The Tesla Model S offers 2 USB ports under the center armrest, both capable of playing music directly from a USB drive.
The USB music interface on the Model S is well is designed. You can swipe between levels of organization (i.e. Genre->Country->Artist), album art is automatically downloaded, and the buttons and controls are presented in an intuitive and clean manner. A high speed scroll function gives you the ability to scroll through long lists very quickly.
Both ports work for playing music directly from a USB thumb drive but it’s important to note that the port closest to the driver provides twice the current than the port closer to the passenger (2.1A for the driver’s side and 1A for the passenger side). Use the port towards the passenger side for USB music and leave the port closest to the driver for charging USB devices.
Also see: The Sound in the Tesla Model S
The sound system will index the music from your USB device (I use a SanDisk Cruzer Fit 64GB) and categorize them into the following buckets:
- Songs (all songs, alphabetically)
- By Folder (folder on the USB drive)
The categorization makes searching for music much quicker especially since the interface does not provide a search function. The ability to favorite a set of songs for quick access also exists.
Tesla supports a broad range of music formats from the more common MP3, MP4 and AAC (without DRM), as well as formats such as FLAC, AIFF, WAV, WMA and lossless WMA. The sound system will attempt to play these formats and download its album art whenever possible.
There are a lot of really nice touches on the Tesla Model S sound system interface and in many ways it is nicer looking than other USB interface I’ve seen in a car.
Ok, so I’m a Tesla owner, not a fan-boy nor an employee so I’m going to start with a bold statement and then explain my position.
Tesla’s USB music interface is useless.
Doing the Shuffle
Let’s start with the big one: You can’t shuffle. Thats it, no shuffling, no random play order of songs, albums, folders, anything. Apple believes so much in shuffling that they made a product that only did that. Without a shuffle, the USB music feature is quite useless in the real world.
Songs are arranged alphabetically which can be annoying depending on how you loaded your music. Playing music from the Album view will also play each song in alphabetical order.
Folder Foul Up
The folder function was clearly an afterthought in my opinion. Album art appears for each song but when you find that same song through the folder view, no album art appears.
Take my “Cowboy Casanova” song for example:
The fast scroll option also doesn’t exist in this folder view.
And the rest
What’s odd is that the name is based on the order in which you insert the 2 devices and not on the location of the USB port. Essentially “USB1” can represent the driver’s side USB port if you happen to plug the device into that slot first. However it can also be presented with the same name if you plug it into the passengers’s side USB port first.
That’s just silly.
I have favorite artists, albums, playlists (folders), genres etc. Why can’t I favorite anything but a song? I want to go back and (randomly!) play my favorite playlist over and over, not just a song.
USB devices are designed to be inserted and removed whenever you want. Start playing USB music on the Model S and then remove the USB stick. It will attempt to play the songs next in line and fail without being able to detect that the USB device has already been removed.
The Model S USB music interface was designed by good engineers that probably don’t use the product much. It is great looking interface but unfortunately has design flaws which makes playing music through a USB device not very enjoyable. I personally recommend skipping the use of the Model S USB ports for music unless Tesla starts getting more serious about it.