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Pioneer DVR-640H-S DVD Replacement Drive ??

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
This unit does everything I need and is perfect for my non-HD Comcast setup. Of course I could pay for their HD service - but I noticed that after a few minutes I no longer think "wow - this is so clear" because my mind is involved in the show. So instead I stay on non-HD, am OK with the average quality, and am able to record ANYTHING. If I want anything on my PC it is a quick burn and transfer using 25-cent blank DVD. If I want the "wow factor" then I just watch a BluRay via my PS3.

But now the Pioneer DVD/RW drive is dying. It makes a loud groaning noise as it records and half of the recorded DVDs are toast.

Question 1) I cannot find any website anywhere that lists the model or Part number of that drive. Does anyone know ?

Question 2) I wonder if I could just open the unit up and replace the DVD/RW drive with a stock Pioneer standalone drive ? Or maybe even cut an opening in the case and run a cable in from a small standalone unit on top ? Has anyone had any experience with a bad drive on this unit ?

If no help here then I guess I will look into the Mag - but I do not yet know how it compares to this older but extremely popular unit (at the time it was).

post #2 of 12
What blank media are you using? If anything other than Ty 8x you may be able to add years more use by switching. If your already using Tys then you may be out of luck. No to replacement burners, DVDRs use proprietary burners. Some hardcore Pio users like Citibear have taken specific drives(out of non HDD Pios I believe) and transplanted them in HDD Pios(retaining some of the original parts to make it work) but it sounds not for the faint of heart.
Unfortunately international Pios are no longer made and any HDD Pios are as rare as hens teeth
You could try and track down a Canadian Sony(Pio clone) but they aren't that easy to find either.
The Magnavoxes have a large following but personally if you are use to your Pioneer I'm not so sure you would be happy with a Magnavox. You may be happy with a international Panasonic(~$400 for a new grey market tunerless Panasonic) but be forewarned the MN system is quite different on a Panny than Pio and I would think it would be easier to go from a Panny to Pio than the other way around. The Pannys make very nice recordings and have a comparable editing system to the Pios but they will be different.
You could try a Magnavox from W/M and if not satisfied they have a excellent return policy, the grey market dealers of the Panasonic tend to charge a restocking fee, if they even accept returns. I'm very happy with my grey market EH-59 but then again I'm a Panny guy and have used them for years
Citibear has many Pios and a couple Maggys, hopefully he'll add to the discussion. I think Wajo has a 640 and for sure several Maggys which he really likes. If you haven't already, check his sticky thread at the top of your page for lots of great information on them.
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Ah rats. I can see why they made the Hard Drive proprietary and encrypted - so you cannot plug it into your computer and DL all the videos. But why they would make the DVD recorder proprietary is beyond me. It does make non-proprietary, standard DVDs . . . but apparently you are referring to the electrical interface.

I used Ritek for a while then Sony DVD-R DVD-5 blanks. Since Pioneer drives started out as -R for years and then finally added +R, I figured -R was safer to use. Have not tried Ty discs as I figgered they would be $$$ but I just checked and they are only $28 for 100. "Silver thermal laquer" - hehe, what a great term for sales purposes.

I agree with you on Panny's and have a VHS <==> DVD unit for dubbing old VHS tapes that has worked flawlessly and allowed me to preserve those old family recordings. But I use a Harmony Universal remote which has everything listed - but I am not sure if it has "grey market" devices listed. Will have to check that out. Thanks for the helpful info ! !
post #4 of 12
Originally Posted by lifeson99 View Post

But now the Pioneer DVD/RW drive is dying. It makes a loud groaning noise as it records and half of the recorded DVDs are toast.

Might just be the disc slipping. Check out this post for cleaning tips.

Edit: I just noticed jjeff was in that discussion too!
post #5 of 12
Check out my signature link for info on the grey market Pannys but hopefully if you switch to the Ty 8x(-R is the preferred format for Panny/Pio users) you may be able to continue using your Pioneer. Ty discs have a slightly tactile surface which help it grip the spindle of your DVDR and IMO spindle slippage is a major cause of disc failures(for sure with Pannys) and I believe in Pios as well. I've had cases where especially Sony 16x media slips and grinds like mad, sometimes corrupting the disc but upon inserting a Ty disc it burns fine and is silent.
I use to be a 16x sale media guy until my machines started getting old and started grinding, now I'm pretty much stuck on Tys($25/100 delivered is best price at places like supermedia.com) or 16x Verbatim(AZO series only, not Life series). Other 16x media may work OK on a PC or even the more versatile newer Magnavoxes(which even have $70 replacement drives available(insert jealous symbol here)) but not on our older DVDRs where DVD drives are cost prohibitive if even available

Looks like KenF. has a nice link that talks about your exact problem, some good info in that thread although Pioneer power users like Citibear swear by Ty media and lately I have to agree
I'm still using the "saliva" trick(talked about in the link) to burn off my remaining Sony 16x media(and it's still basically working) but after that I just don't see myself using anything but Tys in my older DVDRs. My only complaint of Ty media is because of it's tactile surface it attracts dust and finger prints like a magnet but I'll live with finger prints if I can get a good quality burn that lasts for many years
post #6 of 12
Don't know if this will help you, but it's worth a try.

Just add the h in place of the *...sorry, not enough posts yet

post #7 of 12
Unfortunately (as with many classic DVD/HDD recorders), the optical drive in the Pioneer 640 is no longer repairable or replaceable if it dies. Unlike earlier Pioneer models, which could be "tricked" into accepting an off-the-shelf Pioneer PC burner, the 640 uses a very unusual exotic Sony burner. This burner is both A) unbelievably difficult to remove and replace, and B) impossible to find as a spare part. In the rare event you do find a service center that still has one, expect a parts/labor cost upwards of $300. Pioneer as a company went under in 2008, and exited the recorder business (including repairs). If you live in Canada, and can afford the repair expense, consider bringing the 640 to a Sony repair center: Sony Canada sold a rebranded 640 under the Sony RDR-HX780 model name and its burner is compatible with the 640. Realistically, the 640 is not worth fixing. Buy a similar import Panasonic EH59 instead, or perhaps a Magnavox 513 or 515. (The Harmony has remote codes available for all of these: the Panasonic codes have not changed in ten years, and the Magnavox code dates back to 2007.)

But before giving up on your 640, do take the advice of earlier posts and try some JVC/TY Premium Silver Lacquer 8x DVD-R media (or Verbatim DataLifePlus Silver 8x DVD-R). DVD recorders in general prefer 8x media to 16x, especially 16x Ritek which is pretty low grade and puts tremendous stress on the laser. In my long experience using and repairing Pioneer models like the 640, I've found their Sony burner behavior pretty consistent: 16x will work fine for a year or two, then the machine begins to fail with them more and more until it flatly refuses to burn them at all. Almost always, switching to TY or Verbatim 8x DVD-R solves the problem, and the recorder will then merrily burn 8x media without complaint long after it loses the ability to burn 16x. It is of course possible that your 640 burner is worn out beyond saving, and might fail with 8x as well as 16x media (the 640 is now five years old, and few recorders survive a steady diet of 16x media for more than three years). In that case, I'd replace the recorder altogether.
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much for the great info.
Obviously these units are a lot worse than I thought.
My Pioneer CD unit in my computer has NEVER failed on ANY discs.
I am so surprised they did not simply use one of those in these.

Oh well - I found one Used complete DVR-640_HS on YouTube that says "Tuner Broken" and was going to buy it for the DVD unit. Butr since you said it is incredibly difficult to replace I will pass.

I will try the Ty discs just to see - you know it has been hot and miss and I actually burned a couple discs but that represents only about 10% of the attempts. I will let you know if the new discs work - thanks again.

post #9 of 12
While waiting for your TY 8x discs try jjeff’s famous saliva idea but use isopropyl alcohol instead of saliva. As mentioned by Ken.F in an above post, it could be a dirty spindle problem that is very common with stand-alone recorders.

See this member’s Pioneer 640 success story after taking jjeff’s info.
Pay attention to the bold writing below.



Hi all, DVR-640H owner here, ...It's been over a year now of successful use. I do have several questions now though...

...the 'grinding' noise...I've used Sony 16x DVD-Rs lately (got a pretty good deal for 100 at Best Buy), and during burning, occasionally I will hear a grinding noise...sounds kinda like a grinding 'purr' if you can imagine that. Happens once in a while, but it goes away. I've burned quite a few disks...no problems until recently.


More weirdness...just completed finalization of a DVD-R, worked fine although there is 'grinding' from the dusty spindle area apparently. Several days ago, as mentioned I finalized a dozen+ DVD-Rs (all Sony 16x), and they were fine, although one disc took quite a long time to finalize.

...It starts, I hear the grinding noise, on and off as usual. After 3 minutes, it is just the loud 'fan'-like sound, still normal-ish.


Success! Thanks for the suggestions, this forum has been of great help.

Oh well, after around 150 discs burned so far with this 640, a handful of errors have occurred in burning. Only that one disc I had mentioned before had completely lost data for some mysterious reason (perhaps being moved during HDTV box installation).

I edited out jjeff suggesting his famous saliva spindle cleaning - the Pio owner modified the procedure by substituting the spit with isopropyl. I love this forum.

Thanks for the suggestion, and here I am happy to report...SUCCESS! However, it was a very challenging procedure from my experience. I was 'miffed' at first to discover that ejecting the tray, and powering off the 640 causes the tray to nicely retract itself. How unlike my PC computer!

Anyhow, unplugging and leaving the tray out, I did use an LED penlight and peek in there. It is a very, very narrow slot and even cue-tips had to push to get in there. I used isopropyl alcohol, which others also recommend. However, somewhat awkwardly 'jabbing' in there and getting the spindle to rotate...I wasn't sure if anything was being cleaned. Also was worried about threads of cue tip felt going around in there.

Finally, after some close calls, I decided to take the 'saliva' idea mentioned above in this thread, and instead use isopropyl alcohol. I coated the inner circle, transparent section (the part that gets 'concentric rings') with a light sheen of isopropyl. I then put it in the tray, activated the 640, let the disc spin around there for a bit, and removed it. Then I left the drive tray open for an hour to dry.

And just now, I've finished burning/finalizing several DVDs, including one new Sony 16x DVD. Absolutely no grinding whatsoever. It burns as quietly as it did several months ago!

Thanks everyone for the help. I will not miss that 'grinding purr.'
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
I will definitely try the cleaning tip !!! Thanks
CitiBear recommended getting a PANASONIC EH59.

Maybe I should just get one before it is too late.

What I really want to do is hook up an alternate cable with an A/B switch or something like that from the 640 to my Living Room Screen and "A" and then to my PC on "B" and just capture the video on my PC and then burn it to DVD. Mostr of these shows I am making custom DVDs anyway since I do a lot of video editing in Premiere. But I am not sure if that is going to be a big pain or not.
post #11 of 12
Don't know about the 8X TYs but 16X Verbatims work fine in my 640. Whisper quiet while burning them. Not on sale as often as in times past, so I stock up whenever it does happen.
post #12 of 12
Originally Posted by Doug O View Post

Don't know about the 8X TYs but 16X Verbatims work fine in my 640. Whisper quiet while burning them. Not on sale as often as in times past, so I stock up whenever it does happen.

Verb -R 16x are the discs I recommend but only the ones that use AZO dye. My deck burns em quit as a whisper without failures and they seem to work just fine even a few years after the initial burn.

For Canadians - London Drugs seems to have them on sale about 3 to 4 times a year, that's when I stock up on them. If something should go wrong they have a great return policy with no re-stocking fees and no shipping fees for walk ins.

ncix.ca seems to have them on sale from time to time as well but they only have a few walk-in outlets. ncix.ca also carry the Verbatim AZO 8x -R for anyone who needs 8x. For now I'm sticking with my -16x as they seem to work flawless with my deck, why jinx a good thing?
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