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How to fix audio problems on VHS tapes

Updated February 21, 2017

VHS tapes carry a magnetic signal coded with video and audio recordings for playback in a VCR or camcorder connect to a TV. While playing VHS tapes, you may occasionally experience audio problems that result in distorted sound or no sound at all, especially from older cassettes that may have been played extensively through the years. Try troubleshooting the VHS tape and the VCR to resolve cassette audio problems.

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  1. Push the red and white audio cables firmly into the jacks on the back of the VCR and check the connections on the other end of the cables to ensure they are plugged securely into a TV or audio-video receiver.

  2. Test VCR playback using different VHS cassettes to confirm the problem is a specific tape, rather than the VCR itself.

  3. Insert the problem VHS cassette into the VCR, which starts automatically. Press the "Stop" button on the VCR to halt playback.

  4. Press the "FF" (Fast-Forward) button on the VCR to advance the tape to the end. The VCR will stop and with some models begin rewinding automatically. If the VCR does not rewind, press the "Rewind" button to return to the beginning of the tape. This back-and-forth winding may seat the tape more evenly on the spools so the VCR heads can read the analogue audio track.

  5. Press "Play" to test the VHS tape. Press and hold the up or down arrow key labelled "Tracking" on the VCR remote for fine adjustments of the tape heads inside. Proper alignment of the tape heads with the magnetic VHS tape may restore audio.

  6. Eject the VHS tape and insert the VCR cleaning cassette into the VCR. Press "Play" to start the cleaning cycle, which typically takes 20-30 seconds, depending on the cleaning product. Eject the cleaning cassette and insert the VHS cassette to test for audio playback.

  7. Tip

    Store VHS tapes in their protective cases to protect from dust and dirt.


    Keep tapes away from temperature extremes and sources of magnetism, which can partially or completely erase the analogue signals on the tapes. No amount of cleaning or restoration can correct problems with an erased VHS tape.

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Things You'll Need

  • VCR
  • AV cables
  • TV or AV receiver
  • VCR head cleaner

About the Author

James Clark

James Clark began his career in 1985. He has written about electronics, appliance repair and outdoor topics for a variety of publications and websites. He has more than four years of experience in appliance and electrical repairs. Clark holds a bachelor's degree in political science.

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