality, but the shorter the available recording time per tape. With a typical two-hour tape, SP will give you a two-hour recording, LP will give you a four-hour recording, and EP will give you a six-hour recording.

Similarly, hard disk video recorders allow you to record at various speeds. As with VCRs, the faster the record speed, the better the video quality; the slower the speed, the more video you can fit on your recorder's hard drive.

Skip search
Press this button on your VCR's remote to fast-scan through recorded TV commercials. Each tap of the button usually moves the tape ahead 30 or 60 seconds, depending on the make and model of VCR.

Super VHS (S-VHS)
A high-quality video recording format. S-VHS VCRs use specially formulated tapes to deliver up to 60% higher horizontal resolution than standard VHS; while standard VHS delivers 240 lines of resolution, S-VHS delivers 400. Despite its distinctive formulation, an S-VHS tape looks identical to a standard VHS tape. All Super VHS VCRs can also play and record standard VHS tapes.

S-VHS quasi playback
A feature found on many VHS VCRs that allows them to play (but not record) S-VHS tapes.

Timer events
The number of separate unattended recording sessions you can program on your VCR.

Timer weeks
The number of weeks in the future for which your VCR will let you program unattended recordings.

VCR Plus+®
Easy taping. Simply enter the show's "PlusCode"® (found beside its title in most TV listings) and the VCR is automatically set for the channel, date, and time. With VCR Plus+ you can do programming from the remote, and with the TV off.

VCR Plus+ Silver makes initial VCR Plus+ setup even easier by performing Auto Channel Mapping — matching the channels in your TV listings to those of your local cable TV provider. All you need to do is punch in your zip code.

VCR Plus+ Gold gives you the additional convenience of VCR timer control for compatible cable/DBS boxes. This means that the VCR will be able to tune in the correct channel on your DBS or cable box before performing a timer recording.