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BeoSound 9000 Mk III Laser Failure - Cracked Solder Joints @ Laser Diode Crown

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Michael Sean
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Michael Sean Posted: Wed, May 22 2013 3:20 AM

After having owned my BeoSound 9000 Mk III for two or so years, I was dismayed when it started to randomly "act up". Some mornings, I would attempt to use the CD Play mode and the CD mechanism would fail to operate correctly - spinning briefly and proceeding to the "PAUSE" mode.

After reading as much as I could here on BeoWorld, I concluded that my symptoms were indicating the need to replace the laser which on the Mk III is the VAM1250 Philips.

What was interesting at the time (and to be honest, something that I did not grasp until after the laser replacement) was that the unit would typically act up in the mornings and if I could succeed in making it play a CD, the issue would go away. Of course, my reasoning told me that the unit was warming up, heat was being generated and, yes, the laser was bad but the laser was bad because it had a heat related issue. Probably an unseen sensitivity in the laser diode internals?

I eventually attempted to install an eBay sourced VAM1250 laser-only (with the completely different circular laser diode solder crown under a metal cover) and it did not work! Lesson learned.

I then moved forward with the purchase of the original B&O issued VAM1250 Laser Kit that I was able to purchase here in Massachusetts from Atlantic Systems for about $180.00. I installed it, ran the test mode sequences and my unit now operated as new.

Unfortunately, after all of this was done and the money spent, I began to think more about the symptoms of my BeoSound 9000 Mk III laser failure and its relationship to temperature. I then realized that the unit, when acting up, was always failing on the cold winter mornings. Here in New England, the winters are cold and snowy and we routinely turn the thermostat down to 58 degrees (F) at night and just before turning in. I always turned on my music first thing after getting out of bed and before the house had a chance to warm up. This recollection confirmed that it was a morning issue, a winter issue and therefore a thermal issue. Ok, I kind of actually already knew this but I was onto something that I just wanted to solve.

So..... I pulled out from my parts box the original B&O/Philips VAM1250 laser with the linear (black plastic) laser diode crown and inspected the 12 solder points - six on each side - and guess what I saw under my 30X loop? Yup, all 6 of the solder points on one side of the laser were cracked. Problem solved and, unfortunately, a bit too late.

I have included some photos of the cracked joints for all to see and hopefully, someone can benefit from my findings.

If you are having a failed laser issue with a BeoSound 9000 Mk III, do a minor disassembly to the point where you can get a clear view and access to the crown of the laser unit. Confirm with a loop the presence of solder joint cracks at the crown, dab some flux with a toothpick at each solder point and re flow those joints. You may just save yourself some major surgery and lots of money. Or if you are not up to working on your own gear, share this post with your repair shop. Good luck!

And by-the-way, the original Philips VAM1250 Laser units (with the linear laser diode crown) are no longer available anywhere! (I know - I've searched everywhere!) Except..... those that were purchased by Bang & Olufsen just prior to the cessation of manufacture by Philips. So essentially, after the B&O service inventory is exhausted, those of us who own BeoSound 9000 Mk III's might be in a real pickle.

Now, If you own a BS 9000 Mk II version (which I also owned and serviced) you're in luck as that unit uses the Philips CDM12.4 and that laser unit is also available on eBay and they work. I did one and the change out worked beautifully! I purchased my CDM12.4 from the eBay USA seller who sells under a juke box supply house service called foolnme.

[As a side note and as stated earlier, during my repair process, I noticed a big difference between the original B&O/Philips VAM1250 Laser Unit and the eBay sourced VAM1250 in that the Laser Diode solder crown on the B&O/Philips was a linear solder crown of 12 solder points total with 6 points on each side of a central black plastic rail of sorts. The eBay sourced (and obviously not authentic Philips) has a metal shield over the laser diode solder points and the points are in a circular assembly. I researched on line and found the data sheet for the Philips Laser Diode (see photo of data sheet) and it is shown as a linear unit and is number GH6C005B3B. Why is this important? Because one can conclude that the reproduction VAM1250's are absent the critical and technically necessary Philips Laser Diode and are obviously equipped with an imitator that just isn't working with the BeoSound 9000 Mk III.]

Michael

valve1
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valve1 replied on Wed, May 22 2013 8:13 AM

Great to get to the bottom of a long time intermittent fault, thanks for sharing.

Keith Saunders
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Michael,

Thank you for a very comprehensive posting on your experience with your BeoSound 9000 Mark 3. It was more interesting than usual because about 3 months ago I had a mark 3 unit with the same problem symptoms and the problem was also cracked solder joints.

The moral of your story is check carefully before purchasing a new laser unit..

Have other members come across cracked solder joints described by Michael ?

Regards Keith....

Playdrv4me
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What's fascinating about this is it technically means that long term the Mk II are the better ones to have over the Mk IIIs if it's true that the CDM12 parts are easier to source. What's CONFUSING about it is that I thought that if you had B&O service a MK II unit they would "upgrade" it to be a Mk III which I assume means they install a VAM1250, no? 

Given the cost difference between Mk II and III players this is some food for thought to say the least.

Michael Sean
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And it gets even more complicated.....

Concerning the laser replacement repair of a BeoSound 9000 Mk II (Type 2563) unit by a B&O service shop, Playdrv4me is correct in that one will receive a new complete VAM1250 laser assembly as well as a new VAM1250 compatible logic board to support it. The original Mk II / CDM12.4 logic board is removed and disposed of along with the defective Mk II CDM12.4 laser. This, aside from the extra red power button on the MK II, converts your Mk II unit to a MK III (Type 2573).

I know this for a fact because when I went down to Atlantic Systems here in Massachusetts (my local B&O authorized service center), I purchased the "drop-in" Mk III laser kit for $180.00 while I was quoted a price of  approximately $270.00 for the MK II kit. The higher price covered the cost of the logic board. It was Mark, the owner of Atlantic Systems, who shared with me the dire predictions on the diminishing availability of the original Philips VAM1250 Laser kits and how B&O had purchased the last of the Philips production. He stressed that when these are gone, that is the end of them!

Add to that my attempt to replace the Mk III laser-only with a "different looking" eBay sourced  VAM1250 and its subsequent complete failure, the long-term future does not look too good for we Mk III owners!

However, I decided after hearing the $270.00 price of the Mk II Kit to give that repair job a shot with an eBay sourced CDM12.4 laser-only change-out at about $20.00 in cost. I had already done the eBay VAM1250 laser only change-out on my Mk III (which failed to correct the problems) so I knew how to do it correctly. I thought, since I've figured out how to do it, why not give it a try and possibly save $250.00 or so. But this gets complicated too in that I had actually ordered 2 different CDM12.4 lasers from 2 different eBay suppliers. The first CDM12.4  that I installed in my Mk II  worked but was skipping tracks on one of my CD's which did not skip on my BeoSound 3000 unit. It would only skip on that particular (Lilly Allen) CD and on the very last track. I admit that it did have some scratches on the outer perimeter but why was it not skipping on my BS 3000? Although my first repair attempt "worked" for the most part, I decided to remove it and try the other CDM12.4 from a different eBay supplier in order to assure perfection in my final outcome and to conduct and experiment of sorts.

After once again removing the 1st eBay laser, I placed all three (the two eBay sourced along with the B&O original) CDM12.4's side by side, I noticed a subtle difference in the eBay unit that I had just removed from the old original B&O laser and the eBay one that I was going to install next... It had a slightly different printing of the part number on the tail of the flex connector. The eBay unit that I was prepared to install (and ended up working beautifully), was identical in every way to the original indicating to me that it was definitely a Philips CDM12.4. Or at least a superior copy. (And it confirmed that not all CDM12.4 eBay sourced replacements are alike).

So, I moved ahead with installing this laser-only CDM12.4 piece into the Mk II and it was a complete success. It went through the post-repair Test Modes 71 and 73 the first time. I ran the unit for days with many different CD's and I couldn't have asked for a more satisfactory outcome. It was rock solid! Better yet, I was able to confirm that certain eBay sourced CDM12.4 laser units worked to repair Mk II units and that I could have an abundant and inexpensive source should a repair be necessary long into the future. Something that it appears will not be possible for the VAM1250 Mk III's.

In the end of all of this Mk II and MK III "experimenting", I've concluded that it would not be wise to convert our BeoSound 9000 Mk II's from the original (and inexpensively available) CDM12.4 lasers to the "upgrade" VAM1250's. To do so - at least from my perspective - is to limit ourselves to a much more expensive repair path and one that may someday be completely extinct.

I hope that my observations and experiences are helpful to my fellow BeoSound 9000 owners.

Michael

 

Playdrv4me
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But I guess there's another perspective here as well, and that is that if in-fact the majority of these laser replacements on Mk IIIs have been due to the cracked solder points on the VAM1250 laser, then perhaps many replacements were unnecessary in the first place, and the 1250 unit is a long lived unit otherwise. I mean really let's be honest, all of this CD replacement is absolutely ludicrous in this millenium. The art of compact disc players was mastered two decades ago and we're still replacing lasers on these modern machines when I can pull out a Sony Discman or even a no name CD player from 1990 that's been dropped, jostled, gotten wet and generally abused and it still plays fine. I have to wonder why these Philips units are so damned sensitive. Perhaps the answer is that the laser part itself isn't the culprit so much as the assembly/solder points. We won't really have an answer to this until a bigger sample of owners chimes in with their findings, of course, and it is all speculation at this point.

Not to muddy the water further, but it almost makes you wonder if buying at least one "spare" VAM1250 from Atlantic is worth doing at the current time and just stashing it away for whenever the time comes that it's needed. Of course, if cracked solder joints are in-fact the problem, then that could just as well to happen to one in storage as one sitting in the player. They (and the players themselves), should probably be kept in environments with fairly stable climate control I would suspect.

Michael Sean
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All excellent points Playdrv4me! Especially your first paragraph.

And yes, aside from the obvious and photo-documented solder joint cracks at the VAM1250 laser diode, much of what I present  is speculation that is not supported by a large enough sample of repair jobs.

A great point also on the high failure rate of BeoSound 9000 lasers, be it Mk II's or Mk III's. I've been playing CD's and owned CD players since they were introduced in 1982 and I never had a unit fail. I believe my home players were all Sony players prior to my becoming a B&O crazed collector / user. But when one considers the old Discmans, and our automobile systems, etc., my personal (and friend / family) CD player failure rate was non-existent.

In viewing the VAM1250 cracks through my various powered loops, I was really shocked at the fact that all 6 solder points had cracked and the extreme nature of the cracks themselves. I too wonder if the vast majority of VAM1250 / Mk III failures are due to this after all and that the laser diodes are not what is failing.

Now that we have some documented disclosure of a "source" of failure, perhaps this can contribute to the stemming of the depletion of original B&O / Philips replacement kits along with unnecessary work and related costs.

As far as re-flowing solder joints in general, there has been much advice contributed here on BeoWorld by the resident "gurus". Aside from being advised to always check thoroughly for them on any repair job, I believe that one adviser (Martin / Dillen?) recommended that a solder with a small amount of silver would help to strengthen the joints. To re-flow what is seen in my photo will also require loop glasses and a very small iron tip as the actual size of that solder rail is much, much smaller then it looks here.

Michael

 

 

 

 

tournedos
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tournedos replied on Fri, May 24 2013 7:41 AM

Michael Sean:
A great point also on the high failure rate of BeoSound 9000 lasers, be it Mk II's or Mk III's. I've been playing CD's and owned CD players since they were introduced in 1982 and I never had a unit fail. I believe my home players were all Sony players prior to my becoming a B&O crazed collector / user. But when one considers the old Discmans, and our automobile systems, etc., my personal (and friend / family) CD player failure rate was non-existent.

This is one of the things that puzzled me as well when I started with B&O about 6 years ago. I bought my first CD (Sony CDP-30) in 1985 and it was in active use until I got my BS6500. I never did anything else to it than cleaned the tray limit switch once. It's now at the summer house and spends about 6 months basically out in the cold each winter (no heating whatsoever), and each spring starts playing as if nothing happened.

Frankly it's very rarely the laser itself that fails in earlier B&O players, but the units on the whole seem curiously failure prone.

--mika

Playdrv4me
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What I find most hilarious of all is that this tremendously complex and incredibly unique clamper contraption and all of its associated running gear are rather rarely the problem, yet the part with technology that's been around a good 30 years breaks with alarming frequency!

In any case, you are to be commended for asking the simple question of "why" with your thorough research, Michael. I was frankly a little surprised that at least from what I've experienced here, it had just been accepted as par for the course that this problem just existed.

valve1
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valve1 replied on Fri, May 24 2013 8:22 AM

This is a very interesting thread. It would be great if the laser failure was down to cracked solder joints but we need to get some more failed units to check this out.

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