Answers to Basic Questions About DVD Recorders

Start here for what you need to know about DVD recorders

Magnavox MDR-865H DVD/HDD Recorder (top) - Funai DV220FX4 DVD/VCR Recorder (bottom)
Magnavox MDR-865H DVD/HDD Recorder (top) - Funai DV220FX4 DVD/VCR Recorder (bottom). Images courtesy of

The era of the VCR has drawn to a close and the era of the DVD, although still with us, is giving way to Blu-ray, Video-on-Demand, and Internet Streaming. These changes in how we access video content has also affected the use and availability of DVD recorders, but our email box is still filled with many questions on what DVD recorders are, how they work, and what they can be used for.

In order to address the most common questions regarding DVD recorders, here are some general FAQs that should make your DVD recorder buying decision easier, taking into consideration the limited selection available.

Each FAQ has a brief answer as well as link out to more comprehensive details. The reason for this format is that if all of the FAQs were answered in full detail here, the article would be about 20 pages long. This way you can explore the ones that are the most important to you.

  • Can DVD recorders record audio-only DVDs? DVD recorders typically do not have this capability, as they need an incoming video signal in order to sync the recording. However, there may be exceptions to this.
  • Can I record a DVD in Progressive Scan? DVD recorders cannot record in progressive scan. Progressive Scan is a playback function performed by the DVD player's internal processing. In other words, progressive scan is added on playback, not during recording.
  • Can I record HDTV on a DVD recorder? Since DVD is not a high-definition format, anything that you record onto DVD is standard definition. If your DVD recorder has a built-in HD tuner, it will receive the HD broadcast channels, but the signal is then downscaled to standard definition for recording onto DVD.
  • Can a DVD recorder with no RF input record off a cable directly from the wall? If your DVD recorder does not have an RF input—In other words, it has no built-in tuner—you cannot connect an antenna or cable from your cable or satellite service. In order to receive and record programs on a "tunerless" DVD recorder, you have to connect an external DTV converter or cable/satellite box.
  • What about blank DVD discs? Make sure you use the correct format discs for your specific DVD recorder. Check your user guide for specific disc types that are compatible with your recorder. Also, take into consideration which discs have the best compatibility for playing in other DVD players.
  • How do I hook up a DVD recorder to my TV or home theater system? DVD recorders have the same type of connections as a VCR and can be connected to your TV and home theater setup in the same way, following the same signal path rules. Also, some DVD recorders include HDMI outputs so that they be can more easily connect to HDTVs. For more details, refer to our companion article linked in the question.
  • Do DVD recorders also have region code lock, like DVD players? DVDs that you make with a DVD recorder are not region coded. However, if your DVD recorder is tied to the NTSC system, the discs will be recorded in NTSC, if tied to the PAL system, they will be made in PAL.
  • Is it worth buying a DVD recorder now? Since 2010, DVD recorders have been on the decline in terms of availability (Magnavox is only one making them for the U.S.), but are still in demand, as used machines can command high prices. This state of affairs is due to several reasons that you should take into consideration.