Skeptical? Five Reasons Why the Sony XDR-F1HD is Worth Repairing or Modding & Upgrading
Reason #1: The XDR-F1HD's FM reception is unmatched by almost any other consumer gear, vintage or new
The XDR's ability to pull in difficult FM stations might be unsurpassed by any other tuner at any price. The video below demonstrates the XDR making weak fringe stations listenable. The Sony is compared to a new Sangean HDT-20 in both analog and digital reception situations.
There are no tricks used in the demonstration. Both tuners were fed from the same outdoor antenna via a 2-way splitter. The audio levels have been matched using a mixer to make the test fair. When listening to the comparison, use headphones if possible. Note that the Sony is able to maintain good stereo separation on very weak signals that cause the Sangean to switch to Mono.
^^ Greg Carter preparing for his first live Vinyl Revival show with the station's brand new turntables^^
Reason #2: These things run WAY too hot!
Major internal components get very hot, dramatically reducing the tuner's service life. Sony probably saved $1 in the cost of building these by omitting a cooling fan. If you don't keep the thing cool, it can literally fry itself over time.
Reason #3: The XDR-F1HD is capable of sounding VERY good!
I never make any claims about the Sony being "audiophile" gear. Sony mass-produced these to retail for $100. There is nothing audiophile about its build quality. Would a component tuner aimed at the audiophile market have an injection-molded plastic case?
But the digital processing of the XDR's Tuner/DSP section is EXCELLENT. The chipsets were originally designed for very high-end mobile audio applications. Sony apparently looked at these components and said Hey, we can make a really good component tuner out of this. They were right.
Unfortunately, Sony cut some corners on the analog side of the audio processing. The details are explained elsewhere on this site. The stock audio quality can be significantly improved.
Reason #4: Sony left out some user convenience features and made a few dubious decisions in the design process
Reason #5: The factory FM alignment is a little off on every single one of these. I've never run into one that couldn't be improved at least slightly. Other technicians and engineers have confirmed this.
My upgrades & mods can mitigate all these issues. If you're interested in upgrading your XDR-F1HD and extending its service life, contact me.
NOTE: Ability to mod & upgrade your XDR-F1HD is contingent on it being in good condition and not overly heat-stressed when I receive it. If I discover any issues with that, we’ll discuss how to proceed.
More Random Background Stuff (Caution: Turntable Content!)
In addition to working on XDRs, during the pandemic I helped keep a weekly two-hour radio show "Vinyl Revival" on the air for community radio station KRVM (the only HD station we have here). Because the studio is owned by the school district and is physically attached to a high school, they had strict rules regarding studio access. Volunteer DJs weren't able to go to the studio to do their shows live for over a year.
The host of Vinyl Revival, Greg Carter, set up a workable home studio where he could make the raw recordings himself (with only one turntable), record separate voice tracking, and then put everything on a cloud drive. I downloaded his raw WAV files, smoothed out the rough edges and pieced everything together, still in WAV format to retain the best quality audio. Completed shows were then submitted to the studio via cloud drive and aired in WAV format with no transcoding. Together we all kept the show on the air that way for over a year. Now it's back to Greg live in the studio most of the time. Occasionally if he can't do his show live due to other commitments, we collaborate to make a show the old pandemic way.
Around 2019 I used earnings from my XDR hobby to buy the station new higher-quality turntables, cartridges, and phono preamps. And I continue to do all the turntable maintenance for them. The Reloop RP-7000 MK2 turntables are fitted with Audio-Technica XP7 DJ cartridges. We have to use DJ cartridges because the hosts do some back-cueing and the cartridges need to be rugged. And honestly, the XP7s sound really good after a careful setup using alignment tools to get the best performance from them. The phono preamps are ART Project Series, powered by a regulated linear DC power supply and with the analog outputs plugged directly into the studio's all-analog Arrakis console.
Check out "Vinyl Revival" with host Greg Carter Mondays at 5PM Pacific. Stream KRVM live Here. You can also listen to Greg's two most recent Vinyl Revival shows (and other shows), and view playlists, in the station's Archived Shows section Here.
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^^ The station wanted the dust covers to stay on, so that's how we rolled^^
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