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.

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.