You Want Your Receiver to Have USB

I keep up with new surround-receiver features the way a CIA analyst monitors intel from dangerous nations. A lot of these things are just distractions from the fundamentals: dynamics, noise, etc. But I'm in love with the latest wrinkle in connectivity, the front-panel USB jack. At first I thought, yawn, a way to plug in your Windows PlaysForSure music player, as if you had such a thing. But you can also plug in a plain old USB drive. Think of this: You bump your 10 newest favorite songs to a flash drive, plug that sucker into the front panel, and use the remote to get the show rolling. If you have a whole drawer full of those things, each one can become a playlist. Better yet, why not get some use out of the external hard drive you use to protect your download collection from a deadly crash? Or better still, why not buy another external hard drive just for use with the receiver? I just paid $120 for a 500GB Iomega external drive to back up my backups (I'm careful that way). That's much less than the cost of a fancy hard-drive-based audio server. It's also just about what you'd pay for an add-on iPod dock. Kudos to Pioneer, which introduced me to the feature with the VSX-94TXH ($1600), and Integra, maker of the DTR-8.8 ($2400) I'm reviewing at the moment. Let's hope USB trickles down to less costly models.

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johnnypdx's picture

I'm curious about how much song title intelligence they have built into the receivers so far? Do they simply play every item on a USB device in order? Or do they show the track titles on the display, allowing you to scroll with the remote? Or do they recognize a folder structure, letting you use folders for music genres or album titles? It seems like if the receiver did offer just a few basic ways to choose what you wanted to hear, that external hard drives could easily provide the backbone for easy (space saving) integration of digital content with a quality sound system.

Jim Lasher's picture

Denon AVR 3808ci uses folders with USB connected files to index by Artist, Album, Song. Works well but requires max 192kb files (bummer) and a FAT32 formatted drive (also a serious bummer). In addition it's got 2 USBs, 1 front and 1 rear. If there were no formatting or file resolution limitations, it would provide a nearly perfect music server (it's not bad now, I use it all the time and it sounds good but not great). Only usage problem otherwise is no scanning within a track. You can play it straight through, pause it or stop it only.

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