The Difference Between S-VHS and S-Video

S-VHS and S-Video Are Not The Same - Find Out Why

S-Video Connection and Cable Example
S-Video Connection and Cable Example. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Although video recording has long since gone digital, and more video recording in the home is done on either DVD or on a DVR hard drive, there are still standard analog VHS VCRs in use, as well as a variant, that is referred to as an S-VHS VCR.

One of the characteristics S-VHS VCRs is that they feature a connection known as an S-Video connection (shown in the photo attached to this article). As a result, it has been commonplace to assume that S-Video and S-VHS  are just two terms that mean, or refer, to the same thing.

However, that is not the case.

How S-Video and S-VHS Are Different.

Technically, S-video and S-VHS are not the same. S-VHS (also known as Super-VHS) is an analog video tape recording format, while S-Video refers to a method of analog video signal transfer that keeps the color and B/W portions of the video signal separated until it reaches a video display device (such as a TV or video projector) or another component, such as another S-VHS VCR, DVD Recorder, or DVR for recording.

S-VHS

S-VHS is an "expansion" of VHS in which more picture detail (resolution) is recorded via increased bandwidth used for recording the video signal. As a result, S-VHS can record and output up to 400 lines of resolution, whereas standard VHS yields 240-250 lines of resolution.

S-VHS recordings cannot be played on a standard VHS VCR, unless the standard VHS VCR has a feature known as "Quasi-S-VHS Playback". What is means is that standard VHS VCR with this feature can play back S-VHS tapes.

However, there is a catch. The playback of S-VHS recordings on a standard VHS VCR will display the recorded content with the standard 240-250 lines of resolution that a standard VHS VCR can reproduce (sort of like downscaling). In other words, to get the full playback resolution of S-VHS recordings, they must be played on an S-VHS VCR.

S-VHS VCRs have both standard and S-Video connections. Although S-VHS information can be passed through standard video connections, S-Video connections can take advantage of the increased image quality of S-VHS.

S-Video

In S-Video, the B/W and Color parts of the video signal are transferred through separate pins within a single cable connector. This provides better color consistency and edge quality when the image is displayed on a television or recorded on a DVD recorder or DVR with S-Video inputs, or an S-VHS VCR, which always has S-Video inputs.

Standard RCA-type Composite video connections combine the color and B/W parts of the signal, so there is more color bleeding and less contrast range than with S-Video.

The reason that S-VHS and S-video are associated with each other is that the first appearance of S-video connections was on S-VHS VCRs.

DVD players, Hi8, Digital8, and MiniDV camcorders typically have S-video connections, as well as some digital cable boxes and satellite boxes, and many TVs made from the mid-1980s to about 2010, but none of these record S-VHS tapes. However, you will not find S-video connections on standard VCRs - but you will always find them on S-VHS VCRs.

Playing Standard VHS Tapes on an S-VHS VCR

That being said, although standard VHS recordings are not as high a resolution as S-VHS recordings, playing standard VHS tapes on an S-VHS VCR with S-video connections may give you a slightly better result in terms of color consistency and edge sharpness, but not in resolution.

This may be visible on SP (Standard Play) recordings, but since the quality is so poor on SLP/EP (Super Long Play/Extended Speed) recordings to begin with, S-Video connections may not make any visible improvement on the playback of those recordings.

Why Standard VHS VCRs Don't Have S-Video Connections

The reason that standard VHS VCRs don't have S-Video connections, is that it is felt by manufacturers that the extra cost really doesn't yield enough benefit to standard VHS playback or recording to make it worth it for the consumer, especially since basic S-VHS VCRs aren't that much more expensive nowadays.

The Current Status Of SVHS and S-Video

As a result of the digital video revolution, HD and 4K Ultra HD TVs, and, with that, HDMI implemented as standard for connecting most home theater components together, analog video formats such as VHS and S-VHS have become decreasingly relevant.

In today's atmosphere, finding a new VHS VCR is definitely more difficult, especially since Funai, the last major VCR maker, announced in mid-2016 that it was ending the production of VHS recording devices, which includes VCRs, DVD recorder/VHS VCR, and DVD Player/VHS VCR combos. As a result, new products in these categories will become increasingly rare going forward from 2016.

Combine that with the fact that S-VHS VCRs already have not been made for several years - S-Video connectors have been removed on the majority of TVs, video projectors, and home theater receivers as a connection option.