If you ever wondered, “What happened to VCRs?” you’re not alone. The former living room staple disappeared with little fanfare, leaving scant evidence to show it even existed. As the MiniDisc player, the floppy disc and the fax machine discovered, technology’s invention and disappearance is a pretty cutthroat process. So let’s look at the history (and fate) of VCRs and VCR/DVD combo devices before checking where it’s still possible to get your hands on one.
What Is a VCR?
A videocassette recorder (or VCR) is a device capable of playing the analog video and audio information stored on a VHS tape/cassette through a connected TV. This process requires a VHS (video home system) tape to be loaded into the VCR via a mechanical loading (and ejection) system. Once loaded, a number of recording heads in the VCR read and convert the information stored on the VHS tape into TV-compatible signals that can be watched and listened to. If this all sounds too complicated, think of a VHS as a less advanced but more mechanically complicated DVD and the VCR as a DVD player.
The History (and Death) of the VCR
At the time of the original VCR’s release in 1976, it was an industry-leading, sought-after technology. Compact (for 1976), one-inch thick VHS tapes could be purchased or rented before being enjoyed at the VCR owner’s leisure. VCRs gave viewers more freedom over what TV shows and movies to watch and when to watch them.
This convenience led to the VCR’s rise to unrivaled supremacy in the home-entertainment industry. This 30-year reign was accompanied by the rise of the home video store, which saw companies like Blockbuster Video become household names for purchasing and renting VHS tapes.
However, just before the turn of the millennium, the Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) and the DVD player were born. This new technology was far superior, and it wasn’t long before consumers responded, and DVDs took the lead by 2002. When compared to one another, the benefits of a DVD over a VHS tape include:
- Being more physically compact
- Being more durable/reliable — no moving parts
- Storing higher quality digital information (not analog)
- The ability to instantly skip
- Not needing to be rewound
- Having fewer long-term storage issues
And so, the VCR’s days were numbered. The last movie to be put onto VHS was A History of Violence in 2006, while new VCR players officially ceased production in 2016. According to Forbes, the last VCR player was manufactured by a Japanese electronics company called Funai. Thankfully, if you still have a stack of VHS tapes in the attic or are just interested in exploring old tech, it’s still possible to buy new, used and refurbished VCR. In addition, you can find plenty of VCR/DVD combo devices for sale on sites like Amazon.
If you’ve got a bad case of nostalgia and a stack of VCRs in your attic, then you’ll find the best VCD/DVD combo players below.
The Best VCR/DVD Combos You Can Still Buy Online
While manufacturers may have discontinued VCR and VCR/DVD combo devices, that doesn’t mean getting hold of one is particularly difficult. Yes, you may pay a little more if you’re looking for a new and unused device, but if you’re happy with a pre-owned or refurbished device, there are plenty of great deals. Below you’ll find SPY’s top picks for the best new and used devices available.
1. Toshiba SD-V296 DVD Player/VCR Combo
BEST OVERALL NEW
If you want a brand new device, this Toshiba SD-V296 DVD Player/VCR Combo may be what you’re looking for. The stylish VCR/DVD combo can play VHS, CD, DVD and VCDs and offers several features, including one-touch recording, simultaneous DVD playback and VHS recording and JPEG viewing. The ColorStream Pro also delivers some of the highest on-screen color quality seen in VHS. Additionally, if you want to save a few bucks, the combo player is available in used and refurbished devices.
2. Panasonic VCR VHS Hi-Fi Stereo Player Recorder
At under $70, this Panasonic PV-8662 VCR VHS Hi-Fi Stereo Player Recorder is a budget-friendly answer to seeing your VHS tapes on screen again. The four-head device includes several user-friendly functions, such as a program index search function and Hawaii-Fi stereo sound. Plus, it’s worth noting that eBay is a great place to begin your search if you’re looking for the cheapest way to buy a VCR player.
3. Panasonic VCR VHS Player
BEST VCR PLAYER
This Panasonic VCR VHS Player is another used option that comes with all the key elements required to enjoy your VHS collection on screen. For a more pleasant viewing experience, the player automatically adjusts and corrects the digital picture and tracking. It also has four heads and front and rear composite AV inputs. The user-friendly button arrangement makes this a great choice for anyone of almost any age to understand and use. Furthermore, it is still possible to purchase this VHS player as brand new.
4. Sony SLV-D380P DVD/VCR Combo Player
The Sony SLV-D380P DVD/VCR Combo Player can rewind a T-120 VHS tape in as little as 120 seconds. It also features a progressive output (480p) for a DVD player and can handle CD, MP3 and JPEG playback. The combo device is also supplied with the original multi-band TV remote control and batteries. It sports four-head Hi-Fi stereo and offers a 30-day money-back guarantee to provide greater shopping confidence.
5. Sony VCR VHS Player
In addition to the Sony VCR VHS Player, this bundle includes several handy extras to ensure you’re ready to start screening your tapes immediately. The multi-piece combo comes with a remote control, an HDMI cable, an AV cable, an AV:USB adapter, an AV:HDMI converter and VHS digitizing software. It’s a great setup for users looking for a way to transfer their VHS collection onto DVDs or to create digital video files. Furthermore, any purchase comes with a 30-day free return policy.
6. FUNAI DV220FX4 DVD Player/VCR Combo
The UNAI DV220FX4 DVD Player/VCR Combo keeps things simple. In-line recording, four heads and a progressive scan video give you a good balance of quality and control. The user-friendly button arrangement under each functional element further makes this an easy device to master. The supplied remote control further adds to this familiar and convenient feel, while video outputs, audio outputs (left and right), Dolby Digital and an S-video output complete it.
7. JVC VCR/VHS Player
While it may be pre-owned, you can be confident when purchasing this JVC VCR VHS Player. Each device has been inspected, tested and cleaned by qualified staff and comes backed by a 90-day Amazon Renewed guarantee. In addition to the VCR, the box contains a remote control, an instruction manual, an AV:HDMI converter, an HDMI cable, an AV:RCA cable and a USB capture device with accompanying software. This gives you the key elements you need to create digital files from your existing VHS tapes.
8. Magnavox DVD Recorder/4-Head Hi-Fi VCR
The Magnavox DVD Recorder/4-Head Hi-Fi VCR is a feature-filled combo player with almost everything a DVD and VCR enthusiast could ask for. It’s capable of 1080p up conversion and includes an HDMI output, an S-video input/out and Dolby Digital stream out. The conversion capabilities include DVD to VCR and vice versa, meaning it’s a great option if you want to convert any VHS tapes on their last legs. Furthermore, it can record up to six hours, giving you plenty of time to do what you need.