As well as matching the looks of Digidesign's M Box, Glyph's new desktop FireWire hard drive incorporates some innovative features designed to increase reliability and reduce acoustic noise.
Glyph have a history of producing hard drives whose enclosures sport case design which matches equipment by other manufacturers. The X Project for the Digi 001 and the M Project for the MOTU 828 are notable examples, and are endorsed by the respective manufacturers. The Companion drive reviewed here is designed to partner Digidesign's M Box (reviewed in SOS June 2002 see www.soundonsound.com/sos/jun02/articles/digidesgnmbox.asp) but in terms of performance these two units are in different leagues, not least because the M Box is a USB device, with all the limitations that implies, and the Companion is FireWire. Both are 'low-end' in terms of their respective manufacturers' product ranges, but the Companion features several design enhancements not yet found on other Glyph drives.
The casing is constructed from a sandwich of two metals with a neoprene-like filling, which Glyph call QuietMetal. This is designed to reduce noise and dampen the vibration caused by the drive mechanism, which might interfere with its operation. This composite also conducts heat away from the mechanism, which has allowed Glyph to fit a thermostatically operated fan. When I tried it, this came on only after the drive had been switched on for three hours sporadically reading and writing data, and then only when it was halfway through a 10GB file transfer (ie. approximately three minutes of continuous data read/write). This feature should appeal to those potential users who might keep the Companion on the desktop, since without the fan on, the noise level of the drive mechanism is very low far less than that of the Lacie Studio Drive it was tested against, whose fan is 'always on'. However, not being able to predict when the fan will switch on might be annoying to those who are recording in the same room as the drive.
Glyph Companion £410/£469
Styled to match Digidesign's M Box.
Three-year warranty, with 24-hour replacement in first year.
Cooling fan cut-in is unpredictable.
Styled to match Digidesign's M Box.
No Windows formatting utilities supplied.
The Glyph Companion is a stylish, high-performance FireWire hard drive with state-of-the-art construction, an excellent warranty and a price to match.
The instruction booklet is short on text and long on humour, since this device is truly 'plug and play' if you have Mac OS 9 (with FireWire Enabler 2.8.1 or later) or Mac OS X. The software disc contains the relevant extensions if you don't have them installed, although it would be advisable to check Apple's web site for the very latest versions. Also included is Glyph's Audio Storage Toolkit (a bespoke version of FWB's well-respected Hard Disk Toolkit) which is a set of utilities for maintaining and using the Companion. One part of this suite of utilities whose actions cannot be replicated by features which exist in Mac OS is the Mounter, which enables you to remount a drive which has been un-mounted, without physically removing then replacing the FireWire cable (both un-mounting and formatting can be achieved by Mac OS, if required).
I tested the Companion using the same techniques described in my article Firewire Drives For Music Part 2 in SOS April 2002 (www.sospubs. co.uk/sos/apr02/articles/firewire2.asp). Results were as the table above.
In both 'large' file tests, the Lacie outperforms the Glyph by a hair. The Glyph, however, trounces the competition when playing back short files. This confirms its better seek time; actual measured transfer rate is marginally worse on the Lacie, which runs counter to the real-world tests using continuous audio files. How a drive performs in practice is not necessarily something that can be predicted from benchmark testing. The same phenomenon was noted when the Lacie was tested against the Glyph M Project (see the above-mentioned article and also FireWire Drives For Music: 24-bit/96kHz Operation in SOS August 2002 and at www.soundonsound.com/sos/aug02/articles/firewire.asp), suggesting the use of a similar drive mechanism and bridge circuitry.
Perceptual performance benefits due to new technology are hard to gauge, and it's more likely that these will prove to be long-term gains in durability and reliability. The Glyph is highly priced for a hard drive but there are, as always, many ways to crack a nut. If a quiet, high-performance storage solution at desk level with a superb warranty is your requirement, then this is the drive for you.
Supported Operating Systems
Mac OS 9.x (FireWire Enabler 2.8.1 or later required).
Mac OS X (10.2 recommended).
Windows 98SE or later.
Average seek time (ms)
read rate (MB/s)
write rate (MB/s)
Lacie Studio Drive
Powerbook internal drive
Apple Powerbook G4 800MHz with 133MHz system buss and 512MB RAM, running Mac OS 9.2.2.
Tested with: Emagic Logic Audio Platinum 5.3.0, Atto Express Tools 2.6.