This wee beastie has been on my ‘most wanted’ list for some time, it’s a little boom box (well, quite a big heavy one actually!) from 1987, and would have been quite expensive when new. It’s a modular system, that can be configured as a home Hi-Fi, or bolt all the bits together and it can be carried about like a portable! Only downside is that it can only run on mains… bit of an oversight there!
This one was purchased just last week, they have become quite popular in recent years, gaining a sort of ‘holy grail’ status amongst boom box collectors, and that has pushed the prices into silly territories, there’s one currently available for over £2k..! I didn’t pay anywhere near that! I also think no one else will… this one was sold as for parts or not working, with a nice long list of faults:
No display, no sound
No display, sound dropping out, distorted left channel
Plays for 3 seconds then stops. if set to auto reverse, plays 3 seconds then switches to other side and plays 3 seconds, keeps repeating said action!
It all sounds very promising to me! I set to work on it pretty much as soon as it arrived (sorry to those following the Bush TV22 thread!)
this is the list of remedies (in the wrong order…)
LCD backlight bulbs expired, replaced with LED ‘filaments’ and a 1.2Kohm resistor to limit current.
Lack of sound simply because ‘stereo muting’ was on, and no station being received.
No display due to expired LCD backlight bulbs, replaced with LED ‘filaments’ and a 330 ohm resistor to limit current.
Distortion and sound drop out caused by dirty contacts in speaker protection relay, cleaned with a piece of paper pulled through the contacts soaked in servisol super 10 until contact resistance measured as close to zero as possible. Some dry joints were also touched up.
Stopping/repeating caused by broken belt to the tape counter/ auto shut off sensor. Replacement cured it. Also cleaned heads and pinch rollers.
A bit more detail on the above, The original backlighting bulbs are little ‘grain of wheat’ bulbs, 12V 100mA.
I could probably have gotten some to replace the dead ones, but they would probably need replacement again in the not too distant future. Also, they generate a fair bit of heat, enough to to cook the white plastic light guide, which has turned brown, the LCD displays would probably benefit from not being heated as well, and that is a non replaceable part, no spares exist! The LED filaments I have used are an eBay China purchase, they are a bit like the ones you get in modern LED filament bulbs, but unlike the ones I’ve stripped from those, these only operate from about 2.5-3.2V, and are just 28mm long, including their legs, and just fit into the light guide!
I used 4 ‘warm white’ filaments per display, and to work out how bright they needed to be I set the bench power supply on them, put them in place behind the display, turned on the stereo, and wound up the voltage to the point where the display looked about right, too little and it looked dull, too much and you could see all the inactive segments of the display! I worked out that 5.2V was about right across 2 filaments in series. Now for the fun part, in the tuner, there were 2 bulbs in series across a 24V or there abouts supply, and in the amplifier there were 2 bulbs in parallel across a 12V ish supply! The 24V in the tuner is made up of the +12V and a -12V rail, and strangely the -12V isn’t used in the tuner for anything else… complications for the sake of it. To get the voltage right I selected series resistors, 330 ohm in the tuner, 1.2k in the amplifier. I could have probably done a bit of maths to work it out, but chickened out and just increased the resistance until the voltage was correct! They give the displays an amber tint, almost like the original bulbs would have done.
The sound issues in the amplifier were down to the speaker protection relay, which closes its contacts shortly after power up, turning up the volume can clear it for a little while, but then it can fail again on quiet bits, or if trying to use the amplifier on low volume.
I removed the relay from the board, popped it’s cover off, got a bit of A4 paper and cut a thin strip that would fit between the contacts and put a bit of Servisol super 10 on it, put the paper between the contacts and pressed them down, the same way they would close if the relay was energised, then just dragged the paper through a few times, checking the resistance every so often. To begin with, one side was showing varying resistance, anywhere between infinity and 15 ohms, the other was a more steady 5 ohms, after repeated treatments I was able to get it down to 0.2 ohms both sides, which is probably just the resistance of my test leads. With the relay refitted the distortion had gone from the left side, and no more drop outs! Much better. It was bad enough before that on lowish volume the sound would go away completely, requiring the amp to be power cycled to bring it back. There were a few solder joints needed reflowing, mostly around connectors for the tuner and tape deck, it looked as though the amp had been dropped, as the plastic cover over the heat sink was pushed in at the top left corner, and the heat sink and amplifier board were sitting at a funny angle, a bit of force pushed everything back to where it should be, and the cover went back on perfectly.
The cassette deck was really rather easy to fix! Just a broken belt between the take up reel and the tape counter / shut off sensor. It had started to go like a bit of blu-tac, and dropped off, you could see it as soon as the tape door was opened. Getting it in there required the whole front removing!
The way the shut off sensor works is by a little revolving windmill on the back of the tape counter disrupting an infra red light beam as it rotates, when it stops rotating, the deck senses it and either changes play direction, or stops the deck, depending on how the switch is set on the front panel. With that fixed, the sound from the tape was kind of rubbish, very dull and muffled, looking at the heads there was a thick clag of something brown on it, so I gave it a quick wipe with some kitchen paper and IPA, and also gave the capstan’s and pinch rollers a quick wipe too, not expecting it to do much, but it totally transformed the sound!
I’ll stick my neck out here and say this deck is almost CD quality, no noticeable wow or flutter, no speed variations, in fact the speed is spot on (to my ears!) and I’ve not had to adjust it! Sound is nice and bright, with good treble response. I’m suitably impressed 🙂
The whole unit was stripped down and given a good clean, turns out it’s not a good idea to submerge the fascia’s, as there are 2 layers to the display windows, and water gets trapped between them. With all the units clean and reassembled, it was time to give it a good run, and so far it’s not missed a beat! The last thing to do is tart up the speakers, they need some dents removing from the grilles, and a general clean, other than that they work fine. The speakers are actually what attracted me to these machines in the first place, the woofers don’t have a conventional cone, instead they have a flat diaphragm made of an aluminium honeycomb with a foil surface, and they are square!
I was interested to see what they sound like, and well, they sound pretty much like any other speaker! Just a little bit more of a treble response due to it being made of aluminium rather than pressed paper. They certainly pack a punch for small speakers, I’d call them bookshelf sized, but they sound much bigger, and can rattle the floor nicely too. I actually have a set of empty cabinets for these speakers, which I purchased ages ago when trying to complete another FH-215R, which is missing it’s cassette deck, so I might use those with the woofers from this system, depending on the condition of the cabinets. I also need to pinch the bracket off one for these ones anyway. The last part required to complete the system is the carrying handle, which is always missing. Last but not least, I do have a remote, which was supplied with it, but it’s the wrong one, it does however work the functions of the system well enough.
Excellent write up Lloyd, I'm sure that will be of use to others that are fortunate enough to also obtain one.
I know what you mean about "boom-boxes" attaining desirable status among collectors, and commanding astronomical prices. Since getting a promotional board for the museum advertising a JVC-RCM60, I fancied getting one to stand in front of it. That was until I found out what they are now fetching. 😲
Cheers, Chris 🙂
I just looked up that model and saw how much one was listed for! It’s crazy! Best place to look is probably car boot sales, where people have had them hanging about for ages and think it’s junk so sell it for a couple of quid. I actually gave away a couple of mid 90’s boomboxes recently, I stuck them on the bring and buy at RetroTech! They were just a couple of Sanyo CD/radio/cassette things, they stuck £5 on each of them, and hopefully they actually sold for that!
The ultimate one of these little Sony’s would be the FH-909R, which is essentially the same as the 215, but with a more interesting cassette deck, it has a strange drawer loading mechanism, where the tape lies flat when you put it in, but as the drawer closes it drops down at a 45 degree angle to play it, and it has some lights to light up the cassette too.
There is an add on CD player for these systems, the CDP-17F, which matches the style of the FH-215R, I have 2 of them, one was a kit of parts when it arrived, not due to bad handling in the post! But because someone took it apart and forgot how it went back together! The other was in good order, but had blown backlight bulbs, which I replaced. I’ll pair one of them up with this machine.
There is an add on CD player for these systems
I only found that out yesterday, when I found the service manual (now in the tech lib). That covered the 1215R and the 1215CD where it stated the UK spec has the CDP-17F.
Just dug out the better looking of the 2 CDP-17F CD players and sat it on top, it looks great and mostly sounds good too!
One minor snag, it seems to be a bit sensitive to vibration, and sometimes skips a bit, probably down to dust, or so I thought!
I’ve opened it to give the laser lens a wipe, and discovered something unpleasant, a damaged gear on the laser sled motor 🙁 it has 2 cracks in it, and it makes it noisy in operation, and it sticks sometimes when the other gear meets the cracks. Hopefully I can sort this! It still plays nicely other than that.
I’m thinking of removing the cracked gear, using plastic glue on it to close up the cracks, then making the hole down the centre slightly bigger and gluing it on the shaft, also possibly making a silicone mould of it before doing anything irreversible to it, unless I can find a replacement in something scrap! Watch this space…