Monday, August 24

SP vs. EP VHS: Knowing The Difference Could Save Your Life...

Okay, it won't save your life, but it might save you money and from a hard-learned lesson when it comes to VHS collecting. This is one of the major banes of the hobby. When the early to mid-'80s glory days of rentals was dying down into "everyday" and VHS and VCRs became cheap enough to own, many small video companies began crumbling, giving rise to the prevalence of even smaller companies gobbling up licenses to a multitude of recognizable horror/cult numbers.

The problem was for these companies to save cash and time; they usually opted to record their tapes in EP and LP. This savings was passed on the customer with attractive pricing as it became en vogue to start home collections instead of renting the once far-too-expensive to own tapes. The real disadvantage was a distinct drop in picture and audio quality from the quickened recording.

Now granted, VHS quality definitely isn't much to write home about no matter the recording type, but EP/LP speeds are an near unwatchable eyesore. Thinking about it, this glut of cheap tapes from around the dawn of the '90s to the dawn of DVD probably did much for the then fresh disc format's massive acceptance. Most people's memories of migraine-inducingly fuzzy, painfully drab tapes are probably from this EP onslaught.

There are ways to decipher which tapes are SP and EP/LP. The most obvious being box type as the days of the puffy clamshell and big box were all but dead. So likely EPers are in the common slim cardboard slipcase. You'll possibly even find them still as shiny as the day they sat new at your local BEST or Caldor stores. Remember 'em? Another way is to look at the tape length, here's two fully rewound examples:

The top is Snowbeast in SP mode while Oasis... is in EP.

EP speed tapes will always have less tape on their reels and therefore feel lighter in your hand than SP speed tapes. Even when the films are at comparable runtimes. You'll sometimes see tapes that look like The Corpse Grinders above, where the reels have large plastic rings supporting barely any tape.

Yet another hint is if the tape advises you to adjust the tracking and ensures quality with phrases like "Guaranteed Superior Recording Quality", but it's all bullshit, tracking won't fix the crap picture.

So be leery of these tapes, most of the time the flicks are available on older, noticeably better looking, and ultimately more valuable tapes. Though I'll admit that Corpse Grinders artwork is pretty nifty...


Matt-suzaka said...

I love all of the great advice that you are passing along when it comes to VHS collection. I love VHS, and own a very nice amount from the hey day of the format, but I have really wanted to start getting into the collection aspect a little more and expand what I have already. So your advice and know how is much appreciated!

Jayson Kennedy said...

No problem Matt! I enjoy delivering these tidbits! you dare tread upon the staircase?

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