What Pioneer engineers achieved in making a USB add-on to their P-series headunits is quite impressive! I am mocking them wise Japs, because the CD-UB100 is twenty century’s technology sold in the twenty first!
It’s faced with many limitations and inconveniences especially when used in conjunction with portable hard disk drives, and what bothers me is all the troubles and limitations every consumer’s gonna face is because it’s designed to work with flash memory thumb drives first hand, and then they decided why not legalize hard disk drives as well. They spend millions every year to promote their different lines of product, but don’t bother designing something practical.
What’s more annoying is that we’re aware of their talent, I mean, come on, it’s the same company that makes an optical amp with a variable crossover capable of a mind-blowingly deep cut slope of -72 dB/oct! Yes, I’m talking about the ODR-series RS-A9. I wish CD-UB100 was more of an ODR- or at least PRS-engineering than the junk it is.
Stupid Limitations (aka “Compatibility” in Owner’s Manual Published by Pioneer)
- Maximum amount of memory: 250 GB
- Maximum files: 15,000
- Maximum folders: 500
- File system: FAT12, FAT16, and FAT32
- Partitioning: Not supported
Take any portable 2.5” HDD manufacturer, their mid-size storage solution is around 320 GB at the moment. Within a year from now, no below-250 GB 2.5” portable HDD (120 GB/160 GB/250 GB) is gonna be available as first hand. A multi-terabyte compatibility limitation wouldn’t sound just fine nowadays!
Then it’s time to divide our maximum 15000 files into 500 maximum folders, getting 30 as result. How many music albums do you recall with 30 tracks? Now divide our maximum 250 GB capacity into 15000 files, getting a 16.6 MB average file size, which is even more than any typical insane-quality 320 kbps MP3 track. For 250 GB, it should be supporting a minimum of around 83000 files and 8300 folders.
Then it’s limited to FAT32 (introduced in 1996, let’s not forget, it also supports the dead 80s FAT12 and FAT16) and let’s not forget about the limitations we’re faced with, such as inability of Windows to format a FAT32 partition larger than 32 GB.
If you’re thinking of dividing your 250 GB disk into 8 (yes, freaky eight) partitions so it becomes FAT32-formattable, then you’d be wrong, very wrong: Partitioning is not compatible, and by that, those geeks at Pioneer Corporations meant the disk should have one single primary partition! But don’t get disappointed, there is a tool to FAT32-format a 250 GB (even a 2 terabyte) single-partition disk. The reason behind Microsoft’s decision to support mounting (reading) a pre-formatted larger-than-32-GB FAT32 partition and not formatting it, is because Microsoft technicians saw read/write operations on a big FAT32 partition is way slower than on say an NTFS partition; so in their wisdom, they decided to drop the format feature, may the people drop the 90s technology in advance.
How To Partition and Format Your Portable HDD in a Pioneer-Satisfying Fashion
Before you start any operation keep in mind you’re gonna need administrative privileges to perform partitioning and formatting operations. So if you’re the admin and Windows still bothers you complaining about files being open, just run Sysinternals Process Explorer, hit Ctrl+F, type the drive letter plus colon (e.g. E:) to find out which process is guilty of having it open, and close it.
If your drive has anything other than a single primary partition, it needs repartitioning. First you need to delete any previously-defined partitions, and define one primary partition covering the whole space of the physical disk, utilizing Windows Disk Management. To start Disk Management, type diskmgmt.msc in “Run…” and press Enter. At the end of the partitioning process, make sure to set the option so it doesn’t format the partition. Please note setting the partition as active doesn’t bother Pioneer!
Because Windows format utility is not able to format your big (32 GB and more) partition, you need to use a third-party FAT32 format utility, and nothing is straighter than FAT 32 Formatter by Tom Thornhill at Ridgecrop Consultants Ltd to download and put to practical use: A simple command of fat32format
Let’s not forget the CD-UB100 supports three different levels of features depending on the P-series headunit it is connected into:
- Basic: showing “USB F###” for folders and “USB T###” for tracks. The mighty DEX-P90RS sadly supports basic level of compatibility when it’s hooked up with CD-UB100!
- Medium: showing 8 characters of the info for folder, track, title, etc. Most new heads support a medium level of compatibility when hooked up with CD-UB100.
- Complete: showing 64 characters of the info, plus the ability to list. Few newer heads support full compatibility when hooked up with CD-UB100.
USB Extension Cable Problem
And this doesn’t end here, the USB cable, its 500 mA limitation, and the fact that no extension cable works, makes it more unbearable. Two of my friends complain about their portable HDDs (Western Digital Passport and Maxtor OneTouch 4 Mini) hooked up with CD-UB100. They say the HDD doesn’t spin when they’re using the USB extension cable supplied with the Pioneer USB adapter. They believe the best condition is to connect the portable HDD directly to the USB connector on the CD-UB100’s body via the high-quality short cable supplied with the HDD by the HDD manufacturer, ignoring Pioneer’s own USB extension cable. Another friend complains about CD-UB100 and his portable HDD which is a Western Digital laptop HDD mounted inside a 2.5” Abacus external enclosure. He says his external enclosure is powered by a Creative CA6110 external power supply, so the enclosure uses Pioneer’s USB cord just to transfer data, and again the headunit fails to recognize the portable hard disk drive when Pioneer’s USB extension cable is used. So the conclusion is to mount CD-UB100 in a place where it’s just a foot away from where you’re gonna put the portable hard disk drive, so you’ll be able to use only the portable HDD’s own cable.
IP-Bus: Interactive, but Rather Old and Unintelligent
The whole idea of the IP-Bus (Interactive Pioneer Bus) was something invented (when most cars had no ECU yet) to make the head unit communicate with the CD changer and receive the stereo sound analogly. It’s rather old, and most importantly the sound it transfers is not digital, and just to moan more, my head has a built-in MP3/WMA/AAC decoder, why pay for the decoder inside the CD-UB100 again? They have to invent something new, so the next generation CD-UB100 could read the file from the storage, stream it digitally to a next generation head, and the head unit decodes the streamed media, just like if it was read from the CD inside the head unit’s CD-drive. This way if I have a high-end head, my sound quality would be flawless, mo matter if it’s read from a portable hard disk drive.