Athletics and Recreation

The CD Player with a Robot Inside: Pioneer CLD-M301

The CD Player with a Robot Inside: Pioneer CLD-M301


These two machines both have the same primary
mission. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to play five compact discs
in a row uninterrupted. On the left, we have a Sony CDP-C235, which accomplishes its mission
in a completely ordinary and mundane fashion. On the right is a Pioneer CLD-M301. And it
has a little robot inside to help it along. The Sony machine uses a boring ol’ carousel
to do its work. When you press eject, after making a startling amount of creaking noises,
the drawer opens with a single CD front and center. Pressing Disc Skip spins the circular
inner portion 72 degrees to present you with the next disc. Each depression for a disc
is handily marked in stylish print. (Just in case the vacuum fluorescent display wasn’t
enough.) Pressing eject on the Pioneer machine presents
you with this monstrous and confusing tray, littered with tiny little markings, details,
and indentations. At least you can see all the discs at once, I guess. But wait. There’s
a 6th spot in the middle. And what’s with all the little felt pads everywhere? Also,
this is just one solid piece of plastic. How’s the machine supposed to select a disc if it
can’t move? Ah, well that explains the robot. The machine from Pioneer isn’t just a CD
player. It’s also a Laserdisc player. Now if you don’t know what Laserdiscs are, you
must be pretty new here, as I’ve made an entire exhaustive series on the format which
should be appearing in the corner pretty soon. I’ll warn you, it’s a long series. In two sentences Laserdiscs were the first consumer optical disc, released in test markets
at the tail of 1978 and therefore beating the CD by nearly 4 years. These 12 inch– a little late there, are we?– These 12 inch discs contain up to an hour of near-DVD quality analog video per side, and although they stuck around until the first year of the new millenium,
their market penetration in North America was an abysmal 2% at its peak which probably
explains why you haven’t heard of them before, if you haven’t. OK that last sentence was
a bit of a runon. The Compact Disc, released in 1982, was a
near-immediate success (unlike Laserdisc). By 1984, Pioneer was making Laserdisc players
that could also play CDs. They wanted in on that action, and some executive (probably)
wisely thought, why not make a twofer, and maybe spur along the sales of Laserdisc. Sadly
it didn’t really help the sales of Laserdisc, but by the early nineties, the Compact Disc
was all the rage. How lame you were if you didn’t have a CD player by the time Home
Improvement hit the airwaves. Not long into the first years of being on
the market, the CD changer was developed to allow for playing multiple discs at once.
I couldn’t find any info on exactly when the first CD changers were released, but I
can tell you that 1991 seems to have been a pretty important year as this was the first
year Pioneer made a machine like this. Not wanting to miss out on the new wave of CD
changers, Pioneer decided, by golly, we can squeeze that into a Laserdisc player! And they did! And this is the result. Now,
Pioneer faced a bit of an odd problem when designing a combo CD changer and Laserdisc
player. See in CD changers like this Sony, the actual CD reader is shoved in a corner
inside the machine. The CDs themselves are brought to it when the carousel turns. But
that can’t be done in this machine because it also needs to be able to play a Laserdisc.
For this machine, the actual disc transport has to be in the center. So Pioneer, the manufacturer brave enough
to design a little ferris wheel to lift the laser to the top side of a Laserdisc to allow
for laying both sides of a single disc, decided to just use a robotic arm to pick up the disc
and bring it to the center. Why not? Take a look at this in action. This spot here is
disc 1. Watch what it does. (various mechanical sounds) OK, that’s pretty impressive. Now
let’s select disc 5 over here. (more various mechanical sounds) I love how this machine
works, but it’s hard to get a good view of what exactly it’s doing. Nothing a screwdriver
can’t fix! At first glance, this may not look like much. This black plastic circle functions as the upper clamp. In many optical disc drives,
the spindle motor works with a piece like this to actually clamp the disc down as it
spins. Together, they essentially form an optical disc sandwich. Usually these clamps are pretty
loose and spin freely, and sure enough… so does this one. But you’d be wrong to
think this is any ordinary optical drive disc clamp. This is in fact how the player picks
up the CDs. If I start turning this drive belt by hand,
you’ll see that the clamp moves towards the end of the arm where it would be positioned
above a CD. But once it stops, if I keep turning eventually these three little fingers will pop out here. These hold on to a CD through the center hole. Holding a CD from the center
meant that even the 80mm mini cd was compatible. Rather ingeniously, the fingers lock in place
once the motor reaches its end stop. When the motor is reversed, the disc clamp returns
to the center, bringing the disc along with it. Only when it’s back to the center and
the motor keeps spinning further do the fingers retract into the clamp and let the disc go.
At this point it can play the disc. When it’s time to put the disc back, the
player will first reverse the motor even farther, which re-engages and locks the fingers. Then
it spins forward and travels to the end, with the fingers locked in place the whole time.
This time, running the motor beyond its end stop disengages the fingers, which lets go
of the disc, and then reversing the motor brings it back to the center. I’m glad I took this apart because it revealed
a very elegant simplicity to this mechanism. Notice how the drive gear engages with this
track. At each end, the track is fragmented. These sections here can actually move when
this pin is released, and are pulled by the same motor which moves the grabby clamper.
These plastic hook things are what actually engage and disengage the fingers that hold
the disc, and they’re attached to these small moveable sections of track. When the
clamp reaches the end of its travel, it hits the lock pin which frees the small track section
and allows it to move. But ingeniously, by this point the drive gear is already off the
stationary track segment, meaning the gear is only engaged with the moveable piece. With
the small section of track now free to move, the motor works to pull it towards the clamp,
which pulls the hook thing along with it. This pushes or pulls on small tabs above the
clamp, and these extend or retract the disc grabbing fingers. When the motor reverses
direction, it first pushes the track back to it’s normal position where it locks in
place, and after the track has stopped moving and locked in, the gear can now move the disc
clamp along the track. Arranging the track like this allowed for
a single motor to move the clamp and engage the fingers. This is really genius engineering
in my humble opinion. It echoes the both side play mechanism from the CLD-D502–the same
motor which moves the laser along the rails sends it to the top, too. You can see the
tracking gear spinning as it reaches the top. At the end of its travel, it engages with
the linear teeth here to move the laser towards the center of the disc. By the way, I’m
pretty sure these could be considered rack and pinion systems, with this the rack and
that the pinion. As cool as this machine is, it suffers from
being both a sub-par Laserdisc player as well as a sub-par CD changer. Let’s put the Disc
Grabber 9000™ back in place and compare operation of these two machines. When compared to a carousel CD changer, the
Pioneer machine is significantly slower to change discs. Let’s do a race. We’ll switch
from disc one to disc 2 on both machines. (even more various mechanical noises) Yeah
that wasn’t even close. Also, the Sony machine has the advantage of being able to spin the
carousel backwards. If you want to go from disc 1 to disc 5, the Sony machine will simply
rotate counterclockwise and get straight to disc 5. The Pioneer has to travel all the
way around to do the same thing. The farthest the Sony machine ever has to travel is 2 spaces
away, whereas the Pioneer will always have to travel the relative distance between discs.
However you could argue that the Pioneer machine is more convenient to load up, so long as
the convoluted tray isn’t a bother, as you have access to all 5 discs at once. Oh, but the Sony does have a neat party trick
courtesy of its disc tray. You might have noticed that the access cutouts for the laser
transport are slanted. This is to allow for the disc ex-change system. The Sony will allow you to swap out the other 4 discs while it’s playing the fifth. The recess for whichever
disc is in the back left corner has its cutout go straight back and lines up with the reader
mechanism, allowing room for the laser carriage to travel beneath it. This means that the
disc tray can move outward while it holds on to the disc it’s playing. The machine
is even smart enough to present the discs two at a time, so that you never even see
the spot for the disc it’s currently playing. Though often times it has to do a bit of a
shuffle to reassure itself what position its actually in before it closes the tray. Aside from this feature, the Sony is just
overall better at being a CD changer. Its faster, the display is far more comprehensive
and there are many more controls on the machine itself. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a heck
of a lot quieter. Pioneer again used clever cost saving and simple engineering, and the
machine uses the same motor that drives the disc tray for lifting and lowering the disc
grabber thing. Again I admire the simplicity, but that motor is loud! And because of the
way it operates, it makes a plethora of distinct noises and in general is just bizarre sounding. (A plethora of distinct, bizarre sounding noises) By the way, the Sony machine isn’t
a goodwill find, it was the CD player I grew up with. It’s always made that creaking
sound. (pronounced creaking sound as the disc is lowered) But its still far less intrusive
than all this nonsense. (yet still more various, bizarre, distinct
mechanical noises) So then, how does it do as a Laserdisc player?
Well, it’s not bad. There’s nothing inherently wrong with its performance, although there
are plenty of players with better video performance. And they combined the CD changing aspect into
it rather well. Pioneer actually marketed the fact that you can leave your favorite
CDs in place when you want to play a Laserdisc. Also perhaps less known is that you can place
a 6th CD in the center which it will play, but it does prevent using the changer. But
this means you can leave your 5 favorites in place, and play a 6th disc individually.
I can actually see the appeal for that. But what the CD changer makes impossible is
a both-side play mechanism. There simply is no way to fit the top rails for the laser
and this robot thing in the same case without extensive modification of both systems. You
can see that the construction of these machines is very similar, with the one on the right
having a both side play mechanism rather than a disc changer. I think the only way to combine
these two systems together would be to stack them and design a claw-machine like apparatus
to grab a CD through this space. Even if they pulled it off, the machine would likely be
hideously expensive and comically tall. So, to buy this machine means getting a less-than-ideal
Laserdisc player and a less-than-ideal CD changer. Now, I understand that there were
plenty of single side machines being sold that didn’t even have a CD changer inside.
Both Side Play was really a high-end item. But then you have to ask, is its clunky CD
changer worth it? To that, I’d say yeah… This was a pretty
clever move by Pioneer. They seem to have priced this model just a hundred dollars higher
than a basic Laserdisc player. Abe’s of Maine apparently wanted just seventy bucks
more for it over a CLD-S201, a basic Laserdisc player. That made it significantly cheaper
than buying two devices. But, and this is a BIG but, it was still more than double the
price of a basic CD changer. In fact, it’s more expensive than ANY of these CD changers,
including the Sony CDP-C910 which accommodates 10 CDs in a cartridge magazine. I think Pioneer’s intent with these machines
was to try and ride the wave of the CD changer and spur sales of Laserdiscs at the same time.
Laserdisc did receive a bit of a boom in the late 80’s and early 90’s as the home theater
scene came into light. If someone was looking for a CD changer, why not take a look at a
machine that can play Laserdiscs, too? But I’m sure it was still a hard sell. And
not just because of the price. Unless you had already integrated your TV into your home
stereo, having a CD player hooked into your TV isn’t exactly ideal. I suppose it’s
nice, but it won’t sound great. That said, this player does produce a neat graphic on
screen when changing discs. Yipee. Oh, and one last unsettling thing. Laserdisc
are heavy and spin at very high speeds–up to 30 revolutions per second, or 1,800 RPM.
I am not a fan of how close the disc changing mechanism is to the disc’s surface. That
sharp metal thing is awfully close to that scratchable disc. In fact, this machine has
the tightest clearances I’ve ever seen in a Laserdisc player. With a Laserdisc playing
above a tray full of CDs, it’s not even a centimeter above them. That’s a tad scary. Thanks for watching, I hope you enjoyed this
video. If this is your first time running across the channel and you like what you saw,
please consider subscribing! And a big thank you to everyone who’s subscribed. This channel
just passed 100,000 subscribers! I never really thought that would happen, and I’m truly
blown away. The folks on Patreon deserve huge thanks for making that possible–it’s with
your support that I’ve been able to go part time at work and make videos more regularly.
Without that, I’m sure this wouldn’t have happened. If you’d like to become one of
the awesome people who make this channel possible, please check out my Patreon page. There’s
a link on your screen, or you can find it down below in the description. As always,
thanks for your consideration, and I’ll see you next time. (sound of the Disc Grabber 9000™ traveling
back and forth)


Reader Comments

  1. Alright, that Pioneer machine is absolutely madness and I love it. I’d still rather have the Sony though.

  2. CD Changers appeared as early as 1988. Sony had the CDP-C50 and C70 models in 1988 and I had the C70 model which offered CD titling up to 256 discs in memory. Both were 5-disc carousel players. The carousel players were faster than the magazine style changers, which may have appeared a year or two earlier. The benefit of the magazine player was that you used the same magazine in the home player and the car player. However, the magazine players had more moving parts and could wear out sooner than the rotating carousel.

  3. Well, i had a Sony 200 disc dvd changer and a Sony 100 disc cd changer linked together. Dvd changer had a menu with jacket pictures it was pretty cool. It had to check all 200 periodically and wore out the mechanism, which i had fixed under warranty. Also had multiple lasers i believe. Edit: I want to see a video on these!!

  4. My grandad had a Phillips one which used both mechanics. The carousel was used for the next disc along but if you wanted to switch from disc 1 to disc 5 it used a robotic arm

  5. I grew up with a Sony 5-disc CD/DVD changer growing up as well. I remember how the concept of a DVD was state of the art at the time coming from VHS.

  6. They should have went with glass top and fancier inside and it would be fun to watch CDs change, you would even want them to change slower.

  7. I like how you're scared of the machine scratching your laserdisks, so of course the laserdisk you use is Space Jam

  8. I think I'd have used a standard carousel to move the CDs and then moved the read hardware and spindle to the center when the need to play a laserdisc was required. Not a transition that would be done often so it could be slower (and less quiet).

  9. I do all the tech in my schools hall. We have that exact model of Sony disc changer, and I can confirm the Sony is faster.

  10. how well do both machines cope with unexpected power loss? can either machine damage a disk or get stuck if power is lost at a bad moment of the disk changing process?

  11. Am i the only one that prefer the Pioneers one over sony ? ( just taking about this 2 machines ) Pioneers one sonuds cool

  12. I have that Pioneer cd changer in my living room and i always thought that Laserdisc was just the name on the device (i.e. the Sony Walkman was a cassette player). But just recently i found a Laser disc movie at Goodwill, bought and came home convinced that i never had a Laserdisc player. Even my mother didn't think nothing of it. Until like ten minutes later she picked up the cd player remote and asked what this remote for. I said "oh that's for the Laserdisc". It took us (no lie) 5 minutes to realize what i said. I went "wait" and she said "wait what". Then i said my stupid epiphany "Do you think the (Pioneer) Laserdisc can play Laserdiscs?" Man y'all should've seen the stupid looks on our faces 😂😂

  13. Seeing that Sony player hit me with a huge wave of nostalgia. We had one of their 5 disc DVD players that used the same mechanism when I was a kid. Used to load up the Lord of the Rings extended editions in there and waste a whole day (opening the tray to swap to disc 2 of Fellowship so we wouldn't have to for Return of the King).

  14. Interesting how they always desperately tried to to avoid an extra motor or laser, by adding a meeeelion little moving parts instead.

  15. I have a Grundig 5CD player, (music) that uses the rotating plate. I feel like looking inside it now to see if I can fix it not loading properly.

  16. I absolutely love this channel. I'm pretty sure I've commented this before on another video on your channel… But, in case you missed it, keep up the good work, Alec! Always interesting.

  17. If you think the CLD-M301 is a cool CD-changer, then look at the Pioneer PD-F100, PD-F605, PD-F705 or the PD-F805. Those are are CD-changers for between 25 to 100 disks. But instead of transporting the disk to the play-mechanism through means of a caroussel or an arm, they transport the play-mechanism to the disk.Also a cool piece of Poineer is the Pioneer CT-M Series of Cassette-changers.

  18. Thank you for this interesting video. I found a disc changer in the house that last time we moved and I havent used a normal CD player since. I've always wondered how it actually works and now I finally know. Thanks.

  19. Another odd thing with the Pioneer system is that the entire Disc Tray lowers before beginning playback, where as on the Sony system the Laser assembly rises up while the disc tray remains stationary.

  20. What was the point of the robot? The tray could move with CDs, the robot should cut around 100 dollars from the price and circuits could make it less bulky.

  21. Lol seems like a disaster waiting to happen. I had one of those pioneers I hated it, When DVDs came out I actually put it out on the curb in perfect working condition only used like 7 times.

  22. My aunt has 2 disk players that works like a jukebox and can hold up to 80 disk at once.

    Let's just say she never needed a disk shelf again. Lol

  23. Watching this reminds me of when we had the Sony VGP-XL1B2 DVD changer. 200 DVDs at your remote controlled fingertips, without needing to manually catalog them. It hooked up to your HTPC through a Firewire connection, and using the metadata on the DVD, would auto look up the DVD on the internet and catalog it for you. Imagine being able (back then) to watch any of your DVDs on command, without having to catalog or rip each one. It was insane…and sounded like a jet engine every time it spooled up to switch out a DVD. The actual playback mechanism was surprisingly simple…basically a DVD drive mounted vertically in the middle of the 'ring' of DVDs.

  24. The laseractive has laserdisc technology with packs that you can insert into the system it includes: Sega CD Turbografix 16 Karaoke so on so forth

  25. Another cool thing about the Pioneer machine is that its tray door (the little plastic flap in front of the tray) is actually motorized, and lowers before the tray is ejected. Most machines with this type of mechanism simply have it close by spring tension and open by being pushed out of the way by the tray. Not important, but I still thought it was a nice touch.

  26. We have an incredibly similar Sony player and it never made the creaking sound. The disc rotation motor is a little louder though, but it sounds really cool

  27. That was the first model of laser disk player I owned.. I think my grandma paid around 800 bucks for it (fantastic Christmas that year)

  28. Their mission, should they accept it…
    This became irrelevant ever since they replaced James Bond's martinis with beer.
    The way I see it, if a sponsorship from a company would alter the character profile of a well-established character (such as James Bond), it shouldn't be accepted at all.

  29. I made a three disc set out of Kunning Fox's Back to Unova remix album. The discs have 53, 40, and 10 tracks, respectively.

  30. I think I may have come up with a seamless two-side play mechanism for Laser Disc. Have two separate lasers, and have both lasers search for the beginnings of their respective sides. Once the beginnings of both sides are found, play the top side now and keep the beginning of the bottom side in memory. Reverse direction if necessary and spin the disc to the beginning of the bottom side immediately after the top side is finished. In theory, the double-sided playback provided by this system would be virtually seamless, mimicking the action of a double-layer DVD. However, this would require an incredibly high-speed stepper motor that can instantly reverse the spin direction to play the bottom side if the need presents itself.

    This can even be expanded into a seamless multi-disc mechanism. You'd just have to store the beginning of each side of the other disc(s) in memory as the first plays. For a three-disc movie, here's what would happen:

    – The beginnings of both sides of all three discs are found. Side 1 of Disc one is played, while the beginning of side 2 on disc one, as well as the beginnings of both sides of the other discs, are
    all kept in memory.
    – When side 1 of disc 1 ends, the machine switches lasers and jumps to the beginning of side 2 of disc 1 with only a split-second gap.
    – As side 2 of disc 1 ends, the second disc starts spinning and the mechanism jumps to the beginning of side 1 of disc 2, again with only a split-second gap.

    *

    I'm pretty sure you get the picture by now. This would require three separate stepper motors, six lasers, and a tray that's over three feet long, but with nearly seamless double-sided multi-disc playback, I'm sure this would be well worth the trouble of developing. With modern components, this would be a piece of cake.

    I call this concept the MultiPlay Laser Disc player.

    I devised this ten minutes into the video. Maybe we can work together to create the first MultiPlay Laser Disc player. I know it would be comically long, but it would essentially be able to play an entire three disc Laser Disc set as if it were a six-layer DVD. I'm pretty sure you could put it to good use, and maybe even showcase it on your channel.

    Right now, I can only provide the general concept. And yes, I devise these kinds of ideas all the time.

  31. In the mid 90s, I got a 100 CD changer from Sony. It had an optical out, and ways to label discs and search… disable some songs off a disc you never liked. For the time, not bad. It had a window so you could see discs spin during a disc change, but going from disc 1 to disc 50 on a random shuffle meant a good ten second gap between songs…. and a bit loud with the whirring spin of the disc changer

  32. Jeez, what a blast from the past. We had one of those Sony Carousel units for the sound system in the 80s/90s vintage main hall at our school. My job throughout rehearsals for the school show (which was epic) in my first year was, among other things, to operate said unit… wow, looking back, that's pretty pathetic. What's a remote control anyway Mrs Smith?

  33. Wish I could remember the make, but my grandfather had a pioneer cd player which used a 'cartridge' of 6 discs stacked atop each other. Was far more compact than these tray arrangements.

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