Rich Warren: VHS may not look good on new TV

Rich Warren: VHS may not look good on new TV

Will a new TV bring an old VHS tape to life? That's the quandary from this St. Joseph reader: "This involves transferring VHS tape to a DVD. I know you have written repeatedly on this and I have the columns in which you address that so I think I know what to do. But before I go to that trouble, here is what I ran into that has me questioning if I should proceed. I recently upgraded my old CRT television to a new smart Samsung flat screen. Just for grins, I hooked up my VHS tape player and played one of my tapes through it. Very snowy and barely even able to see anything. It looked terrible, worse than on the old CRT TV. I am guessing the 1080p technology in the new set will not deal with that old signal very well. Garbage in/garbage out idea? I do not want to transfer all that media if I cannot play it back so at least I can view it. It does not have to be perfect but as is now, not workable. Your advice and suggestions always enlightening."

Now several years into home digital video, HDTV, our expectations rose with the technology. What once looked acceptable now looks abominable.

The resolution of a VHS tape was about 240i (about 240 lines interlaced). That was still well below the capability of the old analog TV system, which was somewhere around 480i.

The resolution of most DVDs is about 480p (480 lines progressively scanned). However, nearly all DVD players and TVs contain sophisticated digital circuitry to upconvert this to 720p or 1080i. This delivers a highly acceptable picture even on big-screen TVs. If you want true high definition, then spend a few dollars extra for the Blu-ray version.

Unfortunately for our reader, this circuitry doesn't work very well for VHS tapes because VHS resolution is so low there's not much data to upconvert. Furthermore, VHS, an analog format, contained a great deal of video noise as well. The designers of VHS (and Beta) considered a big-screen TV to be 27 inches. Doubling that to popular screen sizes today, ranging from 46-60 inches, exaggerates the low resolution and the noise, so the picture will greatly disappoint you.

Companies with specialized computer software can improve the look of your VHS recordings, but that's more expensive than simply transferring tape to DVD. You also can purchase computer software to accomplish that on your home computer if you're willing to invest the time and effort. But as the reader notes, garbage in/garbage out.

More help for readers. Here's another reader question: "I enjoy my XM radio in the car and am thinking about getting a unit to have in the house. Do you know if I can operate the XM unit using my Bose radio?" If your XM tuner has audio outputs, the Bose radio includes an auxiliary input, so you can enjoy your XM provided music with the fidelity of the Bose Wave product. However, Bose offers no interface for satellite radio, so you cannot operate your Sirius/XM using the Bose remote control. Similarly, at this time the new Bose SoundTouch Internet music system is not able to reproduce Sirius/XM from its Internet stream, because Sirius/XM requires a user name and password.

Take a closer look. Recently I upgraded to the new Primera 4101 Disk Publisher, which allows a wide array of options for creating and copying CDs and DVDs, burning and labeling them quickly and elegantly. I used the predecessor Bravo II for a decade with great satisfaction. So I was surprised and disappointed that all of the initial disks copied on the 4101 sounded terrible. Apparently the burning speed comes set for high speed, but the unit only burns audio properly at slow speed. This required finding an obscure menu to change the setting, which required 45 minutes of technical support.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at

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