What is/does "VHS" sound like?

Jack DeVille

Member
Messages
2,438
I understand the throwback to older technology idea, but what does "VHS" sound like?

I grew up watching Top-Gun on a bootlegged flea-market VHS tape that was stored in a brown plastic case with no label (I always closed my eyes during "the mushy parts"), and always knew VHS as the go-to for rental videos, beating out Betamax and even LaserDisc, but with respect to guitar stuff: what is "the VHS sound?"

Is that just a snazzy catchphrase and/or marketing copy or is there actually some type of elusive/specific sound that only the VHS format offers?

I'm not trying to be snotty; I have always associated VHS with video/movies rather than a "sound."

Help an old guy out here?
 

tonedover

This Is Fine.
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
5,966
I understand the throwback to older technology idea, but what does "VHS" sound like?

I grew up watching Top-Gun on a bootlegged flea-market VHS tape that was stored in a brown plastic case with no label (I always closed my eyes during "the mushy parts"), and always knew VHS as the go-to for rental videos, beating out Betamax and even LaserDisc, but with respect to guitar stuff: what is "the VHS sound?"

Is that just a snazzy catchphrase and/or marketing copy or is there actually some type of elusive/specific sound that only the VHS format offers?

I'm not trying to be snotty; I have always associated VHS with video/movies rather than a "sound."

Help an old guy out here?
my friend, who has made one of my favorite pedals of all time (deluxe plus) ....what in gods name are you talking about?


edit,
thinking it over more, the VHS “sound” would be crappy 2.0 stereo sound
so if there is a pedal that sounds like VHS, its not as warm and vintage sounding like a reel to reel projector, but it doesnt have that tinny, overly forced surround, sound of early 5.1 laserdisc stereo

so “bland”, “good enough” and “for the masses“ would be my VHs descriptors
 
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WillLane

Member
Messages
1,972
If I was to categorize the "VHS sound", based off how I remember VHS tapes sounding when I was a kid, I would guess is it's somewhat dark, a bit warbly, kind of indistinguishable, and probably with a bump around 2khz. Probably not a "filter" you'd want to apply to your guitar unless you're specifically doing it as an exaggerated effect.

A lot of the buzzwords associated with pedals simulating old recording tech, like "lo-fi", "reel-to-reel", "tape deck", "vintage preamp", etc... don't really mean a whole lot when you realize the majority of it really is just an EQ filter and light compression.
 

Jack DeVille

Member
Messages
2,438
my friend, who has made one of my favorite pedals of all time (deluxe plus) ....what in gods name are you talking about?


edit,
thinking it over more, the VHS “sound” would be crappy 2.0 stereo sound
so if there is a pedal that sounds like VHS, its not as warm and vintage sounding like a reel to reel projector, but it doesnt have that tinny, overly forced surround, sound of early 5.1 laserdisc stereo

so “bland”, “good enough” and “for the masses“ would be my VHs descriptors
So I guess this centralizes and condenses my query: what does a VHS tape sound like?

Is that just marketing BS, or is there an actual sound there?

Side note:
I remember watching my Top Gun VHS tape numerous times and the speaker I heard the movie through was whatever was in that 19" Magnavox color TV (and color TV was a thing, let alone a 19" screen); channel 3 was the aux/VCR channel. (At the time, a 19" Magnavox wasn't a 27" Sony Trinitron, but I thought it was pretty great, and it even had little light bulbs which indicated the channel you selected via the rotary channel selector switch; as I recall, it had the UHF channels [2 - 12] and the VHF channels [20 - 66, but our local broadcast only had channel 20, and channel 44]).

Ultimately, my query is if there is actually something behind the "VHS Sound" or if that is just copy.
This is to say: the sound that I heard when I watched my VHS tapes on that TV was likely more influenced by the TV's speaker compliment than the audio stored on the VHS tape, but herein lies my query: is there some elusive "VHS sound?" It feels like BS, but just because something feels some way to one person doesn't make it true, and I would like to learn the truth.
 

Rod

Tone is Paramount
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
21,816
VHS sound? Maybe a tape SS Echoplex? :hide
 

MogwaiBoy

Member
Messages
3,688
They use the term in effects plugins too, usually in relation to Boards of Canada's gear and lofi recording methods. Check out the Psychic Modulation plugins. Adjectives: warble, drift, melt, etc
 

Vhailor

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,807
So I guess this centralizes and condenses my query: what does a VHS tape sound like?

Is that just marketing BS, or is there an actual sound there?

Side note:
I remember watching my Top Gun VHS tape numerous times and the speaker I heard the movie through was whatever was in that 19" Magnavox color TV (and color TV was a thing, let alone a 19" screen); channel 3 was the aux/VCR channel. (At the time, a 19" Magnavox wasn't a 27" Sony Trinitron, but I thought it was pretty great, and it even had little light bulbs which indicated the channel you selected via the rotary channel selector switch; as I recall, it had the UHF channels [2 - 12] and the VHF channels [20 - 66, but our local broadcast only had channel 20, and channel 44]).

Ultimately, my query is if there is actually something behind the "VHS Sound" or if that is just copy.
This is to say: the sound that I heard when I watched my VHS tapes on that TV was likely more influenced by the TV's speaker compliment than the audio stored on the VHS tape, but herein lies my query: is there some elusive "VHS sound?" It feels like BS, but just because something feels some way to one person doesn't make it true, and I would like to learn the truth.
So there's that Demedash thing, right? And I'm guessing that that's what you have in mind. I seem to vaguely recall something else along those lines, but vaguely enough that I might well be mistaken.

Now, I've never owned a videocassette deck, and I have no idea how they sound (although you probably, like me, remember when "hi-fi sound" videocassette decks were a reasonably-priced way to get a digital tape-recorder, instead of whatever two-track reel-to-real tape deck you could afford to run off stereo masters.) So I can not even guess how close, or distantly, as the case may be, the Demedash sound resembles a VHS tape.

But it does sound really good. (And I'm not a delay guy, or a lo-fi kinda guy, at all!)

The "VHS sound" could well be BS, but here's the catch: anything you remember about the "VHS sound" is going to be how a fully-orchestrated movie score sounds on VHS. But how does a single electric guitar sound on VHS? Whenever has anyone heard that? It's the difference between someone wanting low-fi repeats out of a delay, versus wanting the whole track, including all the guitars, bass, drums, vocals to have that same lo-fi, er, quality. (And then again, "tinny speakers" is a very salient point! But the Demedash box didn't sound tinny to me at all.)

So I dunno, and I'm gonna follow this thread, because I too would like to know.
 

Pewtershmit

Member
Messages
711
I think its similar to the misconception of what a tape delay sounds like.

My theory is by saying it sounds like VHS it doesn’t mean it sounds exactly like a VHS, but a VHS evokes certain feelings, nostalgia, that are being associated.

Sort of like when something sounds buttery. It’s a dumb saying, and it irks me every time i hear it, but ill admit I know exactly what you’re talking about when you say it.
 

bugsnax

Member
Messages
238
Here's a fun example:

For the pedal world, it's mainly marketing and using an aesthetic to entice 90s kids. Bring back your Drunken Monkey vibrato, slap a VHS graphic on it and you're golden. Or at least sepia toned.

Even the Gen Loss builder recently admitted his pedal is just a random vibrato and you should most certainly buy the upcoming Gen Loss V2 (V3?) because he's definitely nailing the VHS-yness this time.

Since the beginning of forums/social media, guitarists have been posting about chasing that childhood dragon (Beatles, Hendrix, Page, Gilmour, EVH, SRV, Mayer). I can't hate it (and with these past 4 ****** years - I don't blame people for wanting to relive happier times).
 

bugsnax

Member
Messages
238
So there's that Demedash thing, right? And I'm guessing that that's what you have in mind. I seem to vaguely recall something else along those lines, but vaguely enough that I might well be mistaken.
Someone on ILoveFuzz said the Demedash started off as a modded Keeley Magnetic Echo. Anyone know exactly what kind of mod turns it into a "VHS" delay? :D
 

Killshakes

Member
Messages
1,609
I watched hundreds of movies on VHS tapes through grade school, high school, and into college. I never noticed a particular sound common to all, or even most, of them. A movie on VHS coming through my old 27” Sony TV sounded roughly the same as anything else coming through it. Then again, I never tried overdubbing the same tape 100 times or anything, like that Rick Astley video.
 
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Buck Woodson

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,171
My recollection is that this is a varied target. They made camcorders that recorded onto VHS and you could buy high quality expensive cassettes or budget cassettes. You could make home movies or record TV to watch later for the first time. Also, they all degrade with use. If you rented a popular VHS movie from Blockbuster that had been viewed hundreds of times, the sound (and video) would be degraded somewhat like old tape. The tape could be bent, chewed or crinkled.

I would think Strymon lofi, destroyer, quadrature could get you into that (dam)aged sound realm.
 
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SG-Slinger

Member
Messages
228
“always knew VHS as the go-to for rental videos, beating out Betamax and even LaserDisc, but with respect to guitar stuff: what is "the VHS sound?"”

We all know what “industry” made VHS the standard media for the masses that killed Beta and LaserDisc. So...wouldn’t the VHS sound be a Wah Pedal?
 
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