Is There a DVD Recorder That Records in All Formats?

Make sure your DVD recorder supports the format you want to use

Magnavox MDR557H DVD/Hard Drive Recorder
Image Courtesy of Amazon

DVD recorders have become very rare as manufacturers have dropped out of the U.S. market. It is not only difficult to find a new DVD recorder, but used DVD recorders are commanding high prices from third-party sources, such as Amazon and eBay.

When DVD recorders first appeared on the scene, there was a lot of excitement. However, consumers quickly realized that although DVD recording provided video recording flexibility, the various recordable DVD formats, and recording restrictions made things confusing.

Recordable DVD Format Choices

Before answering the question as to which DVD recorders can record in all the available formats, here is a quick rundown on what those formats are:

DVD-R: DVD-R stands for DVD recordable. DVD-R is the most universal recordable DVD formats. It is a write-once format that can be played in most DVD players after it has been finalized at the end of the recording process.

DVD-R DL: This is a record-once format that is identical to DVD-R, except that it has two layers on the same side of the disc (that is what the DL means). Although the recording format is the same as DVD-R, the physical difference between a DVD-R and a DVD-R DL disc results in less playback compatibility on DVD players.

DVD-RW: DVD-RW stands for DVD Re-writable. DVD-RW Discs are playable in most DVD players, provided it is recorded in the straight Video Mode and finalized. This format supports a feature call Chase Play, but is only available is VR mode. DVD-RW recordings made in VR mode may not be playable on most DVD players.

DVD+RW: DVD+RW is a recordable and rewritable format that was initially promoted primarily by Philips. DVD+RW offers a greater degree of compatibility with DVD players than DVD-RW. DVD+RW is also the easiest to use for recording as the discs do not need to be finalized in order to play in a DVD player.

DVD+R: DVD+R is a record-once format introduced and backed by Philips and adopted by the other DVD+RW proponents, that is said is easier to use than DVD-R, while still playable in most current DVD players. DVD+R discs need to be finalized before they can play in a DVD player.

DVD+R DL: DVD+R DL is a record-once format that is identical to DVD+R, except that it has two layers on the same side of the disc. Although the format is the same as DVD+R, the physical difference between a DVD+R disc and a DVD+R DL disc may result in less playback compatibility on some DVD players.

DVD-RAM: DVD-RAM is a recordable and re-writable format that has been promoted by Panasonic, Toshiba, Samsung, and Hitachi. However, DVD-RAM is not playback compatible with most standard DVD players and is not compatible with most DVD-ROM computer drives.

One feature of DVD-RAM is Time Slip (similar to Chase Play in DVD-RW), which allows watching the beginning of a recording while the DVD recorder is still recording the end of the program. DVD-RAM also allows on-disc editing. With its quick access speed, you can rearrange the playback order of scenes and delete other scenes from playback, without erasing the original video.

DVD Recorder Format Compatibility

Unfortunately, not all DVD recorders have the ability to record in all formats. There is a lot of variation, not only depending on brand but model year.

To add to DVD recording confusion, not all brands of blank recordable DVDs of the same format work with all DVD recorders.

DVD Recorder Buying Guidelines

If you are looking for a DVD recorder, especially a used one, check the DVD recordable format specifications carefully. If possible, go online and search for the actual user guide for the DVD recorder you are looking as it will have a listing on which recordable DVD formats it is compatible with. It is also important to note that some DVD recorders may be able to play back certain formats, but not record in them.

DVD Recorder Format Compatibility Chart Example
  • Many DVD recorders that were made by LG and Panasonic, are able to record in all DVD formats: DVD+R/+RW, DVD-R/-RW, and DVD-RAM. Some models may also be able to record in either DVD-R DL (double layer) or DVD+R DL (double layer).
  • DVD recorders that were made by Sony can usually record in the DVD-R/-RW/+R/+RW formats, while Toshiba and several others offered DVD recorders that record in DVD-R/DVD-RW/DVD-RAM but Toshiba also added DVD+R/DVD+RW to some more recent models. Pioneer DVD Recorders recorded in DVD-R/-RW only.
  • LiteON, once a very popular DVD recorder maker made a DVD recorder that could record not only to DVD-R/-RW/+R/+RW but could also record video and audio CD-R/-RWs – so if you find one it is a definite rarity.
  • Most Magnavox DVD recorders and Funai/Sanyo DVD recorder/VCR combos record in the DVD-R/RW formats.

Although most Panasonic DVD recorders support multiple formats, the very first DVD recorders made by Panasonic only recorded and played DVD-RAM discs. Be on the lookout for such models from third parties.

The Bottom Line

It may seem confusing to have to decide between all of the DVD recording formats. You are asking yourself: "Which one should I use?". DVD-R would be your best bet, but use the one that works best for your needs. As long as the recorded DVD plays in your DVD player, or your friend's and/or relative's DVD player(s) that is matters the most. The only format to stay away from, in terms of compatibility with most other players, is DVD-RAM.