Clip surgery!

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.Β  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 FTWβ€”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!

Comments closed
    • steelcity_ballin
    • 10 years ago

    I’ll have to try this later, my clip does the same thing – Not sure that I dropped it but I don’t like running with my much bulkier sony walkman 8Gb. The clip is a great little jukebox, and thanks also for the Ogg Vorbis update!

    • mattthemuppet
    • 10 years ago

    nice job! my motto is “if someone can put it together, someone can take it apart”. Admittedly that faltered a little when taking an old clamshell iBook apart (not mine thankfully), but 5 million hidden screws later it’s finally in pieces πŸ™‚

    Other pleasing fixes include: fixing a laptop power jack problem for a mate (broken plug leg, needed a bit of solder), rebuilding a broken front loader washing machine and fixing our DVD player (jam on a disk that got transferred to the disk hold pad – took me ages to figure out why my disks wouldn’t come out!). It’s only really when the cost of parts way exceeds the cost of replacement that you really need to throw things out.

    • Krogoth
    • 10 years ago

    I did similar surgery on a fan or two in the past. They still work to this day.

    • stirker_0
    • 10 years ago

    I think the question is why on earth would your daughter ever need OGG Vorbis??

      • Flying Fox
      • 10 years ago

      If this daughter is the one that installed an internal optical drive to the horror of her friends, I don’t see why not? πŸ˜‰

        • just brew it!
        • 10 years ago

        Nahh, that was the /[

          • Flying Fox
          • 10 years ago

          LOL, it will be a good day when she puts in that 2nd video card in her SLI/CF rig for rendering while her friends tremble in total fear. :rofl:

          • Usacomp2k3
          • 10 years ago

          I thought the “midnight” opening was at 7pm or something silly like that.

            • Flying Fox
            • 10 years ago

            May be that’s why she got JBI’s permission to go?

      • just brew it!
      • 10 years ago

      Smaller files for equivalent fidelity. I pointed this out to her, and she thought it was cool, since it is effectively a free capacity upgrade. She has since reloaded the player with (mostly) OGG format files. I’d already transcoded much of our music collections to OGG format, so it was pretty much a no-brainer.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 10 years ago

        I hope you didn’t transcode from mp3 to ogg. The lossy-lossy transcode would defeat the purpose of equal fidelity with smaller files.

          • Flying Fox
          • 10 years ago

          It may depend on whether the user cares in that case.

            • just brew it!
            • 10 years ago

            As a temporary measure, yes I transcoded the entire collection from MP3 to OGG. I know transcoding from one lossy format to another is not a good idea. However, the majority of the MP3s were originally encoded VBR with a pretty high quality setting, so the loss of fidelity (relative to re-encoding from the original source material) is generally not noticeable unless you do a direct A/B comparison.

            I do eventually plan to re-encode the entire collection, but that is a PITA because the original rips (in WAV format) are currently sitting on a stack of ~200 DVD-Rs. (Yes, I have the original CDs as well; but reloading from the DVD-Rs would involve a lot less disc swapping than re-ripping everything from scratch.)

            With terabyte+ drives getting as cheap as they are these days, I should probably just reload all of those WAV files onto a hard drive…

            • Flying Fox
            • 10 years ago

            You can probably FLAC it for your “online” storage to save a bit of space.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 10 years ago

            Yeah that’s the way to go imo, a few years ago storage was relatively expensive although you could still get a drive that would hold a huge collection in FLAC for <$160. Storage is so much cheaper now that there’s no reason not to keep FLAC rips of everything plus one or even two portable lossy formats. It makes re-encoding the entire collection from FLAC if you feel like it really easy as a batch job too.

            JBI – you should definitely look in to getting all those DVD-Rs on to a HD. DVD-Rs won’t last forever as a backup. Ok, neither will HDs but they aren’t virtually guaranteed to degrade and you can do some sort of duplication to prevent a drive loss from ruining the whole collection. FLAC takes up ~50-60% the space of WAVs too so you wouldn’t even need huge HDs over 1TB.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 10 years ago

    I have to wonder how many electronic devices are built with issues like that on purpose.

    I had a motherboard that stopped working because the caps leaked, but other than that, pretty much any “broken” thing I ever encountered just had one little wire come loose. It always could have been fastened more securely to prevent that from happening in the first place.

    But when that happens, people don’t take a look inside. They just throw it out and buy a new one.

    IT’S A TRAP!

    • eitje
    • 10 years ago

    This is a quality fix-it guide!

    I’d love to see more things like this. Can we set up a fund to buy broken things off of ebay and ship them to JBI? πŸ™‚

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 10 years ago

    I got a 8Gb Zune from a guy on Craigslist for $40. I had been eying the clip, but I’m happy to stick with something that I know, and that has great podcast support.

    Good job on the rewiring. Glad it wasn’t anything more complicated.

    • Corrado
    • 10 years ago

    I love my Sansa Clip. Light, battery lasts FOEVER, sound quality is decent, shows up as mass storage.

    I’ve also fixed some devices like this too. My gfs cat chewed through the cable on her iMac keyboard. I just stripped the wires and soldered them together and shrink wrapped. She thought I did some type of arcane magicks.

      • just brew it!
      • 10 years ago

      Oh, I’ve gotten /[

    • A_Pickle
    • 10 years ago

    Take THAT, global financial meltdown!

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 10 years ago

    That’s what it means to be a cool dad: fixing your kid’s toys.

      • Meadows
      • 10 years ago

      Truer words have never been spoken.

      It’s a lot more impressive than buying a new one, and probably good for bonding too while we’re at it.

    • Traz
    • 10 years ago

    I’ll have to remember that if I can ever locate my old mp3 player…

    • Buzzard44
    • 10 years ago

    That’s neat. And useful.

    • cheesyking
    • 10 years ago

    There’s nothing quite like the feeling of opening up the case on some apparently dead device seeing something as easy as disconnected power cable.

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