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considering external drives - Page 2

post #16 of 23

A few points from my pc days and some from my audio days reworded:

 

1. External hard drives not in the full size 3.5inch form factor with external power will require power from your computer, power drain + spinning motor = lovely oscillating power requirements. The cpu and ram can do this all day because they have much more advanced voltage controllers.

 

2. Poor power supplies in computers can cause "noise" through the motherboard just by moving the mouse and having the data travelling parallel to the usb ports data lanes. We have all experienced this before with older computers i am sure. All of this data goes through PCIE lanes these days which offer MASSIVE performance but are used to having bits double checked at the same massive speeds, something most usb controllers couldn't do if they wanted to.

 

3. Windows was never meant as a listening station, even wasapi has its flaws as we all know.

 

4. Using a Linux music server can negate any negative io/noise/ kernel issues (alsa + kernel + player). All distributions offer real time kernels, and with a few tweaks you can set selective real time priority for alsa only (the audio driver/layer).

 

5. Never expect a laptop to provide clean power to a dac regardless of other devices attached. It's one of the bad things that hasn't changed (yet).

 

6. PC's are only JUST getting specialised USB ports for DAC's. Call it what you will, but testing has shown they are cleaner regardless of load and even offer higher output in general in case your DAC is a little greedy.

 

In the end though, technology has attacked all of these to the point that with a little research you can avoid most if not all of them. That of course requires money though :(

post #17 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PleasantSounds View Post
 

 

Audio by its nature is a real time domain, while Windows with its hourglass has not been designed to support real time applications. Most of the time they work OK because there's enough system bandwidth, but things start falling apart as soon as any of the resources is close to saturation point. The problem is that the real time apps require higher priority not only for the CPU usage but also I/O traffic, and that to my knowledge does not happen.

 

What this means in practical terms is that chances are everything will work OK but there's no guarantees. The best bet is to balance the I/O load to reduce the possible congestion in the critical channels. In most cases having both USB DAC and external HD is not an issue, especially if you can attach them to separate controllers. And so you should, as the HD will work best with the USB3, while most DACs support only USB2.

 

I am using similar setup and it works flawlessly. What you may also explore is the possibility of connecting the external HD not to your laptop but to your wifi router. Many of them support that and it makes the use of laptop a bit more portable (within the router range), while shifting part of the data traffic to a different channel.

 

Memory play is a double edged sword: on one hand it will reduce the concurrent traffic, on the other if your files are large (i.e. high sampling rate FLACs), there may be some gaps while loading files to memory. Experiment and choose the most suitable setting.

Great post, thanks for your detailed knowledge and perspective. My laptop is 4 years old, so I doubt it has USB3. 

 

The external drive I'm using is one the small ones that draws its power from the USB port. 

post #18 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by yay101 View Post
 

A few points from my pc days and some from my audio days reworded:

 

1. External hard drives not in the full size 3.5inch form factor with external power will require power from your computer, power drain + spinning motor = lovely oscillating power requirements. The cpu and ram can do this all day because they have much more advanced voltage controllers.

 

2. Poor power supplies in computers can cause "noise" through the motherboard just by moving the mouse and having the data travelling parallel to the usb ports data lanes. We have all experienced this before with older computers i am sure. All of this data goes through PCIE lanes these days which offer MASSIVE performance but are used to having bits double checked at the same massive speeds, something most usb controllers couldn't do if they wanted to.

 

3. Windows was never meant as a listening station, even wasapi has its flaws as we all know.

 

4. Using a Linux music server can negate any negative io/noise/ kernel issues (alsa + kernel + player). All distributions offer real time kernels, and with a few tweaks you can set selective real time priority for alsa only (the audio driver/layer).

 

5. Never expect a laptop to provide clean power to a dac regardless of other devices attached. It's one of the bad things that hasn't changed (yet).

 

6. PC's are only JUST getting specialised USB ports for DAC's. Call it what you will, but testing has shown they are cleaner regardless of load and even offer higher output in general in case your DAC is a little greedy.

 

In the end though, technology has attacked all of these to the point that with a little research you can avoid most if not all of them. That of course requires money though :(

 

I should look into using Linux then! I do have Ubuntu installed on my laptop... how tricky is this optimization? Are there guides to it? Is there software that does it?

 

I'm getting an iFi Nano which has a battery supply for critical listening. I'm not sure how good a DAC it is as it's inexpensive, but it's interesting to have the battery supply. 

 

John

post #19 of 23

Hey John,

 

External drives are great indeed, especially with Windows.  I also have ubuntu on a couple of machines as well.  I have three dacs and four amps (three tube and one SS) connected to this listening station.  All music comes from a NAS connected to another computer.  All from a Sony Vaio playing Foobar, iTunes and uLilith.  All lossless.  No dropouts, no worries and all sounds great.

 

Cheers! :beerchug:

 

 


Edited by HeatFan12 - 7/21/14 at 7:11pm
post #20 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeatFan12 View Post

Hey John,

External drives are great indeed, especially with Windows.  I also have ubuntu on a couple of machines as well.  I have three dacs and four amps (three tube and one SS) connected to this listening station.  All music comes from a NAS connected to another computer.  All from a Sony Vaio playing Foobar, iTunes and uLilith.  All lossless.  No dropouts, no worries and all sounds great.

Cheers! beerchug.gif




Nice setup!!! biggrin.gif
post #21 of 23
Hi John, there are two main places I suggest new Linux users go:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/561961/bit-perfect-audio-from-linux#post_7596268

http://www.head-fi.org/t/700447/guide-newb-guide-to-bit-perfect-linux-audio

As far as realtime kernels go a quick google search should shoe you which package to install. If there is any confusion feel free to pm me, or post in either of the two threads I suggested.

Enjoy!
post #22 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post


Nice setup!!! biggrin.gif

 

 

Thanks!

 

:beerchug:

post #23 of 23

Reviving this one from the dead. What setup did you end up going with?

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