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Cleaning VHS tapes: will my custom solution work? -B.M.

I recently acquired a working Sony SVO5800 broadcast SVHS deck.  I believe it was a “spare” from a broadcast facility, and it was cleaned/serviced and given a 1 year warranty when I bought it.  I am hoping it has at least a few dozen hours left on its “1,000 hour” head.  (I have heard, anecdotally, that a good, clean, VCR using highest grade tapes, can go well beyond 1,000 hours).

Anyway, my intended use is as HiFi audio only, for a small home studio setup, and to record my old upright piano into the Sony. (VHS decks generate a blue screen dummy video signal when no video signal is being recorded, and the helical video (wide) part of the tape can be used for HiFi audio only.  Mine has balanced XLR in/outs on it as well – which fits well into my balanced mixer & analog spring reverb effects etc..   I have the means to record digitally to a computer as well, but, it’s not the same.  I’d like to put down a few hours of my playing into an analogue medium.  HiFi VHS sound is FM modulated inside the machine, but as I understand it, it’s never actually converted in & out of binary.  (the old Betamax + Sony PCM box was, but, that’s not what I am planning).

My questions are these:

1) Could a LAST tape-head preservative bottle be used to coat the big drum head on this VHS deck?  If so, how long would the coating last?  (This is again, for audio only – no video concerns).  I am o.k. to open the lid on the Sony.

2) Can LAST tape preservative be sponged onto the full length of a good brand new old stock VHS tape (like high quality the 2 hour TDK EHG tapes, or Fuji H471S broadcast tape)?  Would it be done outside the machine, say, with a slow drill motor spinning the tape while soaking the tape as it speeds by?  If the particles could be “locked locked down” and prevented from wear & tear, it might actually be a way of keeping recordings for some years, until some new analogue system comes along.

Let me know what might be possible.  (I’m also planning to get a turntable & start all over again with vinyl collecting – and would buy LAST record preservative at that time).

Sincerely,  B. M.

[UPDATE: Walter suggests here sending us a VHS tape for processing. We no longer have the ability to work on those things, so while Walter’s discussion is instructive, we can’t be much help in the actual preparation or testing. -Jeff]
Regarding the use of LAST Tape Head Treatment, and LAST Tape Preservative with you Sony VCO5800 deck, the answers are complex.  The nature of the Tape Head Treatment is (in part) to ensure an intimate tape/head contact.  The conflict occurs because the total “swept area” of the rotating head on both VHS and Beta format machines is very large.  Almost the entire drum is in intimate contact with the tape media which places a substantial burden on the drum rotor motor.  However, the area of critical concern is just the very small active part of the head assembly.  Therefore treating just those 2 (or 4) small areas would not compromise the expected load placed on the drum drive motor.  The treatment should last the duration of a tape.
Regarding the use of LAST Tape Preservative on your tapes, I have the following thoughts.  There are (and I assume) available short VHS tapes intended to be used for advertising, promotions, or limited news segments.  Consider placing a steady, relatively high pitched test signal on to a short tape along with some material similar to what you would be recording.  Send the tape to us and we will treat the entire length with Tape Preservative, then return it to you for test and analysis.   If you send a prepaid return shipping label with the tape, there would be no charge for the preservation treatment service.  You would then be able to determine with some certainty whether treating a high quality tape for its full length provides benefits, with out any compromise in performance or play back quality.

In the not too distant past, there have been commercial devices for VHS format tapes designed to “Clean” and in some cases, erase tapes.  Most of these devices had a small spooling drive motor that moved the tape past the treatment station.  If you could locate one of those, it makes a perfect spooling device to move the tape past a suitable applicator.  One unit had a reservoir for the cleaning fluid.  You could place Tape Preservative into the reservoir and have the device treat the tape at the same time it removes loose particles from the surface of the tape.

I hope some of these ideas will be helpful.  I wish that I was able to provide more definitive answers, but the archives did not contain information on any “Pro” capable decks.
Very best regards, Walter