Format Error in MP3 players

I’m really losing my mind here.
I have a collection of mp3 files. Some are off youtube, some are created by audacity software.
They all play fine on my laptop, and in my Honda Accord 2011 (it has a built-in mp3 player).
In June I bought a cheap no brand mp3 player off ebay. It would play all my files but had a wicked short battery life - under an hour.
So I bought 8GB MP3 MP4 Player With 1.8" LCD Screen but it would not play my files saying “FORMAT ERROR”.
So I bought Goldenseller 16GB MP3 / MP4 Player but got the same “FORMAT ERROR”.
So I bought G.G.Martinsen Green MP3/MP4 16 GB player, “FORMAT ERROR” again.
So I bought Lecmal Portable MP3/MP4 Player Music Player, “FORMAT ERROR” yet again.
Then I played with different mp3 encoding parameters in audacity, the different file formats but the player would not budge, “format error” on and on and on…
Please help.

You missed the step where you play an MP3 not made by Audacity. Does that work?


no, none of my files play.
However, there are preset files already on the players, some are mp3. They do play.

Could it be you’re using the same SD card with all those players?

In that case, it could be the formatting of the SD card and not the MP3 format…

well, the last four players I bought have cards in them. I have no problem moving my files onto those cards. If I double click on the file name after it’s moved my laptop would play it off the card without a problem.

Here are couple of tools that can diagnose and repair some MP3s.
[u]MP3 Diags[/u]

And [u]MediaInfo[/u] can give you information about the file format.

well, if you were to guess most common mp3 parameters used by most common mp3 players what should they be? I mean as set by Audacity when exporting the data.

Get the version without installer, because the installer may have malware or adware.


It sounds like the encoding is not the problem, but try 128 kbps, constant bit rate, 44100 Hz (chosen in project rate bottom left of Audacity). Try without adding any metadata to the file.


You can also get the preset files that do play on to the computer and analyze those in MediaInfo. That will tell you the characteristics of an MP3 file that is playable.

Can any of these MP3 players be plugged into the mains? Try that.


Thank you for the warning, Gale!
I’ve noticed that songs that came with the latest player are encoded with Fraunhofer. Maybe this is the trick. Where can I get this encoder? Is it available on audacity?

LAME is commonly used as an MP3 encoder. It is not reasonable that an MP3 player would not support LAME-encoded MP3’s. I suggest you might post the MediaInfo output for one of the MP3 files that do play so we can look at it.

You cannot download the Fraunhofer MP3 encoder anywhere. It is a commercial encoder made available in applications that are prepared to pay to use it. Fraunhofer is used to encode MP3 in Windows Media Player or iTunes. So you could export as WAV from Audacity then convert to MP3 in Media Player or iTunes.


So it’s all about money, I knew it!!!
Apple paid money to all major mp3 player makers to disable all mp3 formats except for Fraunhofer which is impossible to get for open end users like myself. I hate that company and I was hoping to avoid itunes at all costs.
Thanks, Gale. It’s clear now.

So it’s all about money, I knew it!!!
Apple paid money to all major mp3 player makers to disable all mp3 formats except for Fraunhofer which is impossible to get for open end users like myself.

:smiley: :smiley: :smiley: No. LAME is considered one of the best MP3 encoders, and although MP3 is patented* the standards are published. I’d guess that more than 90% of the MP3s in the world are made with LAME.

Apple (and Microsoft and other software & hardware manufacturers) pay Fraunhofer and if your MP3 players are “legal” the manufacturers are paying Fraunhofer too.

There are open source formats such as OGG Vorbis or FLAC but they are not as widely supported as AAC, MP3 or WAV.


  • If you distribute an MP3 decoder encoder (including LAME) you are supposed to pay a royalty to Fraunhofer. That’s why the Audacity developers don’t include it and you have to get it somewhere else. And, that’s why if you go to the official LAME website you can download the the source code (for learning purposes) but you can’t download a compiled & working encoder.

I would still be surprised if all those MP3 players were refusing to play the files because they were not encoded by Fraunhofer.


So it’s all about money, I knew it!!!

iTunes with its licensed Fraunhofer encoder is a free install on Windows and it comes with Macs.

Much more likely you are doing something odd wrong that isn’t apparent because we can’t see what you’re doing. Billions of people on earth use both Fraunhofer and Lame (me, for example) and it’s completely transparent.


I hope you guys are right.
If itunes is free to install and to encode my music files I’ll give it a go.
Gale, I tried settings you recommended and it still says “wrong format”.
My brother is also skeptical about LAME being bad and Fraunhofer being good. So he sent me a couple of mp3 files encoded with LAME and same result, the freaking player won’t play them.
Thank you for all your comments and suggestions. I gotta get it to work.

Right now helper elves across 9 time zones are giving each other puzzled looks wondering what could possibly cause an MP3 player to refuse to play MP3 files—and with an odd error message.

As above the thread, “Format Error” could almost be anything. It’s a good fuzzy error to display when the system has zippo idea what’s really wrong. You don’t need to install iTunes. If the other files don’t play, either, that’s not it.

But yes, having multiple players all do the same thing means there’s a big, brightly colored sign over your head that says “I’m Doing Something Wrong.”

Goldenseller 16GB MP3 / MP4 Player
G.G.Martinsen Green MP3/MP4 16 GB player
Lecmal Portable MP3/MP4 Player Music Player

Did any of these cost over $20? There’s a review of the G.G.Martinsen Green unit and it features words like: Cheap Chinese junk, August 10, 2016. Would not recommend…


I’m guessing all of these Chinese players use the same engine. And since none of these manufacturers check their products, but rely on the OEM chip maker to do the testing, it could go unnoticed for a long time.

If we follow that line, either the OP is very good at selecting the wrong hardware, and/or there’s some very obscure Windows bug at work here.

I’ve tried finding out what engine is in there, but it’s easier to find a needle in a haystack…

Just a few things that look like a needle:

And there is even a site dedicated to what seems to be the problem:

Your 4 GB SD card could be a disguised 2 GB card…

That gives me another idea… Maybe it’s the file name format???

Try renaming one of those “bad” files to something simple like Song1.MP3. (Start by trying the old [u]DOS 8.3 format[/u] with only letters & numbers and no spaces, etc.)