ID3 tags

December 26th, 2008

For Christmas, I got Terah a Sandisk Sansa m240 MP3 player off Woot. A very basic and small device, but just what she needs.

There’s a catch. It appears to only recognize ID3 tags in v1 format. (Some online sources claims it also recognizes v2.3, but not v2.4, but my testing shows it doesn’t.)

It turns out that very few, if any, modern media management tools support ID3v1. I tried Rhythmbox, Listen, Banshee, Amarok, and several others. Not one of them even had an option for ID3 version. A couple had an option for what to use when encoding from CD — if I knew the magic undocumented gstreamer incantation. But they promptly deleted the ID3v1 tag whenever the information for the track was modified.

I eventually wound up writing a script for Terah to run that calls eyeD3 to convert the tags to v1. But with all the devices out there that grok v1 only, I am really rather shocked at the lack of software support for it these days.

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  1. Omari

    Actually I have grown increasingly frustrated with what you call “modern” media players. They are often pretty but cumbersome, making easy things difficult and hard things impossible. Amarok 1.4 couldn’t even do podcasts correctly.

    I downgraded the whole suite of programs to primitive things. Audacious to play them on the computer, gnuPod to put them on the iPod, and (ahem) hpodder to download them, which works every single time. zsh or Konqueror works fine to browse through them. I find these tools are actually quicker to use than the all-in-one solutions.

    All this is kind of off-topic, but I’d say I’m not surprised that the “modern” apps have inflexible tag handling. These all in one jukeboxes often get the little things wrong in my opinion.


  2. Alex R.

    Sounds like Kid3 to the rescue!

    I recently had to go through a directory and adjust tags, and wanted a direct tag editor, rather than try to monkey with Amarok to get it done. Kid3 really saved me, and it does have full support for editing the ID3v1 tag, copying it from the ID3v2 tag, etc etc. Really really nice tag editor :)


  3. Thomas

    I was lucky enough to get a device (e2xx) supported by rockbox for my wife. The original firmware had enough quirks to make her prefer the replacement. Unfortunately, the m2xx seems not supported yet, but I’d recommend you keep an eye on it.


  4. David

    I took the rather extreme solution of loading my wife’s sansa up with
    rockbox. It recognizes v2 tags, and is generally less buggy. No
    complaints from my wife about rockbox. As far as I remember it is
    easy to uninstall, so you might try it out.


  5. Jason D. Clinton

    Check out Picard. Does both at the same time.


  6. Jonas Häggqvist

    David: Rockbox does not work on the Sansa m200 series as Thomas says, but some work has been done to port Rockbox to it. If you are interested in getting your hands dirty, a good starting point is

    Jonas Häggqvist – Rockbox committer


  7. Russell Mayes

    My car only supports IDEv1 and I found that EasyTAG has the option to switch between v1 and v2 tags.


  8. John Goerzen

    Thanks for all the good suggestions. There are indeed many ID3 tagging programs out there — but the trouble is that they all represent an additional step above simply copying things to the device.

    The m240 doesn’t support Rockbox, alas.


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