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Sony service response on MEX-BT5100 headunit

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I recently made a mistake.

I decided to ditch my well loved head unit, the Sony CDX-GT510 in favour of a slightly newer one that supports Bluetooth. My old set up consisted of an XM satellite radio (XT-XM1) connected by Sony's proprietary "bus" (or SLink, or Unilink) cable to the back of the head unit. In addition, plugged into the *input* port of the sat radio is my MD changer, the MDX-66XLP, the first and last MDLP changer from Sony (or anyone). The head unit worked both of these devices by simple selector controls on the '510. I could read titles on the 6 MD's, titles of the stations from the satellite, and everything in the garden was wonderful. In addition, the head unit played back, as well as ordinary CD's, data cd's containing MP3, WMA, AAC and (most importantly to me) ATRAC, including ATRAC3+.

In addition I had plugged into the cigarette lighter, the Parrot PMK5800 Bluetooth device which is capable of broadcasting on FM, receiving with a microphone, and generally managing calls on a mobile cell phone that sits in my pocket. As handy as the Parrot is, I found that it was fine for receiving calls, but a bit iffy for making them. It relies on voice recognition, and I would repeatedly find that I could record someone's name, have it recognised, and then later the poor Parrot would say "Name not recognised", probably owing to some subtle change in my pronunciation. There was the minor hassle of having to switch to the right Tuner frequency when receiving or making a call, but that was OK.

Along comes the MEX-BT5100 (actually Sony built the MEX-BT5000 around the same time as the CDX-GT510, namely 2006, and the 5100 is supposedly an upgrade of the 5000). All the features I know and love, with 50 stored contacts for Bluetooth (sure, 100 would be nicer, but you take what you can get). No more voice recognition. I couldn't afford one when they were actually being sold, so I waited for an affordable one second-hand.

Big mistake. It doesn't work, at least the one I purchased. Time to call Sony.

Here's the problem - song titles do not work properly, compared to the CDX-GT510. The problem is mainly for the external units (Satellite and MD changer) but there is an obvious problem in the CD player too. Here's my summary of the current situation:

1. The playback works fine, and I can change Sat stations by number.

2. Titles on some tracks work ok (always the same tracks)

3. Some titles on MD are blank (about 60% or more, always the same tracks)

4. Satellite has no titles whatever.. effectively useless for finding an interesting channel.

5. CD song titles cut off dead at 24 characters, although scrolling works (the display has 14 available positions).

6. Some titles scroll, even MD titles (Sony later claimed the problem is limited to scrolling).

7. MD disk/group info is unparsed - shows as 0;//1-5 GroupName// etc. So one sees the "raw" group information instead of the proper title for most disks. On some disks (short title and/or few groups) the title displays perfectly. However on that correctly-parsed disk, there are still lots of blank titles (where there should be proper titles on every track).

Sony's first claim (call to Sony Canada in Toronto) is that this model simply doesn't support XT-XM1 (their only satellite radio) or MDX-66XLP (their last MD changer). They based their response on the specifications in the user manual. Odd, though - the CDX-GT510 doesn't list the satellite or minidisc, and yet both work perfectly. It was designed at the same time as the MEX-BT5000 (the 5100 is apparently identical).

I had a rough month with Sony. My new PCM-M10 recorder failed right out of the box (no USB connectivity whatever) and had to be replaced. In the course of dealing with that (purchased from USA, it doesn't seem to be available in Canada) I ended up talking to a splendid gentleman in San Diego (via Philippines, and El Salvador, but no matter) who promised to see if he could reproduce the problem. He said that he had a CD head unit from about 2002, so he needed to get his hands on a 2006 or later Bluetooth unit, and an MD changer (between us we figured the sat and MD were suffering from approximately the same problem). By the time he called back 3 days later, he had obviously been told to say that "sorry, your units are too old, we cannot support any of this". Whilst I appreciate that support is a cost centre for a big company like Sony, it is their support which makes me like their products. That, and the excellent engineering. To date, with this MEX-BT5100, I have had neither.

We know that the CDX-GT510 (2006) works all the above setup perfectly. I am limited by choice of head unit to one that plays ATRAC, and it seems that the 5000/5100 are the only one that do so at the same time as having Bluetooth (hands free) support for my phone built in. Perhaps there's another model I don't know about?

I'm curious to know WHY Sony suddenly made a unit that was incompatible with all their earlier technology. Or, as seems more likely to me, that they don't want to fix the bugs in their firmware.

Does anyone reading this have one of these units? What hardware have you attempted to connect to the BUS (Slink, Unilink) connector? Does it operate the same way as this? I would happily write off this particular unit to bad luck if I knew that buying another one would simply solve the problem.

Is Sony unwilling to fix compatibility with a whole range of units that predate its latest offering?

How many more recent SLink/Unilink units also fail to work the changers properly?

Perhaps there is some good technical reason for this (e.g. support of MP3 CD titles). If so, I have yet to hear from Sony's Tier 2 technical support (that is, 2 levels up from the person one speaks to initially) what that reason might be.


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It has become clear that Sony goofed on this one. The firmware is broken. Even though the unit controls the devices on the Unilink (S-link) bus ("BUS") connector perfectly, the title information sent back cannot be read (see previous posting for details, it is quite predictable which items CAN be seen, short titles less than 8 characters work 100%). And it's a failure of the entire line, not just the unit I purchased.

Ironic that, with upgradeable firmware, this is the only unit they ever made which did not work, at least to my experience. I suspect strongly that the addition of Bluetooth functionality somehow broke the handling of messages with text/titles incoming from the devices on the bus.

Now if someone at Sony were to actually read this.......

Happy New Year for 2012


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(bump). It still bugs me that Sony can't/couldn't be bothered to fix this. The unit clearly displays LP2/LP4 indications on the front panel when playing MD (as per the manual "when connected to MDLP changer" - there's only one changer, the MDX-66XLP) and yet Sony Support denies that this head unit is even compatible with Minidisc. I actually see very short titles off MD, too (anything longer than 8 characters is simply lost). My XTXM1 (Satellite) is a rather advanced paperweight (well actually it's more like a printed book to a blind man) since the HU change in my car.

How to escalate? Any ideas?

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