Last post on May 12, 2013 at 12:59 PM
You are in the Toyota Sienna
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Toyota Sienna, Entertainment System, Van
#1 of 6 Toyota 2011 and 2012 USB/MP3 Player Very Disappointing
Oct 10, 2011 (7:56 am)
In a nut shell, the 2011 or 2012 Toyota Sienna's MP3 player and menu system just aren't good enough for a $30k+ vehicle. Itís not use friendly. Itís slow. Itís frustrating. Simply put, itís not a functional or safe MP3 system when youíre driving down the highway. Iíve not seen any detailed reviews of the mp3 system, so below is a lengthy commentary of my experience with the Sienna stereo.
For me, as for many drivers, music is an essential part of driving. So when I purchased a 2012 Toyota Sienna XLE a few weeks ago, I was very excited about the MP3 player capabilities with on screen menus (no nav screen, just standard radio). My wife recently got a 2011 Ford Taurus with a USB port, and it's been awesome for playing tunes from my iPhone - not as easy to navigate as an iPhone screen, but safer and affective. Better yet, I learned that I could load my music (m4a, mp3, wav) onto a jump drive or USB flash drive and have the same functionality (search by playlists, artist, or song list). And it did this very smoothly, efficiently, and quickly. So naturally I was excited to gain the same capabilities in the van that I usually tote the kids around in. My excitement turned to disappointment as I became more familiar with the system.
When connecting the iPhone via USB, the stereo allows you to search by playlist, artist, and song (though the iPhone will display a message that the connected devise is not optimized for the iPhone???). So say you choose to sort by artist, the stereo displays a scrolling list of artists to choose from. Sounds great unless you've got a lot of music that you want to have at your fingertips, because the stereo does not buffer the lists quickly. If you've got 100 artists, you'll be able to scroll through only a few before the screen goes blank and you must wait for it to buffer. So going to from A to S can take 20 to 30 seconds easy. So now you want to go from Sting to Alanis Morissette - guess what - it does the same thing, even though it should have already loaded these artists the first time. It appears to only remember so much. Now, once you've found the artist you're looking for, you go to the song list, it will do the same thing - take time to buffer. To make this system more annoying, while you're fumbling looking for the artist you want (buffer, buffer) to find the song you want (buffer, buffer), the player is constantly changing song you hear as you scroll through the different artists and different songs Ė it doesnít wait for me to select the song. Keep in mind, all this fumbling and frustration is going on while I've got my 3 kids in the car and I'm driving down the road - I'm putting a lot of faith in that 5-star safety rating.
As far as using flash drives or jump drives with the MP3 player - forget about it. I thought that this would be a great feature... I could keep a copy of my music on a jump drive always plugged in so I didn't have to connect my phone. Alas, I was disappointed again. It's far less functional than dealing with the iPhone. First it must be in the MP3 or WAVE format. It doesn't support the m4a (AAC) format that you usually get for iPhone/iTunes music - you have to transfer them into MP3. So you plug in your flash drive into the USB port, but the Sienna does not read playlists from the flash drive, and doesnít allow you sort them by artist or song. To navigate a flash drive you push the folder up/down button. It will show the name of the folder that the song is playing from (usually the album title - not the artist). And it will take way too long to load this info making it impossible to quickly find what you want (while driving a car). If you wish to use a flash drive, the only way to make this remotely functional is to go to your PC and pull each artist's music out of the album file folder and drop it in the artists file folder, then delete the album folders. Then maybe your flash drive wonít drive you too crazy. Doing this for all of my music wasn't an option.
The next two options are to connect your phone via Bluetooth connection or the auxiliary port cord connection (looks like headphone jacks on both ends). These offer no on-board stereo menu options except to choose the next song or previous song. This effectively turns the phone into your car stereo. Sadly, this is the method that I prefer, making me wonder why I had to pay for these other features Ė my Jaba Cruizer connected me via Bluetooth to my 2000 Mountaineer stereo wirelessly for 75 bucks. And my Jaba Cruizer was better in that I never lost my Bluetooth connection. I canít say the same for my Bluetooth connection with the Sienna, which is aggravating for music and for using the car phone capabilities. So now Iím back to picking up my iPhone to change my tunes, despite the capabilities that the 2012 Toyota Sienna claims offer. Music is such a daily and integral part of my driving experience, that these frustrations have me wishing that I would have continued my search for a new van.
Share your experience. Any input on the Honda or Nissan minivans?
#2 of 6 Re: Toyota 2011 and 2012 USB/MP3 Player Very Disappointing [daddywagon]
Oct 11, 2011 (9:44 am)
You may not be surprised, then, that Toyota is coming out with their own system similar to Ford's, called EnTune. I think it will have the types of features you're asking for.
I don't think Honda is there yet, nor have I heard of such a system from Nissan. They're probably designing them now.
Ironically Ford got a lot of heat for MyFord Touch, as some find it complicated to use.
#3 of 6 Re: Toyota 2011 and 2012 USB/MP3 Player Very Disappointing [daddywagon]
Oct 13, 2011 (8:32 pm)
I learned a long time ago, NEVER BUY the upgraded manufacturers car stereo's because the best ones they carry are as good as the worst ones you can buy at best buy for about an 8th the cost. Just be happy its not the ford one, or the GM one.. The GM one connects to the cars alarm system, which means if your radio breaks your car wont start.. The ford one i have in my mustang, which is really pretty cool, but its a little distracting when you drive.. I wanted to put a regular radio in it, but i was told that you cannot remove the stereo since it is connected to the cars central computer... I would not have gotten the one in my ford if i had to pay for it, but i got it free, since i told them i wouldn't take the car if i had to pay for the radio i didn't want.
#4 of 6 Re: Toyota 2011 and 2012 USB/MP3 Player Very Disappointing [daddywagon]
Oct 18, 2011 (9:57 am)
I agree that audio system is very disappointing, but if you connect your iPhone through the Bluetooth, it allows you to stream music from iPhone to speakers using iPhone interface and bypassing Toyota ones.
The steps are:
1. pair iphone with Toyota using audio option
2. press AUX on the radio (sometimes you have to press twice AUX if you have a USB drive pluged in)
3. select to play any song/playlist on iphone
That's it. You should hear the music playing through the speakers with pretty good quality.
#6 of 6 Re: Toyota 2011 and 2012 USB/MP3 Player Very Disappointing [daddywagon]
May 12, 2013 (12:59 pm)
I have the 2012 Tacoma SR5 with the same mid-upgrade system (no nav).
Most of the time, I download next-day NPR podcasts and listen to them in order, and that works fine.
But it's hit and miss with Amazon purchased MP3 music and PodioBooks (no-DRM involved). Some of them work and some of them don't. Sometimes, diddling with an MP3 tag or (in extreme cases) converting the MP3 to a different sample rate seems to fix the problem.
Anything rip'd from CD works just fine.
In my previous 9 year-old Toyota, I did buy a sub-$100 low-end radio (about 4 years in), with a USB and that worked great, though I did miss using my steering wheel controls.
Not sure why car companies can't just offer a damn radio from Crutchfield and call it a day.