Creative Zen and Winamp Playlists

My shiney new Creative Zen arrived today, after the 4 hour initial power charging session I started trying to transfer tracks to the player. All the mp3 files copied as expected but my m3u Winamp playlist files were ignored with the device stating it was an unsupported file type. That sucks since I have hundreds of m3u playlists. I found that the sync tool does the playlist convertion but it means I have to copy the music to my system (from my server) into the sync directory and then manually initiate a sync. It’s not too bad but it does double the file copying time and add a small bit of complexity to the process. On the bright side it does mean all my playlist files are still useful ?


Several gripes with the Creative Sync and ZEN Media Explorer applications.

  • If it bums out on a playlist then it stops processing any playlists after that point but continues copying tracks. This means you then have to manually browse the Zens HDD and delete the copied tracks.
  • It seems to bum out if the playlist points to the wrong location for a track. Should mean simply correcting the playlist and restarting the sync, which leads to the next gripe!
  • If you delete a directory out of your sync directory it does not get deleted off the Zen. You have to browse through the Zens HDD and manually delete the directory, same goes for the playlist
  • There is no sync directory for the Zens playlists.
  • Doesn’t warn you if you start copying more data than the device can hold. It just fills it up until it can’t fit anymore and then prompts you that the device is full.
  • Can’t select network drives when choosing directories to import via Media Explorers “Add Media” option. The “Manage Playlists” option in Media Explorer only lets you create playlists for tracks already on the ZEN. You can’t make playlists for tracks on your hard drive such as in your actual music sync directory.
  • Syncronising contact information only works with Outlook, from the drop down it states “Windows Contacts”. Doesn’t seem to work with Windows Live Mail contacts which is what I use.

Edit #2:

Doesn’t say much when I suffer from the “Dreaded White Screen Of Death” the second time I ever use the player out on the street. For the uninitiated; the white screen of death has plagued several models of Creative MP3 player. It basically means that the screen turns white when you turn the unit on. You can’t see anything except white and turning it on and off doesn’t help. Luckily I was leaving a clients when it happened so I quickly googled it and found an instant fix via google. All you have to do is hold down the “Play” button, then pull the power button downwards so it covers the blue light. Keep it held there for 10 seconds or so, whilst still keeping play held down. Then release both and it should be back to a normal screen. If not turn it off and try the previous procedure from the off state and then turn it on. It worked for me and I haven’t had it again yet.

Another annoyance is that the player resumes playing the last song/album when you turn it on, that’s great, but, there’s always a but with this device, but when you do press the “Back” button it takes you to the top level and highlighted the radio or mic menu item, not the music one even though that was moved to the top of the list earlier. Petty annoyance but you have to keep scrolling back up to music and then the playlist selection. It should take you back to the playlist selection screen or whatever Music subscreen you where on when you turned it off, well not on it but it should correctly remember the back history between uses.

Edit #3:

The Zen takes a SD memory card, I haven’t actually found anywhere which states the maximum card capacity it can read. I’m looking at some 16GB cards at the moment and thought I’d test out the Zen with one of my current SD cards to see how it works. I used a small 256MB card with two albums copied onto it. I had to use one of my card readers to get the files onto the memory card as it doesn’t seem to be accessable via either Windows Explorer or the Zen Explorer. On the Zen under the “Memory Card” menu there is an option titled “Removable Disk” this indicates that you should plug your Zen in to your computer via USB and you will then be able to access the memory card. Didn’t work for me. Zen Explorer said it was loading an alternative interface because of the memory card, then it loaded the same interface as before with no way of accessing the directory structure. Total fail there Creative.

Sooooo once I’d manually copied my two test albums to the stick and inserted it into the Zen it was time to explore. Neither of the Winamp playlists show up in the “Playlists” screen and neither of the new albums showed up in any of the lists. Seems the only way to play music off the memory card is to go to “Memory Card”->”Browse” then pick an album directory and then tap play on the first track. As long as the tracks are suitably named it will play them in filename based alphabetical order.

That’s not too bad, it’s pretty much exactly how I had to use my old Samsung MP3 player. If the 16GB card works then I’ll put all my favorite albums on that and then put the “every once in a while” ones on the Zens built in memory.

All in all it seems that Creative tried to be too fancy with the Zen. It would be alot better if they did away with the propriatary playlist format and got rid of the Zen Explorer. It should just let you browse the player like a removable disk, copying and pasting albums simply as directories. The additional memory card could then be seen as a secondary drive. Seems alot simpler than what they “attempted” to implement.

Edit #4:

Bought a 16Gb Kingston SD4/16GB SDHC Memory card which works.

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  • Chris

    Thanks for the useful info David!

    > This leads to yet another gripe. You can’t make playlists on
    > the actual device.

    You can. In Now Playing, click Menu, Save as playlist…

  • Nadine

    You forgot about the inability to charge it using anything other than a USB connetion on a PC or one of the Creative brand mains chargers.

  • Anonymous

    I just wrote an email to you but then thought I might as well update the post instead. See the bit at the bottom titled “Final Edit: The End Of The Zen”. I guess the title kinda gives it away 🙂

  • gil

    Nadine, I use a Centrios USB power adapter from The Source (Radio Shack) and it works fine with my Zen 4GB. The $19 package contained two USB chargers, one designed for 12v automobile use and the other for line voltage either 120v or 240v.

You can’t rule Mandalorians. You just make sensible suggestions they want to follow.

— Boba Fett, Sacrifice