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DC-MP3 Show Director Reboot

Dan Kautz

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I made a discovery troubleshooting a play problem with my DC-MP3 Show Director. The board is three years old and there has not been a problem in the past. So I was looking for what had changed.

The symptom was the player had become very erratic. Sometimes it would only play the first song and “reboot” and other times it would play the whole set (5 routines). Even other times it would play 2 or 3 routines and reboot. It was very random behavior. The DC-MP3 is inside the house and is powered by the first controller a CTB-16D. During the day it played straight through. At night it was going berserk.

I updated all the firmware in the controllers (just CTB-16d’s) and the DC-MP3. I formatted the SD card and bought a new one. I tried every variance in the save program to disk options. Everything seemed solved in the day but at night it would go bonkers again. Bonkers is about the same as berserk.

There is a very strong clue in the story above. What is different between day and night? What changed from last year? Nothing in the lighting layout as it is exactly the same. Something I couldn’t see, POWER.

I dug out a 12 volt wall wart from my collection. (A wall wart is a plug in power transformer.) I removed the power jumper on the DC-MP3 and plugged in the 12 volt cable.

Now first time, every time, any time, the program plays straight through. That was it. The voltage was too low at night to keep the microprocessor happy on the DC-MP3 board. The CAT5 cable from the first controller to the DC-MP3 is 15 foot and has worked for three years. The LED blinking looks the same on the DC-MP3 board.

One other change, I had to turn down the input level two full steps on the Ramsey FM30B FM transmitter. It was severely clipping with the 12 power connected. So the level of the MP3 audio has greatly improved.

I haven’t measured the voltage yet but the number is not important now. It is the symptoms that are important. Local power on the board has solved the problem. I assume the entire neighborhood may be going a bit “brown” (low in voltage) in the evening and at night. I tested once after midnight and the show started playing through. That was one of the late night trouble shooting times I wrongly thought I had fixed the problem.

I hope this helps someone else. I have tried to explain the logic behind the fix.

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