vcr tracking: beta

joe_mnJuly 16, 2011

sony slhf-900 superbeta hi-fi. picture blanks out when playing which is usually a signal for head cleaning being required. but i can use the pause button and scan in slo-mo and it will play ok at 1X speed using scan. so tape is played back at "normal" speed using scan but will not play at normal speed. i am not sure if this deck uses 2 sets of heads for regular playback and slo-mo. i do not think it does. think sony used single heads for all function. could have it serviced if i can find a tech who works on vcrs? do they still exist?

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Golly Joe, the SLHF900 was released in 1985 - about 2 years after I left Sony - my parts have hardly held out that long!!

What you are describing is a capstan servo problem, most likely due to dried out electrolytic capacitors in the servo timing circuits.

That, can be repaired, but parts availability for anything else (non-generic parts) is non-existent.

Don't know if you can find anyone to repair it. I still have all the service literature, jigs, test equipment, and alignment tapes to do it - but it would be expensive! And, no, I'm not interested! :)

    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 9:31PM
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seems it is only a problem on beginning of tape. i can FF about 1/2 hr into tape and it seems to work fine. i have several new unused tapes. maybe do some test recordings.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 11:31PM
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You may want to fast-forward and rewind the videocassettes to "unpack" tapes that may have been sitting for a while. The layers tend to stick together, causing tension and other problems that are not good and can cause all kinds of problems.

Unfortunately, when doing this, the oxide coating may separate from the binder and then clog the video heads due to Betamax's full head wrap in these modes. Keep a DRY videocassette cleaning tape on hand to remove any head clogs that this may have caused.

By the way - VHS uses an M-wrap, where tapes don't normally contact the video heads in the fast-forward and rewind modes, but the videocassettes still need to be unpacked if they have been sitting.

Again, at that age, electronic components, such as electrolytic capacitors used in timing circuits, are dried out and require replacement (usually using better quality tantalum capacitors) and then a complete realignment of the electronics.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 11:26PM
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the first 1/2 hr of tape will blank out on replay. i can hit pause and image is fine. FF also shows image. the content was recorded in 1988. than the next 1/2 hr is fine. video plays fine. that content was dubbed in 2000. yes, the original beta tape is 1988 vintage. do you think this tape might play ok on another machine? a local shop will transfer video for $10/dvd. only have 1 problem tape.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 11:51AM
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Well, it's sure worth a try to see if it will play on another VCR. You may need to make sure the transfer shop has a Super Beta VCR, if the videocassette was recorded in the Super Beta mode on the SLHF900.

You may also want to take a look at the tape itself and see if the lower edge has any damage - that is where the "control track" is recorded that provides a reference for the servos.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 11:15AM
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i recorded some video with a brand new sealed tape. the video is very poor. lots of smearing and streaks. odd that the old tape still plays fine for the portion from 1/2 - 1 hr section. i than tried to record some new video on the old tape after the 1hr section and it is just as poor as the new tape. lots of smearing. so, machine will play some part of old tape but cannot record a new good image on old tape.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 9:23AM
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What you are currently describing sounds like a head clog, and hopefully not worn heads.

With a head clog, video heads may only be playing back with a 50% signal level. But then at the same time they are only recording at a 50% level.

So while playing back prerecorded video at 50% may produce a viewable picture, recording on clogged heads and then playing back, may result in only a 25% signal level.

Use a DRY cleaning tape if you have one, if not DON'T of all things try using a Q-tip and alcohol - the cotton fibers can snap a head off in a heartbeat!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 6:26PM
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i used the machine 2yrs ago to transfer about a dozen old tapes to dvd. most of the tapes were in various stages of being rewound. i rewound 1 tape to the start and hit play and the picture was awesome. so crisp and bright. most of our family movies were dubbed from 8mm film and a lot of 8mm videotape. i ended up making about 50 dvd's.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 8:38PM
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