Sony TR-63 Transistor Radio Teardown

Teardown

Teardown

Teardowns provide a look inside a device and should not be used as disassembly instructions.

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This teardown comes with a bit of a history lesson :)

Here's a Sony TR-63 transistor radio - I forgot I had one until reminded of it by the ifixit Sony teardown promotion. If we're going to tear down Sony consumer gadgets, why not start with one of the earliest?

The TR-63 was introduced in 1957 - it was the first "pocket-sized" transistor radio ever made and the first Sony-branded product exported to North America, by the then-named Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo company (Tokyo Telecommuncations Engineering Corporation). It became a huge commercial success, over 100,000 units were sold.

It seems "pocket-sized" was a bit of a marketing gimmick at the time - although smaller than any competing product, the TR-63 was a bit too big to fit into a standard shirt pocket. So story has it that company salesmen wore custom-made shirts with slightly bigger pockets to show off the TR-63's small size. But unlike desktop radios of the day which were promoted under the idea of "a radio in every home", the TR-63 was uniquely marketed as something each person could own and carry with them. A foreshadowing of the Walkman and iPod, perhaps?

The TR-63 contains a whopping 6 transistors. By comparison, the Cell processor chip in the PS3 contains two to three hundred million transistors. That's an indication of the progress made in the electronics industry in the past 50 years.

In Japan the TR-63 sold for 13,800 yen, and the original export price was U$39.95. It was available in 4 colours (yellow, red, green and black).

Follow along with this teardown to get a look into an important piece of consumer electronics history.

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Edit Step 1 Sony TR-63 Transistor Radio Teardown  ¶ 

  • A bit more trivia...

  • The huge success of the TR-63 helped Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo (aka "Totsuko") decide to change its company name to Sony Corporation in 1958. For the few years prior, "Sony" had simply been a brand name attached to the company's fledgling line of transistor radios. (Check out the retro Sony logo - I like it!)

  • At the time, the company's co-founders felt the Japanese name was too hard to pronounce and remember by foreigners. They decided the name change would help them expand and become well known worldwide. And as they say, the rest is history.

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Edit Step 2  ¶ 

  • OK, enough babbling, let's get to work! This is the real Step 1...

  • On the top of the radio you'll notice the earphone jack.

  • Unscrew and remove the metal jack collar using a flathead screwdriver or other flat tool.

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Edit Step 3  ¶ 

  • Unscrew the large decorative screw in the center of the tuning dial by hand...

  • ...and then you can remove the screw and lift off the tuning dial.

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Edit Step 4  ¶ 

  • Turn the radio over with its back facing you.

  • It's safe to say the warranty on this radio long ago expired -- so we're going to fearlessly open it up in the following steps...

  • In these photos, the gridlines on the green background are 1 cm square, so you can get an idea of the size of the radio.

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Edit Step 5  ¶ 

  • Carefully pry open the case from the bottom edge.

  • Boy, this is a lot easier to open than an iPod! (Spudger not required.)

  • On the inside of the back cover, you'll find the product label. Notice the official company name, Tokyo Tsushin Kyogo Ltd. I've seen photos of later versions of the TR-63 which say "Sony Corporation" there instead.

  • I'm not sure what happened to the corner of the label - perhaps after all these years in the back of my closet it was likely eaten by a grue?

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Edit Step 6  ¶ 

  • Here's the circuit board inside, in all its glory.

  • This radio takes a user replaceable battery! (Standard 9V transistor battery.)

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Edit Step 7  ¶ 

  • Using a Phillips #1 screwdriver, remove the lone screw in the center holding the circuit board in place

  • Fortunately the Torx screw wasn't yet invented when they built this radio...

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Edit Step 8  ¶ 

  • Now gently lift out the circuit board.

  • You may need to wiggle it a bit - you have to get the volume dial to clear its opening before the circuit board will come out of the case.

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Edit Step 9  ¶ 

  • Set the circuit board beside the case, being careful not to damage the thin wires going to the earphone jack and speaker.

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Edit Step 10  ¶ 

  • The earphone jack is composed of a few strips of metal. It also acts as a switch - when the earphone is inserted, contacts are opened to disconnect the built-in speaker.

  • Carefully lift out the earphone jack assembly and set it aside from the case, still connected to the speaker.

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Edit Step 11  ¶ 

  • The speaker is fastened to the case with small clips held down by two nuts.

  • Use a 5mm nutdriver to loosen the nuts.

  • You may find the space a bit tight to fit a nutdriver in close to the case edge. If so, you can try using needlenose pliers instead to loosen the nuts.

  • Once the nuts are loosened, you can separate the speaker from the case.

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Edit Step 12  ¶ 

  • Here's the circuit board, earphone jack and speaker after they've been removed from the case.

  • Notice that there are components mounted on both sides of the circuit board. Perhaps the resistors and capacitors on the solder-side were a last minute design change?

  • On the other hand, the circuit board is so tightly crammed on the component side there probably wasn't enough room for everything on one side.

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Edit Step 13  ¶ 

  • Here's a closeup of the solder-side of the circuit board.

  • Unlike modern electronics, you can tell this radio was assembled and soldered by hand.

  • I wonder what mark my old high school electronics teacher would have given to this work? :)

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Edit Step 14  ¶ 

  • Here's the component side of the circuit board.

  • You can see the various components in these views of the circuit board. Remember, these are all discrete components here -- no integrated circuits! But state of the art at the time, a lot of circuitry crammed into a small space.

  • Six of the gray components with an oval cross-section (marked or stamped with "Sony") are transistors.

  • The 7th similar looking gray component is a varistor. It's the one at the front left of the circuit board in the 3rd photo in this series.

  • Say, do they still teach the resistor colour code in schools these days? :)

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Edit Step 15  ¶ 

  • Here's a closeup of the volume dial / on-off switch

  • An eccentric cam in the middle of the dial opens and closes a metal contact (marked with green square) to disconnect/connect the power to the circuits.

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Edit Step 16  ¶ 

  • A few more miscellaneous views of the components, while we're at it...

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Edit Step 17  ¶ 

  • Finally, here are all the pieces of the fully disassembled TR-63 transistor radio, with both front and back views of the circuit board.

  • That's it!

  • This radio is just one of many Sony gadgets I would come to own over the years. I hope you enjoyed seeing it taken apart.

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Comments Comments are onturn off

This was really cool, thanks!

Chris Cline, · Reply

Wow, this is so cool. Seeing this makes me feel really young.

Nat Welch, · Reply

I have one of these beauties but it misses the decorative golden screw. Do you have any idea where can I get one?

Regards!

galessa

galessa, · Reply

Tokyo Tsushin Kyogo-->Tokyo Tsushin "Kogyo"

reik, · Reply

They do! But there's also an app for that. ;)

David Patierno, · Reply

aha! I should have known there'd be an app for that :)

bac, · Reply

They were still teaching a few color codes when I took a class in the late 90's. This was all so much simpler back then! Things have become so much more complicated.

P.S. I love the teardown.

sedric, · Reply

This is phenomenal. I love the background grid. What size are the squares?

Also, since we always get asked this: Did it work before you took it apart?

This is such a piece of history, I feel like the parts should go in a museum somewhere, laid out like in your final photo.

Kyle Wiens, · Reply

thanks Kyle. the background grid is one of those self healing cutting mats that you'd find in an art supply store. the lines are on a 1cm square grid.

Actually the radio does still need repair, I think there might be a break in the battery leads or connector but I didn't want to desolder/replace those before taking the photos and I didn't have time to debug further yet. But I definitely want to see if I can get it working again

BTW, I don't know if I'll get a chance to tear it down but I managed to dig up another old Sony radio! this time a 1959 model TR-714, which was the first two-band (AM & SW) pocket transistor radio. with 7 transistors! and fortunately that one still works perfectly :)

bac, · Reply

The story I heard about Sony's entry into the US market went like this. At the time, IBM was building mainframe computers out of discrete transistors, having just phased out vacuum tubes. IBM was having transistors made by Fairchild in Mountain View, CA. One large batch of transistors failed to meet IBM specs. They were good transistors, but not up to IBM standards. An enterprising genius in the Fairchild marketing dept. took a bag of 1000 of these transistors, and a schematic of a reference design for a transistor radio he had Engineering draw up, and went to Japan. He plopped the bag of transistors and the schematic on the desk of the CEO of the Japanese company and said, "Would you like to make transistor radios out of these?" The result was Sony. Perhaps of you scrape the grey paint off one of those devices it might carry a Fairchild part no.

mediasponge, · Reply

This teardown reminds me of my childhood days. I was about 5 or 6 and I got my first transistor radio. I proceeded to take it apart to see if I could get distant stations in "better." (and I lived in Brooklyn, NY!) I never got the thing to work right after I tinkered with it, and the parents always said that it was the LAST radio they were getting me. However, with each subsequent radio, came the tinkerer in me that would tear it apart, and sometimes get it back together.

It got me interested in electronics, and in Junior High School, I would roam the neighborhood on garbage day, with a friend, looking for old TVs that we could scrounge parts from. Zeniths were our favorites. We built up a great mass of parts, and built all sorts of oscillators, and neat things that made noises, but there were so many parts, that his mother got angry, and told us that unless we made something useful, she was going to throw them all out!

Well, Brooklyn was the home to Eico, a manufacturer of electronics kits. Their warehouse was in an industrial part of the neighborhood, and it was a good place to go dumpster diving on Saturday, when they were closed. I found a schematic to one of their oscilloscopes, and realized that we had most of the parts. We built the thing, only having to go to Canal St., and get a surplus CRT from one of the many surplus dealers at the time. We built the o-scope, and donated it to the Jr. High School, to the awe of our electric shop teacher. (It wasn't much to us, just like reading a map)

That was then, and today, I am a tech for a local government agency, maintaining about 2000 users and their network. PCs were a natural progression to me, and I have done my tinkering there too, but that's another story.

Thanks for this nostalgic teardown, it really brings back quite fond childhood memories for me!

RocRizzo, · Reply

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