The CDX-496 was a run of the mill CD player from the mid-2000s when mainstream hi-fi separates were teetering on the verge of extinction. Of the big Japanese manufacturers only Pioneer, Marantz and Sony still had a foot firmly in the door. Panasonic Technics had left the consumer hi-fi space, as had JVC, Aiwa (then a division of Sony), and brands like Aurex Toshiba were a distant memory. Yamaha never did leave the consumer hi-fi space, with a few models in low-end to midrange lineups of which the 496 was centred.
You could have a matching AX-496 amplifier or the RX-496 stereo receiver, combining the amp with an analogue tuner. A KX-493 or KX-580SE tape deck completed the Yamaha system of the day. The 396 range beneath cut the output power and did away with a few features that were unimportant for most, and the 596 was the best Yamaha offered in two-channel hi-fi at the time.
The CDX-496 does have some nice features. You get direct track access from the front panel, and a headphone output with electronic volume control. Not one for sensitive in-ear monitors though, as the lowest volume level is still quite audible and the steps are more like strides. A more challenging load broadens the range and shows the CXD0486 to possess a rather nice headphone amp indeed.
It came with an infrared remote duplicating the front panel functions, adding programming functions and controls for the rest of the Yamaha system. It was built around a chassis that, while not as good as later Yamaha CD players like the CD-S300 and the current CD-S303, is still nicely put together with a shapely aluminium faceplate and large, tactile buttons for primary functions.
Inside is a well-populated board containing a MN35511AL DAC from Panasonic with a Built-in 20-bit, 8-fold oversampling digital filter effectively eliminating the need for a low-pass filter. The output stage is pretty textbook stuff, decent and quiet but nothing to write home about. DAC data sheet below.
The optical block is a Sony KSS-213C in a well-built, metal-framed loader. It is paired with a servo for dynamic focus, gain and tracking adjustment. There is a test mode, accessed by holding the play/pause and stop keys while powering on. These adjustments should be performed if the laser is replaced, or if you’ve adjusted the power of the laser to compensate for a weakening laser diode. Details are in the service manual below.
The most common issue with these is, as always, the tray belt. It seems like every hi-fi product I find is brought to its needs by a failing rubber belt. Manufacturers could so easily have produced gear-driven mechanisms for the vast majority of products, but I suppose planned obsolescence goes hand-in-hand with profit.
Not here though. You can get the belt from DeckTech. I’ve tried every belt supplier I can find over the years and they’ve all fallen short. DeckTech belts are the highest quality, most precise belts on the market today, in many cases bettering the original manufacturer belts by a significant margin. I’m not being paid to say that, it’s just my experience. I won’t use anything else.
That said, the mechanism needs to be removed, and for that you need to get the tray open. If your belt is still good, power on the player and open the tray. If not, remove the two screws holding the disc clamp, and in the gap between the CD spindle and the tray you will see the edge of the main drive gear. Rotate it with a finger or screwdriver to lower the mechanism and release the ray, at which point it should pull out by hand. Remove the plastic fascia cover by pushing it upward while slightly tilting it forward at the bottom, and push the tray closed again.
Remove four screws, two at either side of the mechanism. Disconnect the three connectors and remove the mechanism from the player.
Remove the disc clamp if you didn’t previously. Then, remove the limit switch actuator pin. This tiny plastic pin clips into the rear right-hand corner of the tray and presses the switch that tells the player when the tray is fully open. Without it, the tray will open and the motor will strain as the tray hits its end stops until either the motor fails, the belt snaps or one of the plastic gears gives out. I see loads of these pins broken by people who have attempted a forced tray removal. To remove it, push back on the retaining clip and lift the pin out with a small flat screwdriver.
Pull the tray out until it reaches its stops. To either side, in the rear corners of the tray, there is a small lever. Using a small flat screwdriver, push the levers aside and gently pull on the tray. It will release from the mechanism.
Next remove the belt cover by releasing the clip at the rear, tilting the back of the cover up and sliding it to the left. It will be tight if it’s never been off, so take your time and be careful not to snap the clips.
You now have access to change the belt. Remove the old belt and thoroughly clean the pulleys with isopropyl alcohol. Replace the belt with a new one, ensuring it it is seated correctly on both pulleys. Replace the belt cover by engaging the tabs on the front edge with the frame of the mechanism, sliding it into place and relocating the rear clip into its slot.
Chances are you’ll have messed up the tray timing in the process of cleaning and replacing the belt. The easiest way to set the mechanism timing is to rotate the larger gear until the laser mechanism wants to raise. You’ll feel a definite bump before the mechanism lifts up. Set the gear to that point, ensuring that the mechanism is still fully in the lowered position. Then slide the tray back into the mechanism, pushing it past its stops and fully home into the closed position. You can then rotate the larger gear to ensure that the mechanism rises into the playback position and the tray is captured and can’t be released. The service manual is below and goes into more visual detail.
Now is a good time to clean the laser with a dab of IPA on a cotton bud if you feel confident in doing so, moving in circular motions only. Clean the traverse bars on which the laser slides also. Then replace the disc clamp, and don’t forget the tray pin which snaps back into its spot at the rear right-hand corner of the tray.
Reinstall the mechanism in the player and reattach the connectors. Careful with the flat-flex cable that connects the laser, they are delicate. You can buy replacements of the 16-pin, 230 mm flex cable if you break it.
Power it up and you should have a working tray, which you can open to reinstall the fascia cover by hooking it over the retainers on either side of the tray and pressing down and inwards until it stops into place. Then it’s time to play a disc and (hopefully) congratulate yourself on a job well done. Once you’ve put the top back on, of course.
The CDX-496 is a non-nonsense CD player with Yamaha’s typical ‘natural sound’, which I have always found to be true to its name remaining neutral and faithful to the source, almost clinically so. If you prefer a different flavour there is an optical output at the back for an external DAC, so it makes a decent CD transport too. Shame there’s no coax output, but optical was all the rage in the mid 2000s and good old-fashioned coax didn’t fall back into favour until a few years alter. Nevertheless, the optical connection is more than capable of handling a 16-bit, 44.1kHz stream so it’s a moot point. Guide price for one of these is £10 not working, £30 working with cosmetic defects, £50 working, serviced and mint or near mint. Well worth the money.