Expression 3 Losing Data Cont'd

Matt ref your earlier. I am at theater and for some unknow reason, can't REPLY and keep this in thread!

Our board does have the two squat - looks like 1.0  F supercaps. Darn. Was hoping for battery. So what can we do? Although you said you can service/upgrade our EXP3 the thought of shipping this heavy beast is horrendous and we have a show in two weeks. But to get things started can you tell what it would cost to service/upgrade the board?

Other thoughts;

1 If I can get supercaps it looks like a board removal and cap replacement job (these caps lasted 20 years so that might be the least cost approach).

2. Or maybe you have complete CPU/PCB I could install.

Any/all ideas, and that quote appreciated.


  • Well, I do have a couple options.

    If you'd like to replace the supercaps yourself, it looks like the supercaps we use are available on Mouser and Digikey. Eaton KR-5R5C105-R or Elna DBN-5R5D105T would be what you'd be searching for. You will need to remove the CPU tray from the console and I/O board to get the CPU board out of the tray to get access to the bottom of the board for soldering. There should be 6 nuts holding the tray in the console, and a bunch of wires. I'd recommend taking a picture of where all the wires go prior to unplugging anything. There are two supercaps you'd need to replace, so keep that in mind if you choose this option.

    It's also possible to just send in the CPU tray with the CPU board inside, rather than sending in the entire console. It's not standard, but would be a lot easier than sending the entire thing. Write the serial number of the console, found on the back of the console, on the tray, along with the RMA number when you get that so we can keep track of what console the CPU tray belongs to. I'd be looking over the entire console and doing some general cleaning, should you choose to send in the entire console, though. Whatever you choose, I'd be replacing the supercaps with a battery.

    A new CPU PCB would be a bit pricey, much more than the cost of sending the console in for repair, so I'm going to assume this wouldn't be an acceptable option.

    If you'd like us to do the repair, we do have loaners we can send while your console is being repaired. I'd recommend calling ETC Tech Services for an approximate repair cost and get the RMA and loaner stuff going. We generally say any products sent in for repair we will proceed with any repairs up to $450 USD. Anything beyond that we will send an estimate prior to making any repairs. As long as it's just a couple bad supercaps, I'd say the cost to repair will be less than that.

  • So here's the crunch. We need the board for a show in three weeks. If we did go with the send it in option can you estimate repair time? An estimated cost for the battery upgrade would be appreciated on the understanding that examination other costs could arise. There are  couple of used - in good condition boards on eBay and it might be more cost effective for us to go that route. Thank you for your here. We are sweating!

  • Please call Technical Service  at 1-800-688-4116 and talk with them about the time frame you have. Also, you should identify an ETC dealer that you want tot run the repair though. If you do not have one, Service can help point you in the right direction. 

  • In general, our turn around time is approximately three weeks, though I've seen shorter turn around times. And I can definitely provide an estimate for any other issues I may find.

    As mmeskill has already stated, contact ETC Tech Services, as they may have additional solutions I may be missing, and to find an ETC dealer if you don't already have one. They may also be able to help with the show file on your disk not loading the subs. You can also request an Expression 3 loaner and have that available for your show, in the event your console doesn't get back in time. The eBay route is also an option. It would be a little more than the cost of repairing your console, but you would have a backup console (and parts!), should you need it.

  • Thanks - this is excellent. I'm planning to pop in some new super-caps Thursday. But, as current show rehearsing is very nervous another theater has offered us an Expression 3 loaner (just in case!). After that (if the cap replace doesn't work) we'll balance paying for return repair when show over (using the loaner)  or putting the service cost toward a refurbed Element 2. I prefer the later because that would  provide 100% compatibility with our ELE2 in the main theater.

  • We have the supercaps and removed the CPU/IF tray. Question; Is there a way to remove the PCU board without removing the I/F board? If not, does that mean we'll have to unbolt/unscrew every socket / plug etc.on the I/F board? Thanks 

  • Unfortunately, yes, you will probably need to remove the I/O board, including all the screws from the sockets on the I/O board and CPU board on the back panel. In the picture, near the right circle, the I/O board will have a hole in the board that can access a screw on the CPU board. There should also be a screw on the CPU board next to the left circle in the image that may or may not be blocked by the I/O board. If you can get to it, then you may not need to remove the I/O board.

    There will be a screw and nut near each end of the board (approximate location circled in red in the image) that will also need to be removed, should you need to remove the I/O board.

    The CPU board in the picture is one of the rare CPU boards that can be removed without removing the I/O board.

  • Ok, got very lucky there. I found our I/O board had a couple of screw access holes and was able to remove the CPU board and successfully replace the caps without removing the I/O board. Loaded some subs and turned the board off and back on a couple of times and things seem fine. Though I think an overnight turned off will be the real test. Strange thing though; the setup could not find the disk drive! Tried format etc but it came back no disk in drive. I made sure the power cable and signal ribbon were connected so this may be totally unrelated, I may have to raise another thread if I can't get it running tomorrow.   

  • Hmm. If you haven't been able to get the disk drive to work yet, I would suggest trying a couple different disks. I've had disks that I just used read as bad the next time I used it. I don't know how many diagnostic disks I've had to recreate over the past few years.

    The disk drive should make some audible sounds when trying to access it, whether when the console is powered up, or when trying to load/save/format a disk. All that would do is confirm that power would be OK, but doesn't rule out ribbon cable or drive problems.

    I do have another suggestion, though it's a bit of a pain. Reseat both the ribbon cable and the power cable a few times on both the disk drive end and the CPU board end. Considering the age of the console, there may be some oxidation on the pin headers. Reseating a few times will scrape the pins a little each time and may help make better contact.

    If all else fails, the drive may have failed as coincidence. If you have a spare disk drive, try that out. Or you may be able to find some online somewhere. Though ETC doesn't officially support it, I've worked on some consoles with a USB Floppy emulator, and have played with an emulator in an Expression 3. If you wanted to go that route, I'd suggest also having a working floppy disk drive as a backup before your show.

  • 1st off the EXP3 passed its overnight off test and came up shining this am. Phew! As to the disk drive I was under the covers a lot changing the supercaps so familiar with the power and ribbon connectors and have reseated them several times. Actually it a USB / 3.5" emulator which worked well. So once the weekend shows are out the way I'm going to slap the 3.5" back in and have a 'listen'. The console is circa 25 years old so I guess hiccups are to be expected.

  • Replying in same thread hoping some one sees it if not I'll post a new thread.

    The new caps were working well until we had to completely disconnect the board nd wrap it up as a hurricane precaution. After resurrecting it we found that turning off overnight lost all the memory (subs, cues etc). I left it on for a few days to really stuff those caps but to no avail, So questions is are the new caps bad now or could there be another culprit. I'm tryin to work out if it worth me getting the battery upgrade kit and overcoming these super cap problems. Be a pity to go to all that work and find out thee was another culprit. Anyone know the price of the battery upgrade for the EXP3?

  • Hi Robert452,

    I know you posted already elsewhere, but I wanted to ask a question here to try to pin down where the problem may be. How long was the console shut off while it was in hurricane protection mode?
    I ask because the supercaps maintain charge for 4-6 days, typically. After that, the caps will lose enough charge to cause the SRAM to lose show memory If the console was off for a couple weeks, then show memory will normally be lost. New supercaps might last a little more than a week but the charge duration of the supercaps will drop over time as the caps age. After 20 years, the supercaps may only last a few hours or a day at most, if at all.

    The new supercaps should still be OK. If the console was powered off for only a day or two, then I'd suspect the SRAM or the voltage supervisor chip (if your CPU board has it), as they're the only things remaining that use the supercaps. There are 8 SRAM chips, located above the DRAM slots. Unfortunately, those SRAM chips are no longer available should one or more be bad. ETC does have a small stock for repairs, but the console would need to be sent in to get those replaced as we don't send those parts out.

    If you'd like to know if your new supercaps are actually bad, measure the voltage on pin 32 of one of the SRAM chips (probably U57 to U64 on your CPU board, directly across from pin 1, which would be marked with a recessed dot or a laser-etched dot on the notched side of the chip). When the console is on, it should read about 4.2-4.7V. With the console powered off, that number will drop slowly over time. If it drops by 1.0V or more after a day of being powered off, then the supercaps (or the voltage supervisor chip) are likely bad. Once the SRAM voltage drops to 2.0V or below, show memory will be erased.

    I hope this helps a little.

  • Something to look at. The board was entirely disconnected for over two weeks. I suspect that although the console is OFF the PSU normally supplies a trickle charge to the suprcaps. We often had the board down for a month or more (but still plugged into a live socket) over a period of 18 years. I was hoping that plugging in and leaving the board on might charge up the new supercaps. No Joy.  I will try those voltages and perhaps put in another set of the supercaps (everything was fine last time unitl the enforced disconnect).

    We really like the EXP3 in our Pavilion theater because it is not all that different from our Element 2 in the main theater so I am putting out feels to see if we can get hold of anther CPU board, perhaaps from a mothballed unit soemone has. But - again thank you. I was surprised to get a reply here as - great as they were - they are fast fading.