Has my Meridian 506 become an expensive door stop?

A couple of years ago I purchased a used Meridan 506 CD player for a fairly reasonable price. At first it worked fine and sounded great, but a few months later it began having difficulty reading and sometimes tracking discs. About a year and a half ago I contacted Meridian about getting it fixed and got a general estimate to replace the drive (or whatever the black-box fix was). At the time I wasn’t in the best shape financially so decided to live with it for the time being.

Recently I decided to have it taken care of and called again to get a repair authorization from Meridian. The rep informed me that parts are no longer available for the 506. (Goddamn designed obsolescence!) However, if I sent it in they could “grease the chassis”. Uh... well, I’m highly mechanically skilled, so I took the thing apart and did it myself. There wasn’t much to do (though getting it apart was an adventure), and I chose not to disassemble the laser mechanism. (The way the guy talked, the “lube job” would be of the transport and not the laser drive itself anyway.)

It didn’t noticeably change anything, and it’s continuing to get progressively worse. So what now? Is there anything I can do with this? Is there anywhere else besides Meridan itself that might have parts? Though I do enjoy quality sound I’ve always been on a very tight budget. (Most of my system is “hand-me-downs”.) I’m also reluctant to toss something that can be repaired (within reason).
Try cleaning the laser mechanism. 3M sells a laser cleaning disc for about $10.oo available at office supply stores and packaging stores (why they would carry such an object, I don't know). Anyway, it's worth a shot.
Typical read problems with a CD player fall in four general areas.

1. Lubrication of the rails that guide the laser mechanism as it rides back and forth over the spinning CD and cleaning the laser lens.

2. Aging of the laser itself which requires replacement.

3. Alignment of the laser. This depends on the CD player involved and is usually an electrical calibration. Some players may do this automatically while others require special test equipment.

4. A failure or deterioration in the read circuitry. This would require replacing the circuit board.

Most problems are some combination of, or a variation on these.

If it were my machine I think the next step would be to run down a service manual to see what might be involved along the above lines.

Unfortunately many electronic pieces are not serviced the same as they were in the past. With tech labor rates often $75 or $100 an hour and the short life cycle for digital type parts before they are replaced by a new generation, keeping an old CD player running can range from costly to impossible.

We may whine about this, but this rapid pace of development is what has given us $400 laptops that are more powerful than the most expensive mainframes of not too many years ago. Obsolescence is the price of the rapid pace of progress.

Finally, you could simply replace it with another CD player and sell this one on eBay for parts use. You wouldn't likely get a whole lot, but you'd be doing something more than just tossing it in the trash.
AFAIK, Meridian sourced these transport mechanisms from a third party and did not make them. Therefore, there might be someone with a stock of these.

First, you have to find out what mechanism it is and, second, you have to find out who may have them.

A good place to start is at http://www.meridianunplugged.com/

Third, you have to decide if this effort/cost is worth it considering the age of the 506.

Thanks for the info. Gives me something to mull over instead of just fretting. I did the laser cleaner when this first started, with minor improvement (if any). I'll look into the rest as it makes sense. Cheers...
You laser needs replacement
I am amazed at the automatic: "Your laser needs replacement". It may just as well be a $0.15 capacitor! I had a beautiful machine that seemed to have died. All the 'experts' said laser is gone.. Well, all it was was a small capacitor!! for the labor it might cost, but the part was $0.15.
So at least try to find out what is going on, instead of using the 'groupthink' answer.
Thanks Elizabeth – I think you're implying that most repairs nowadays are "black box" fixes, which I believe is true. It's much easier and I suppose cost effective on a "global scale" over the long run, because it eliminates all the possible future malfunctions within the "box". (Assuming of course, that the general lifespan of individual components within the "box" are equal, which obviously they are not.) Of course, that philosophy is problematic when the "box" is no longer manufactured...

So how were you able to determine that your problem was a 15 cent cap?
OK. Here is the result of many hours of research. I had the same issue with my 506-20. The laser head wears out and causes these problems. You can get a new head for between $15-30 from e-bay. These heads are used in many cd juke boxes. The guy I got mine from was in Las Vegas see link info below. The transport is either a philips cdm 12.4 or 12.5 aka vam1205. The 12.5 has a ribbon cable coming from the motor since it is a hall effect drive, the 12.4 has a conventional 2 wire harness. It will be on a sticker on the transport anyway. Doesn't matter though since its just the laser head you need to replace.

Here is the info for you. http://cgi.ebay.com/2-Philips-CDM12-4-CDM-12-4-laser-optical-head-juke-etc_W0QQitemZ190355218050QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item2c520e1e82

Good luck. Mine worked fine after the laser replacement.
Delphini -- thanks for the tip. I just ordered the laser, which does look exactly like mine. It's worth it to see if fixes the problem. There was a 12.4 transport on ebay as well. Mine is a 12.5, but like you say, the difference in the CD drive motor isn't an issue since I'll be just replacing the laser itself.

So what I don't get is why Meridian didn't have access to these parts. Is there a quality issue or are all Philips electronics the same (at least in a general sense)?
P.S. Disregard the question. Consider it retorical.
Well, I got the $30 (for a package of two) laser off e-bay. It looked EXACTLY like the one in the Meridian (markings and all). I replaced it. It didn't work.

I called Meridian, and found out they now have replacement lasers in stock. I sent the unit in and the tech said there was some minor difference in the mylar circuit connector on the one I put in and it wouldn't stay in the plug, though even after he shimmed it in place it still didn't work.

He put one of theirs in and it worked. Sounds wonderful now, $400 later... but if it works perfectly for at least 5 years I'll be satisfied with the outlay. I'll hold on the the other unit I bought and try it again when this one goes out. Even though I'm highly competent and downright anal when in "repair mode" I'd never done this before, and I'm more inclined to believe I screwed up somehow than there was some inperceptable difference in the units.

Anyway, thanks for all the advice. Cheers...
I had this same player for a while, and it exhibited the same problem as you describe, right out of the box brand new. Send it back to Meridian and they did the "grease the chasis" thing, which did not solve the problem.
I have the Meridian 506 for 10 years now and it has served me well. I can only say that I am a very happy customer. However, the CD player gave me a problem 2 days ago. It has problem reading the 1st three songs with skips and reading error. The higher number tracks are ok. I realy love this machine even though it's old but it was my first hi-fi player. I live in North Jersey / Manhattan area. Can anyone tell me where I can go to get the player fixed, or if it's even possible to do it myself. Again. Love-Love-Love this player. Thanks for your help.
I have had the 506 for 11 or 12 years. About 2 years ago mine started skipping. I sent it back to Meridian and got a new laser assembly. It's been as good as new ever since. They did warm me that parts were becoming more and more scarce which, given it's relative age, is hardly surprising.