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Luckiestmanalive

Bringing a Sony WM-5 walkman to life

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Hiya - my son came over from the UK for Christmas so I got him to collect and bring back a Sony WM-5 cassette walkman as a birthday present and summer project. It was not working and in far from pristine condition but after considering a variety of different models, I decided I loved the look and design of this model best. The WM-5 is a relatively rare metal model that closely resembles the design of the WM-2 so I've referred to youtube and a digital copy of the WM-2 service manual to work on it. This is my first walkman project.

 

I could hear the motor whirring when I put in batteries and pressed play but the capstans didn't spin. I suspected the belt had perished and confirmed that was the case when I took it apart. Note that, if you have one of these and want to take it apart, the play/ff/rw/stop buttons can get caught on the very thin aluminium fascia that surrounds them so you have to be very gentle working the body out of the case. Also, take good photos of the inside boards and thin wires in case you accidentally break them or for resoldering them.

 

I found the original belt had turned to black goo and it took some time to clean it all from the wheels. I replaced the belt with one of similar diameter but 1mm width, which I bought in a pack of belts of varying sizes from Ebay. The buttons seemed to be working so I put it back together and have been testing it. My advice to anyone wanting to undertake this sort of project is to have all the tools, parts, DC power wart, grease and oil when you take your device apart - you don't want to have to take it apart more than once or twice as you increase the risk that something will break each time you do.

 

I have got it working but I still have some issues to chase down (any help you can provide would be appreciated):

1. According to the part list for the WM-2, the dimensions of the belt are 44x0.9, which presumably is the diameter and width in mm? I've fitted one that looks pretty close to 44m diameter but it isn't easy to take an accurate measure of the diameter of a rubber belt! I have read that a non-standard belt can cause higher wow and flutter but this belt at least proves the motor mechanism works.

2. The ff button works fine and the motor action is smooth and relatively quiet but the rw button is unreliable. It will rewind for several seconds and then stop. If you press the stop button and then press the rw button again. It will start the action then stop quickly. Repeating will go back to rewinding for several seconds and then stop. The rewind action is noisy and not smooth. Also, sometimes, after you press the stop button after rewinding/ffwding, the left capstan starts turning for a few seconds before it stops?!

3. The play and stop buttons work fine except the play action is noisy to my ear (I can't remember how quiet/noisy walkman used to be!) and the noisiness varies metronomically. This might be causing the wow I'm hearing on the tape. However, I only have one tape to test the unit at present (I will locate some more) and while I think I detect some wow it might be the tape (it is an old and low quality children's story recording).

4. I have ordered some replacement screws for the several that are missing but I can't locate a replacement perspex window for my broken one. I see that you can get a replacement for the WM-D6 but I cannot find anything online to replace what has to be the most common walkman window in existence!

5. The matt black paint on the case has been scraped off in a few places and I would like to touch it up but don't know what product is best to use.

 

I have thoroughly enjoyed my summer project so far, and I would dearly love to get it looking and running as well as it did in the 80s so any advice and encouragement would be gratefully received.

 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

The replacement screws for the ones that were missing arrived (I needed M1.4 x 2mm, 2.5mm and 3.5mm panhead screws in black) and they fit perfectly and look original so I'm chuffed.

 

Here is the fleabay ad I sourced them from:

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/M1-4-Micro-Phillips-Pan-Head-Machine-Screws-2-8mm-Black-Oxide-Steel-GB819-Bx7/362751538419?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&var=631909341633&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649

 

Also, here is the fleabay ad I sourced the 1mm rubber belt (should be 44 x 0.9mm but a 1mm one works fine):

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/30PCS-Cassette-Tape-Machine-Belts-Rubber-for-Recorders-Walkman-CD-DVD-Drive-AU/283603670977?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649

 

Now to replace the clear perspex window... looks like I will have to have one made off my cracked template. Any recommendations for perspex manufacturers?

Edited by Luckiestmanalive
typo

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Posted (edited)

It will be difficult to match the paint - you will need to smooth sand where it has worn off, then repaint the entire casing.  Which will mean that you will be paining over the white lettering.  From the photos it looks like the spots the paint's off are very small areas.  What I would do is to use a fine permanent black marker to touch up the spot (eg. a Sharpie marker).  Immediately after touching it up rub your finger on the area - this will remove any marker that's on the black paintwork (which will be noticeable, rubbing the area will only leave the marker where the paint's been scraped off).  Will this touchup be noticeable - yes and no.  It's not perfect, but because the spots are small it is unlikely to be noticed unless it has a detailed inspection. 

 

Good luck with the restoration.

Edited by audiofeline

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This was when Sony were at their innovative best, in defiance of recto-linear design with those lovely slanted controls. Be careful with touch-up paint - can ruin. Go to model makers forums for best advice. 

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Thanks, guys. I'll see what model makers say and give the Sharpie a go. Its nice to see I'm not posting to a void!

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Update:

I've reduced the flutter with a few repeat sessions cleaning all the brown tape residue off the pinch roller with a cue tip and some rubbing alcohol. It looked like it hadn't been cleaned since it was new! I've cleaned it until there is no hint of brown residue on a cue tip. There is no longer any shinyness and the roller still looks pliable and without any sign of dents or cracks.

 

It is also getting better by using it. My 9 year old daughter loves it and we listen to a tape while eating breakfast together (there are two headphone jacks). With regular use the FF is dependable now (it doesn't cause the weird several seconds of playback once you hit stop) and rewind is also working more often than not. All in all, I'm pretty pleased with where I'm at so far.

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Lovely story. Nothing nicer than sharing music listening to cassette. 

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After a lot of googling (big ups to all those people sharing their knowledge) and trying out stuff I've come to appreciate just how hard it is to get a tape cassette to sound good! Here is what I've learned so far about the importance of the tape grip and path to get good sound.

 

The pinch roller and capstan are very important to get even tape movement over the head. If the grip is uneven then you get slippage and even a slight amount of slippage contributes to flutter. The roller needs to be clean of tape residue, pliable and even, without cracks or dents. You can clean the roller effectively with isopropyl alcohol and a cotton bud. Repeat the cleaning process (allowing time to dry between sessions) a few times and stop when the cotton bud is only picking up black and not brown material.

 

The capstan also needs to be clean but not polished and smooth. Again, a cotton bud damp with isopropyl alcohol is fine for the cleaning job. To roughen up a smooth capstan, you can cut a small ribbon of 150 grit sandpaper about 30-40mm in length of 8-10mm width. Make a loop with the grit inside and pinch it with your forefinger and thumb. Loop it over the capstan and hit play so the capstan rotates against your loop of sandpaper. You might want/need to take the cassette door off to get better access for this job.

 

I was silly enough to accidentally tighten the tape path screw before I knew what I was doing and this guide needs to be aligned with the tape path guide on the head to ensure the tape has a smooth and straight path over the head and onto the spool. To see how evenly the tape is going through your transport you can purchase a mirror cassette but you might already have a tape cassette with a transparent plastic cover which is adequate. I have one and I can see the tape's journey very clearly with the cassette door off and a light shining on it. This has helped me tweak the tape path screw to ensure there is no discernible flex of the tape before or over this guide.

 

These relatively simple tips have made a discernible improvement to the sound of my tapes. However, I am still not satisfied it is as good as I can make it so I will report back if I make any further improvements. Then there is the problem that the machine just won't pull any tape longer than a C60. More research and investigation is needed...

 

 

Edited by Luckiestmanalive

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So after further testing I've found only one C90 tape in my meagre collection won't play and it happens to be Pet Shop Boys Discography, which is an XDR tape. Some of these tapes are known to develop problems in playback and some people suggest lubricating the tape to resurrect them. XDR tapes are supposed to be better quality soundwise than normal tapes so I may try the lubrication trick. If I do I will report back. The good news is that this means there is now nothing wrong with my Walkman, mechanically!

 

I am now on the hunt for a DC power supply for my Walkman but I'm struggling to find one that fits the bill:

- 230V AC with AU plug into 3vdc 300mA output into a 5.5 x 2.1mm center negative plug

 

I'd appreciate it if anyone that can point me to the right place. I've tried Amazon and Ebay and even if I find the right output it is always center positive. I guess I could rewire but I would prefer to have a device that is marked correctly.

 

I've also ordered my first brand new 2019 release on cassette to enjoy and test flutter - Ian Brown's Ripples album.

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An update on this restoration. While it went well for a few weeks, it fell off the bed and developed a clicking noise so I ordered a proper replacement belt from turntableneedle.com and swapped out the old one a few weeks ago. This didn't go well and it stopped working correctly so I put it aside until I could get enough courage to look at it properly, which required desoldering a handful of wires to separate the electronics from the mechanical board to get better access.

 

I'm a tinkerer and a newb when it comes to going this deep into electrical circuitry. But I sucked up my doubts and got stuck in yesterday. Having nowhere to go during these times means this became a good use of my spare time. I figured I couldn't make it any worse, seeing is wasn't going anyway. And it turned out more than fine - I got it going better than before = so much so that there is no wow and only a tiny amount of flutter most people wouldn't notice. I am so happy I spent the hour or so it took to complete the job.

 

I hope my story helps you. Here are some tips I learned from this experience.

 

Tip 1: take plenty of pics of what you are doing. I split the desoldering into logical groups, took a pic of the wires I was desoldering and gathered the loose wires together with a little sellotape. When I was done, I simply resoldered them in the reverse order using the pics for guidance. I am not an experienced solderer and the wires are tiny but even I managed to do it ok!

 

Tip 2: have the service manual handy. It showed my main problem was that I had somehow managed to install the belt incorrectly(!), which meant the wheels were going backwards! This was an easy fix. Everything worked fine once the belt was looped the other way around the motor pulley. The much better access allowed me to ensure the belt was not twisted in any way.

 

Tip 3: have some felt tape or similar to tidy the wiring. The old felt tape was not sticky enough after I removed it to get the wires out and they were a pain to keep them still when putting the unit back together.

 

Tip 4: don't despair if something goes wrong. Put it to one side and go back to it later. If you get stuck, do more research about the problem (including posting here and on other forums) and don't think about it for a while. This time helps you dispose of the baggage that came with the early frustration. Coming back to it fresh helps you diagnose and fix the problem. This might take several attempts - again, this is ok. Hope is both your friend and your enemy. You need hope to attempt a job but it results in frustration when it doesn't turn out as well as you hoped.

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