July 8, 2015

Pioneer DEH-4700BT

Recently I went shopping for a new car stereo. I wrote about my experience here, but also hinted at a problem with the Pioneer DEH-4700BT which is not quite enough to justify returning it to Halfords (I never want to return to that place again) but enough of an annoyance that, had I know about it beforehand, I definitely wouldn’t have bought a Pioneer. I believe that this also applies to all Pioneer car stereos that can play music from a USB drive.

I had listened to “Hours…”, the latest in my Bowie Project collection, a couple of times, when I noticed that the order of the songs as they were played in the car did not match the track listing on the internet. I checked the files on my computer, and they were all correct. It seemed that the car stereo was shuffling them, but strangely, it was shuffling them the same way each time. It wasn’t shuffling across the entire drive either – just within the directory.

I did some research online and discovered something very interesting. Whereas my previous car stereo, a Kenwood, very sensibly reads from the USB drive in alphabetical order, the Pioneer doesn’t sort them at all! It just takes them in the order that they appear in the file allocation table – in short, it plays the files in the order that they were loaded onto the USB drive.

What had happened here is that the files had been copied across out of sequence. The operating system, quite reasonably, assumes that it doesn’t matter which order they’re written to the drive, as no device would be so stupid as to pay any attention to that further down the line.

Here’s another possible scenario – say you had a bunch of albums already on your USB drive, including a bunch of, say, Foo Fighters albums. A new Foo Fighters album comes out, so you add it to the drive. When you’re driving in your car, you’d expect all the Foo Fighters albums to be next to each other, right? Not if you’ve got a Pioneer. If you’ve got a Pioneer, then your new Foo Fighters album will get played at the end, after your Zero 7 and Zutons.

The solution I’ve found is to use DriveSort. It’s not the most perfectly user-friendly application, but I found the instructions on this page to be very helpful at clearing things up.

It’s a bit of a pain to have to do this extra step every time I copy something new to my USB drive, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. It’s disappointing that no-one at Pioneer has thought “this is a shocking user experience, we must fix this right away.”


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