I am conducting an experiment on my equipment that is hopefully to your benefit, but I am not a repair person, and if you blow up your gear while referencing this post, my sincerest condolences will have to suffice. Use this information at your own risk!
IN THE BEGINNING
OK, so the truth is, my absolute favorite recording device ever invented was the Sony MDM-X4. It was the first somewhat affordable digital device (I paid $899 at a time when I had no business paying $899…but then, isn’t that how ALL the best music gear is acquired?). So, one day, I worked with a friend named Wayne back in Arizona to bump all the minidisc content to a compact disc. Then I sold the Sony. Then I lost the compact disc. I still have the jewel case for it… it surfaces from time to time just to mock me.
So, in 2008, as a side project, I fired up the crazy bazaar known as e-Bay, and found a Yamaha MD4 for $50. It was listed in working condition, but it turned out to be flakey – I got it working for a couple sessions, but by the time I decided to pursue a refund, the seller had long since disappeared. So I set about repairing the thing. This hasn’t gone so well.
But while I have the unit gutted, I thought…hey, maybe I could share what I have learned…little as it may be! And so it is 2010, and here is what I can tell you about the Yamaha:
- The two most common issues I have read, to date, are about discs getting stuck in the drive, or generally non-readability of the discs
- The only way to work on the drive is to take the unit apart. The good news is, a regular phillips will go a long way on these nice 1990s parts. The bad news is, the drive is not easy to access.
- To access the drive, turn the unit upside down and remove all the screws around the edge (6), and all similar size screws from the bottom (the larger screws anchor the power supply, no need to touch) – there are 8 screws on the bottom (total 14).
- After removing the 14 bottom screws, the entire base plate should come out without resistance. If you have resistance, double-check you got all the screws.
- Next you will need some foam, or towel, and a maybe a pair of needle nose pliers if you are like me and need help fishing screws out (no, I don’t use magnetic screwdrivers). To access the disk you will need to remove the power supply which is anchored by four larger screws (at the edges, not the four you saw through the bottom – those we don’t have to touch ever), and some smaller screws. The power supply will lift without resistance, so position the foam or towel (or gym socks) so the power assembly can literally fold back on to the other components (hence the cushion between so nothing gets damaged).
- Now you will have access to the drive unit. This is where my memory gets fuzzy because I modified my drive (as you will see), but from here you are free to tinker and I will talk about some of the stuff you might see!
- There’s a number of ribbon connectors – these are very delicate so be careful. And you’ll want to make note which way the metal connection of the ribbon is facing when you disconnect them. To open the connector you pull the two sides with equal pressure towards the ribbon. Once open (about an 1/8th of an inch), the ribbon will slide out easily. Sliding it back in sometimes takes a little more finesse…
- Another thing you will notice is that the MD4 uses a combination of mechanical and electronic switching to determine the state of the drive door. I am not entirely sure why, because I think the mechanical switch combined with the door sensor should have been enough.
- The reason I took mine apart is because the disc got stuck and after 2 days of off and on fiddling I couldn’t get it free. I traced it to a set of gears that turn in order to slide a small metal piece out of position (enabling the door to open…and blocking the door from opening even if you press the mechanical eject button). So I was able to spin this gear the correct direction and that allowed the door to open.
- So, what I decided to do was modify my drive. That way I could access this assembly in a pinch to manually open the drive. What I did was remove some stuff (yeah… that’s as close as I can get, sorry)…
- Then I used a twist tie to anchor the drive-open switch so the drive always reports it is closed (the unit won’t function if it thinks the drive is open – go figure).
- Last I connected the ribbons with the drive on the OUTSIDE of the chassis – this is fairly risky, but I was desperate 🙂
- After reassembling the chassis, I have full access to the drive. But my new error now is an ERROR 07 which is a tracking error.
- The unit, as it turns out, isn’t tracking because of that same gear that controls the electronic latch for the drive. Because of my removal of parts, I have disturbed the circle of life (which was already broken anyway). Basically, I have to manually turn the gears one way to open the latch, then when I load a disk I have to spin the gears the other way to close that latch. This will allow the OW head to make proper contact with the disk surface when the unit is powered on.
- The above is my work-around for the disc not ejecting properly, but I am left with my original problem… this unit takes about 20 minutes to warm-up and play a disc properly. So, here’s what I am thinking: This unit was built in 1996. The two failures are both tracing back to gear-related issues (electric drive-latch, tracking mechanism). When was this unit last LUBRICATED? 1996. That will be the next thing I try. True, maybe if I had put some silicon on the electronic latch, I wouldn’t need to take the unit apart and modify it at all…but, so be it. EDIT: And, now that it is all lubed up, it still takes 20min to warm up. Fine by me.
That sums up my MD4 experiment. I will try to get some pictures up, and maybe I will share the outcome of adding some silicone to this poor dried out machine! In any case, I hope this is useful to either enthusiasts out there, or people like me who have content they are trying to go back and transfer to a more current format! I see anywhere from 2 – 5 Yamaha/Sony 4-8 track minidisc units on e-Bay for any given week, so I know there are still people using them!!