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Discussion Starter #1
I'm trying to get some clear info on head units and using usb storage. I've been getting really mixed info when doing google searches. I'm trying to figure out the details of what it takes to be able to use usb storage instead of CD's. I've read that some units are able to read 32gb usb devices, so long as they are formatted in fat32 and the files are organized correctly on the drive. Manufacturer info seems to be vague, and they usually just say something to the effect of "accepts usb storage devices" and that's as far as it goes. I'd like to hear from someone actually using a usb drive, and find out what the limitations are as far as size and file structure. I've also read complaints about difficulty being able to access certain subfolders, and the navigation aspect being really clunky and difficult to work with on some units. I'm trying to choose a head unit to begin a simple SQ install, but there are too many question marks regarding the alternative storage that I can't seem to get definite answers to. Ultimately, I'd like to be able to use a 32gb (or larger?) storage device to dump a bunch of lossless music on, and find a head unit that will allow simple navigation and playback of those files.
 

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Manufacturer info seems to be vague, and they usually just say something to the effect of "accepts usb storage devices" and that's as far as it goes.

So I'm not the only one who's noticed this.


Most HU's I've looked at have had some exact specs, but they are often stuck in seemingly random spots in the manual.

First, look for the spec page - the one with all the power and frequency response numbers. Of course, the USB limitations are rarely listed there.

Second, look for the section on operating the USB function and pay attention to any *'d notes at the bottom of the pages. This is where I usually find them, but I actually have to read a fair amount of the manual to find them.


The most I've really ever gotten for specs is an approximate limit on number of folders and number of files per folder - but this seems to depend on the actual text length of the folder and file names (which at least one manufacturer explains, but few do). Sometimes an upper overall size limit, but not usually.

Oh, that and of course formats supported - and lossless (like FLAC) aren't supported by many.



And then there will be all the quirks associated with a given manufacturer's USB support. Good luck getting things listed in alphabetical order, for example - or having a very useful random function. You'll have even more fun when you try to ask people about it.



Also, I've found that USB support is pretty consistent for a given manufacturer and product generation. That is, almost all current Alpine USB capable HU's have the exact same limitations and behavior quirks with their USB feature. Look back a gen or two, and it will probably change a bit, but be the same for almost all the HU's of that generation for that manufacturer.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
It's tough shopping for a head unit with the limited info available. I guess my first step needs to be to find out which manufacturer generally has the best overall usb support. The important things to me would be maximum storage capacity, ease of navigation, and support for wav files. I won't use any lossy formats, so that is critical. If it takes so much effort and focus to navigate that I have to park just to access another album and play it, that is a deal breaker. If I have to buy a bunch of small thumb drives to store my music, that will be equally as frustrating. Hopefully a head unit exists that offers outstanding sound quality with all of the necessary tuning features, allows for about a 120gb usb hard drive, and is logical and quick to work with. Now I just have to find it!
 

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Hopefully a head unit exists that offers outstanding sound quality with all of the necessary tuning features, allows for about a 120gb usb hard drive, and is logical and quick to work with. Now I just have to find it!

I think the bolded part will be the toughest requirement to fill.

As far as I could tell, overall drive size isn't an issue, as these are all FAT32 device readers - the limits seem to stem from internal memory sizes that only affect displaying a current folder/level - so, like, no more than 4000 folders/tracks in a single folder. But ... this is at least somewhat just speculation.


I bought the Alpine and I swear it touted "alphabetical" listing as a selling point (lame as hell, imo, that its a "feature"), and of course it doesn't work (unless there's a hidden undocumented setting accessible only by an unintuitive button combination that I'm missing).


The iDA-x305 screen (i100 has same screen) seemed much, much easier to read than any of the more "text" Alpine displays or anything Pioneer had - including the double DIN DVD players. I didn't get to demo many Kenwoods or Eclipses, but the ones I did were all "text" displays and paled in comparison.

The iDA-x305 display works quite well in the car, but on the sunniest of days it can get glared over. Now, if only it would list everything alphabetically - then I'd be content.

Coupled with the ability to add the Imprint for active 2-way + sub, and well - its in my car right now, isn't it. Then again, I'm still looking for something better, so .......
 

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The USB devices are also usually limited to the 500 mA or whatever the deck interface allows, although finding out the power draw of a particular device can be tough. Also as mentioned earlier, the file system can sometimes be cumbersome to locate a song, and I've heard that many decks start 'at the beginning' of the song list each time power is cycled. I don't have a USB deck yet, but have been trying to narrow my selection down. No luck yet.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I email some questions the the Eclipse tech support address, so I'll post up any info I get back in case anyone else would like to know.
 

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No response yet from Eclipse on their products, and I need to get this hammered out since it's holding up the starting of the project. Any other input on a head unit that will fit this bill is appreciated!
 

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Here was the Eclipse response on their line of products:

Thank you for contacting Eclipse;

"the maximum USB will be 3000 files and 1000 folders so like a 4Gb flash drive is probably the biggest that you could use it will not play WMA for some reason and the artist finding and music finding is some what OK this was only made for convenient not for audiophile audio."

I can't say I'm impressed.
 

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Hope this helps.
I have a Kenwood Excelon x590 with usb, I use a 80 gig Laptop harddrive in an external hard drive enclosure. As long as you get an enclosure that has separate wires for the USB and Power, it should work ok. The problem with head units, is that it wasn't designed to power hard drives, just flash drives. My encloure has the power jack wanting USB as well, so a usb/cig-lighter is needed for the 5v+ Power cable. Also, to help speed load times, keep the least amount of folders you can on the drive, like a folder per album and thats it. the units have to search file structure everytime you start the car. Also, remember you can use usb extention cables to run the hard drive under the seat and maybe run another dc jack under as well. Hard drives don't like heat at all, so under the seat seems to keep it cool enough.

Here are 2 pics, from when I ran my USB and extra DC jack for my Hard drive in my RSX.


Here I ran an usb extention cable and added an additional DC jack under my seat, so I could have the HD under my seat for cooling, and easy access. I have it velcro strapped to some bed foam, to keep bumps out.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Excellent info! Is navigating the drive pretty straightforward with that head unit? Any problems you haven't been able to work out?
 

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with the kenwood phatmusic, its kinda cool, because it creates audio files for each album/artist. so it will announce over the speakers what your looking for, so you can keep your eyes on the road. navigation gets pretty easy once you understand how it works. enough i don't need to look at the unit.

i need this as I have a manual 6 speed car. I'm still kinda leary about throwing in a touch screen, in the fact I'll only have time to change stuff when at stoplights. or with the remote in my shifting hand.
 

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"the maximum USB will be 3000 files and 1000 folders so like a 4Gb flash drive is probably the biggest that you could use it will not play WMA for some reason and the artist finding and music finding is some what OK this was only made for convenient not for audiophile audio."

wow. that's sad.. I had an equally unimpressive conversation with Alpine about my gripes with the USB support on their decks. I thought I was talking to a functionally retarded 12 year old.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I sent en email to Kenwood, so we'll see. It's amazing how difficult its been to find a high end head unit that can play .wav files from a USB hard drive. It seems so simple, yet I've come up with not one single head unit that can do it.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Got a quick reply from Kenwood, but no .wav support. I'm waiting to hear back from Pioneer, then I guess it's time to give up if I don't get anywhere with them.
 

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yeah my brother has a cowon d2 i think. it does FLAC, but doesn't have the digi coax or optical.

im diggin the abigs, how is working with the unit in the car. fast bootup times? easy to navigate?
 
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