DVR whined, wouldn't stay turned *off*, now won't boot



We own a Panasonic SC-HT1500, a “home theater” system that includes a very nice DVD/HDD recorder (similar, but not identical, to the E80H). It’s a little over two years old. In the past week it has developed peculiar problems.

Several days ago, it started to make a really loud, irritating whine/buzz noise continuously whenever it was powered off or the HDD was in sleep mode. While the unit was turned on, the noise went away completely (so, not the fan or the hard drive making it).

Then last night it decided that it did not want to be turned off. When I pressed the power button to do this, it said “BYE” and turned off as usual. But within two seconds (during which time the whine occurred as before), it displayed “PLEASE WAIT”, then turned itself back on and did a “SELF CHECK”. When the self-check completed, it left itself turned on, quiet, tuned to the most recently-used TV station. It did this reliably several times when I tried it.

This is the same behavior it normally displays after it has been unplugged for at least 10 seconds to force a reset.

Today I cleverly thought I would see what happened if I unplugged it for several hours. Now when I plug it back in, it just sits there and blinks its red power LED every second or so (is this diagnostic of anything?). If the TV is on at the time, I can see that it is receiving a brief signal flash each time the LED blinks, but the display panel on the front of the DVR shows nothing at all.

The nearest authorized repair place is 80 miles away (still better than shipping it to the Panasonic centralized service depot in Illinois with 41 BBB complaints against them, which Panasonic would require me to do if it were still under warranty). Before I make the trip, I thought I’d ask for ideas. E.g. is this maybe a simple faulty capacitor that isn’t holding a charge, so the unit thinks it has lost power as soon as it’s switched off? And which now fails to propagate power at all? Or the power supply perhaps? Note: I worked in computer support for nearly 20 years, so I have a few clues; but it wasn’t at the component level so they’re probably only enough to make me dangerous. :-}

Because this is part of a complete home theater system, buying a new DVR standalone really isn’t an option; as far as I can tell, others don’t have the right kind of system cable to connect the subwoofer (and through it, the other 5 speakers). So I intend to have it repaired, but I wanted to be as well informed as possible before I go.

Thanks for any suggestions!


A followup: the DVR is now repaired. The problem was 3 bad radial-type capacitors in the power supply (which explains the three stages of the failure). The repair company gave us the old caps, which were made by Elna. All three have clearly leaked out the top.

IMO they overcharged us a bit for the replacement capacitors ($6 each for two 16V/680uF caps [online catalog price $2.10], $9 for a 16V 1000uF one [online price $1!]). It incurred the minimum labor charge of $100. But the repair was done fairly quickly and the unit is working again, so we’re happy.