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post #1 of 11 Old 03-06-2016, 03:58 PM - Thread Starter
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Most Intuitive Digital Media Receiver?

I'm in the process of figuring out what receiver to stick in my car. I've used Pioneer for years but dont have any brand loyalty. I don't care about most of the bells or whistles and although I have an iPhone, I dont need it to have Siri support or connect to the phone either. All I want to do is basically shove my entire music library of FLAC/ALAC files onto a USB flash drive and be able to play it in the car in the easiest way possible. Voice control in the flavor of Ford's built in system would be great, but not sure if a catch all system like that exists. Is there a receiver out there that does what I want?
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post #2 of 11 Old 03-08-2016, 09:16 AM
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I've always had good luck chatting w/ Crutchfield on these things.

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post #3 of 11 Old 03-09-2016, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by docsuess84 View Post
I'm in the process of figuring out what receiver to stick in my car. I've used Pioneer for years but dont have any brand loyalty. I don't care about most of the bells or whistles and although I have an iPhone, I dont need it to have Siri support or connect to the phone either. All I want to do is basically shove my entire music library of FLAC/ALAC files onto a USB flash drive and be able to play it in the car in the easiest way possible. Voice control in the flavor of Ford's built in system would be great, but not sure if a catch all system like that exists. Is there a receiver out there that does what I want?
I've started this search again recently as well. Sad to say I've been unable to find anything that doesn't suck.

Here's what I'm looking for, in order of decreasing importance:
  1. Playlist Support (m3u or something)
  2. Play/Browse by tag (Artist/Genre/etc).
  3. Double
  4. FLAC (though I'd give this up for 1))


I got pretty excited when I saw the new Alpine INE-W967HD supported FLAC, but after conversing with Crutchfield and Alpine, it appears it's a brain dead media player, doesn't support playback/viewing/browsing by tag at all, nor does it support playlists. It will play back in the order files are written to the card.

Crutchfield recommended I look at Pioneer, the NEX units look quite nice, but their manual clearly says m3u is not supported.

I have a Kenwood X996 right now, but it's pretty dumb as well. You have to use a proprietary program on your PC to index the files on the media. It doesn't support playlists either, other than the program can make playlists out of everything at a certain directory level on the flash drive.

I looked at Clarion's NXs, but I sort of gave up when I read a number of negative reviews over it's performance. I forget if this did playlists or tag playback, I should look again.

Android Auto sounds like the holy grail at first, except apparently I'm weird and my phone isn't my life (I'd love Google Maps/Nav built in). I don't want to have to plug in my phone just to listen to music to and from work every day.

There's Android head units, but it seems most are stuck running really old versions of Android (like 4.4) and are from unknown Chinese companies.

It kind of makes me just want to buy a new car. I generally like Sync in my truck. It's got all these bases covered, I can't believe I can't find an aftermarket head unit that can match the basic functionality that comes stock in newer cars.
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post #4 of 11 Old 04-18-2017, 01:08 PM
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Just bought a Kenwood DMX7704S. I intend to play flac files off a usb drive or stick with it. The instruction manual on pg 21 says under Track Information says...."Displays the information of the current file. Only a file name and a folder name are displayed if there is no tag information. "

Based on that, I assume it supports id3 tagging. I would be dissapointed if it doesn't support playlists. I'll report back after I get it installed.

Chris



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post #5 of 11 Old 04-19-2017, 09:22 AM
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Look forward to your report.

FWIW, I found a tool that will read m3u playlists and convert them into the proprietary kenwood database format, at least for my X996:
https://chrrrisw.github.io/kmel_db/
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post #6 of 11 Old 04-20-2017, 07:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpete View Post
Based on that, I assume it supports id3 tagging.
FLAC doesn't use ID3 tags, it uses Vorbis tags.


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post #7 of 11 Old 04-26-2017, 02:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Sargent View Post
FLAC doesn't use ID3 tags, it uses Vorbis tags.


Mike
Thanks for the correction Mike. The Kenwood seems to handle either type of tagging correctly. I am pleased. And the fact that it can handle a portable drive running off USB power is great. For the first time I have my entire music collection (lossless) at my fingertips, in my car. My collection is about 700GB. Haven't tried playlists yet...will do shortly. Took me 5 days to install this receiver....don't ask :-)

Android Drive works very well. Exactly what I was hoping for. I have a Galaxy S6.

Chris
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post #8 of 11 Old 04-26-2017, 05:01 PM
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Ok, with a large collection, the Kenwood falls apart. It appears to start building the database everytime you start the car. There is no progress indicator. I was able to get the correct tagging information with a small test sample and even once with the large collection, but wasn't able to reproduce it and even the first time, much of the collections is missing. You can navigate by directory and filenames. Unfortunately with that approach, you don't see the tagging information (although cover art gets picked up). Also, track names are played in alphabetical order. Not very nice!

Oh well, I had low expectations in this area. was thrilled it could play flac files...and it does. I may look into Strager89's find, but from what I've read, it duplicates files to implement playlists. That is not acceptable for me. We'll see.


Chris
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpete View Post
Ok, with a large collection, the Kenwood falls apart. It appears to start building the database everytime you start the car. There is no progress indicator. I was able to get the correct tagging information with a small test sample and even once with the large collection, but wasn't able to reproduce it and even the first time, much of the collections is missing. You can navigate by directory and filenames. Unfortunately with that approach, you don't see the tagging information (although cover art gets picked up). Also, track names are played in alphabetical order. Not very nice!
That's a bummer, but that actually sounds a lot like my KDC-X996, it kinda sorta looks like it works when you just put files on stick, but as you've found out, it doesn't really work in practice.

I'm still really disappointed that Sync/MyFord Touch that came in my truck handles lossless audio (WMA Lossless), tagged files, and playlists fine, but aftermarket companies, which you would expect to provide better, more functional, more feature packed solutions can't even manage that basic level of functionality that's been built into every music player, probably just about since the first mp3 was made. I guess the flip side is I'm really glad my truck has that functionality built in, as I'm not tempted to replace it

Quote:
Oh well, I had low expectations in this area. was thrilled it could play flac files...and it does. I may look into Strager89's find, but from what I've read, it duplicates files to implement playlists. That is not acceptable for me. We'll see.
You talking the kmel_db tool? It doesn't duplicate anything, but let's back up...

With my X996, the "correct" way to prepare a drive for the vehicle, is to place all the music on it, and then you run Kenwood Music Editor Lite, which will scan that device, and build a proprietary database file on the device that has all the tagging information. The head unit reads that file when you power it up, and then you can browse genres, etc right away. The big problem is, KME Lite doesn't support reading/converting standard playlists, and doesn't offer any facility to create your own manually. All it has is an option to build playlists at an arbitrary folder level. That kind of worked for me, but I only wanted a couple of playlists that didn't have any overlap.

That's where kmel_db comes in. It works basically the same way as KME Lite, you run it on your drive you plan to connect to the Kenwood, it will scan all your files and build the database of files/generes/etc. However it has the distinction of being able to read m3u playlists and then create matching playlists in the Kenwood database file.

I'd be quite interested in hearing if KME Lite and/or kmel_db work for you with your newer head unit, i.e. if Kenwood still uses the same format. That might, grudgingly, be the solution I've been looking for. I say grudgingly because I'd much rather support a company that actually builds basic, expected, user friendly features into their products, but I'll take something that has a "back door" to achieve the same thing.

If you need help with kmel_db, let me know and I'll see if I can find/remember what I did, I probably need to update that stick anyway.
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I played around with KME Lite for the last few days. It does work, sort of. But I have some issues with it. The first problem is it doesn't recognize a new USB 3.0 laptop drive that the Kenwood receiver does recognize. That one was 1TB and fit my whole collection, so that's too bad. But I also have a new USB 3.0 USB stick that's 256GB. It does recognize that device. So it appears like the problem is not the USB 3.0 interface. I was successful in creating the database on that USB stick with a smaller subset and it does work on the Kenwood. It picks up tag information and lets you navigate that way by Artists, Albums or Genres. So that's encouraging.

But when I ran it on about 240GB worth of music, it aborted after running quite a while and complained about '.' hex value 0x00 is an invalid character. I'm not sure if it was complaining about a bad character in the filename, or the tagging. The program gives no log or information on the actually file that is a problem. So it will take me a while to figure that out. I don't actually believe the message, since a "period" is not a hex zero no matter how you spin it. I played around a bit with it and it seemed the character it couldn't process was actually a single quote in the tag information, but I corrected that and still had the problem, so I am still investigating.

I spoke with Kenwood on this topic and another. I was so disappointed with the person I spoke to. She didn't seem to understand either of my issues and furthermore, this program is from 2013, so use iTunes (what???).

So I guess we can expect no help from Kenwood at all. But I still hold out hope I can figure out which character the program doesn't like and can move on after correcting.

Thanks for pointing me to the app.

Chris

Last edited by cpete; Today at 11:30 AM.
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Ugh... (rant alert)

So I've been chasing an issue with my system for a while now, the audio coming out of it is harsh and fatiguing, which is odd since it's all made of quality components (theoretically):
Kenwood Excelon KDC-X996
Focal Access 165 fronts
Eclipse 5x7 rears
Alpine PDX-F4

So I've got all the bases covered, Component fronts, dedicated amp, etc. Much like my prior system that I was pretty happy with, but became outdated (Alpine 3-disc in-dash CD Player, smaller front components).

I just got a UMIK-1 to measure it, and it turns out it measures pretty flat, which was a disappointing result, I was hoping to find a clue. Somewhat frustrated, I finally yanked the Kenwood out of the dash, got an adapter and plugged my phone straight into the cables to the AMP, and wouldn't you know it, the sound was no longer harsh! And on top of that, bass seemed to have more impact (but not really lower). On the up side, that means my amp and speakers are fine... Downside means I need to figure out what's up with the bloody Kenwood...

Anyway, I'd played with everything already I thought, I'd prevoiusly found some odd "enhancement" modes that I'd turned off. But today, one thing really stuck out at me, there's a "Speaker Setting" menu in the Pro Set menu, with no apparent way to disable it. But flipping through the options, you could definitely hear an effect. Found the manual, made some reference to setting crossovers based on what you select. Dig through some more, nothing. Finally I gave up an flipped the DSP to Bypass which turns off everything. And once I got around the massive change in imaging/balance (since I'd setup the speaker distances/levels in the DTA settings), wouldn't you know it, I think the annoying harshness was gone!

I need to actually drive with it some, but it seems that the Kenwood DSP settings are worse than useless, they seem to actually destroy the sound. Grr, so now what, I really liked the way the DTA helped the imaging and balance, and I also liked the EQ for pulling up the bass to combat road noise...

If that wasn't enough rant for you, here's the real one... So I decide to take a quick look around and alternatives.

Clarion? Um no "Files and discs with following extensions are not supported: *.AAC, *.DLF, *.M3U, *.PLS..."

Alpine? Nope: "Song lists on USB devices are displayed in alphabetical order"

Pioneer? Strike 3 "This product is not compatible with the following: MP3i (MP3 interactive), mp3 PRO, m3u playlist"

Seriously, what the heck? These people can't even figure out how to parse a text file and play songs in it? My factory system in my truck can do it.....

Still searching around as I type this.... Haven't looked at the top of the line Alpine... INE-W960HDMI....

Searching the manual....

Dare I hope?
"Tag Search
By using file tag information and keeping these songs organized in playlists, this unit’s search functions will ease song searches in large libraries.
Each music category has its own individual hierarchy. Use the Playlists/Artists/Albums/Songs/Genres/Composers search mode to narrow searches based on the table below."
http://support.alpine-usa.com/produc...960HDMI_EN.pdf
And it's not even in the iPod section where you usually find the playlist stuff referenced...

The manual doesn't specifically call out playlist files or m3u files one way or the other... Doesn't support FLAC, but I don't really care since the car's too loud to notice the difference anyway...

Although the INE-W967HD does list FLAC, and the same Playlist description....
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