Pioneer DVR 550 H repair or replace? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 9 Old 02-28-2013, 12:29 PM - Thread Starter
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My Pioneer DVR 550 H has stopped loading blank discs and when I used compressed gas on it lots of white flakey dust came out. Now the Pioneer-authorized repair guy in Toronto has told me the lens can't be cleaned and the loading mechanism must be replaced for $400. Should I repair or replace? And how would I save what is on the harddrive? And where are these dvrs still available?

thanks
CT
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post #2 of 9 Old 03-08-2013, 02:09 PM
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I'm a bit surprised that CitiBear didn't post anything in response, may he's on vacation. Look for his posts in the last 2-3 months, I think there were some discussions about Pioneers recorders.

Otherwise, you're are out of luck. DiY Pio dvd drive replacement is out of question. So if you need to save what you have on the HDD it's either play it and record it onto another dvd recorder in real time or $400 to Pio service.

You can still use your 550 for recording to the HDD with the limitation as above.

If you want a replacement Pio it is only from a second hand market. In Canada you can find a nice used 560 or 660 for a reasonable price, check it around out and decide.
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post #3 of 9 Old 03-09-2013, 12:24 PM
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I've sent you a private message.
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post #4 of 9 Old 02-10-2015, 08:49 AM
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Hi, my DVR-531H units have stopped working.
Is there anyone in the Toronto area that knows and can repair these units?
Any info appreciated.
Thanks.
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post #5 of 9 Old 02-11-2015, 03:46 PM
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One trick that has worked for me with failing Pioneer recorders is to try RW media instead of -R or +R. Rewritable media burns slower and may still be within the failing laser's ability. Alternatively, try formatting a standard blank -R or +R to "VR Mode" in the "Disc Setup" menu. For some reason a dying Pioneer will often burn in its proprietary "VR Mode" even if it won't make a standard dvd. "VR Mode" formats a blank dvd to the Pioneer hard drive format, and recordings copied to a "VR Mode" dvd remain "live" - meaning you can high-speed-lossless-copy them back to the hard drive of any other Pioneer (or similar Sony i.e. 780) recorder. Once on the new recorder's HDD, the rescued videos can be edited or burned to standard DVD.

The Pioneer 550 & 560 burner is difficult to find as a replacement part, and difficult to install unless you have more than a little experience disassembling something like a DVD recorder. The burner in these units does not simply pop out as it does in other recorders: you must take the entire recorder apart to remove it.

AFAIK, replacement burners have NEVER been available at affordable prices on the secondary market in North America. Occasionally they pop up on eBay for $50-$200, but this is rare. Recently, AVS member Super Eye found a supplier in UK that sells the burners for approx $125 (US), see his post here. Whether it would be worth trying to import one is another matter: besides the $125 purchase price, factor in at least $35 for insured shipping plus an additional $30-$60 for the required Service Remote and Service Disc.

For residents of Canada, it might be simpler to just buy another functional second-hand Pioneer 550 or 560 from local Craigs List (or one of the many pawn shops that seem to have them). If you obtain a Service Remote and Service Disc, you will be able to swap your old 550 hard drive into the "new" one and copy its contents to DVD using the "new" units still-functional burner. Then you can put the old HDD back into your "dead" 550 and sell it on eBay for parts- you could get $100 or more from a desperate American.

A generic "clone" service remote is available from specialist remote control dealers for as little as $22: one source is here. The service disc GGV1321 Type 2 can be downloaded with assistance from pioneerfaq. Use the "leave a message" link to make a small PayPal donation (to defray site expenses) and request access to the service disc.

Note when shopping second hand recorders: the Canadian model Sony RDR-HX-780 is roughly equivalent to the Pioneer 550 or 560. The Pioneers have a very slight edge in recording quality (very slight) due to their newer encoder chip, otherwise every aspect of operation is identical between Sony 780 and Pioneer 550/560. The Sony was sold for a couple years after the Pioneers were discontinued, so may be easier to find second hand. Unfortunately the Sony hard drive formatting is not exactly the same as Pioneers, so you cannot temporarily swap a Pioneer HDD into a Sony to dub its contents to DVD (the Sony will not recognize it).

*************

The Pioneer 531-533-633 are EXTREMELY difficult to repair. At the very least you need to know how to boot your PC into Linux and run a few Linux commands. You also need TVGOS firmware downloaded from pioneerfaq, that you install to the boot blocks of a replacement hard drive. Pioneer itself became so disgusted with the heavy warranty claims on these that they were discontinued quickly in favor of the simplified DVR-640 model.

If your 531 hard drive is still OK, and you just need to replace the burner, it is possible to substitute a generic Pioneer DVR-109 or DVR-A09 burner. However, one needs to open up each burner and swap the larger green circuit board (the one with connections for the recorder). I don't recommend doing this anymore because most second-hand DVR-109 burners are on their last legs and won't extend the life of your recorder very long. Also, the 531-533-633 are VERY finicky about accepting the new "Franken-burner" - sometimes it works, often it doesn't.

The 531-533-633 do have the option to format -R blanks to "VR Mode" - see my remarks above on how this can be used to back up your HDD, and transfer its recordings to another Pioneer or Sony recorder.
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post #6 of 9 Old 02-20-2015, 09:44 AM
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Pioneer drives

CitiBear,

Do you think it might be possible to replace Pio sata drive with a SSD unit ?
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post #7 of 9 Old 02-20-2015, 04:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sasquatch7 View Post
Do you think it might be possible to replace Pio sata drive with a SSD unit ?
Theoretically, its possible, but I wouldn't recommend it since AFAIK no one has yet reported doing this (successfully or otherwise). Bear in mind there would be little point, unless you just happen to have a large SSD drive left over that you acquired free from a NASA project you worked on.

If purchasing a replacement HDD from scratch, SSD is usually MUCH more expensive than an ordinary SATA HDD. These recorders can't make effective use of the primary features of SSD: access speed and low power consumption. And these recorders have almost no built-in HDD error correcting utilities: if an SSD glitches out while in the recorder, you'd likely lose everything on it, where a standard HDD might be salvageable.

Note also the SATA connection in the Pioneer 450-550-650 and 460-560-660 isn't particularly reliable. It tends to flake when the unit is moved or the room temperature changes with the season or the fan ages or whatever. Standard HDDs can sorta cope with this, you need only open the cabinet and replug the SATA cables, but I wouldn't want to bet on a more sensitive SSD.

I would just stick to standard HDDs. The SATA Pioneers don't require any particular size, and will in fact ignore the actual capacity in favor of their firmware-embedded formatting routines anyway. So you can buy whatever the current cheapest commodity-priced HDD is (500GB? 1 TB?), pop it in, and the unit will format it to 160GB regardless (or 250GB in the Pioneer 650/660 models).
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post #8 of 9 Old 02-23-2015, 07:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CitiBear View Post
Theoretically, its possible, but I wouldn't recommend it since AFAIK no one has yet reported doing this (successfully or otherwise). Bear in mind there would be little point, unless you just happen to have a large SSD drive left over that you acquired free from a NASA project you worked on.

If purchasing a replacement HDD from scratch, SSD is usually MUCH more expensive than an ordinary SATA HDD. These recorders can't make effective use of the primary features of SSD: access speed and low power consumption. And these recorders have almost no built-in HDD error correcting utilities: if an SSD glitches out while in the recorder, you'd likely lose everything on it, where a standard HDD might be salvageable.

Note also the SATA connection in the Pioneer 450-550-650 and 460-560-660 isn't particularly reliable. It tends to flake when the unit is moved or the room temperature changes with the season or the fan ages or whatever. Standard HDDs can sorta cope with this, you need only open the cabinet and replug the SATA cables, but I wouldn't want to bet on a more sensitive SSD.

I would just stick to standard HDDs. The SATA Pioneers don't require any particular size, and will in fact ignore the actual capacity in favor of their firmware-embedded formatting routines anyway. So you can buy whatever the current cheapest commodity-priced HDD is (500GB? 1 TB?), pop it in, and the unit will format it to 160GB regardless (or 250GB in the Pioneer 650/660 models).
OK Cool.
Thanks for the info.
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post #9 of 9 Old 02-24-2015, 12:00 PM
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Burner Replacement Tip Pioneer DVR-550 etc

Before this Pioneer repair thread fades back into obscurity, I thought I'd report my recent experiments with burner replacement/swapping.

I've performed countless burner replacements on various pre-2006 Pioneer dvd recorders (the 100% Pioneer-made units with Pioneer burners inside). Each of those older models contained a standard generic Pioneer PC burner, modified with a custom controller board with proprietary connections for the recorder motherboard. When the recorder burner croaked, in 99% the cause was mechanical or laser failure (the custom controller board was still good). So all one needed to do was remove the old recorder burner, open it to harvest the controller board, then swap that board into a very inexpensive (> $40) new Pioneer PC burner.

Beginning with the 2006 models (540-543-640), Pioneer recorders were made in collaboration with Sony. All these new Pioneers and Sonys used a new exclusive Sony burner, and Sony adopted the Pioneer user interface. If you took off the brand logo, you often couldn't tell them apart. These "Type 2" Pioneers were improved in every respect save one: DIY burner repairability. The Sony burner they contain is not used in anything but Pioneer and Sony DVD recorders: no inexpensive generic PC version exists. Replacements were only available via factory service centers at a cost approaching that of a complete new recorder.

Making matters worse, each "Type 2" recorder model splits its motherboard into two pieces: one attached to the recorder chassis, the other sandwiched inside the burner. The board in the burner includes crucial components like the HDMI, digital audio circuits, and front panel USB/DV encoders. So even if one does luck out and find a "spare" burner on eBay or at a surplus dealer, it often won't be the exact right one for your specific recorder. Another hurdle is the increased difficulty removing the burner module from the chassis: you need to completely remove the front panel and disconnect multiple fragile ribbon connectors.

All the above has long held me back from repairing 540-543-640, 450-550-650, and 460-560-660 models with dead burners. When I had access to the factory-supplied burners, and clients willing to pay the $350 cost, I did do a few drop-in replacements of the complete burner+motherboard unit. But I hadn't been able to figure a less-expensive workaround or alternative.

Until this past weekend, when I finally grew annoyed enough with my personal workhorse DVR-560 to tear it apart and experiment. My 560 had become increasingly cranky about high-speed burning of DVDs from its HDD. For most of 2014 it would ruin 1 out of 3 blank discs with a failed burn, then in the last couple months that became an insufferable 2 out of 3 discs ruined. This drove me to finally remove it from my gear rack to see what I could possibly do to repair it. Since at this point, it wasn't willing to burn 70% of the time, I figured I had nothing to lose if I destroyed the burner. So for the first time, I disassembled a "Type 2" burner after removing it.

To my great surprise, upon removing the bottom plate I discovered this "Sony" burner used the exact same connection configuration as the old Pioneer burners! The four internal ribbon cables connecting the inner burner mechanism to the sandwiched "motherboard" were almost identical to the layout in a Pioneer 510, 520, or 530 series recorder burner. So Pioneer must have exerted some influence over Sony in this regard. This gave me the idea there might be some leeway in swapping burner mechanisms by simply switching the sandwiched motherboards.

Then I remembered I still had a funky Pioneer 550 recorder in storage. That particular unit had a short in its HDD controller which wasn't repairable, but I kept it around on the off chance I could use it as a parts donor someday. On a hunch, I removed its burner and opened it. Sure enough, it was the exact same internal mechanism as the 560 version, aside from housing a very different motherboard. So I swapped the mother board from my 560 burner into the 550 burner, and installed the 550 burner into my 560 chassis. The 560 booted up without a hitch, and is now working perfectly with no burn failures. Later, I opened up one of my Pioneer 540 recorders, and found it also uses the same basic burner mechanism, only difference being the motherboard sandwiched inside.

Based on this, I would tend to believe ANY burner form ANY 2006 thru 2008 Pioneer model could be swapped and made compatible as long as the motherboard it contained was recycled. After double-checking a few of my Sony service manuals, it looks like the burners in their x50, x70, x80 and x90 series would be similarly swappable (and might very well work in a Pioneer with no problem once the Pioneer motherboard is installed). The only issue I could imagine with using, say, a Sony 780 burner in a Pioneer 550 would be possible loss of DVD-RAM burning ability (which the Sony recorders do not have). I suspect even this may not be a problem, however: the "RAM" functionality might be determined by the installed board and not the burner mechanism itself. It is entirely possible Sony made a single burner mechanism for all Pioneer-Sony models, with functionality determined by the individual recorder motherboards.

My successful recent experiments left me very interested in ordering a Sony 780 replacement burner from one of the UK-based parts dealers AVS member Super Eye mentioned in this related post. If my theory is correct, and they work just as well in Pioneer recorders, I'll be glad of having another spare (despite the cost being a little high at $125 USD + international postage).

BTW, while I had my failing Pioneer 560 burner open, I noticed it was FULL of dust and grit. These things must suck in dust as badly as the notorious Panasonic burners do. The rubberized spindle was so dirty I could barely see the black rubber ring. I cleaned it with some rubber restorative, and cleaned the laser lens (plus the laser guide rails which were also filthy). Whether this cleaning could revive the burner in the same way Panasonic burners respond to cleaning, I'll have to leave for future testing (the only recorder I had handy to test it in was the 550 with dead HDD controller).

Last edited by CitiBear; 02-24-2015 at 12:12 PM.
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