Repairing A Sony Dream Machine

Have you ever fancied a gadget but been put off by what seems like an excessive price? [leadacid44] did just that back in 2009, in his case the gadget in question was a Sony Dream Machine ICF-CL75iP. It’s an alarm clock radio, albeit a very fancy one featuring an iPod dock, SD card slot, and an electronic photo frame. Back then it was just too expensive, but in 2016 [leadacid44] spotted one on an auction site for pennies, and so snapped it up.

Of course, with something cheap there is so often a catch. In the case of this Dream Machine, it would not keep time — something pretty important in a clock. But rather than throw it on the “Hack later” pile, [leadacid44] decided to investigate, and turned up a surprising culprit. The glue Sony had used to secure the timing crystal in 2009 had become conductive with age, causing the oscillator to stop oscillating. A simple fix involving a bit of glue removal and a touch of resoldering, and the clock was back with us.

This was a very simple repair when the problem was diagnosed, but it tells us something about electronic product design, and about quality control. Sony have spent a very long time building a reputation for quality manufacture, and it is likely the Dream Machine was built with their full attention to detail. It is highly unlikely that the Sony engineers chose their crystal glue in the knowledge it would break down, after all the company is likely to make far more money selling a new TV or phone to a satisfied alarm clock owner than it is by selling them a new alarm clock. Instead it tells us that even Sony with a legendary attention to quality control can be caught out by unexpected component failures, and that as engineers we should always expect the unexpected.

So [leadacid44] has a new alarm clock, and presumably now always wakes up on time. It’s interesting to look at the Dream Machine from another perspective, to compare what was hot in 2009 with what you might see now. The Apple Dock connector for instance, or the full-size SD card. Both of which are now becoming historical curiosities, even though this device is not much more than six years old.

Over the years we’ve featured a lot of clocks, and even the odd clock radio. But this isn’t really about clock radios, and with that out of the way we’ve certainly featured a few Sony hacks.

24 thoughts on “Repairing A Sony Dream Machine

  1. Sony as a corporation is more famous these days for their CD root-kit and removal of Linux from the PS3 after it was sold with the feature. Their build quality may be mostly good (RPi3 in Wales), but respect of customers has declined.

  2. I remember working on Sony broadcast equipment in the early 1980s and there was a problem with the glue they used becoming conductive and throwing circuits out of tune. You would think they would have learned their lesson by now.

  3. “It is highly unlikely that the Sony engineers chose their crystal glue in the knowledge it would break down”
    or maybe that’s exactly why it was chosen. never underestimate the pettiness of a greedy business.

    1. Yup, and they (or whoever actually makes that gunk) have been selling it to other manufacturers for decades with full knowledge of the fact that it gets more conductive as it oxidizes. I’ve spent literally days de-gunking Kenwood ham radios from the 1980s that have suffered from the effects of that horrid muck.

      Manufacturers are fully aware of the properties of the stuff, and are counting on it ruining their products so we consumers have to buy new devices. It’s bad enough with a $100 piece of consumer electronics, but many times worse when the device cost the equivalent of about $2500 USD when new.

    2. Having worked in the electronics repair industry for many years, I have never seen anything to suggest that Sony would deliberately produce something sub par. Their quality is always very high, and their equipment is always better than most. Wish I could say the same for the rest.

        1. Agreed. for a company that made excellent, distinctive radios and televisions in the 1960’s they got to where they would slap their name on anything (consumer grade–their broadcast line we use just fine for some things at work)

  4. Glue being used to hold down components to PCBs and going conductive over time used to be a problem but its been a while since ive come across it these days, is it still a common thing?

    I know its far fetched (hypothetical really) but maybe the glue was chosen with a sense of planned obsolescence in mind?…. so long as the glue remained stable till after the warranty. Alarm clocks are normally devices that last for decades tis all *puts on her tinfoil hat*

  5. I have one of these that I bought when they were new. It would constantly lockup and crash so I gave up on it, even after a few FW updates. When it fails at its primary purpose (as an alarm clock) it’s totally useless.

  6. Yep heaps of things (not all necessarily gadgets) in that “couldn’t justify the new price but maybe it’s cheap now” category…

    softride bike… atari lynx… Chumby…WiiU in a few years….

  7. Sony were good at one stage now not so much.

    Very far and few products from even the best of old names are not even up to scratch anymore, Unless it’s for industrial or military purpose even then we’re seeing similar lapses in quality and or control as everything now is pretty shoddy and when you correct the engineered faults some become hostile towards you like Traxxas did to me, not liking my quick fix for their drive shaft pins falling out proceeded to ban me from their forums and remove all my suggested content for other such projects and upgrades.

    Cry baby company ( [2, O-rings] replaced with strip of copper wire and soldered into a solid ring keeping pins in the head of cup)
    it was only a pin holder, It was only a pin through the head onto a keyed shaft no other movement was needed O rings were replaced far to many times this was a so called upgrade for the 1/16 car. Traxxas never again.

  8. Most Sony products from this era crashed after a while and I have since trashed, I wonder? They were clock driven digital stuff. Listening to Merlin Network One on one of their SW equipped modular stereos in the 90’s will stay with me.
    I am currently finding many customers having their Pianodisc players failing at the same time, and Pianodisc wont fix them anymore. Seems their early flash memory is failing?

  9. Billion were (not sure if it’s still the case) using this glue to prevent the wifi cards from coming loose in ther 78xx series ADSL modem/routers.
    It was a known issue, even by Billion and was so bad that units were failing during warranty.

    They didn’t change it even in the newer units at the time so unless you got in there and scraped the glue out, you were riding the warranty train until you got one that lasted just long enough……

    It was a shame as they were otherwise very good modem/routers.

  10. Anyone remembers YLOD issue with first generation PS3? After few years solder on CPU and GPU starts to oxidize untill PS3 stops working. It requires reflow of those chips to make it working again

    1. Like I mentioned above, fixing (and reading about the fixes) on my Kenwood TS-440, and then seeing the picture posted on the Sony UK forums is what made me suspect the glue. Like others have mentioned, fixing the 440 was somewhat worthwhile, considering how long it took.

      As it was, doing the repair on the clock was about a 2 hour job. In the grand scheme of things, not really worth it, but it was satisfying to finally fix something that was on my to-fix pile. :-)

  11. HD TV dead within 4 years. No, Sony used to be good… Never buying again. From now on just “el cheapo” (e.g., Vizio), they cost 1/2 as much and likely will last as long (or short). But at least I know it is an el cheapo brand and not one that pretends to be good.

  12. Have seen this on: TV’s, CD players, picture frames, SMPS’s… monitor CCFL drivers..
    Most recently was a nice Sony deck with the dreaded no-screen fault (ie useless), changed out crystal and burned out bulbs for nice white LEDs soldered in their place and it now works fine.
    Protip: old LCD TVs have nice flat LED MCPCBs that can be recycled with care to make 7 segment or even alphanumeric displays simply by heating up the board and removing the diodes with tweezers then discarding any browned or broken ones.

  13. I remember this trend starting in the mid 90’s.

    I first saw it when I was running a domestic electronics repair center in a small regional area where there we very few retailers. Consequently there was a very limited range of makes and models (as stocked by the small number of local retailers).

    This had some interesting effects – like a very high repeat rate on common problems.

    One manufacturer of an old glass tube TV, started putting a long stretch of this glue across a trace for the horizontal drive (about 1200 Volts AC). After 4 to 5 years the glue would start to become conductive and the restive load to the 1200 Volt horizontal drive would literally burn a hole in the circuit board. There was nothing that was glued there and there was no reason for the glue except perhaps if you consider that it will destroy the TV beyond repair soon *after* the warranty had expired!!!

    I have no doubt that it was intended to destroy the TV.

    This was over 20 years ago so I doubt that anyone in the industry could honestly claim that they didn’t know that the glue would do this!

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