Minidisc Repairman Q&A #5

David Popovits
Sigma D.O. Electronics
3, Sheinkin str. Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel. 972-3-6290339
Fax. 972-3-6203579
([email protected])

August 2000

These questions from readers on these 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 pages followed David's original article about portable MD recorder repair

  1. Question Hi David, I am fortunate enough to have a Sony MZ-R50 and I concur with your assessment on the unit. (Bought refurbished to replace and MZ-EP11 which I still miss, but not overmuch!) I was wondering if you could comment on the reliability of the jog dial. Mine feels somewhat gummy which I can understand given that I used it for heavy duty titling for quite awhile. Do these last a long time, or should I go easy on it? Thanks for the great input to the site! Michael Dahlstrom

    Answer Hi Michael, The jog dial on your MZ-R50 is rather sensitive in comparison with other parts of the MD. It is made from plastic with delicate brushes touching surface of a small PCB, to create the function it carries. It is sensitive to dust and humidity and tends to be problematic because of this or due to long usage. Your finger touching the jog should always be dry. Replacing the jog dial when it is broken is an expensive thing because it is an integral part of the whole keypad, found on the right upper part of the MD. Try one of the PC titling programs given in the site, it is easier and will keep your jog dial in good condition for a long time. Truly yours,

  2. Question Hi David, I have a problem with my Sharp 701 Player/Recorder. When I turn it on now it just says "TOC errora". Can You tell me what's wrong and whether you can fix it? (I hope it's not going to be costly). I have never dropped this player. I got this player from the UK a while back and because here in Australia they didn't bring it out, I'm having a little trouble getting it fixed. I hope you can help. Adrian

    Answer Hi Adrian If your 701 reads UTOC ERROR with every disc you try, and you cleaned the MD with a cleaning disc, and your PSU is correct, then you have a real problem. I can fix it but it can be very expensive. Let's be optimistic and say that the laser unit is ok. In this case you will pay something like USD60.00 for the repair, or even more. To send to and from here will cost you USD40.00. The main problem is that this UTOC ERROR can appear again even if I replace all the components inside the MD. Truly yours,

  3. Question I recently bought an Aiwa AM-F70 (an upgrade from my Sony MZ-R37) online. I know that it was refurbished, but I have not had any problems until now (I have had the unit 3 months). I think at some point last night I must have dropped the unit, and today the unit will not play or record at all. It powers up, and I can hear it seeking the disc, but invariably I get a 'disc error' message, no matter what disc I use. I know these discs are good because I tested them on my Sony MXD-D3 home unit. Is there anything I could do about it? I doubt the refurbishing company would repair it, and I don't think Aiwa would either. There doesn't seem to be an electrical problem, and I would guess that the read head got jarred during the fall. Any help would be appreciated. (I am moderately good at electronics and repairing items). Thanks, Adam Sowers

    Answer Hi Adam, If you are good in repairing things try this.

    1. Using a good source of light open the door and look inside (do not remove it).
    2. The surface of the laser unit should be flat. It may move aside due to an obstacle caused by the falling. Sometimes a piece from the MD falls between the laser lenses and the unit. If you see a screw that has fallen or any other obstacle remove it carefully without putting to much force on the laser unit as it is very sensitive.
    3. Try to move the whole laser unit. If it doesn't move at all try to see what stops it and remove the obstruction.
    4. The recording head should be located in parallel above the laser unit. Observe if it is not bent backwards or aside. If it is it can disturb the movement of the laser unit.
    5. Put the MD on a surface and ensure that the case is not bent. If it is you must bring it back to original position. Otherwise the whole mechanism is under pressure, not allowing free movement of the laser unit.
    Hope it helps. In any case be aware that all MD's someday fall on the floor. Truly yours,

    Followup Thanks for your quick reply. I checked into everything you said, but to no avail. The laser unit did move, but with some force (presumably having to push the gears / motor). However, I did notice some strange phenomena - when I put a disc in, it spins up immediately and I can hear / see (I took it apart, I know you said not to, more on that later) the magnetic head moving to read the TOC - unfortunately it always gives a 'disc error' message. However, with the unit intact, if I shook it a little during the 'bootup' and hit record, the unit would record - I verified on another unit. This makes me feel like the low power laser is maybe not working well, but the high power laser works. Anyway, once I came up with this hypothesis, I opened it up to see if I could see anything wrong. I didn't, and I put it all back together. Everything works just as before except the eject switch does not engage the actual mechanism, like when the unit won't let you open because it is writing the TOC. The latch, if pulled, will pull the eject switch with it, so I guess I disengaged the switch somehow. My real question is, do you think you could repair it, and if so, how much? I expect that sending the unit to Israel would be quite expensive, and if so then I might just buy another unit. Perhaps you'd like to buy the unit for parts? ;) Please let me know. Thanks again, you've been very helpful. J. Adam Sowers

    Answer Hi Adam, Based on your remarks I understand that the timing of the sled motor and the mechanical recording mechanism are not working well. A lever could be bent, gear 'tooth' may be broken... A machine that records can play as well (from the point of view of the laser unit). To repair it it will cost $60-100, plus p&p (circa $40). Truly yours,

  4. Question Good day - Thank you for taking the time to compile your repair articles - I am keeping them for a time when I may need them. I appreciate it. I currently have portables R30, R55, 702, JE510 deck and the Aiwa XR MD-100 Bookshelf system (small, for use in my office - AM-FM-CD-MD-Cassette - has timer recording to cassette or MD). Each was bought for different reasons but "END SEARCH" had something to do with it on the portables. I rarely get a chance to sit and use any of these for spoken word projects, for dictation, or to make compilations as they were bought for - they just sit in a box. Bad. Are you aware of any external battery projects? I have been looking for projects where I can make an aluminum pack to match the size and shape of the portable unit but which will hold 4-6 NiMh AAs and use the screws for the add-on battery holder to attach it. Good or bad idea? Or should I just make a pack and plug it in to the unit as external power? Your mention of the MZ-R50 caught my eye. When it was released the magazine reviews dealt with the construction of it and specifically mentioned how it was much less sturdy than the R30, and overall a poorer construction. Is it because of the new laser unit and anti shock, you feel it is a better machine? Sony Professional Services also would not sell the MZ-R50 for pro use - they ONLY carried the R30 - and continued this policy for quite some time after it ceased to be available on the consumer market. Any idea as to why Sony would not sell the R50? Of course the B30 is sold also. Thanks again. Barry A. Kintner, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

    Answer Hi Barry, Regarding external NiMh. Do not attempt to connect them directly to the R30 using the original holder. It is not strong enough, and the the extra weight can bend the whole MD. You can build a nice box that will accommodate both the MD and the extra batteries. Pay attention, if you are using rechargeable ones you will need 5 to get 6V. Regarding R30 versus R50. Now we are a few years after both MD's have came to the market. Take a 3 year old R50 it looks and works much better than the R30 of the same age. The R30 although being a good machine is made from very 'soft' materials causing most of the problems they suffer from. In my opinion, Sony stopped producing the MZ-R50 because the Japanese market was looking for a much smaller MD and also for the same reasons Peugeot stopped producing the Peugeot 404 30 years ago. Both were too good. Today the situation for Sony is much better. If you buy an MZ-R55 you will want to upgrade it to an MZ-R70 or 90/91, because it has many problems. Then you see that with the newer MD's you have new problems and you try to replace them again. Money moves from you to Sony more frequently. If you have an MZ-R50 you keep it as it is good, and the money remains in your pocket. This is not good for business from the point of view of Sony. Maybe I've illustrated the situation too dramatically, but this is how it looks in my opinion. Truly Yours,

  5. Question Hi David, Since you've stated that the MZ-R37 mechanism borrows from the MZ-R50, would you recommend it to people looking for Sony's "best" currently available machine? (Best in terms of your quality standards: mechanical robustness, easy handling, good output volume, etc.) -Thanks, Eric Woudenberg

    Answer Hi Rick, The answer is yes. The MZ-R37 is second best to the MZ-R50, which is not under production anymore. Yet, you must consider the following.

    1. It is ugly.
    2. Some of the keys are placed on the bottom cover.
    3. You have to lift the MD in order to see the display.
    4. It comes without display on the Remote control.
    5. The upper cover is made from very thin metal. You must pay much attention not to bend it.
    6. At the right side of the bottom cover there is a small 'knee' holding the whole disc housing. It is very fragile, so if you cannot close the cover, don't push, check to see if it is not bent.
    To overcome the remote control problem use a remote control like the MZ-R55/50 has. It will work with the MZ-R37 as well. It is sad that 9 years after MD is on the market I have to recommend something like the MZ-R37, but that is what Sony feeds us with. Truly yours,

  6. Question David, since you repair MD Units... Do you have any suggestions with my Sony MZ-R91 that keeps PROTECTING when I try to record or title an MD. How do I fix this? Does it need repairs? How much is a repair? Any suggestions will be appreciated -Danh Hoang

    Answer Hi Danh, You describe a known problem with the MZ-R90/91. The switch that checks for protected discs was made by Sony in such a way that it works wrong. This must be fixed by a good repair shop or by Sony. Truly yours,

  7. Question David, I think you are providing a wonderful service with this info and I would be grateful if you could help me out. My BELOVED MZ-R50 isn't working properly. I currently own a Sharp 722, Sharp DC-10(Oldie), a Sharp X60 deck and the MZ-R50. I have to tell you that when something breaks it's no big deal, but the R50 has been with me for almost four years through all my travels to Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada and now the States. It really is depressing to not be able to use it at it's fullest capacity and is without a doubt the finest piece of electronica I have owned. Anyway, to the problem. It WILL still play an MD. If I play one song, then remove the disc and play another disc it still works fine. If I leave a disc in for any length of time though it seems it is somehow "burned" into the memory. If I try to play another disc the unit just kind of "freezes". It will whirr and click, but reads nothing. I have managed to make it "work" once since this problem started but then it "stuck" on that disc. The R50 will play ONLY the current disc unless I remove the battery and leave it overnight to reset itself. Any suggestions. I'd hate to lose my blue baby. I thank you in advance. Oh, and could you tell LEE, of the other R50 post that you CAN still buy new R50s in the states. If he needs advice then send him to me. Thanks again, Eddie McCarroll

    Answer Hi Eddie, You don't have to loose your blue baby. The R50 can be fixed. The R50 has a special mechanism, activated when we record. It lowers the recording head, it locks the upper cover and it pulls a lever so that if you try to open the door it won't open. After recording it resets those components using a special motor and a limit switch. The same reset procedure is made whenever you wake up the MD. If one of those components are not in the right position (as can happen if the unit was dropped) or if the MD cannot move them there because a gear is broken or other problem, the MD will behave very strange, even as you described. A couple of gears and one hour of work is all that is needed. Take it to a good repair shop, or come to visit Israel and I'll do it for you, the weather here is nice. Truly yours,

    Followup Thanks for the help David. Can I trouble you little more with THREE simple questions. 1) Could I fix this myself? 2) If not and I have to take it to a repair store, what should I say is wrong with it so as I don't get ripped off. 3) Sony WILL fix it for a flat $110 fee. Do you think that's fair? Thanks again, Ed.

    Answer Hi Eddie Do not repair it by yourself. The 2nd option is not good, technicians like to decide for themselves how much money to leave in your pocket after the repair. Use the 3rd option, the $110 thing. Do not forget to ask for guarantee. Truly yours,

  8. Question Hi David, I have been using Sony and Memorex MD blanks and both have a rotten tendency to end up skipping in the middle of tracks after only several weeks of use. I've decided that it's time to move on to higher-quality discs. Are there truly "better", or more reliable MD's out there? What do you think are some of the best 80-minute discs available? Thank you, Dan

    Answer Hi Dan, You can try Sony ES discs (white). While waiting, consider checking the MD itself. Truly yours

  9. Question Hey David. It's great that you've become such an avid MiniDiscer. I find it especially good that you've helped it out a lot in Israel (I'll have to come visit your shop when I come there on my parents' Israel fund!). I find your posts on the MiniDisc Community VERY informative. Anyway.. I just wanted your opinion on portable players. I have had a Sharp 702 for over 2 years (without the UTOC error!) and this summer I just got a Sony DHC-MD555 shelf system (with a very nice un-erase feature by the way). Well I figured that since I have a stereo that can record then I don't really need a portable that can record. Also the 702 is fairly large and I hate its 5 hour battery life (mine didn't come with the AA attachment and I don't feel it's worth $30). I would like to get a Japanese import because right now I don't care much for the US models and also as soon as you get one here the new one comes out. I've got my eye on a few, such as: Sony MZ-E77, Sony MZ-E800, Sony MZ-E90, Sharp ST-55, Sharp ST-50, and Panasonic SJ-MJ75. Could you please tell me in your opinion what the best player out there is and which is best of the players I listed. Sorry if this e-mail seems confusing!! Thanks so much for your help! Brett Friedman

    Answer Hi Brett, Thanks. Regarding your request, I saw the new players only on this site and in other literature. I didn't hold them in my hands. It is my policy to give my opinion on an apparatus only after checking the inside of it, to feel the materials and to estimate the MTBF. So as for now I cannot help you. As for myself I loved the Sony MZ-EP11. Truly yours

    Followup Ok I can understand that. Could you tell me which of the 3 brands you think make the best players though (Sharp, Sony, Panasonic)? Thanks. Brett

    Answer Hi Brett, The answer is Sony.

    Followup Thanks for your help. That's what I was going to get originally, but I think I'm going to get the Sharp ST-50 because I have a MS702 right now and it seems very reliable. Also, I don't think that I've heard of any problems with Sharp MD portables except for the UTOC error. I just bid on one last night on eBay and the auction has ended so I got it for about $150. If you're interested, I could describe it to you the best I can. Or if you've got some specific questions I could try and answer them. Thanks again! Brett

  10. Question Hello David! Well, the reason of this letter is that I was just reading the Q&A #4 you posted in, and in an answer you talked about why the R50 is the best one. You described the problem of the 7XX series, R55 and R70/90/91, but you said nothing about the 821 and 831, and I would like to hear your opinion about them. Thank you very much! Ignacio Simon.

    Answer Hi Ignacio, I gave my positive opinion regarding the 831 many times. The 821 is a good machine as well. Truly yours,

  11. Question Dear David, Thanks for your very informative articles, time, and effort on the MD Community page. They have already taught me a great deal. I have owned a Sony MZ-R90 for over a month and so far am well pleased. My questions to you are these:
    1. What is the best way to maximize battery performance on the included MZ-R90 NiMH cell? I recharge using the unit itself as Sony designed. What frequency of recharging do you recommend, and do you recommend letting the battery totally discharge itself before a recharge? Articles I have found on the net advise against full discharges more than several months apart, others say the only way to get maximum play/record time is to do this often.
    2. Do you categorically recommend against jogging with the MZ-R90 even if it is worn in a firm, snug case worn on the upper arm, and even is doubly protected by a still more form-fitting case inside the arm case (the custom-made Servired case you can see here: Is there a danger of the R90 overheating and being damaged in such an environment (skin heat plus hot outside temperature plus tight space)? I would love to take it with me during exercise but don't want to damage my favorite gadget from ill-advised, unintentional abuse.
    I appreciate you reading this and I know you must be "reaping the whirlwind" from opening up to us MD enthusiasts' questions. Of course, feel free to post this in your next article (if there is one!) if it will help others. Best wishes, Dave, Los Angeles

    Answer Hi David Regarding your 1st question. I think it is good to recharge it when it is empty or near the end. Do it in one session of couple of hours. About your 2nd question. I wouldn't like to see you jogging like Silvester Stalone in one of his war films, wearing the R90 as it was an atomic bomb. You should enjoy your running and the music as well. It is better to jog with a player and not a recorder since the latter has more complicated parts due to the recording components. Extra heat will stop the MD until it cools. Truly yours,

    Followup Thanks very much for the advice! Dave

  12. Question Hi David, Just love your articles at I also think the MZ-R50 is THE best MD recorder ever (I have several of them) and I've also had the "pause/stutter" problem on my MZ-R90 & MZ-R91 that you described in Q#4, Question #6. (Took the R90 to a Sony Service Center for repair. So far, so good.) One note about your answer to Peter in Australia regarding an MD he accidentally erased. You should know that Tascam professional MD recorders, like the 801R I have in my office, have a "RECOVER" feature that really DOES allow you to recover erased material...assuming only the TOC has been altered and you haven't recorded all new material over it. I have actually accidentally erased important tracks and been able to save them by using this very convenient feature. (If only consumer gear offered such a feature!) Just thought you'd like to know (and maybe you can pass on the news to Peter!) And thanks again for the great work. You have no idea what a valuable and interesting service you're providing! Please! Keep it up! Sincerely, Gary Bingner, Minneapolis, Minnesota USA

    Answer Hi Gary Thanks for the information. Truly yours,

  13. Question Twice even. I used to use mine to record quite often (hey, that's why I bought it.) and often for playback for about 2 hours everyday. The optical block blew in less than a year (sept 98 to Aug 99). The part being X49492561 and the charge would have been around 200 off warranty, which it wasn't (just) Fast forward 8 months and the same part is gone again. Repair charge is$320AU and I'm not wearing it. It's not like this player gets knocked around or anything. After the 1st repair I started carrying it in an Otter box, which is a waterproof plastic case similar to a Pelican Case. what should I do now? I complained to Sony, and they didn't even write back. tnx, -M.

    Answer The situation you describe doesn't look good. Are you sure the laser unit had to be replaced? Sometimes we tend to blame it but the problem is not there at all, and while disassembling the MD in order to replace the laser unit we fix the original problem. I may not be right. I could help you better if I could check the unit by myself. Truly yours,

    Followup Real sure. Charges jibe the right way - between$200 and $300 AU for repairs. The Repair quote says Replace Laser assembly. And previous repair quotes with the same charges and diagnosis cite the part number X49492561 (i) which would be a Type KMS-208A optical Pickup assembly. It's sad, because really the R50 is a nice product - but every repair crew I ask says the same thing "oh yeah, Sony don't give a damn about the Laser, they're all crap modules and if you use the thing to record very often then it'll blow..." Sony's been real polite too - I wrote to them explaining the problem, and they've just ignored me - which I've heard is also quite common with this problem. -M.

    Answer Hi, The KMS208A is a good laser unit. More then once I repaired MD's that Sony wanted to fix by replacing the laser units. The clients thought the quotation were too high. They brought it to us and we found that the units could be repaired without replacing the laser unit. I think it's a matter of policy with Sony in the procedure of repairment they have. Truly yours,

    Followup OK, thanks, that's very interesting. It's a pity I'm in Australia and not Israel, otherwise I'd send you the Gizmo. -M.

  14. Question Hi David, I enjoyed reading your Q and A for very much and have a question. What is your opinion on the quality of the Sony MZ-E55? Does it have many repair problems? Thank You for your time

    Answer Most of the problems with the MZ-R55 are with the recording parts. Being a player only the MZ-E55 should have less problems. It is a logical conclusion only. I don"t have experience with those players. Truly yours,

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