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Commentary on The Capital Markets- Category [Consumer]

I've bought several Pioneer audio components over the years, and in fact the amplifier that runs the speakers on my computer is an older Pioneer unit.  I also have an AVC-4000NEX in my Mazda, which I installed primarily on the strength that it (1) could accept an external USB-powered storage device (such as a nice-sized SSD) and (2) knew how to play FLAC files (which are of higher fidelity than MP3s.)

The firmware has had a few annoyances, with the most-serious being missing calls to the routines that sort songs in certain places but not others, and inappropriate uses of the sort (e.g. in the "tag" viewer if you select an album it will then sort the songs alphabetically -- wrong!  Correct at the album sort level, wrong once drilled down into a specific album.)

"File" sort worked more-or-less OK provided you were careful about how you loaded your device.

Anyway, Pioneer just released a new firmware file (1.06) for these units, that among other things allegedly added Carplay compatibility.  Ok, I don't do Apple, but it might fix some of the other annoyances.  So I loaded it.

That turns out to be a huge mistake.

One key capability for a car audio player with external storage (E.g. SD card, USB key, attached USB disk, etc) is remembering where you are when you turn the car off, and resuming playback in the same place.  If you think not doing that is annoying if you're listening to music it completely destroys the value of the unit as a device that can play audio books for you, as one example, as if you have to refuel or take a personal pit stop you lose where you are when you turn the car back on!

The NEX units did this correctly, as do most other car audio units.  In fact there are people threatening to sue Mazda over doing this wrong on their "higher end" stock head units in the "6" (I think that's a nuts reason to sue, but I do see their point....)

Right up until this latest firmware update the NEX did this correctly, I will add -- the update destroyed that capability.  Now all attached storage starts on the first playable file whenever the car is turned on.

I have an inquiry into Pioneer on this, but have received no immediate response.

There is also no obvious way to get my old firmware back either.

There are only two rational explanations for this making it out into the field:

  • There was no testing done on USB playback and suspend/resume at all.  That is, nobody while testing this update was playing a file from a USB device, turned the unit off and then back on.  That's a basic function test for a car stereo as people get out of their cars to fill them with gas and similar, then get back in and want to continue listening to music, literally daily.

  • They did test it, knew it was broken, and shipped it anyway.

  • Something else is going on here.

Pioneer needs to fix this immediately (like right damn now) or I promise you that come CES next spring I will find a competitors product to put in that slot in my dashboard and will never, ever buy another product made by your bastard firm ever again -- and this is coming from a guy who has owned three of your laser disc players and more other items than I can count over a period of more than 30 years.

Update: They have replied but (1) they have no way to allow the reload of the previous firmware and (2) have no date or even a promise of a fix.  Buy from companies that don't destroy the economic value of their products with alleged "updates" that trash existing functionality and have no means available to revert back to what was working.

Update #2: Now they're apparently trying to play "warranty games" and asking for serial numbers and purchase dates, which is stupid considering that the unit was only released in March -- with a 1 year warranty.  The problem with that line of inquiry is that it's idiotic; there's nothing wrong with the hardware and I'll be damned if I'm going to ship back the unit anyway and get another one with the same broken revision!

There is a note on the AVIC forums that they may have changed the firmware in a way that forces the unit to reindex the disk, allows "playing" while it's doing that, and it will sort itself out when done.  I am not confident that this is true, for the simple reason that the unit says it is 100% complete indexing the disk.  However, it's possible I suppose -- and if so, then I'll update it here.

Update #3: After a literal two days and more than a dozen hours of listening the unit started resuming where it left off this morning.  Whatever these clowns have it doing, it requires an extraordinary amount of time to complete and there is no warning related to that process anywhere either.  I'm happy that the unit is again working as expected, but I dread ever disconnecting the drive to update it, as going through another several days before it behaves properly is outrageous.

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