Five Reasons Why the Sony XDR-F1HD is Worth Modding & Upgrading

(Scroll to bottom of page for repair information)

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 from the tuners has not been tampered with in any way except to match the levels to make the test fair.​ When listening 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.

Text & Images Copyright © 2016-2022 XDRGuy LLC. All rights reserved.​


The XDR-F1HDs still in use are up to 13 years old now.  I'm seeing a big increase lately in requests for problem diagnosis and repair of failed tuners.  

The vast majority of problems will be fixed by doing a Level 1 upgrade.  After that's done, the tuners should have a substantially extended service life.  

It makes no sense to me to continue offering half-measure repairs.  For example, the power supply capacitors routinely fail from heat stress.  And when they fail, many other capacitors are on the road to failure.  Replacing only a single bad capacitor doesn't compute because there are other problems almost certain to occur from continued internal overheating.  And I can't warranty half-measure repairs.

So going forward my minimum repair procedure is a Level 1 upgrade.  If I do find something else going on during problem diagnosis which the Level 1 won't fix, I'll contact you and discuss the options.  Again I don't charge for a diagnosis, but the new minimum repair is a Level 1 upgrade at $150.  The price includes a 60 day "Fix It or Replace It" warranty on the entire tuner, and priority return shipping.

​​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?

Nevertheless, 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.  Sony was 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 processing can be dramatically and measurably improved.

Reason #4:  Sony left out some user convenience features and made a few dubious decisions in the design process

  • The display is always lit up whether the tuner is On or Off.  Yes, you can turn down the brightness, but are you going to mess with that every time you use the tuner?
  • The clock time and station presets are lost within seconds every time power is removed.  This is incredibly annoying.
  • There's no way for the user to force the tuner into Analog-Only mode when HD is present.

Reason #5:  The factory FM alignment is a little off on every single one of these.  I've never run into one that can't be improved at least slightly.  Other technicians and engineers have confirmed this.  

My upgrades & mods described below 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.

11/14/21 I'm gradually easing back in to doing upgrades.  If you're on the wait list, you should hear from me eventually.  Thank you for your patience.

​​​3/20/2021: "Level 1" Essential Mods

Extend the tuner's service life and improve its audio quality at modest cost.

  1. Install a premium QUIET cooling fan.
  2. Upgrade all aluminum electrolytic capacitors in the power supply, main board, and tuner/DSP Module with higher-quality 105℃ rated parts*.
  3. Convert the +10.5V side of the power supply from half-wave rectified to full-wave.
  4. Recalibrate the +8.5V voltage regulator circuit to within about 1% of spec (it’s usually off by 3%-4%).
  5. Replace the display backlight LEDs.
  6. Replace all top and front tactile switches.
  7. Install Sony mods to the audio jacks if not already present (will usually be needed if serial number starts with “8”).
  8. Align FM section for best sensitivity and confirm it’s well within the right ballpark.
  9. Install basic audio fidelity improvements for flatter frequency response, reduced distortion, and improved headroom.
  10. NEW: Install 7.5 Farad Super Capacitor for memory retention of station presets & clock (was previously 1.5F).

"Level 1" Essential Mods Package: $150​ including priority return shipping to a US address and a 60-day "Fix It or Replace It" warranty on the entire tuner.  I can add options from the Level 2 package including a 2nd fan.   See pricing below.  Note that if you add a 2nd fan to the Level 1 Package, the warranty is extended from 60 days to 120 days.


9/21/2021: "Level 2" Ultimate Mods

The Level 2 "Ultimate Mods" package gets you everything in the Level 1 package, plus:

  • Level 1 Item 9 changed to completely replace the tuner's stock audio preamp with a custom-designed preamp board featuring ultra-low distortion, improved s/n ratio, flat frequency response to within +0/-0.2 dB between 20Hz and 20KHz, and greater headroom.  The board is based on the ultra-premium Linear Technology LT1632 opamp.  Coupling capacitors are Nichicon Muse.  Boards are hand-assembled using premium thru-hole parts (no surface mount) and silver-bearing solder.  Each board is pre-tested on an HP audio analyzer to ensure proper functionality before installation in the tuner.
  • Add a second premium cooling fan and related on/off control circuitry.  $30
  • Modify the display backlight to shut off when the tuner is off (standby).  $15
  • Install a Forced Analog switch with LED indicator so you can listen to a station's HD1 in analog mode if desired (requires drilling a 1/4" hole in rear panel).  $25
  • Replace the factory audio jacks with premium gold-plated panel-mounted jacks (eliminates need for Item 7).  $25

"Level 2" package price is $275 including priority shipping to a US address and 120-day "Fix It or Replace It" warranty on the entire tuner.

Bundle price to add the upgrades from Level 2 pkg to Level 1 (excluding the audio preamp board) is $75, making the total $225 with shipping to US address.  Includes a 120-day "Fix It or Replace It" warranty on the entire tuner.

​​*One capacitor used in the tuner/DSP module is replaced with a long-life 85℃ rated part due to availability.

Photos below are representative examples of my work.