Tag Archives: hobbies

What I’ve Heard Thus Far

I had mentioned in a previous post that I had a thing for buying cheap CD players, the reason for such was to compare the sound of each and see if I was able to hear any real difference between makes and models.

Well, this is what I’ve got in my collection right now:

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From top to bottom:

  1. Technics SL-P330
  2. Scott D980
  3. JVC XL-V311
  4. Onkyo DX-701

Of these four players, the ones that get the most play are the Technics and the JVC.  The JVC has a little bit better bass and the Technics, in the opposite way, has a brighter sound.  The other two, the Scott and the Onkyo, have a similar sound, which I feel is a little dulled.  The Scott has an additional handicap in that the display can display either the current track or the track time, but not both simultaneously.  All but the Onkyo have support for indexed tracks, and the JVC will show the current playing track and index.  I have yet to find one of my CDs that has indexes, though.  Still looking…

All four have headphone jacks; the Technics and the Onkyo have headphone volume controls, which is great.  All but the Onkyo can be run by remote control, and I purchased remotes for the Technics and JVC.  In both cases, the remotes were twice as much as I paid for the player.

And on the subject of cost, each player cost me less than $10, and each player was originally $150-$300 when new, so this is not an expensive endeavor.

Wasting Money On A Silly Idea

Well, that was a quick failure.  My previous idea, which was to use older technology to gain access to some data that seemed out of reach, was ill-informed.  Before I even got all the pieces of my $16 project, I figured out how to accomplish what I needed with what I had already.

To start, I was under the impression that my hardware could not read subchannel information from audio CDs.  This is false.  I just need the right software.  And the software was what was causing all of my misconceptions.  I use Exact Audio Copy (EAC) for my CD ripping.  There is an old version, specifically v .95 prebeta 3, that had a feature that would let EAC do direct reading of the track data, which would include the subchannel information.  Because of some legal ramifications of doing so, this feature was removed from prebeta 4 and all future versions of EAC.

I had acquired a copy of prebeta 3 and initially was not able to get it to launch.  Then, I was able to get it to start up by running it in administrator mode.  But then, it wouldn’t recognize when a CD was inserted in my drive.  So, since prebeta 3, code has been improved for things that are essential to its operation on modern operating systems, but code has been taken away for the feature that I needed.  In short, EAC is not going to accomplish what I need under any hardware configuration.

There is another, more modern, ripping tool called CUERipper, which is part of the CUETools suite.  I tried this tool briefly, but did not like the way it handled the ripped files, for one reason or another.  Instead, I kept using EAC.  But now, upon another evaluation, CUERipper will read the actual track data in the same way that EAC refuses to do.  And it does read the subchannel data, which is what I really needed.  That means, CUERipper is the software that I need and all that old hardware is unneeded.  All to waste, I guess.

Still, CUERipper is an inelegant tool and it doesn’t do things the way I want.  However, it is open-source software, and it is actually programmed in .NET.  That means I have the ability to actually change the program to do exactly what I want, how I want it.  And so that is the future plan.  The next few days I won’t be able to do any work on this, but after that… I’ll be able to make my own custom ripping software.  How awesome.

Some small part of me is actually considering re-ripping my entire collection again.  Why?  Well, over time I have replaced CDs here and there but may or may not have ripped the disc that is actually on the shelf.  So I can be sure that my digital collection is out of sync with my physical one.  That effort remains a wait-and-see.

The Collection, 2019 In Review

I was browsing through some old blog posts and I found that in January last year, I had a year-by-year analysis of my CD collection, so I figured it would be a good time to see how 2019 added to the pile.  As a quick recap, I added to my collection each year:

2016: 207 new
2017: 254 new
2018: 327 new

And in 2019, I added 262 new items.  Not as aggressive as 2018, but I can understand why.  Last year, I sort of struggled finding stuff that I actually wanted to buy.  I was interested in filling gaps in my collection as opposed to growing it in new directions.  It’s the year I made peace with the idea that my collection is going to be incredibly focused on 1980’s releases.  Not that that’s overly limiting, because there’s a lot of sub-genres to explore and there’s a lot of music available in just that decade.

Also, I was focused a bit more on adding collectables, like target CDs and gold CDs from Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs.  Purchases like these are not your $1-2 thrift store buy (unless you’re lucky).  As my list of wanted target CDs shrinks, the availability of those CDs shrinks accordingly and the prices increase accordingly as well.  So, spending upwards of $25 for a target CD I want isn’t unheard of.  Gold CDs I have always held a price cap of $30, although I did pay $50 for one that I felt was a sure buy.

So at this point, I have 82 target CDs (excluding duplicates) and I have 18 gold CDs.  These numbers grew substantially in 2019 – I added 8 gold CDs alone.  I expect this segment to continue to grow in 2020, which will continue to add significant and durable value to the collection (spoken in my CFO earnings-call voice).  No one should ever collect anything as an investment, however, you can be intelligent with your purchases and buy quality when you can – a balance of quantity and quality will satisfy everyone.  When it comes time to divest the lot, separate the rare from the common and liquidate each group appropriately.

On the topic of breadth, I did discover more smooth-jazz artists to add to my stable.  It all fits together that early CD adopters were more affluent, the technology was more expensive, and their tastes were more refined (or snooty, if you think).  So there are a lot of jazz titles available in the early 80’s.  And because the 80’s were an era of early synths and drum machines – sounds that are now generally despised – you can find albums in this genre quite cheaply.

2020 is hopefully going to be another year of quality.  The quantity is already there.

Spending Money On A Silly Idea

One of the more dangerous things in this world is a man with extra time and extra money.  A danger to himself and to the world at large.  If it’s not an actual, you know, danger, then it’s just stupidity – a different kind of danger.  Semantics aside, I have some extra time and some extra money and wanted to get an answer on something.  With the entire knowledge and experience of the Internet failing me, or at least failing to convince me, I set out to get my own answer.  Am I going to change the world with my soon-to-be-found knowledge?  Fuck, no.  It’s so trivial, it hardly even matters to anyone.

To even appreciate what I am seeking, you have to be pretty involved in my hobby of CD collecting.  If you’re not, then the rest of this post won’t even really interest you.  Further, you have to be fairly experienced with technology and computers, otherwise, this won’t really make much sense.  So, warnings provided, now for the explanation.

In the early days of CD manufacturing, some CDs were pressed with “pre-emphasis”, which is a special equalization.  CD players as part of their manufacturing specification had to be able to detect pre-emphasis and apply a reverse equalization (de-emphasis) when playing back these early CDs.  Sounds pretty simple, right?  Over time (actually very quickly), pre-emphasis use was discontinued, so all CDs today don’t have pre-emphasis anymore.  That’s fine for the general public, but somewhat of a nuisance for early CD collectors like myself.

Now that you understand the situation, here is the problem in a nutshell: CD players – and especially computer CD-ROMs – do not have the capability to detect pre-emphasis anymore.  So if you play back an early CD, you do not get the corrective equalization applied to the music, which makes it sound thin and harsh.  This also applies to CDs that you rip on your computer.  There are software plug-ins that can apply de-emphasis to the files after they have been ripped, so the problem can be somewhat mitigated.  But aside from using your ears, because the CD-ROM cannot detect the pre-emphasis, you can’t know for sure if the CD you ripped has pre-emphasis.  Again, not a problem for anyone but early CD collectors.

And so what I am looking to know is:  I want to be able to detect pre-emphasis on CDs in my computer.  Thus, my project.

I’ve discussed the CD history, now for the computer history.  Early computer CD-ROM were literally mini-cd-players.  They had a headphone jack and a volume control and some even had a play button in addition to the eject button.  Additionally, on the back of the drive, there was a jack to run the audio from the CD drive to the computer’s sound card.  These old drives played audio CDs in analog.  They had build in DACs (digital-to-analog converters), but you can be pretty certain they were not of the quality found in home stereo CD players.  Still, because they were doing the digital conversion, they also had to support handling pre-emphasis.

As technology moved on, pre-emphasis was no longer a concern and also, Windows began reading the audio from CDs digitally.  So drive makers dropped the headphone jack, dropped the DACs and dropped analog output completely.  It made the devices cheaper and audio could be read at the drive’s full speed instead of the 1X speed of analog.  Technologically, a great step forward.  But in the process of simplifying the device, they removed the capability to read pre-emphasis at all – it wasn’t needed.

But now, I want to get an old CD-ROM that has a DAC and analog output so I can hopefully detect pre-emphasis when ripping a CD.  The problem is that all those old drives use the IDE interface, which is long, long obsolete.  Computers now use the SATA interface.  But that’s only a stumbling block because of course someone has made an IDE-SATA interface converter.  So, technically, everything is still possible.  I don’t have to go to the extreme of building an old Pentium computer from parts salvaged from the 90s, thank god.

Naturally, EBay is the order of the day.  Because this project is only for curiosity, I’m buying stuff as cheap as possible.  For $16, I have a 19-yr old CD-ROM and an interface kit coming by next week.  Then it will be a challenge to see if I can get my computer to see the new (old) drive, then it will be a challenge to see if the ripping software will talk to the new (old) drive, and if it does, will the drive report the pre-emphasis information to the software.

So, there’s still some unknowns.  For the $16 I’ve spent, I’ve purchased a lottery ticket for either frustration or a jackpot of, “oh, neat.”  What will I do with this incredible information?  Well, obviously, I’ll share it whenever I can.  It will be a good data point for my posts on Relative Waves and I’m sure some other collectors would like to know which CDs have pre-emphasis.

A Christmas Burden

As a collector of CDs, sometimes I fantasize about coming across an old collection that’s up for sale, one with lots of old and rare CDs in it, along with CDs that I would also want to listen to.  I’ve read about people having experiences like that – they’re not common at all.  But Sunday, I was fortunate enough to have one of my own.

I had planned to visit my local flea market that day to check out and maybe buying a dart set for fun.  I have a board set up in my garage, but I don’t seem to have any darts anymore.  So I visited the booth with the darts and because there was only one set available, I decided to hold off another week until he got his order with different models.  My flea market doesn’t have a resident “CD guy”, so I don’t stop in very often.  But I did feel like getting some walking in, so I wandered the halls.

I found a couple of temporary sellers with CDs, but their selection was terrible and in poor condition.  Another seller had like 10 CDs out.  Sigh.  But, leaving that seller’s stand, I saw a booth across the hall with a couple of larger CD racks.  I went over to see what was there.  Within 10 seconds of browsing the rack, I could tell this was a personal collection.  There were items there that I never see anywhere else.  In one rack, there was almost the entirety of the IRS NoSpeak series, something I had completed this year.  I could have saved quite a bit of money, here.

Alas, I didn’t find anything in the two front racks, but when I stood back up and actually looked in the booth, there were six more racks and a couple of boxes of CDs.  Oh my god, if it’s all the quality of what’s out front, I’m in trouble.

And without dragging it out, yes, it was and, yes, I was.  There were two criteria I was working with at this booth.  The first was looking for stuff I wanted (duh).  The second was looking for any smooth-sided cases, which would indicate early CD pressings.  In the first criteria, I found maybe 6 CDs.  However, when it came to smooth cases, this collector was seriously an early adopter.  I was pulling out CDs 2-3 at a time and stacking them up into multiple piles.

The total at the end was 62 CDs.  The lady charged me a whopping $55 and even was willing to take a credit card when I explained I didn’t have enough cash to cover the purchase.  I was willing to do PayPal or some other method to avoid her getting a fee, but ok.  She was very happy to move so many of the CDs at once, and I was very pleased with what I had pulled out.

Back at home, I stacked the CDs all up and began cleaning the cases.

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After cleaning them, which took a little over half an hour, I had to step away to let my mind think about what I had to do.  I broke the incoming items into three piles: things that were duplicates of what I already had (and might be upgrades), things I definitely wanted to add to the collection, and the rest was going to have to be evaluated to see if I wanted to keep it.  I ended up with 20 definite adds, 6 or so dupes, and the rest was left for later.  Then I had to take another break.

What we’re talking about here is listening to 50+ albums.  Even being really aggressive about it, listening to one CD on the way to work, one on the way back, and maybe one at night, we’re still talking almost a month of new music.  And listening to an album once isn’t always fair when choosing to keep it or not, and I do want to be fair.  That means a whole lot of music has been dropped into my life.

And that quantity of music is overwhelming.  Believe it or not, I haven’t listened to any of it yet.  You would think I would have immediately popped in a CD coming back from the flea market, but I was too shocked at my fortune.  When you have over 60 albums to listen to, where do you start?  The genres are all over the place, so I could get anything, really.  What a first world problem.

I pulled out the 20 albums that were on the must have list and got them logged into my Discogs account.  It put my collection’s Max total over $20k.  Obviously that’s highly optimistic, but it’s still a milestone.  I compared the dupes in my collection to the newcomers and only swapped one out.  The other 5 have to get compared and posted on my other blog.  So I have plenty of things to do ahead of me next week.

The Second System

Last month, I upgraded my primary computer and one thing that sort of disappointed me about that event was that the old computer was still quite serviceable.  Aside from the need to support larger hard drives, it was perfectly fine.  After I finished the new built, I boxed up the old parts and left them stored for some unknown future day.

While I am still in my personal rebuilding phase, I’m playing around with a lot of ideas.  Most of those ideas are things from my past.  One specific one is music – playing, recording, etc.  So as I mulled this over, I considered the setup plan.  One thing I wanted was to not use my primary computer for the audio recording, as I had always done in the past.  While all computers are powerful enough to multitask like that now, I just didn’t want the clutter.  And that’s when I remembered I had a whole other quite serviceable computer sitting in a box.  All it needed was a new case.  That makes the idea much more reasonable from a cost perspective.

I got to work shopping for a new computer case, which was easy and not easy at the same time.  I wanted a desktop case (horizontal orientation), but it seems they just don’t make those anymore.  Too old fashioned, I guess.  So I shopped for the smallest tower case I could find.  And since this was a secondary system that would be limited in purpose, I bought the cheapest thing available.  And I bought a cheap power supply to install in it, too.  Maybe a total spend of $60.  Everything else I already had ready to go – monitor, cables, drives, RAM.

The case arrived the other day and I wanted to get a jump on things by installing the motherboard in right away.  Upon opening the box, I saw that all the front panels for the drive bays had popped off.  Then I noted the front panel was also popped off.  This gave me a bad feeling.  After extracting the case from the packing material, I was left with a collection of plastic tabs all over the table.  It appears the box was dropped or mangled in some way to basically shear the front panel straight off.  Every plastic tab that held the front panel to the case was broken off.  Not a single one was spared.

I’m not going to go through a bunch of RMA bullshit for a $30 case, but I’m also not going to just pitch it or give up on it.  I went to the garage and got my big box of miscellaneous screws and permanently attached the plastic panel back to the case with sheet metal screws.  That’ll show ‘em.  And without further incident, I installed the motherboard, video card, and hard drives in the case.  Now I just had to await the arrival of the power supply, which would come the next day.

This computer would be one of those unheard of systems that runs off-network.  No updates ever; first install-last install.  File transfer and backup would be via USB drives to my primary computer.  Ah, the good old days.  Time will tell if Windows 10 can even survive in this environment.  If not, well I suppose I could drop back to Windows 7.  Windows 7 is near end-of-life with security updates being phased out in January 2020, but on an unnetworked computer, what’s security?

Next up, software.

Spreading The Art

In a recent post, I’ve talked about the rebuild of my Plex database and one of the things that process exposed was the poor quality of my CD cover art.  Long past are the days where a 500×500 cover image would be sufficient, and you could even get by with 240×240.  After all, MP3 player screens didn’t have any significant resolution.  But now, the “MP3 player” in my house is a 60” television screen, with a beautiful “now playing” screen.  And it’s not all the beautiful when the album picture looks like crap.  So it’s time to remedy that.

For a large part of my collection, I was able to rely on a utility called Album Art Downloader, which is a pretty descriptive name as that’s all it does.  It searches a large variety of websites and lets you pick the picture you want to download in whatever resolution is available.  Initially it’s very overwhelming, but once you get it scaled back to a reasonable number of art sources, it’s quite workable.

I settled on a minimum size of 950×950 for my art.  I wanted to have a nice round number like 1000×1000, but one of the album art sites has a default of 953×953 (how odd), so that’s a lot of what I ended up with.  Ridiculously, iTunes and Google Music both have images up to 4000×4000.  Why so many pixels?!  But anyway, I got the best of what I could, and the rest I would have to handle myself.

It was way back in 2008 that I made a post saying I was scanning my less-accessible albums and posting them online.  Of course, back then, I was posting images at 500×500, which was fair over 10 years ago.  In 2014, I made another run at it.  But now, I’m continuing again, but posting the images online at 1500×1500.  This sharing is all well and good, but it doesn’t have the reach I feel it deserves.  Not many people are going to go to Flickr to search for album art, and also, the Album Art Downloader does not search Flickr for artwork, so that should be a sign.

So, where should I upload my contributions?  There’s one website that is pretty highly respected, Album Art Exchange, and I found them many years ago.  But I was immediately turned off by many factors, primarily the site owner’s terrible behavior and the site’s draconian policies.  For a long time, I stayed with Flickr, primarily for the independence, but also because nothing else out there seemed as organized.  Recently, I learned about Fanart.tv and I’m very hopeful that can be my new home for my efforts.

Of course every site has rules and guides to preserve the quality of their content, but it doesn’t seem to be as toxic as Album Art Exchange.  The site is a little rough around the edges, but on the plus side, they have an integration API, so they are open to sharing their content, unlike AAX, who wants to retain complete control over everything.  Fanart ties their entries to MusicBrainz, which is another site I have a little experience with.  I chose Discogs over MusicBrainz for my collection tracking, but I don’t have animosity for them like I do with AAX.  The point is that their artist and album entries are based on an authoritative source, instead of AAX’s free-for-all text entry is a clear positive.

So right now, I have 200 CD covers on Flickr that I can contribute, excluding any dupes of course.  But then again, I’ve pretty much only uploaded covers I can’t find anywhere else, so that’s promising.  In my collection, I am down to 37 albums under 950px where I can’t find any better source of artwork.  Some of the albums I’ve been scanning I am really surprised don’t have a high-quality image online already.  I have some obscure albums, but Eddie Money’s Greatest Hits?  Surely that would be on iTunes or Google Music, right? Nope.  You can’t find a good image anywhere.  I was also surprised I couldn’t find Styx – Return To Paradise.  On the other hand, I am also amazed at how a lot of classical albums can have different covers for the same album, sometimes with different working, sometimes different pictures.  It’s very strange.  “That’s the album, but that’s not the cover.”

Entering any new community is always scary, especially on the Internet.  Wish me luck.

Taming the Excess

Over a year ago, I had written a review of some CD cases that were gifted to me and I was impressed with the quality.  They’ve been in use ever since I got them.  They were initially for my “overstock”, which were CDs of which I had duplicates or had replaced with better versions.  Essentially, the cases held my sell/trade copies.

Over some time, I’ve been scoring a lot of smooth replacement jewel cases, so I started storing them in with my trade collection as my “supplies” collection.  As you would imagine, the supplies come and go with the growth and management of my collection, but the trade selection just keeps growing.  Part of this is because I feel I have some decent value trades.

Let’s address that irrationality of mine right off.  The value of CDs is nothing.  The value only matters to the few people that collect CDs.  I know this.  Otherwise, the CD pressing has no bearing to a person that just wants to hear More Than A Feeling and Smokin’ by Boston.  Again, I know this.  But, my reluctance to simply take them to the local shop and get $1 or less for these is not because I feel I deserve more money for these unique pressings.  My reason is that I’m holding them for the right owner who wants them.  I’m not going to gouge them for the discs.  The money is less important than having the disc appreciated.  And that, is far more irrational than what you might have thought at the beginning of this paragraph.

But that’s not the point of this post.  The point is that I had run out of space with my supplies and my overstock.  When I received the CD storage boxes, my brief research said they cost $65 each.  Out of consistency’s sake, I searched for more cases of the same make.  I figured there would be some used ones on EBay for cheap.  What I found on EBay were brand new ones, with double the capacity, for $37.  And, if I bought two, the price was discounted to $26!  And they had free shipping!  Well, I guess I’m unexpectedly spending some money today.

So, when these cases come in, my overstock storage capacity will go from 120 to 360.  It just seems to be the next logical step in me becoming “the CD guy” at the local flea market.  That’s sort of been my long-range, expected, retirement plan (for social enrichment, not financial).  How many CDs do you need to have an impressive storefront?  Not quite sure, but I should be there when I’m ready.

It wasn’t buyer’s remorse that set in right away, but I started to get a real suspicion that I had bought cheap knockoffs.  You know, “too good to be true” certainly applies here in the price department.  I began studying the pictures in the listing very closely.  They looked nearly identical to the authentic Vaultz product with two exceptions.  There was no Vaultz nameplate on the ones I bought, and the drawers had adjustable velcro dividers.  Both of these differences seemed like reasonable design changes over a few years, and I couldn’t really find any official Vaultz imagery to prove otherwise.

Then UPS sent me a delivery notification that my package would arrive tomorrow.  It was being sent by… Yahee Technologies.  Oh, there’s that sinking feeling.  I’m already preparing a scathing feedback message for them misrepresenting their product as Vaultz.  And you know, they got me.  Shipping these things back will cost me probably half of what I spent, so I might as well keep them.  I guess the best I can hope for at this point is that the quality isn’t complete shit.  Maybe there’s actual wood construction and not fiberboard.  The aluminum edge protectors look decent and the rubber feet look just like the Vaultz. 

I received the cases and as expected, they are not authentic Vaultz product.  However, they are a very close replica.  The locks are different and a lot of the construction that is wood on a Vaultz is thick fiberboard (again, as expected).  I jumped on EBay to vent about it, but after reading their “please contact us before leaving negative feedback” pleas, I slowed down and thought about the whole situation.

All things considered, these cases aren’t too bad.  They aren’t as flimsy as I expected.  Honestly, they were packed quite well and had no China smell.  To be fair, they were exactly the quality for the price you should expect – not cheap, not premium.  For a replica/knockoff/ripoff, they’re well done.  And I think I can live with them.  So instead of negative feedback, I just chose to leave no feedback.

Is that fair to future purchasers?  I think so, because I don’t think the great majority of people who are buying these cases would be like me, actually looking for additional authentic Vaultz product.  They would have no basis of comparison, as as such, they would be perfectly happy with what they got.  After all, I found the product decent for what I paid, too.

The Next Collector’s Goal

It was almost five years ago that I made a concerted effort to collect the entirety of a music label, the MCA Master Series.  The Master Series is a collection of largely instrumental “new age” music from the late 80’s.  For a little while now, I’ve been kicking around the idea of trying this again with another label.  I’m going to make a start on it now.

The label this time is IRS NoSpeak.  It’s another instrumental label from the same time period.  The label considered themselves “anti-new age” in the sense it was much more rock-oriented.  The scope of the collection is much smaller, with MCA having been 40+ releases, this label is only 19 strong.  With the price of CDs being depressed across the board, plus having these CDs never really reaching a large audience outside of individual fan groups, these should be obtainable for a reasonable cost. 

It’s kind of funny that with as much as I shop at thrift stores and get CDs for a buck or two, shopping online is actually a little unreasonable.  When you have to pay $3-4 for shipping on a $3-5 cd, that money can get you a good haul at a thrift store.  But when you want something specific, your chances of finding what you want in a random thrift store are pretty slim, so you gotta pay.

My history with the IRS NoSpeak label is pretty limited, and honestly, I don’t like most of what I already have.  But what I do like, I really like, so I’m hoping that I can find some winners again.  I did find some amazing stuff as I built my MCA collection, so maybe this good fortune will happen again.

The first album I got on the NoSpeak label was their first release, Guitar and Son, which was a guitar-based album.  Every time I hear it, I’m taken back to the days when I’d be playing the CD on repeat, over and over, while reading the monstrous Computer Shopper magazine and dreaming of getting back into computers again.  Those were simpler, happier times.

Maybe when the collection is complete, I’ll do the same as I did with the Master Series and make a set of pages for them here on the blog.  The album artwork is nice, although of a much different style than the Master Series.  It might be suitable for framing. 

Current stats: 6 on hand, 3 on order, 10 remaining.

I Made It Work Again

Over the weekend, I made a roadtrip in the interest of thrift shopping.  It was a generally easy-going, low-stress trip that turned up plenty of CDs, mostly smooth-sided cases.  Along the way, I also picked up an early CD player, 30 years old, for $7.  I figured it would be interesting to have an opportunity to experience newer and older players and see if I could determine sonic differences between them.  The price was good, so why not?

When I got it home and fired it up, I found out why not.  It wasn’t operational.  When powered up, it would immediately eject the CD tray.  Pushing the close button did nothing.  If you pulled the tray out a little further, the close button would work, but after a second or two, the tray would eject again.  Huh.

My first thought was that there were some sensors that were dirty.  The ones that tell the player when the tray is fully opened or fully closed.  It seemed like something I could fix.  So I opened the case and disassembled the tray assembly.  I didn’t really see any sensors like I expected.  I did see a pressure switch that would toggle when the drawer was open or closed.  Opening and closing the drawer, I could see that when closing, the switch was not being contacted.  I think I was on the right track here.

Considering why the drawer wouldn’t close fully, I had a memory of a web page I had read about CD player troubleshooting and the primary takeaway was that the great majority of player failures can be fixed by replacing the drive belts.  I inspected the drawer assembly and found only a single belt.  It seemed to be in good condition, maybe a little loose, I don’t really know.  But I figured I could change it out easily and maybe that would do it.

I ordered a pack of various sized belts from Amazon and they arrived the next day.  Without too much trouble, I installed a new belt of near the same size, maybe a little smaller.  The reassembly was a little sketchy since I wasn’t exactly sure where to set the gear so that the open/closed pressure switch would get hit in both directions.  But for my first test, the drawer stayed closed when I powered on, which it should because the switch indicated the door was closed.  I pushed the open/close button and the drawer ejected.  I checked the switch and it indicated the drawer was fully open.  I pushed the open/close button again at the drawer closed.  Then I saw something I hadn’t seen in previous attempts: the laser lens moved up and down trying to focus on a non-existent CD.  And the drawer stayed closed.  I ejected the tray and put a CD in.  I closed the tray and the CD spun up.  I pressed play, the CD spun and the display counted up the time.  I fixed it!

That’s a plenty good feeling to repair something so easily, just a single part replacement and the part was a tiny piece of rubber.