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Multisystem VCR - FAQ's

Browse our complete list of Multisystem VCR's

To watch video tapes from overseas, you'll need what is called a multisystem VCR and a multisystem VCR, or a Digital Video Standards Converter and VCR, or a VCR with a built-in Converter. Since video tapes come in various standards, you need a multisystem VCR to watch them.

Multisystem VCR - A VCR capable of playing video tapes of different standards. In North America uses NTSC, Europe uses PAL and SECAM, South America uses PAL-M, PAL-N, PAL and NTSC.
Video Converter - A device which converts one video standard into another one, such as from PAL to NTSC. Some multisystem VCRs have a built-in converter and some do not.

Will a multisystem VCR let me watch my overseas video tapes?

There are many different ways in which to watch overseas PAL, SECAM and NTSC video tapes. checkout overseas FAQ's.

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Tell me about 2-head, 4-head, and 6-head VCR

The more video heads a VCR has, the better the sound and image quality. Some VCRs (namely the Akai VS-X2000EG) even have 8 video heads which gives you enhanced editing abilities.

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What is the difference between a multisystem VCR and a converting multisystem VCR?

A multisystem VCR allows you to play video tapes from overseas, but doesn't convert the video signals. So basically, using a multisystem VCR alone won't allow you to watch a PAL tape on your NTSC television. A converting multisystem VCR will convert its video output signal through a built-in video converter, so you can watch a PAL tape on an NTSC TV. With a regular multisystem VCR, you would need to purchase an external Tenlab video converter or a multisystem TV.

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So, using a multisystem VCR, how do I watch my overseas tapes?

A multisystem VCR can play the tapes, but will not convert the video standard signal. For example, a PAL tape played in a multisystem VCR will not be viewable on a standard American NTSC-only television. There are a number of ways to watch overseas tapes. You'll need to use a video converter in addition to a multisystem VCR. You can browse through our line of Tenlab video converters, which do an excellent job of converting video standards signals.

When a multisystem VCR outputs a video signal (whether PAL, SECAM, or NTSC), the video converter will receive the signal and convert it to whatever video signal you select. So in the example above, if you wanted to watch your PAL tape on your NTSC TV with your multisystem VCR, you would place the video converter between the VCR and the TV. In this set-up, the PAL signal from the VCR goes into the video converter, gets converted and outputted as an NTSC signal, then goes to the TV as a video signal that the TV can display.

However, some multisystem VCRs already have the video converter installed internally so there's no need to purchase an external one. We've listed these in our Converting VCRs section. The disadvantage to these units is that the image quality they produce isn't as good as a multisystem VCR and external video converter combination. Also, there are no converting VCRs currently that offer S-Video support, so it wouldn't be prudent to purchase a converting VCR if you wanted to integrate a laserdisc player, DVD player or a digital camcorder into your set-up.

A third possibility is the combination of a multisystem VCR and a multisystem TV. As discussed above, a multisystem VCR only outputs the same video signal that the video tape is. PAL to PAL, NTSC to NTSC, etc. Now, a multisystem TV is capable of receiving and displaying PAL, SECAM and NTSC signals. No actual conversion is needed since both units have the ability to receive multiple video standards. There's two considerations to keep in mind with this solution, though. If you ever wanted to make converted copies of your video tapes (like an NTSC copy of a PAL tape), you would not be able to do it. On the other hand, when you use a solution like this, you get the best image quality possible because you don't suffer any video degradation as during a conversion process.

The final possibility is to get a multisystem TV/VCR combo. This solution is not recommended because TV/VCR combos tend to be of low quality. These should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

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I've seen some multisystem VCRs that say NTSC playback on a PAL TV.

Yes, some multisystem VCRs have the ability to play NTSC tapes on a PAL TV. This is what is known as PAL60 playback. It was a hybrid technology developed for overseas soldiers to allow them to watch their home movies. However, this system is non-recordable. You can not play an NTSC tape in one of these VCRs and record into onto another PAL VCR in PAL format. Although you can watch it on a PAL television, the hertz are different, rendering it non-recordable. Also, it requires that your television be equipped with PAL60. It will work on a PAL TV not equipped with this feature, but image quality can sometimes be disappointing.

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