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Solid state drives for audio applications

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Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Imran500 » Fri Mar 29, 2013 7:25 pm

While checking out a new audio PC there came up the option for solid state drives - are these better for audio applications in terms of faster access to large amounts of samples?
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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Bogmusic » Sat Mar 30, 2013 12:44 pm

I have two SSDs in my DAW, One for Operating system and software and the other for live projects.(I would get a third one if I used a lot of samples)
I use standard drives in external enclosures (USB3) to transfer work in progress onto at the end of each work session so the DAW is always clear for new jobs.

Pros:
Very fast boot-up - think switching hardware devices - ideal for dual-booters who switch mid workflow
No noise - That's NO noise
Low heat - less ambient heat = less strain on cpu cooler = lower fan speeds / noise generated
Small and light - easier to accommodate multiple drives

Cons:
Expensive - cost of larger drives is still prohibitive

I would say its a no-brainer for your OS and if noise is not a concern you can use cheap standard drives for storage (you can always upgrade these at a later date) I would suggest a second SSD as a scratch drive to keep the OS drive pure. This way you can regularly clean the scratch drive and your system is always ready to go when the moment grabs you.

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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Imran500 » Sun Mar 31, 2013 2:36 pm

Thanks for the reply - is there any inherent advantage for music applications over standard HDs though, the amount of noise generated is not a major factor for me or boot up times.
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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Martin Walker » Sun Mar 31, 2013 11:59 pm

Imran500 wrote:Thanks for the reply - is there any inherent advantage for music applications over standard HDs though, the amount of noise generated is not a major factor for me or boot up times.

Hi Imran500!

The sustained transfer rate of a solid state drive could easily be double that of a recent 7200rpm hard drive.

However, whether or not this would benefit music applications depends on how many audio tracks or simultaneous sample voices you want to run. Basically if a 7200rpm hard drive is fast enough to run your projects then buying a solid state drive won't give you direct benefits


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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Imran500 » Mon Apr 01, 2013 4:50 pm

Thanks for that Martin - what I plan to do really is run the following in the same song:

Superior Drummer 2
Battery 3
Sylenth 2
Alchemy
Omnisphere
Garritan Personal Orchestra or another Orchestral VST.

I intend to have probably 20-25 tracks going with guitars (probably POD HD500), bass, vocals, loads of VST plugins.

Looking at that lot I see a bigger RAM/ CPU hit or am I wrong there.
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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Bogmusic » Tue Apr 02, 2013 8:57 pm

Hi Imran

You could easily run what you have listed using standard drives without any noticeable impact on system load/speed but an SSD could speed up sample loading times if you often use Garritan for big sampled orchestras and that kind of thing.

I think you are correct to address the CPU and RAM first as it will have the most impact on what you are doing, especially if your 25 tracks are all using VST effects etc.

Hope this little helps.

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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Billum » Wed Apr 03, 2013 11:36 am

Yes, I'm thinking of adding an SSD simply to store my larger sample libraries on so that projects start up faster - a heavily loaded project can take 10 mins to load from spinning disks, so this would be a significant boost if loading from an SSD.

It used to be the case that SSDs weren't particularly reliable if repeatedly written to, but I think that nowadays that limitation has been overcome, so there should be no downside to using them wherever budget permits!
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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby johnny h » Wed Apr 03, 2013 12:20 pm

Billum wrote:Yes, I'm thinking of adding an SSD simply to store my larger sample libraries on so that projects start up faster - a heavily loaded project can take 10 mins to load from spinning disks, so this would be a significant boost if loading from an SSD.

It used to be the case that SSDs weren't particularly reliable if repeatedly written to, but I think that nowadays that limitation has been overcome, so there should be no downside to using them wherever budget permits!

SSDs are just great. I keep my sample libraries on them and the pain of loading projects and browsing massive sample banks / nebula presets is just gone forever. I would never go back.
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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Martin Walker » Wed Apr 03, 2013 8:09 pm

johnny h wrote:SSDs are just great. I keep my sample libraries on them and the pain of loading projects and browsing massive sample banks / nebula presets is just gone forever. I would never go back.

I'm fully in agreement, particularly if anyone is using Alchemy, since switching between presets becomes a breeze


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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Imran500 » Fri Apr 05, 2013 7:03 pm

Actually loading samples is a factor come to think of it, Alchemy, GPO and no doubt Omnisphere with it's 40GB of samples would all benefit. The relatively small size of these drives is an issue though, Omnisphere itself would take a significant chunk out of a 240GB drive.

Any recommendations for these drives, PC Specialist are offering an Intel 520 series, and would there be any point in getting one for the main audio drive which is going to be for vocals, bass guitars?
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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Agharta » Sat Apr 06, 2013 12:57 pm

A good value drive if used predominately to host sample libraries and not for recording is the Samsung 840.
Samsung have a cashback deal on so you can get the 250GB drive for as little as £110 and the 500GB for ~£220. See Dabs, Scan, Amazon etc.
Note that the 840 Pro is about 40% more expensive with similar read speeds but a better drive for writing.

The vanilla 840 uses TLC NAND which has one third of the endurance of the MLC NAND used in most consumer SSDs. Enterprise drives usually use SLC NAND which offers the best endurance but at a much higher price.
The 250GB 840 is rated for around 15GB of writes per day for 15 years so it’s still fine for DAW usage depending on your working methods.
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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Imran500 » Sun Apr 07, 2013 9:11 am

I think I shall have a 240 GB SSD in my new PC!!!!
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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Pete Kaine » Mon Apr 08, 2013 9:09 am

Agharta wrote:
Note that the 840 Pro is about 40% more expensive with similar read speeds but a better drive for writing.


Pretty much the fastest, most reliable mass market drive available currently, in this instance at least you get what you pay for.
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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Butters » Tue Apr 30, 2013 9:27 am

If I may add one other point regarding SSD as a preference;

My dedicated internal drive ( WD4000AAKS drive SATA - 400G) which I used for all my DAW projects, finally gave up and failed over the weekend. I cannot retrieve the data from it.

So after 4 years of running DAW projects continuously it gave up- it must have been lots of thrashing of data on the same disk area for all those 70+ audio tracks, playing back add infinitum. After a project completed I deleted all the disk data and started again with a new project.

I have three internal drives;
C drive,
this failed project drive and a
third dedicated library disk. ( also used as additional backups for my projects, copied over from this dedicated project drive)


So I am thinking of the next best solution/options to replace this dedicate DAW project drive.
So it looks like non movable devices like SSD is the way to go, given the usage they may get.
Also you should be able to transfer to my next new PC, if and when I get one.

I looked at the average size of my DAW projects, and these were about 4G.

So in theory any replacement SSD drive say 10G would be more than sufficient for such a dedicated
DAW project drive.( only using 16 bit audio files). Getting a larger SSD, I could double up as my C drive may also be an option, ( 40G in mine). But, this may require a full Windows XP rebuild for me, which I would rather not do.


Q- Are SSD's just a simple plug and play to replace my WD SATA drive?
Are there any BIOS changes required? Any particular SSD spec to look for?
As mentioned, I'm using Windows XP
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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Scramble » Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:36 am

>Q- Are SSD's just a simple plug and play to replace my WD SATA drive?

Pretty much.

>Are there any BIOS changes required?

Not usually, no.

>Any particular SSD spec to look for?

For use as an audio drive, get one that has fast write times, eg. around 500, with a similar read speed.

>my C drive may also be an option, ( 40G in mine). But, this may require a full Windows XP rebuild for me, which I would rather not do.

Some SSDs come with software which they claim will transfer your OS from your hard drive to the SSD, although I've never used this software. But ideally your system drive will be a physically separate drive from your audio drive.

>So it looks like non movable devices like SSD is the way to go, given the usage they may get.

Bear in mind that SSDs only have a finite lifespan when it comes to writing. They don't last forever, and should be replaced every few years just like hard drives.

>Also you should be able to transfer to my next new PC, if and when I get one.

That works the same as it does with a hard drive.
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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Agharta » Tue Apr 30, 2013 11:11 am

Butters wrote:Any particular SSD spec to look for? As mentioned, I'm using Windows XP
XP doesn’t support TRIM so you want to use a drive with decent garbage collection. Look at sites like Anandtech for info on this although they probably don’t mention it much these days with XP being so old.

If you clone a HDD to an SSD there can be issues with misalignment which will impact performance so make sure your cloning software can handle proper alignment.
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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Butters » Tue Apr 30, 2013 11:58 am

Thanks Agharta and Scramble.

Scramble- I didn't realise about the SSD shortcomings - no such thing as a perfect world:-

"Bear in mind that ssds only have a finite lifespan when it comes to writing. They don't last forever, and should be replaced every few years just like hard drives."

Would you know if XP gets any indication on the health of a SSD, before it just crashes?
I assume it may accumulate some type of error logging with it's writeable space getting less?
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Re: Solid state drives for audio applications

Postby Agharta » Wed May 01, 2013 5:27 pm

Butters wrote:Would you know if XP gets any indication on the health of a SSD, before it just crashes? I assume it may accumulate some type of error logging with it's writeable space getting less?
There are ways to measure the fitness of an SSD and it varies by manufacturer and SMART can also be used. Since you are using XP I’d recommend looking into this more than normal.

How much data will you be writing per day on average?
If you have a rough idea of this figure it will help to determine if it’s an issue or not.
Even a 250GB Samsung 840 which uses the least durable of NAND chips types that SSDs use (TLC) is rated for 10GB of writes per day for 23.4 years and that is a conservative figure.
A 120GB model of the same drive will be rated for half that amount.

Read this article on endurance:
http://www.anandtech.com/show/6459/samsung-ssd-840-testing-the-endurance-of-tlc-nand

With regard to trim I think there are utilities that can force a drive to clean up its act so to speak but as I’ve never used an SSD with XP I’ve never looked into it.

Also with SSDs you should keep a decent amount of the drive free so that garbage collection and performance isn’t unduly impacted. How much varies by drive but 15 to 25% is a ball park range.
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