MP3 Player Help - Need Specific Feature
April 15, 2009 7:08 PM   Subscribe

I currently have a Sansa E260 mp3 player which is fine except for one BIG problem (and I don't think I'm missing it anywhere on the Sansa). Currently, if I want to play a certain grouping of tunes I have to create a "playlist," which I find to be time consuming and a hassle. I want an mp3 player with multiple folders I can drag to and from in Windows Explorer. I used to have an older Creative Muvo (no longer made) that did exactly what I am wanting. I want to be able to drag pop tunes into a folder, classical music into a folder, spoken word into a get the idea. This way I can just click to a folder when I'm using my player and away I go. What mp3 player does this without having to use proprietary software, etc.? I just want to plug the player into USB and drag and drop songs/podcasts into multiple folders. Help with specific brand and models? You have no idea how much easier this would make my listening. As always, thanks in advance.
posted by Gerard Sorme to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You may be able to flash the firmware of your E260 with Rockbox, and it will happily play directories after you drag and drop. There are several Sansa hardware revisions, so please read carefully before trying.
posted by scruss at 7:18 PM on April 15, 2009

What scruss said--Rockbox is great.

Alternately, lots of players do this, and your Sansa might be one of them--look for an option called something like 'Mass Storage Device' or 'USB Disk Mode.'

Alternately alternately, if you decide to buy a new player, Cowon and iRiver ones seem to mostly have this functionality. Studying user reviews on Amazon or Newegg will usually indicate whether a particular mp3 player has this feature.
posted by box at 7:22 PM on April 15, 2009

Creative Muvo T100 is listed on their web site. A quick search shows that it is also available for sale online.
posted by eye of newt at 7:40 PM on April 15, 2009

Best answer: Oops. Creative Muvo T100 link.
posted by eye of newt at 7:41 PM on April 15, 2009

Best answer: I'm also a big fan of rockbox - it does the whole drag and drop thing, rather than the clumsy feeling interface which comes with the e260. I can't stand it when files are organised by ID3 tags. the rockbox interface gives you just what you need - directories which you can flip through like a normal file system. It also has neat functions like bookmarking.
posted by tomble at 7:55 PM on April 15, 2009

Response by poster: Just to clear something up from my sloppy writing. I can drag 'n' drop now with USB/Windows Explorer with my Sansa. I can put things in different folders, but only music into 'music', photos into 'photos', video into 'videos' etc. I want to be able to access my own folders from the player itself. Where I go to "Folder 1" which I know to be pop music, "Folder 2" which I know to be episodes of This American Life, "Folder 3" which is classical, etc. I can drag and drop now - but only into one big "Music" folder and to play things in any kind of organized fashion, I have to create "Playlists". In other words, just because Amazon is selling a player that supports drag and drop via USB/Windows Explorer doesn't necessarily mean it's going to support multiple folders as I use the device itself. I hope this gives a better idea of what I'm looking for. I don't feel like I'm explaining it very well.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 8:05 PM on April 15, 2009

Response by poster: I should have seen tomble's response before posting again. So, Rockbox will actually show the folder options on my player? You are so right about the ID3 tags, it's either roll with a tag selection or a playlist. I want folders!
posted by Gerard Sorme at 8:07 PM on April 15, 2009

Rockbox is great. It's only an option for you if your Sansa is version 1. Go to settings and info to see the version. If it starts with 01 then you can install Rockbox.

It's a bit of a coincidence to see this. I've just been spending time on eBay trying to buy a second Sansa to run Rockbox. It's getting difficult to find one of the old version. had some 1 GB v1 Sansas today at $9.99 and I missed it :( I would have bought several.

ID3 only tags can be a real pain. Every mp3 file should have them but some don't. I gave up using my Creative Zen V for podcasts because anything without ID3 tags is totally invisible.
posted by tetranz at 8:21 PM on April 15, 2009

Use Rockbox. As long as you don't have the Rhapsody version of the Sansa, it'll work fine. With Rockbox, you can drag/drop directories however you like onto the device and play those directories as playlists (shuffled, not shuffled, repeating, not repeating, etc). I've been using Rockbox on my E260 for quite a while now and I've been very happy with it.
posted by sinfony at 8:29 PM on April 15, 2009

Response by poster: Well, wouldn't you know! I have a Version 2 which begins with the 03 designation - so no Rockbox.

Can anybody give me brand/models of mp3 players that use a folder based system as opposed to only sorting by ID3 tags? And I don't want to hassle with creating playlists. Just a folder-based system - that's all I want for Christmas. Oh,'s all I want for Tax Day! Whatever, I just want to resolve my frustration with this. Keep the ideas coming and I really do thank you for all the suggestions.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 8:40 PM on April 15, 2009

Response by poster: I saw the Muvo T100 suggested upthread, I just looked it up and it will work! I didn't know there even was a successor to my old V100. Thank you! It has direct plug-in to USB (no cables), folder support, 4GB. I was ready to pay $50 and found one brand new - only 27 bucks - shipped (!) at eBay.

I wish I had the V1 of the Sansa and I could have used Rockbox. The Sansa is nice in so many ways, but I primarily use it just as a music player and the ID3 tag way of playing the songs was just driving me insane. This new player should do the trick. Thanks to all!!
posted by Gerard Sorme at 9:08 PM on April 15, 2009

Well, Rockbox supports a wide variety of devices, most of which I imagine you could acquire quite cheaply.
posted by sinfony at 9:09 PM on April 15, 2009

sinfony, I think the Rhapsody version of the Sansa works with Rockbox. See here

At least that's what I've been assuming and including Rhapsody versions in my search.
posted by tetranz at 4:09 AM on April 16, 2009

I have a Cowon iAudio U2, which supports an heirarchial filesystem exactly like you want. It doesn't support m3u playlists, though, just a master playlist, and the navigation by ID3 tags is pretty weak. It can play .OGG files, though.

Mine is several years old, and the battery life is starting to go, but it's been a pretty nice basic mp3 player. Newer models from the same company should also have support for navigation by subfolder.
posted by silentbicycle at 5:03 AM on April 16, 2009

tetranz, you're right. I think they didn't have it running on the Rhapsody versions back when I got my Sansa (quite a long time ago), but in any case, it certainly seems that they're supported now.
posted by sinfony at 11:50 AM on April 16, 2009

Response by poster: For those reading this that have had the frustration I have had:

Find an mp3 player that supports folders. The one I eventually bought (Creative Muvo T100) supports up to three root folders and sub-folders that can go three deep that ultimately supports up to 200 folders (!) in the folder structure of a 4GB player.

The possibilities are endless......

- Music by decade and then sub-folders by artist, favorite albums, decade, whatever.

- Music by genre and then by sub-genre, all just by switching over to appropriate folder.

- Spoken Word. One for This American Life, a sub-folder for your favorite podcast, another for audio books - again, just select the folder.

Using Google to look into this it has been eye-opening. It seems my frustration with depending on playlists that have to be built on your PC and playback by ID3 tags is almost universally something that ticks people off. So the obvious question is why don't manufacturers listen? Clearly, it has much to do with making players that are more than just mp3 players - Video, photos, recording, etc. - and making simple players that just play music is not a priority. Why designing players that could work like Rockbox is so hard is baffling. You would then have the choice of folder support and/or ID3 tag playback. If Rockbox can make third-party firmware that is so popular, what keeps the manufacturers from offering the same kinds of options - by default?

At any rate....thanks for all the thoughts and suggestions!
posted by Gerard Sorme at 3:41 PM on April 16, 2009

I feel compelled to point out that the scenarios you list are precisely the reason ID3 tags exist in the first place. Under your proposed scheme, you'd need to have multiple copies of every file if you wanted to include a given file in a different grouping. With a well-tagged collection, you can assemble playlists based on such criteria without needing multiple copies of everything. Those playlists can then be synchronized to your player quite easily. Furthermore, a well-designed player can take advantage of the tags; Rockbox, for example, includes a very powerful database feature that allows you to search through your music based on tag data. I realize that it can be quite an investment to go back through your music collection and tag it properly, but there are tools that make it easier and it's ultimately a better solution than relying on file/folder structure.
posted by sinfony at 6:49 PM on April 16, 2009

Response by poster: Hi sinfony, I hear you. But why can't these players offer both without having to resort to third-party firmware? The whole tagging system is very much hit 'n' miss because a lot of it is arbitrary. What I consider "celtic" you might consider "traditional folk" and on and on it goes. Trying to listen to songs based upon their tags is not as precise as folders and maybe for huge collections it makes perfect sense - and I probably seem perfectly old-fashioned!
posted by Gerard Sorme at 8:14 PM on April 16, 2009

You can tag everything yourself, though. Every media player I've used has included a good tag-editing interface. Freedb may think that a particular song is alternative rock, but if I want to call it math rock, it's quite easy to change it. I've found that spending a few moments properly tagging new music is more than worth the convenience of having it easily searchable and organizable without having to waste a lot of storage space duplicating the files.

As to why players don't offer both, I suspect it's because most of the manufacturers go to minor lengths to hide the folder structure from the viewer as an anti-piracy measure. On an iPod, for instance, the directory in which the music is stored is marked hidden and the file names are all changed to arbitrary alphanumeric strings, the idea being that you can't just open up the iPod in Windows Explorer and copy all the songs you want off of it. It's a totally ineffectual measure, of course, since there's no shortage of free software that can find it anyway, but it probably keeps the record companies happy.
posted by sinfony at 9:37 PM on April 16, 2009

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