Wednesday, 30 June 2010

How to fix your Freecom Musicpal Volume and Navigation rotery controllers

The other day I had a bit of an accident with my Freecom Musicpal and broke one of the rotary control knobs (the navigation dial). The plastic knob that sits inside the rotary housing had snapped. 

However after a little bit of surfing on the Freecom Forum website I noticed other people have had the same problem 

However to fix the radio I found out it would cost £45 to be sent back to Freecom as mine was out of guarantee, therefore I decided a DIY fix would be easier and cheaper.

But How?

After a careful look at the radio and thanks to my other pair of hands (the diy fix is a two person job) and Bertradio from this post in the forums I managed to get hold of a couple of spare rotary encoders and came up with a plan.


A little message from Freecom

Please be aware that if your drive is still in warranty, you can get the drive repaired by a normal RMA. 
If you want to repair your Pal on your own, you will do so on your own risk.
We can not provide any support for this kind of repairs. - therefore if it is in guarantee then contact freecom

A little message from me

This guide only will show you how to replace the plastic knob in the existing rotary controller housing without any soldering. If the whole rotary encoder does not work it will be a case of taking it apart and re soldering a new controller on to the circuit board. Also if you bugger it up following this its not my fault as this is just a  guide of how we managed to fix my musicpal. Therefore I am not liable for damage to your musicpal or you being a butter fingers or if your Musicpal blows up or you hurt yourself, aliens come out of the sky etc. Its your own fault. - right thats the disclaimer dealt with Lets Begin.

What to do.

Using a pair of fine tweezers pull out any debris left from the broken black knob in the hole of the rotary encoder.

Gently using the tweezers insert them into the hole and press down if you hear a faint click then you know the rotary encoder still works and its the black knob that needs replacing, if you don't then its a total re soldering job.

Order from this company Switch Channel a couple of RE12CT-V24A rotery encoders.

Tel: 323-225-8890 Fax: 323-227-8795

Switch Channel only takes orders over the phone and is in the USA but they post internationally. I'm in the UK and they arrived really quickly. They accept visa and mastercard. However I advise you to buy more them what you need just encase you damage one or two in the mending process.


1 rotary encoder

Turn it upside down and locate the 4 metal tabs

Bend back the tabs carefully with a  small screw driver. Be Careful do not slip and hurt yourself.

Pull it apart. It should separate pretty easily. 

Put to one side the other parts and just have the control knob. This should still be the black  housing.

Now this is the tricky part. You will need another set of hands for this. As the actual control knob is in the black housing and needs to be removed. But due to its design, it is held in place by a pair of clips.

The trick is to get some one to hold the control knob (not the housing) put your finger nails between the housing and the control knob gap and pull down on it, while someone pushes on the clips with a very small screw driver until you hear a pop.

This is a one handed example (as I had to take the photo) but two people are needed as a bit of force is required. - Be careful not to damage the clips as you need them to hold the control knob into the radio.  

Hopefully if you haven't broken anything it should look like this

The knob section with the 3 pins is what you need.

What happens with the musicpal is that one of the pins breaks off and then the knob falls out, however leaving the rotary controller fully working. So therefore its just a case of replacing the actual knob - therefore no soldering is required. 

And pop it in. Your should hear a little click noise as the clips go into place, then reattach dials.

Voila it works. make tea sit back looking smug...


  1. Thanks for this good deed...
    Still a bit hard for me..
    Freecom is a bit irresponsible with the quality control of the components it uses..

  2. Nice tutorial... Thanks!
    But - I've problem to buy encoder from Switch Channel... They didn't sell parts to my country unfortunatelly :-( (Czech Republic).
    So - I've used external switch instead build-in in encoder... It's not so nice repair like yours, but works :-)

  3. glad you managed to get it fixed Luděk Talián. its a shame they break.. it took a few mess up to fix mine :)

  4. i am very delighted you have spend your time to offer a such a detailed instructions, which is a great help and economy for maaaaaany users of this little machine. I really thank you for the help. This should have been to the together with bertradio in the same site.

  5. I had repaired mine with soldering before your post, there was no problem with Switch Channel, they posted the encoders to Hungary.

  6. Thank you very much for taking the time to post up these clear and helpful instructions. This worked perfectly for me and I am now happily listening to the radio again. I can also vouch for the very rapid service offered by switchconnect who delivered from Los Angeles to me here in the UK within a week. $18.70 for six encoders including shipping and handling.

    Hardest part for me was extracting debris. My tweezers were too broad but narrow tipped pliars did it in the end. I also had to work around the remains of the knob with a nail scissors blade to extract them from the dial, rather like taking a cake out of the tin.

    Take heart all, if I can do it with zero tech skills, so can you. Thanks again scruffpot!

  7. sorry, that should be "switchchannel" of course

  8. Hi, Great piece of information. Anyone know of an alternative switch? Switchchannel say this switch has being discontinued.

  9. Hi, Freecom got back to me and said the following switch is the same

    Just in case anyone is looking.

  10. you can also buy this one 652-PEC12-4217FS0024
    or 652-PEC12-4217FS0012
    I have buy it on
    I cut the legs of old and new, then I welded the new encoder on the legs of the old one.

  11. Just for ref - the replacement mentioned above by POCO may be a literal replacement, but there is a tiny difference in size which means the spindle replacement as described will NOT work as, although it turns the dial, the replacement spindle does not activate the push switch. I just broke my way through three new knobs trying that.
    I shall order more and replace the ones on the board entirely with the new ones rather than just replace the spindle.

    : )

  12. Another mod people might be interested in is replacing the rubbish speaker with a oval Visaton SC 5.9 loudspeaker 8 Ω . It's a tight squeeze and isn't quite as loud (as the original is 4 Ω) but sounds much much better. £8 well spent.

  13. Hi scruffpot,
    excellent fix, thanks! However, (which you used to upload the great photos) is shutting down, and as of *yesterday* the images are no longer visible for 3rd parties (ie me). Is there any way you can slot the images back into your post?

  14. ...or send the images to :-)