Early CD Player Teardown

While CD players are nothing new today, they were the height of high-tech in the early 1980s. [w1ngsfly] shows us the inside of a Phase Linear 9500 player from 1983. Not only does it have many components, but it is also mechanically unusual.

The CD loads into a toaster-like slot and even pops out like a piece of toast. The tracking mechanism is quite complex, and there’s something that looks suspiciously like a dial string from an old slide rule tuner radio. Apparently, the unit was made by Kyocera and is internally similar to a Kyocera DA-01.

There’s a “head position” indicator that is actually just an LED connected to the tracking mechanism. The front panel controls look great but also allow you to control the head position exactly. As [w1ngsfly] mentions, it is almost like moving a turntable’s tonearm where you can drop it anywhere you want.

If we recall, they were about $600 to $1,000 new. If Phase Linear doesn’t ring a bell, they were well known in their day. Founded by [Bob Carver] and [Steve Johnston], the company was bought by Pioneer before the introduction and, later, by Jensen before the introduction of the 9500. [Bob] would go on to found Carver Corporation. You can find plenty of history about the company online.

We’ve seen CD players that look older. These days, CD drives are cheap and they are easy enough to control.

16 thoughts on “Early CD Player Teardown

    1. The mechanical part often was very sophisticated and a lot of thought had been spent on the electromagnetic shielding and modular design.
      By contrast, our modern day technology looks somewhat primitive and lo-tech.
      That’s one of the reasons our modern technology nolonger seems fascinating. It has lost its magic. That’s why so many people are into vintage computing and old appliances. They miss that “something”.

      Unfortunately, ccertain boomers and youngsters may not seem to see it.:
      My father’s generation is being fascinatined by miniature electronics of all kinds, because it wasn’t available in their time. So they’re biased. While Gen Z/A is addicted to smartphones and can’t give them out hand for a second. They’re both astonishing similar in their limited scope. That’s just my personal observation, of course. No offense, though.

  1. This is from back in the days when a 16 bit DAC was a challenge. The Philips TDA1540 is a special 14 bit DAC fed at 4 times the sampling rate and filtered to get 16 bit audio.

    1. The TDA1540 and TDA1541 are still highly sought after for their audio quality. I’m currently awaiting my Mouser order to start building on my latest itteration of the TDA1541 DAC

        1. To start; I don’t believe in the stories of the holy grail S2 double crown batches and similar voodoo. But is the last multibit DAC before we went towards delta-sigma modulated DAC’s which are much more friendly from a manufacturability standpoint but come with their own problems. If you configure them as non oversampling they perform extremely well, it was after all the pinacle of DAC engineering of that era. Actual measurements on well thought out designs push distortion spectra beyond -108 dB and THD values with so many zero’s that you run into the measurement error of your equipment, let alone be able to hear it with your ears. I mentioned these special ones in my first sentence; those are specially selected by philips as best performing bins and were sold to some of the high end CD player manufacturers at that time, but I don’t hear it even though those are technically better. Since multibit DACs don’t rely as much on a clock to perform ther function you don’t run into issues with your clocks such as jitter, phase noise and similar which will introduce all kinds of audible defects because they modulate your audio signal in a delta-sigma DAC (lots of manufacturer whitepapers to be found on this). Within my electronics and audio friend group many can tell you, without error, when a TDA1541 or PCM63 is playing or when it is some kind of delta-sigma DAC in a blinded test. I haven’t seen anyone beat the odds on distinguishing between the TDA1541 and PCM63 though, personally I do hear a slight difference during these test games but I can’t distinguish between these two classes of DAC’s. So for me it is just the fun of building. When you start looking into these things you will however find a lot of audiophile voodoo, so unless someone drops measurements I’d take it with a grain of salt.

  2. I parted out a jambox years ago whose CD player had a heavy voice coil hard disk drive type of laser head positioning, I thought if was open you could “scratch” across tracks. It was closed and had track buttons, I never had it running.

  3. Phase Linear made a lot of high end audio stuff at the time. They made large power amps 200, 400 and 800W / Channel. They weren’t really rugged enough for pro audio, but a lot of them still got used there.

  4. They had to build them that way, it would be several years before it was discovered a green marker along the rim would give quality sound in a poorer built unit.

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