it's time for the screwdriver again. Today the victim's name is Sony NAS-S55HDE, an all-in-one "jukebox" with an internal 80GB hard disk drive, FM/AM tuner, digital amplifier, several USB ports (capable of hosting a WLAN USB stick), CD drive, an LCD screen, and IR remote control plus tons of other features.
I love the way songs are arranged according to the time of day or a certain mood. The accuracy is kind of amazing, almost close to Pandora radio. I never quite understood how they did that. Maybe it's the Gracenote database that can be used by the jukebox, and maybe this database is also used for analyzing the tracks, but as far as I remember, the device was not connected to the internet for long. I could imagine they integrated a kind of mood recognition that manages to index the songs off-line. Who knows...
While all this does not sound bad at all, there are some regrettable things to say about the device:
- starting up after the power cord was disconnected results in a 2-minute startup and subsequent standby. After that, starting up from standby takes 10 to 20 seconds each time. Still pretty slow for my taste.
- copying from an external disk drive runs on ~2 MB/second. Copying an initial batch of files takes eternities to finish
- indexing an analyzing the ~4000 MP3 tracks that I have copied to the internal disk drive took about two full days during which the device could not be used for anything
- switching from normal HDD play mode to the X-DJ mode and back takes ~15 seconds. It feels as if the device needs to restart for the mode change.
- external drives must be FAT32-formatted so they cannot exceed the 32-GByte-per-partition limit
- 80GB storage capacity is not really up-to-date these days
- the device is not very clever at power saving: even in standby mode when there is nothing to display or to do anyway, the fan spins up from time to time, and the LCD backlight is always on! To turn the display off, you actually need to pull the mains plug!
I was curious from the first moment I bought this thing on eBay what it is made of. Now, about 18 months later, the time has finally come.
Plans for a custom improvement
My idea was to try an SSD or at least a more modern HDD to speed things up a little, and use that opportunity to extend the HDD space.
To spoil it right now, I didn't succeed. The hard disk is formatted with the EXT2 filesystem, and the partition that holds the MP3 files cannot be mounted, not even using Linux. Seems that engineers at SONY have decided to make it unusable this way. People with more technical experience concerning hard disk partition tables and file systems may know what to do but at that point I decided to leave it at that because despite all of the slowness I've become used to the jukebox. Going too far once would render it useless, probably there is no way to get hold of a valid file system again once I broke it.
Nonetheless, I'd like to share the impressions with you.
Thankfully, Sony engineers just used two different types of screws. I urge you to take notes on what type of screw was used in each place.
Make sure the unit is unplugged while you are working on it. The risk of electric shocks is one concern, the other is that nobody knows what will happen if you accidentally turn it on while half of it is hanging apart.
Sony didn't make it quite easy to get inside the NAS-S55, actually a whole lot of screws has to be removed until a view under the hood is possible.
The side panels have to be removed first. Each have two screws on the back side of the device, and two more at the bottom. After that, you can slide the panels (gentle force may be required) to the back for 1-2 centimeters, then you can remove them:
Beneath the side panels, more screws are revealed that we must remove to lift the top cover. Additionally, there are four cables that need to be unplugged.
Let's start with the top USB / headphone jack housing. Seen from the back, there are two black screws:
After removal of these screws, you can pry open the housing and remove the cover. This is beneath:
On the left side, the cabling for the headphone and external source jacks can be unplugged:
Gently pull the cables to unplug, it's best to use a tool to lever the connector out.
Now for the right side:
Unplug these connectors, too. Cables are formed in a way that confusing them is nearly impossible, but if you feel unsure, take notes about which cable plugged into which connector.
If not done already, remove the four screws (two per side) that hold the cover:
The screw latches kind of snap in so you may have to bend them a little until the cover goes off.
Well, that's a solid view. I didn't expect this thorough shielding. Well, at least it becomes clear now why the unit is so heavy.
There are a total of 13 screws holding the metal plate in its place: three at the sides, six at the top, and one at the back of the unit. After removing all of them, lift the front side of the sheet first, then pull it gently in your direction.
Finally, the first look inside:
The interior is not too chaotic. The PCB on the left half is the power supply and amplifier board, top left is the connector board for speakers, external audio (cinch) and the DMPORT. On the right sits the logic board with processing unit(s), a DSP, and peripheral controllers.
Beneath all of this, the CD drive has its own floor and is shielded again with another metal plate.
The hard disk drive is couldn't be hidden any better, unfortunately. The logic board must be removed completely to service the HDD. Well, let's take a look at the board first:
On the top side we find the following ICs:
1: Agile R5S70901BGV 32-bit RISC microprocessor - the heart of this machine?
2: Texas Instruments 320D610A003ZDP, a DTS-capable digital signal processor - no idea what it's used for as there seems no support for more than 2 channels anyway. Probably serves for MP3 decoding...
3: Realtek TRL8100CL 10/100 MBit ethernet controller
4: Sony CXD9871GG, still unknown what it does
5: Renesas R5F3640DDFA Microcontroller Unit (MCU),
6: Marvell 80SA8040 SATA-to-IDE bridge, probably used for controlling both the SATA HDD and the CD drive which is connected with an ATA 40-wire cable
7: Macronix 29LV400CTTC-70G - probably a FLASH memory holding the BIOS of the appliance
8: Winbond W9825G2DB-75 - three SDRAM chips (2M x 4 banks x 32 bits making 32 MB each)
The bottom side of the board has just one large NEC 750101 chip, it's a USB 2.0 controller:
When this device was modern, WLAN may hot have been as established as it is now, that is why no WLAN hardware can be found inside the unit. The WLAN feature is added by using a USB WLAN stick on one of the USB connectors. A 54 MBit capable stick ships with the unit. No idea if faster hardware is supported, probably not because there is no way to install drivers. I guess I'd be pretty limited if I wanted to use WLAN. As there is no support for WPA or WPA2, I didn't even think of that anyway.
Okay, with the board removed, we finally get to see the hard disk:
Surprisingly, a SATA model. That should make it easy to use a current large-size model, too. The disk is fixed to the unit in its four corners with shock absorbers. If you want to get the disk out, you will have to remove the back plate, too. There is just not enough space around to move the disk frame out of position.
I used a USB-to-SATA/IDE interface to connect the disk to my PC. A total of seven partitions was recognized, but no way to mount any of them:
Diskpart shows partition type 05 at least for the largest partition where MP3 files are stored:
This is a bit misleading as 05 is usually the identifier for DOS 3.3 Extended paritions as far as I could find out.
Acronis Backup & Recovery 10 recognized the partitions as LINUX SWAP and EXT3-type partitions. Unfortunately, attempts to back up the HDD failed because the partition descriptors seem to have modified so these file systems are non-standard:
http://www.fs-driver.org/download.html) succeeded in mounting some of these partitions though, but not the large one:
All the mountable partitions have content that indicates that indeed it must be a Linux-based system. Well, and that is where my skills end. I launched Knoppix 6.2 and took a peek at the disk from there, but failed to mount the large data partition there as well. Sadly, this means that it might be near impossible to actually replace the disk. One would first have to find out how Sony have modified the partitions, and most probably the disk size is not automatically determined but hidden somewhere in the system settings. I gave up at this point.
If somebody has more experience on this, I'd be happy to learn more! Still curious if the overall performance of the system can be improved with an SSD drive...
Thanks for reading!