Clip surgery!


— 4:28 PM on May 4, 2009

No, I'm not talking about getting your dog or cat fixed. I'm talking about the Sansa Clip MP3 player, and my recent foray into the guts of one of them.

A few days ago, my daughter informed me that she'd dropped her Sansa Clip player, and that it would no longer power up. I determined that it would still power up when plugged into the USB port of a PC, leading me to believe that there could be a problem with the battery. A quick Google search didn't turn up anything particularly noteworthy on the subject of DIY Sansa Clip repairs, but I did find one site that had a number of pictures of a disassembled Clip, which seemed to indicate that popping the case open wasn't that big of a deal. I also found a number of forum posts from people experiencing the exact same symptoms. Hmm...

Since the Clip was out of warranty anyway, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying to crack it open.

So, armed with my trusty Swiss Army knife, I gently pried at the seam between the halves of the casing until the back cover popped off. I actually managed to get the Clip open without damaging it, other than a few small nicks in the plastic from the knife. And there it was: the guts of a Sansa Clip in all their glory:

Sans Clip guts

The strange silvery object covering most of the circuit board is the internal lithium-ion battery.  Closer examination revealed that one of the battery wires had broken loose from the circuit board. The wires are rather thin, and given that a lot of other people seem to be reporting similar symptoms, I think this may represent the weakest point in the Clip's design.

Picking up my Swiss Army knife again, I stripped about 1/16" of the insulation from the end of the detached wire:

Battery Wire

A few seconds with a soldering iron, and the wire was reattached to its proper location on the circuit board:

Clip Wire Fixed

After snapping the casing back together, the Clip worked good as new. I also flashed the player to the latest firmware from Sansa's web site. OGG Vorbis support FTW—and effectively a free capacity upgrade, since Ogg has equivalent fidelity at lower bitrates than MP3s. Kudos to Sansa for providing a free firmware upgrade to support this format.

So this story has a happy ending. My daughter's Sansa Clip actually works better than before, and I'm not out the cost of a new one!

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