Best hard drive solution for mobile audio recording
July 12, 2013 9:59 PM   Subscribe

Trying to decide what to get, here. I've got an interal 750gb 5400 rm drive in the MBP that very occasionally throws up the dreaded "drive too slow" dialog in Logic at only 6 or 8 tracks of 24 bit 44.1 kHz.

Obviously, sub-optimal trying to write audio files to the same drive as the os & apps.

Here's what I'm thinking: esata pc express/34 card to an external drive, and one of 2 choices either a dual enclosure 3.5" with 7200 rpm WD caviar blacks set to raid 1 for insta-redundancy in case of drive failure. Or a 2.5" enclosure with an SSD drive.

Thoughts? I know raid 0 would be faster with the dual-bay enclosure but I want to minimize the possibility of data loss. I figure a new SSD drive is not going to be as likely to fail as a spinning hd so I'm not as concerned about redundancy there. Mistake? What are failure rates like with those things compared to spinning platters?

I'm looking for the most bomb-proof solution both for not over-saturating the drive, and data loss due to hardware failure.

Who makes the most trustworthy enclosures? I'm getting disenchanted with the OWC mercury elete pro stuff, as I've had 2 hardware failures in as many years with them, one mid-session. I also had a "drive too slow' error with one of those on the FW 800 bus. So I'm leery there, though that may have been the drive that crashed a few weeks later. Is esata a waste if FW 800 can handle it, or does it share the bus with the FW 400 on a 2007 MBP? I don't want to over saturate the FW bus with data in & out, if that's a prob.

Opine. I have a show August 27th that I need this up and running for. Audio in is via FW 400. 8 tracks. Money is somewhat of an option, but losing this gig is not.
posted by Devils Rancher to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You have an MBP. Do you really need your internal optical drive? You could add an internal dedicated 7200RPM 2.5" recording drive? Someone makes an internal bay adapter. OWC maybe, but it should be fine.

Failure rates on SSD are typically lower than spinning drives, in my limited experience, but when they fail they tend to fail hard and fast--not like spinning drives where you can try and band-aid the filesystem to pull a questionable backup while ignoring the drumbeat of i/o errors. And random i/o can reportedly wear them out faster, vs. read frequently and write occasionally. Despite wear leveling in the firmware. My understanding is that the somewhat more expensive SLC drives handle that better.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:07 PM on July 12, 2013

But of course in an SSD there's no drive head to crash, platters to shake, etc, if your concern is the kind of jostling that goes on around the sound booth/table at some live events.

And re: the above, note that an external DVDRW is dirt cheap if having one in your kit would make you feel better about pulling the internal drive. The Amazon Basics one works fine on my old blackbook and my new (non retina) MBP.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:13 PM on July 12, 2013

Best answer: You should also take a look at the third page of this article, if you haven't read it already. Apparently write performance is not great through the card slot. Another reason to try and attach your recording drive directly to the internal bus if possible.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:56 PM on July 12, 2013

Response by poster: That is kinda sad, but the whole quote there gives me hope:

Write performance has always been impaired with eSATA through the ExpressCard/34 slot, and runs here at less than half the potential speed (260MB/sec) of the OWC Mercury Extreme SSD. Still, it’s much faster than Firewire 800.

It's a 2007 MBP which has an ATA/IDE connection for the DVD drive, or I would have gone with the internal route. A newer computer is still a bit out of my range, unfortunately.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:15 AM on July 13, 2013

Audio software really discourages 5400 drives. 7200, 10,000, or SSD will definitely work better for you. I'm not sure if there's a significant difference between the SSD or 7200. I've never run into a drive speed error using either, but my old laptop with 5400 drive would give me fits, too.
posted by lownote at 7:26 AM on July 13, 2013

Note that the IDE/ATA interface is probably ATA-133, or 133 MB/s. That's roughly the same write speed, allowing for some overhead, as the OWC slim with an external SSD, according to the linked article above. You can still get a 2.5" 7200rpm drive in IDE/ATA, although they're getting scarce and may carry a silly markup.

Of course, the external drive makes sense if you want to be able to swap recording drives, or archive them (as we're all mostly just backing up drive to drive these days anyway).
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:36 AM on July 13, 2013

Response by poster: Yeah, but they don't make the ATA/IDE internal bracket any more. They're all SATA for 2008 & up MBP's.

I don't need huge amts. of storage, since I'm transferring to a desktop as soon as I get home, so looks like cost-effectiveness will be to go with the smallest 60 gb SSD & a pc express/34 card. I can do all that for about $250.00.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:48 AM on July 13, 2013

Right on. Everything I've read says make sure it's an SLC drive if you're going to use it that way. That's a lot of writing, and overwriting, vs. reading.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:53 AM on July 13, 2013

Response by poster: Hmmm... SLC = single level cell vs MLC or multi-level cell. I did not know the difference, so that's valuable intel.

Any idea if OWC's drives are SLC? I like to use them as a vendor because their customer support has ben superb over the years.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:01 AM on July 13, 2013

Not sure. Just call them and ask? I've never known them to hide the ball.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:04 AM on July 13, 2013

Also, upon reflection, depending on the price delta it might be better to just periodically, preemptively replace a MLC drive.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:08 AM on July 13, 2013

Response by poster: They're all listed as MLC in the specs, after digging around. This 60 gb 3G looks like what I can afford. If there's an equivalent SLC drive at an equivalent price out there, I'd love to know. Will keep digging.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:11 AM on July 13, 2013

SLC drives are becoming increasingly rare. As long as your drive (and OS) support TRIM, it should be okay to use MLC (it'll still last for way longer than a 'spinny' hdd) - there used to be some trick you had to pull to get third-party SSDs to use TRIM in OSX - not sure if that's still the case. I'd just make sure you don't get a TLC drive (like MLC but even worse).
posted by destructive cactus at 1:03 PM on July 13, 2013

Response by poster: As an update, I've been having this conversation elsewhere with another friend who does live recording, and he thinks it's vibration that's causing the "disk too slow" errors. A bouncing stage, a loud drum set or a loud bass amp could be literally setting off the SMS & parking the drive head. So I need a padded platform or something to keep the MacBook on, and of course an SSD would obviate this problem. Will probably try FireWire 800 to an external SSD before I spend the extra $100.00 on an eSATA express/34 card.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:44 AM on July 16, 2013

Response by poster: Final resolution: got a heavy-duty portable computer stand, an inch - thick piece of foam rubber from an apholstery shop cut to fit the tray, and I disabled the sudden motion sensor using the terminal command "sudo pmset -a sms 0" and it's worked like a champ writing to the internal drive the last couple shows.

Previous failures were an actually-failing external drive in one instance and too much vibration due to loud bass frequencies (sitting on a Formica-topped coffe table right next to my bass amp) in another.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:19 PM on December 15, 2013


(Make sure you have a good, regular backup, given that you've disabled the sudden motion sensor.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:10 PM on December 21, 2013

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