What do you plug into your BMW's USB to provide tunes?

I’ve plugged Apple iPods into our various cars over the last 10+ years, generally with good results. We generally just set them to shuffle and let them play random songs.
However, the one we have in our BMW X1 seems to lose connection fairly regularly. As far as I can tell, it’s not the iPod, it’s the car.
So, what do you connect to your BMW to play music files? What alternative solutions should we consider?

I plug 2 western digital hard drives into the two usb ports in my 5 series. Voice control works to find albums or artists. Ripped as flat files.

On my BMW I use iPod or another brand ‘Pod’ but most regularly a USB
I don’t have problems so don’t have much in the way of experience to help you with.

So the USB drives simply have files on them? In a typical Artist / Album folder structure? FLAC work okay?
(One of the benefits of the iPod is getting iTunes to fill the pod with a random selection from the full library which is way to big to sensibly go onto the pod.)

I just use a 512GB micro SD card with my music files on it. It’s plugged into a USB adapter that plugs into the armrest cubby hole USB port in my BMW. ALAC files in my case, in standard iTunes folder structure.

All my music in 128 mp3 on a usb stick. Works without any problems. Usually random play but can select individual albums.

I either play music from an SD card plugged into my smart car or play new purchases via the Bandcamp app over Bluetooth.

My BMW is now 10 years old. When it was new I put a memory stick full of music from my Unitiserve in it, and I still do that now. Unusually it supports WAV, not FLAC, although I’m guessing that’s probably changed now.
I was never tempted to use anything more sophisticated than this. It allows me to select and control music using the buttons on the steering wheel, with a basic folder view on the car’s screen. On a quiet road I think this is safe to use, where anything more sophisticated could be a distraction.

Over in VAG Land, I have plugged in just a USB stick, loaded with music (as mp3’s or similar). Three VW cars have recognise this and just play the music (alphabetically - but you can select as you wish) - and the 3rd of these still does.

(this is probably the only genuinely useful piece of info I ever got from a Car Salesman…)

How simple is that… :grin:

I have a 2019 BMW 3 and an Astell & Kern SR25. There is a USB-C socket in the central arm rest of the BMW and if I connect the A&K there, it appears twice in the Media menu on the screen. Only one of those SR25 manifestations on the screen works - if I select the correct one it is possible to scroll through the A&K menu and select and play music. There is a second USB socket at the front of the BMW below the dashboard and in front of the gear lever - this does not connect to the Media menu.

I’ve got a 2020 X2 and despite it claiming to support iPod Classic it never worked properly so now I have a 128GB SanDisk flash drive loaded with MP3 files plugged in to the USB port under the centre console armrest. Files are in an artist/album structure but there’s a fairly basic UPnP server that I can use to browse and search.

SD card slot in our 4 yr old i3.

Rubbish quality though, and that is with the audio ‘upgrade’.


I’ve got the HK upgrade on my 320, have tried an iPod with Wav but frankly too much arsing about. R3 on FM sounds pretty good though. Do the latest models have FM?


Lindsay (self confessed luddite)

Yes FM, along with DAB and online music services. The BMW HK system sounds pretty decent.

1 Like

Thread diversion but a guy local to me (parked next to him in the car park so got talking) has a shark nose 635CSi with a Nak tape head, now that does sound good. Music recorded from his LP12 to his Nak tape deck.

1 Like

I have a Samsung SSD with FLAC rips of everything. Seems to do the trick.

Thanks, everyone, for your responses. It definitely sounds like some sort of memory stick / drive with either my ALAC or FLAC files will do the trick. I’ll sort out a suitable drive.

Not. BMW, but I plug my i phone in via a Dragonfly Cobalt and Apple camera adapter. Can then play Tidal tracks I have downloaded.
Works brilliantly in Porsche, Range Rover Sport and Saab convertible

1 Like

I’ve had some success so far in my trials.
It doesn’t like the m4a files copied directly from iTunes, but it’s okay with my FLAC files.
It doesn’t like my 2TB Samsung drive - doesn’t recognise it - too big possibly. It did accept an 8GB pen drive. I’ve got a 1TB Toshiba to try.
The manual says the maximum capacity per USB device is 16k files so I’ll have work out how to make the selection. One of good things about the iPod was the ability of iTunes to randomly fill the device. I don’t think that works with any usb device unfortunately.

Sorry don’t have a BMW, and looks as though you already have a few things to try.

If form factor is at all relevant, I bought a couple of these last year to use with my Nova:

All that sticks out of a USB socket is the greyish shiny plastic below the SanDisk lettering.
I reckon you’d easily get 1000-2000 CD quality worth of audio on one with one of the lossless FLAC variants.

Not sure the discounts are that genuine as I got 2 at £47.99 last December.

Might be worth checking the BMW driver manuals to see if the disk format has any relevance - would not be surprised if the 8GB pen drive is formatted FAT32, the 2TB Samsung probably isn’t (most likely NTFS or exFAT unless you’re4 using a Mac).

1 Like