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post #1 of 13 Old 12-07-2016, 03:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Sony RDR HX-715 - Repairing front panel

I recently acquired a Sony RDR HX-715 from ebay at quite a deep discount than the usual price ($80)

The discount was because the unit has a faulty front panel. It appears to have a failure somewhere - nothing shows on the LCD and all the LEDs are lit all the time regardless of whether it's recording or not, like it's in some sort of failsafe mode. Whats interesting is that the buttons on the panel do function, but what happens is when the unit is first powered and a button is pressed, it "reboots" and then starts again with everything lit up.






I was thinking of replacing all the capacitors but there are a LOT of caps in there, so I'm not sure if it's worth the trouble or if anyone can give me any other pointers.

In addition the seller didn't package the item terribly well, so it got bashed around a lot while shipping so I now has some cracks and dents in the front, but obviously sourcing a replacement plastic front panel by itself is probably next to impossible at this point, seeing as the device is 10 years old.

I may just have to keep an eye out for any of the same units with faulty drives/hdds and swap parts out, but would really like to avoid that and at least attempt to fix the display and lights. Any help/suggestions are appreciated.

(I now have two DVD recorders with component input, this and the Phillips DVDR75, I plan to post a comparison of these recorders soon!)

Last edited by CanadaJimmy; 12-07-2016 at 03:43 PM.
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post #2 of 13 Old 12-08-2016, 12:39 AM
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This is unlikely to be a capacitor issue, unless you're extremely lucky and it turns out to be a bad cap in the power supply section (check the caps near the AC socket: if any are bulging at the top or sides, or leaking, replace them). As a long shot, you could try removing all the ribbon cables, cleaning the metal tips and replacing them.

Sometimes a faulty hard drive will send this model into a brain freeze: replacing it may help. You weren't clear as to whether the unit is at all functional: will it record and play uninterrupted after the initial reboot? If yes, the HDD may be fine, if not, the HDD may be bad. Ditto the dvd drive, which is a sore point with all Sonys.

The lockup-no display-reboot syndrome could indicate a serious problem in the firmware or one of the microprocessors. Its possible a prior owner tinkered with the machine and managed to short something, usually in a doomed attempt to hack the firmware (dangerous and futile with Sonys). There isn't much you can do if that is the case: such breakdowns require Sony authorized service, but Sony bailed on their RDR-HX series years ago so no parts are available. Even if they were, repair costs back in the day were often outrageous (near the cost of buying a replacement recorder).

The service manual isn't much use here, since it only addresses more sophisticated internal malfunctions of the tuner, operating system and drives. Like most brands, Sony's service manuals assume the technician is experienced and skilled enough to troubleshoot generic problems like bad power supply or external buttons/displays without any detailed mfr instructions. If you want to take a shot at activating the 715's self-diagnosis mode, download the service manual pdf from this link and follow the instructions that begin on page 105. Be warned, the info displayed in Service Mode will look like cryptic gibberish (esp w/ regard to firmware or OS damage).

My advice would be to resell this 715 asap on eBay, it still has value as a parts donor. You may lose $40 on the deal, but it could cost far more than that to repair. Consider the loss as the price of learning how not to shop for old recorders: if you don't know a retired tech for the brand you're interested in, don't waste time or money on junkers. Unlike VCRs, which sold in the millions and were perfected over decades, DVD/HDD recorders were among the worst-engineered consumer electronics ever sold. They weren't built to last more than a few years, and mfrs really were not interested in making them repairable either.

There are no "bargains" anymore: a used defective recorder is an unrepairable doorstop today. Far better and more economical to buy one that works and has a return guarantee. We are years past the expiration date of every interesting DVD/HDD recorder ever sold in North America: the last were discontinued in 2008, and the 715 was an even older 2005 model. These things age in dog years: most 2005 models are barely hanging on by a thread.

Note re the component input: you can connect an old recorder that has this feature to a newer recorder that doesn't, thereby giving the newer recorder component input by proxy. If the only thing you really wanted out of this 715 is the component input, perhaps keep it and use it as a Component>cComposite/S-Video converter for another newer, fully-functional model. As long as the 715 stays powered on and doesn't overlay any random error messages, it will work fine for this purpose (ditto the Philips DVDR75).

Just connect the component outputs of your cable/satellite box to the component inputs of the 715, and the standard S-Video or Composite outputs of the 715 to the inputs of the second recorder. The Sony (or Phillips) will convert the component signal to the standard connection required by most other recorders, while preserving the full 16:9 anamorphic widescreen format. I'm going to do this with a Phillips one of my friends is finally going to give me (its been collecting dust for eight years, ever since they got a FiOS pvr).
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post #3 of 13 Old 12-08-2016, 10:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CitiBear View Post
This is unlikely to be a capacitor issue, unless you're extremely lucky and it turns out to be a bad cap in the power supply section (check the caps near the AC socket: if any are bulging at the top or sides, or leaking, replace them). As a long shot, you could try removing all the ribbon cables, cleaning the metal tips and replacing them.
Good advice, thank you. The cable from the panel actually goes quite a long way from the front to the back, so there could be a failure there as well. I'm probably going to have to dismantle the entire unit and lay it out on a table, cleaning and checking every connection.

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Originally Posted by CitiBear View Post
Sometimes a faulty hard drive will send this model into a brain freeze: replacing it may help. You weren't clear as to whether the unit is at all functional: will it record and play uninterrupted after the initial reboot? If yes, the HDD may be fine, if not, the HDD may be bad. Ditto the dvd drive, which is a sore point with all Sonys.
Actually the HDD and DVD recording on the unit both work, via the remote control. I would never had bought it had this been the case. Other than the faulty screen, the unit appears to have had very light usage, at least as a recorder - there were only a handful of movies and home recordings on the harddrive before I wiped it. The screen is more of a nitpick if anything, and I thought it would be an interesting project to see if I could restore it back to life

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Originally Posted by CitiBear View Post
The lockup-no display-reboot syndrome could indicate a serious problem in the firmware or one of the microprocessors. Its possible a prior owner tinkered with the machine and managed to short something, usually in a doomed attempt to hack the firmware (dangerous and futile with Sonys). There isn't much you can do if that is the case: such breakdowns require Sony authorized service, but Sony bailed on their RDR-HX series years ago so no parts are available. Even if they were, repair costs back in the day were often outrageous (near the cost of buying a replacement recorder).
Interesting bit of knowledge there! But I think this is highly unlikely, the owner didn't seem tech-savvy enough to do anything like that. The fact it reboots could indicate something along those lines, but it's interesting that all other functionality works just fine.

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Originally Posted by CitiBear View Post
The service manual isn't much use here, since it only addresses more sophisticated internal malfunctions of the tuner, operating system and drives. Like most brands, Sony's service manuals assume the technician is experienced and skilled enough to troubleshoot generic problems like bad power supply or external buttons/displays without any detailed mfr instructions. If you want to take a shot at activating the 715's self-diagnosis mode, download the service manual pdf from this link and follow the instructions that begin on page 105. Be warned, the info displayed in Service Mode will look like cryptic gibberish (esp w/ regard to firmware or OS damage).
Will give this a try this evening. This service manual looks extremely useful - thank you!

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Originally Posted by CitiBear View Post
My advice would be to resell this 715 asap on eBay, it still has value as a parts donor. You may lose $40 on the deal, but it could cost far more than that to repair. Consider the loss as the price of learning how not to shop for old recorders: if you don't know a retired tech for the brand you're interested in, don't waste time or money on junkers. Unlike VCRs, which sold in the millions and were perfected over decades, DVD/HDD recorders were among the worst-engineered consumer electronics ever sold. They weren't built to last more than a few years, and mfrs really were not interested in making them repairable either.

There are no "bargains" anymore: a used defective recorder is an unrepairable doorstop today. Far better and more economical to buy one that works and has a return guarantee. We are years past the expiration date of every interesting DVD/HDD recorder ever sold in North America: the last were discontinued in 2008, and the 715 was an even older 2005 model. These things age in dog years: most 2005 models are barely hanging on by a thread.
When I got my Phillips DVDR75, it didn't work, but I actually quite enjoyed trying to figure it out and installing the replacement parts to get it working as well. You are right that DVD recorders are problematic, but I'm kind of a hoarder so I don't plan to resell, despite it's flaws! The weak point of most recorders is the drive, after all I had to replace the drive in the phillips, but in this one that isn't the case at least.

It'd be interesting if someone created a universal adapter of some sort that could replace the drive with an SD card or something like that. The logistics of that are pretty difficult though.

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Originally Posted by CitiBear View Post
Note re the component input: you can connect an old recorder that has this feature to a newer recorder that doesn't, thereby giving the newer recorder component input by proxy. If the only thing you really wanted out of this 715 is the component input, perhaps keep it and use it as a Component>cComposite/S-Video converter for another newer, fully-functional model. As long as the 715 stays powered on and doesn't overlay any random error messages, it will work fine for this purpose (ditto the Philips DVDR75).
Good point - also a bonus with this unit is it has HDMI out, so it can also serve as a Component -> HDMI converter as well, which I can connect to any video game capture device as well. This is something I have thought about as a backup plan.

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Originally Posted by CitiBear View Post
Just connect the component outputs of your cable/satellite box to the component inputs of the 715, and the standard S-Video or Composite outputs of the 715 to the inputs of the second recorder. The Sony (or Phillips) will convert the component signal to the standard connection required by most other recorders, while preserving the full 16:9 anamorphic widescreen format. I'm going to do this with a Phillips one of my friends is finally going to give me (its been collecting dust for eight years, ever since they got a FiOS pvr).
Sounds like a good plan, good luck in your own project. The reason I got theses recorders is because I like to record myself playing video games from older consoles, and then add some commentary over the top. The Phillips one has an unfortunate habit of powering off once the disk is full, and has quite poor quality MPEG2 encoding even on the highest setting, where as the Sony seems a lot better and more reliable in those aspects (especially since I can just record to the harddrive first before I commit to an actual disc) even if the display is borked.

Anyway thanks for the advice, I will definitely try out your suggestions.

Last edited by CanadaJimmy; 12-08-2016 at 10:30 AM.
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post #4 of 13 Old 12-08-2016, 10:37 PM
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Actually the HDD and DVD recording on the unit both work, via the remote control.
Excellent! Then you did get a bargain on a RDR-HX715. The dead front panel is annoying, but for $80, I agree one could learn to live with it. Coincidentally, another person posted here recently with a "dead display panel" issue: their recorder is a Pioneer, very similar to your Sony. Perhaps if he eventually gets his front panel to work again, he'll post back here with instructions. Pioneer and Sony collaborated on their recorders (Pioneers and Sonys made from 2006-2009 are near carbon copies of each other).

Quote:
It'd be interesting if someone created a universal adapter of some sort that could replace the drive with an SD card or something like that. The logistics of that are pretty difficult though.
A few people here have said they managed to make their older units with failing EIDE hard drives accept a new SATA hard drive via a small EIDE>SATA adapter plug. Theoretically, a SSD should work just as well, but no one seems to have tried yet. Heck, I saw an interesting post by someone who converted their click-wheel iPod from a 30GB micro-HDD to a 64GB CF memory card.

The only thing that remains stubbornly impossible is replacing the DVD drives: due to Hollywood interference, recorder mfrs all used weird proprietary burners with special firmware code locks not found in generic PC drives. The proprietary burners used to be a $250 replacement part, which is why most DVD recorders got discarded as soon as they broke down. For the life of me, I never could understand WTH Hollywood thought they were gaining by insisting on non-replaceable burners in dvd recorders: it did absolutely nothing to prevent piracy. Just drove the cost of recorders higher than necessary while, making cheap repairs impossible. Its as if they wanted dvd recorders to fail as a consumer product or something. Oh, wait...

Quote:
The Phillips one has an unfortunate habit of powering off once the disk is full, and has quite poor quality MPEG2 encoding even on the highest setting,
You probably know this, but in case anyone else needs clarification: when using an older recorder as a pass-thru Component to Composite-S Video connection converter, it isn't necessary to have a disc loaded or have the unit in record mode at all. It just needs to be turned on, and left on for as long as it will be passing the signal to another recorder.

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Sony seems a lot better and more reliable in those aspects (especially since I can just record to the harddrive first before I commit to an actual disc) even if the display is borked.
Yes, this era of Sony recorders was notably better than competitor Philips. Earlier Sonys were dysfunctional Rube Goldberg contraptions, but starting with the x15 series Sony really stepped up its game, and the following x25 series quickly became the most popular DVD/HDD recorders world wide. When the "golden age" of Sonys ended in 2009 with the x90 series, Europe practically went into mourning (later models were grotesque junk subcontracted to Samsung).
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sony rdr-hx715

Hi,
Could you please tell me if the fluorescent display lights up at all. I have a rdr-hx715 in pristine condition that works perfectly but the fluorescent display is very dim and needs to be replaced. I would like to buy the FL-144 board the fluorescent display is on if it works. Parts are not available anymore.
Thank you.
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post #6 of 13 Old 01-17-2017, 07:50 AM
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Not sure if this will help but I have a few 715s and there's a front display dimmer setting under SYSTEM MENU-SETUP-VIDEO (page 98).

Choose NORMAL for a bright display or POWER SAVE for a dim display and no display at all when powered off.
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sony rdr-hx715

Yes I know that. That's not why it's dim, the fluorescent tube emission output is at it's end. If you have several rdr-hx715's and don't need all of them, could you please sell me one of them or the FL-144 board out of one that still has a bright fluorescent display?
Thank you.
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post #8 of 13 Old 01-17-2017, 10:57 AM
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Since you know the precise part number of the display, it seems you have some experience taking the machine apart and repairing it. But if you don't: be very sure that the panel itself is the problem and not something else, before shelling out cash for a donor part (and risking your 11 year old recorder having a sudden fit because you disconnected something).

Dim front panel displays are often a sign of deeper decay issues in the power supply or motherboard: Sony was particularly prone to this in some of their designs. If the issue lies deeper than the display itself, the recorder will erode/dim any new display you install fairly quickly. The power taps linking the PSU to the display should be checked for proper voltage per service manual specs: if the voltage is within tolerance, you should be OK replacing just the fluorescent panel. If the voltage is wrong or unsteady, overhaul the PSU caps before installing a new panel.

The 715 fluorescent panel design was continued in the 725 but improved in later models. From the RDR-HX750 onward, it is less likely to dim with age or be damaged by motherboard/PSU issues.
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Smile sony rdr-hx715

I am a retired electronics tech. I have serviced electronic equipment of all types since vacuum tube days. I would like to find a 715 that has a display that is still readable. Being retired just means doing the same thing, just not getting a pay check anymore!
Thanks.
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sony rdr-hx715

I compared the hx715 schematic and parts list to the hx725. They are not alike. The indicator drive boards have different numbers even though they look the same. The fluorescent display tubes have different pin outs and the tube driver IC's are different. I'm trying to find the same board or the same fluorescent display tube on a different model as the hx715 but they are all different. This is very frustrating.
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post #11 of 13 Old 01-20-2017, 05:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mencucci View Post
I am a retired electronics tech.
Shhhhhh!

Don't let anyone here know that, or you'll have a hundred PMs from members asking if you can fix THEIR orphaned dvd recorders!

Skilled techs are rarer than hen's teeth today. Our own member mickinct has almost a cottage industry going with his Panasonic repairs, but there's a lot of non-Panasonic owners with broken recorders.

Good luck on your part search: unfortunately the RDR-HX715 is somewhat uncommon in USA. Hope you eventually find a nice bright donor display!
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post #12 of 13 Old Yesterday, 06:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mencucci View Post
Hi,
Could you please tell me if the fluorescent display lights up at all. I have a rdr-hx715 in pristine condition that works perfectly but the fluorescent display is very dim and needs to be replaced. I would like to buy the FL-144 board the fluorescent display is on if it works. Parts are not available anymore.
Thank you.
Hi there! Sorry for the slow reply, the display does not light up at all. Please let me know if you get yours working properly again. I still haven't spent much time looking into it, there are quite a few HX715s on ebay with broken displays so it must be a common design fault of some sort.
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sony rdr-hx715

Hi,
Thanks for answering. The florescent display growing dim to the point that you can't see it anymore isn't exactly a design fault, it's a characteristic of a florescent display. It's the same as a vacuum tube cathode output wearing out from many hours of use. Do you know the hours put on your deck? If you can get the display on your deck to light up bright enough to read without trouble and if you would like to part out the deck I'll buy the florescent display board from you. It's easy to remove.
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