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2018 3.6R Limited, ES, HK, hitch, wheel arch moldings, Glasscoat.
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Discussion Starter #1
I'm an audiophile, and I'm happy with the sound of the Harman Kardon system with 320 Kbps VBR mp3s. (Analog input is just behind in quality, followed by Bluetooth and, way in the rear, SiriusXM.)

I'm looking for convenient and versatile hands-free control, and have been exploring both Android Auto and USB stick. As I understand it, both digitally stream the raw mp3s to the DA converter in the 8" head unit, so sound quality should be identical--true? Here are my experiences and impressions.

USB Stick:
After formatting my USB stick to fat32 with 32-something (bit?) sectors, I put my mp3s only one folder down on the drive--a folder for each album, and one folder containing singles. After initial indexing, and few trips where voice requests for song or artist got a response something like "Your agent is busy thinking right now." The HU got itself sorted out, and now USB comes back on within seconds, and indexes in less than a minute.

My only real complaint is that albums play songs out of order, despite meticulous tagging. I'll have to go back through the threads on that, and see if anyone has an easy solution for the 18, but I'm thinking "no", and am hoping for an update to fix it. Also, it is finicky in what titles/songs it will identify, failing every once in awhile.

Android Auto:
I'm using Android Auto on a Samsung Note 8 with a 128G memory card, with PlayerPro as my mp3 app. It boots and initializes quickly, and now allows selection of an non-google music player--like PlayerPro--adding voice control, which is pretty sweet. Now when I say "play the beatles" to Android Assistant, it says "asking PlayerPro to play the Beatles". I like that. It's sometimes finicky about finding songs/albums/etc too.

Tonight I had my first HU software glitch, where connecting my phone did not cause the Android Auto icon on my HU to brighten (indicating ready to connect) or connect automatically. Instead it just sat grayed out. After a minute of this, a message appeared on my phone saying "Unable to communicate by USB. Your cable may be defective." I messed around with it for a half hour, restarting apps, my car, and my phone, but no joy, so I gave it a rest.. After three hours I came back out, and started the car. My HU sat black for about 30 seconds on startup--which it has never done before--then came up like normal, and Android Auto worked fine. Yay.

At this point, I have a slight preference for Android Auto, but I think I would prefer USB stick if I could get album songs to play in the correct order, as indicated on their mp3 tags. Both methods have quirks in voice commands, manual searching, and display, so I'll have to see what I prefer in time.

I hope this info is useful. Corrections, tips, and insights appreciated. :)
 

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2018 3.6R Limited
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I have also played with audio system for a bit, and found also that 320kbs mp3 will give you best all-around sound. I've had some luck too with Bluetooth audio, since I could use equalizer software on the phone to enhance the output a bit. But I don't trust the extra layer of lossy compression driven by the Bluetooth. I assume unit is not using the best mainstream codec (aptX), I have not seen any mentions of it in the documentation.

As for ordering of songs, alphabetical vs track number, you're not the first that have noticed that "feature". Here's my workaround for it in the another thread: http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums...mb-drive-stick-formatting-28.html#post5529545
 

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2018 3.6R Limited, ES, HK, hitch, wheel arch moldings, Glasscoat.
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79 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
I have also played with audio system for a bit, and found also that 320kbs mp3 will give you best all-around sound. I've had some luck too with Bluetooth audio, since I could use equalizer software on the phone to enhance the output a bit. But I don't trust the extra layer of lossy compression driven by the Bluetooth. I assume unit is not using the best mainstream codec (aptX), I have not seen any mentions of it in the documentation.

As for ordering of songs, alphabetical vs track number, you're not the first that have noticed that "feature". Here's my workaround for it in the another thread: http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums...mb-drive-stick-formatting-28.html#post5529545
Amen on the 230Kbps VBR mp3s! They are statistically indistinguishable from their source CDs, and give best sound of the OB sources.

And agreed that Bluetooth is surprisingly good, though to my ears a step below analog in, which is hard to tell from mp3s. I have the same appreciation of being able to manipulate analog/Bluetooth--I have the DSP pack for PlayerPro, and it offers a 10 band equalizer, and advanced bit rate and noise-shaping options.

Thanks for the work around on song ordering, cool of you to figure that out. I'm inclined to go with Android Auto because it gets mp3 ordering right with standard tags, and put my time into organizing and tagging my collection to make it universally useful. I like the idea of having the songs organized and optimized on my pc, and and then being able to use them on my phone, and in whatever vehicle I'm in, taking vehicles' head units out of the equation. I'm thinking that's the way it's going to go--Google is putting a lot of resources into it, and Google Assistant and Android Auto keep improving.
 
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