In the world of Geocaching, DNF means Did Not Find.  In the world of home improvement, DIY means Do It Yourself.  Somewhere in my world, DIYDNF means Did It Myself; Did Not Fix.

For a few years I’ve had this keyboard that I picked up in a thrift shop for something like $100.  My evaluation of it once I got it home was that this keyboard had problems.  Its pitch would wander, sometimes higher, sometimes lower.  It got stuck in a closet while I determined what to do about it.

There is a repair shop about 90 minutes away that handles keyboards and after a long, long time, I finally dragged it out there on New Years day.  Sadly, they wouldn’t work on it because there were no parts from the manufacturer and no service manual.  I actually had a copy of the service manual, but whatever.  So I lost 3 hours and had a approximately 80 pound anchor on my hands.

I started doing some research online and after watching a repair video of the same model keyboard figured I could attempt the repair myself.  And to some degree, it wouldn’t be so expensive to try as a last resort.  Of course, expensive is something that comes with time and is usually not in the initial budget.

After watching many repair videos, the plan was to replace the main capacitors.  Kind of like when a CD player doesn’t work, you first replace the belts. That’s the way it is with a lot of older electronic gear.  The videos I watched, over and over, replacing the capacitors solved the majority of problems.  So that was my plan.  Now to buy everything I’d need to accomplish something like that.

What do I own now that I didn’t before?

  • Soldering station
  • Silicone soldering mat
  • 300+ capacitors
  • Two different solder wicks

Overall, maybe I spent $150 for this endeavor.  And because of the time it took to get all of these things, I had a lot of anticipation and excitement to get started.  The last piece arrived today and I immediately got to work.

Before I start that, I need to explain that in the time waiting for some of the pieces, I practiced on a dead circuit board – removing and replacing capacitors.  I thought I was doing really good.  It wasn’t difficult at all.  I was instructed the ideal way was to use the solder wick to remove the old solder, but I had zero success with that and chose a two-step process of removing the component, then using a solder sucker to clear the mounting holes.  My technique worked very well.

Doing it for real then.  I had to remove the existing three capacitors.  That went pretty smoothly.  Step two was to clear the mounting holes.  This did not go well, at all.  I ended up with some solder in the holes and it would not come out.  I tried my usual technique.  I tried using wick.  I tried other people’s tips like adding more solder to pull the solder in the hole out.  Nothing was working.  It was probably about 45 mins of fighting with greater and greater desperation, eventually resulting in me damaging the board.  But there was a hole.

Tired and disappointed, I mounted and soldered the new capacitors in place.  The first one went well.  The other two did not, but I did get them in place.  Now it’s time to reassemble and see the results, if any.  I mounted the main board back in the case, laid the keyboard back, and brought the control panel back for connection.  Wiring up power and audio cables and flipped the switch.

It powered up.  I pressed some keys.  No sound.  Oh yeah, volume.  I had sound.  It sounded pretty good and I was feeling pretty good.  I powered up another keyboard to get a pitch comparison.  Hmm.  Slightly detuned.  I did a factory reset on the panel and tried again.  Now the pitch was off by an entire semitone.  Worse.  I held some notes and I could actually hear the pitch slowly changing -  up and down.  So, experiment unsuccessful.  Any further troubleshooting is out of my league.  I’ve literally watched the pros do it and I don’t understand what they’re doing and how they arrive at their ideas.  I don’t have an electrical engineer background.

So, to the garage for the keyboard for now.  I’m pretty sure it’s going to the dump.  I considered maybe parting it out on eBay, but what a hassle.  I already have a bunch of stuff I need to list and I can’t find the motivation to do it.  Maybe it will come in the next few days.  But for right now, I need to pack up my new tools of my failed hobby.

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