Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for audio?

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
samtastic
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Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for audio?

Post by samtastic » Sat May 28, 2011 4:28 am

Full title:

Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for streaming audio clips?


Hi all,

I know that when you're doing recording to an HD (esp with multi-tracking), it's recommended that you use one HD for the system, and a second HD to store/stream the recorded audio to.

Now my question: is it worth doing a similar thing for audio in a live set??

And if it is a good idea, and you can only afford one SSD, is it a better idea to have the system drive (internal) as an SSD, or the audio drive (external, via FireWire) as the SSD??

I was discussing this with a fellow Ableton-user last night, and he reckoned an external SSD (as an audio HD) would be more effective, as that's where the most data reading is occurring, with the audio, rather than with the application/system - as much of this is stored in RAM after booting-up?

Is this true? Is there a *simple* website that clearly lays out how computers work, in regards to loading software and reading data (RAM vs HD).... I know mo about the data being read (binary), than I do about *how* it's actually read...


Hope that make sense :)

luddy
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Re: Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for audio?

Post by luddy » Sat May 28, 2011 1:58 pm

I use exactly the setup you describe for live performance. I have a macbook pro with two internal drives, one regular HD and one SSD, and I put all my Live sets and all their samples on the SSD. It gives you very smooth I/O for audio with a lot of bandwidth. It's especially nice if you use a lot of sampled instruments live as the SSD is very responsive in that situation. What this configuration doesn't do is protect you from failure of the mechanical hard drive of course. I'm still a bit torn about that, but for the moment I'm not in a position to replace the internal drive with an SSD also. It would be great of course to be running exclusively off of SSDs...

-Luddy

samtastic
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Re: Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for audio?

Post by samtastic » Sat May 28, 2011 9:22 pm

luddy wrote:I use exactly the setup you describe for live performance. I have a macbook pro with two internal drives, one regular HD and one SSD, and I put all my Live sets and all their samples on the SSD. It gives you very smooth I/O for audio with a lot of bandwidth. It's especially nice if you use a lot of sampled instruments live as the SSD is very responsive in that situation. What this configuration doesn't do is protect you from failure of the mechanical hard drive of course. I'm still a bit torn about that, but for the moment I'm not in a position to replace the internal drive with an SSD also. It would be great of course to be running exclusively off of SSDs...

-Luddy

i didn't know MBP's could house two internal HDs! that's great.

will have to look into it. is it only the latest MBP's that do this?

samtastic
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Re: Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for audio?

Post by samtastic » Sat May 28, 2011 9:29 pm

edit:

a bit of googling dug up the OptiBay Hard idea: http://www.mcetech.com/optibay/


what a good idea. I don't often use the drive on my Macbook, apart from as a DVD player - and that could be done externally. Plus i'd like a second burner for my Mac Pro (to make burning doubles of CDs quicker - great for DJing, when you're on CDJs).

Might have to look into it more seriously once I've got the rent covered : )

luddy
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Re: Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for audio?

Post by luddy » Sun May 29, 2011 3:55 am

yeah, I think that there are several adaptor kits around, but the reason it's straightforward is simply that the optical drive that comes standard in the mbp is connected by the same kind of SATA connector as the internal hard drive. So the adaptor is really only about accommodating the physically smaller 2.5" hard drive in a space that's too big for it. You could probably velcro the SSD in place get the same effect haha. only kidding, you need to hold the drive firmly in place somehow.

Works great. On the rare occasions when I need a CD/DVD drive on my MBP I can use the original as an external drive, but more often I just share one from another machine and use it over a network.

If you decide to go that route, be very careful when installing the kit as the mbp is wide open when you're doing it, and lots of delicate wires and parts are exposed.

good luck,

-Luddy

samtastic
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Re: Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for audio?

Post by samtastic » Tue May 31, 2011 12:49 pm

continuing with the topic:

would it be enough to store the project/live set (as in 'collect all and save...') on the SSD, or would I be better off storing the entire Live Library on there too?

I'm not using any simplers/samplers in my live set, but am using a fair few Drum Racks (which are reading field recording files - WAVs - from within my Library).

Forge.
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Re: Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for audio?

Post by Forge. » Tue May 31, 2011 1:36 pm

samtastic wrote:continuing with the topic:

would it be enough to store the project/live set (as in 'collect all and save...') on the SSD, or would I be better off storing the entire Live Library on there too?

I'm not using any simplers/samplers in my live set, but am using a fair few Drum Racks (which are reading field recording files - WAVs - from within my Library).
I don't have one (yet) but I think it would definitely be worth it - I have a brand new MBP and when I got it out of the box it was like lightning, but I have watched the performance steadily degrade as I've filled up the hard drive. It's the achilles heel where audio is concerned, you just can't get around the fact that heads have to physically jump around the platter getting the data, so the more on the disk the more it has to jump.... so if you can afford it then do it.

if you had the space it might make sense to have the library on it so that you can still stream the larger sample libraries (EIC, Session drums etc..) but if you don't use those bigger samples that often it would probably make more sense to just collect all and save and include only what you need.

It's expensive real estate so I'd be inclined to use it more like a "scratch disk" and keep the more storagey stuff on the bigger one.

Having said all that, the one in my MBP isn't really suffering that much - like I said if you can afford it then do it.

Forge.
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Re: Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for audio?

Post by Forge. » Tue May 31, 2011 1:42 pm

samtastic wrote:

i didn't know MBP's could house two internal HDs! that's great.

will have to look into it. is it only the latest MBP's that do this?
I don't think the 13" can (at least without removing CD etc..)

samtastic
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Re: Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for audio?

Post by samtastic » Wed Jun 01, 2011 4:26 am

haha nice reply. i like your casual writing style.



this is all very interesting.

I think im in need of a faster Macbook anyway, as my latest attempted-live-set had my computer's (not Abelton's) CPU meters both up a around 98% (!!). But then I reckon removing the CD drive and replacing it with a second internal SSD - as a scratch disk - could be the way to go : )

SSD's are still really expensive here... thought they might have come down a bit since I last looked (6 months ago??)

Hmmmm...

thanks for the food-for-thought
Forge. wrote:
samtastic wrote:continuing with the topic:

would it be enough to store the project/live set (as in 'collect all and save...') on the SSD, or would I be better off storing the entire Live Library on there too?

I'm not using any simplers/samplers in my live set, but am using a fair few Drum Racks (which are reading field recording files - WAVs - from within my Library).
I don't have one (yet) but I think it would definitely be worth it - I have a brand new MBP and when I got it out of the box it was like lightning, but I have watched the performance steadily degrade as I've filled up the hard drive. It's the achilles heel where audio is concerned, you just can't get around the fact that heads have to physically jump around the platter getting the data, so the more on the disk the more it has to jump.... so if you can afford it then do it.

if you had the space it might make sense to have the library on it so that you can still stream the larger sample libraries (EIC, Session drums etc..) but if you don't use those bigger samples that often it would probably make more sense to just collect all and save and include only what you need.

It's expensive real estate so I'd be inclined to use it more like a "scratch disk" and keep the more storagey stuff on the bigger one.

Having said all that, the one in my MBP isn't really suffering that much - like I said if you can afford it then do it.

samtastic
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Re: Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for audio?

Post by samtastic » Wed Jun 22, 2011 2:25 am

Ok guys,
sorry to bring this up again, but I've had another thought and figured someone here could help me shed some light on it :)


If you were reading up to six channels of bounced stereo audio (48K, 24bit) from a hard drive, as well as streaming up to 8 mono channels of audio (from external synths/FX units via a soundcard), would you be able to get away with a single SSD?



I'm looking into getting some kind of 'portable computer' for my live gigs. I think it's going to have to be quad-core, to meet my CPU demands. And I definitely want it to be running OS X (Mac). At the moment I'm looking at the quad-core Macbook Pros and also at the latest iMacs (just because they offer plenty of grunt, but at a lower price point).

The problem with the iMac is that Apple have - according to macrumor.com - made the standard HDD's hard to replace (which is pretty disappointing, as an HDD is bound to fail at some point): http://www.macrumors.com/2011/05/12/app ... new-imacs/

so I'm kind of hesitant to look into an iMac. And dropping $2K on a Macbook Pro would really hurt (as it'll be worth half that in 12/18 months... and I can't see myself earning serious coinage from my live rig - I'm doing this for me, not for money).

So I'm hopeful - though doubtful - that the new Mac Minis (due end of July/early Aug, apparently), will be quad-core, capable of holding more than 4gb ram (for when Ableton inevitably becomes 64-bit), and have a user-accessible HD bay, for installing/upgrading a SSD.

But in all honesty, I doubt they will have a way of holding two HDs (unless the CD-drive can be removed and smaller HD will fit in its place, as is possible in the Macbook/MBPs).


So, again, for those using SSDs currently (I'm not), would a single SSD possibly be able to achieve the following (when coupled with a quad-core CPU and at least 4gb RAM):


-reading 6 stereo channels audio from disc (48K, 24 bit)
-streaming 8 mono channels of audio from a soundcard




Or would it still be strongly advisable to have the system on one disc (maybe SSD), and a second SSD for the Live Library/Live Project?


I've never used SSD's, so I'm unsure of just *how* much better they are than HDDs. I know with HDDs, it's always recommended to have a separate system disk, and a separate audio disk.



I hope that all makes sense.


I'm just trying to work out what kind of set-up I should be looking at.


I might also look into the whole Hackintosh thing... but only if it can be made stable enough

samtastic
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Re: Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for audio?

Post by samtastic » Wed Jun 22, 2011 2:33 am

well it looks like the current Mac Mini can hold a second HD instead of the optical drive:

http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Repair/Mac- ... rive/660/1



maybe the yet-to-be-released (and hopefully with a quad-core option) 2011 model will too?


we shall see



edit: I guess this is what the mac mini server is really

luddy
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Re: Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for audio?

Post by luddy » Wed Jun 22, 2011 5:58 am

samtastic wrote: If you were reading up to six channels of bounced stereo audio (48K, 24bit) from a hard drive, as well as streaming up to 8 mono channels of audio (from external synths/FX units via a soundcard), would you be able to get away with a single SSD?
the SSD won't have any effect on the 8 mono channels of audio flowing through sound cards, unless you're either recording or playing back those audio streams. As for six bounced stereo audio tracks at 48/24, a current MBP can do this from the stock internal hard drive without breaking a sweat.

The SSD really shines when you either need serious disk bandwidth (e.g., video or LOTS of audio tracks), or, more especially, when you're doing sample playback. It's kind of the perfect backing store for a library of longish looped samples, as the read latency is very low and the variance is also very low.

For what you described above, an SSD might be overkill. Tell you the truth, sounds like you need powerful CPU more than anything else because you are running lots of soft synths. But maybe I don't have the right picture of what you're doing exactly...

The mac minis are nice for stage use, provided you have figured out how to attach a kb and monitor to it on stage (or screen-share, etc.) I have one for video/graphics, but no SSD in it. To find out if an SSD can be installed, the most reliable way is to go to OWC and see if they offer an adaptor kit for the specific mac mini model. All that said, the mac mini is one of the most difficult of Apple's computers to take apart, and I really can't recommend it. It is jam-packed with tiny stuff and connectors and the clearances are really small. I'd say forget the SSD or else order it installed by Apple or something if you go with a mac mini.

-Luddy

samtastic
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Re: Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for audio?

Post by samtastic » Sat Aug 13, 2011 1:27 pm

hey guys,

so it's been a while between posts.


In between time, the quad-core Mac Mini has come out (as the server model). This can accommodate a second HD out-of-the-box (there's no CD drive). And it doesn't look too hard to get into, to install it yourself.



So I've been tossing up between a Mac Mini (quad) with a second HD (and SSD) installed by myself versus a Macbook Pro (quad) also with a second HD (SSD).

Mac Mini would come to about =$1500

while Macbook Pro would come to about $2500


both of those figures include after-market additions (bumping RAM up to 8gb, and an SSD - both installed by myself).



But I've found a second-hand (3 months old) Macbook Pro that's *just* within my price-range. All receipts. From the original owner.




There's a pretty strong chance I'll have it tomorrow. Which is pretty exciting.




Will keep you posted on my adventures : )

trevox
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Re: Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for audio?

Post by trevox » Sat Aug 13, 2011 2:06 pm

I have two HD's in my MBP too (one SSD, one regular 7200RPM drive), but I use them differently. I have my OS and all apps installed on my SSD and read/write all audio to the regular drive. I guess if you can get a big enough SSD, it would be great, but I record my audio at 96kHz (sometimes 192kHz) and my current 80Gb SSD would get eaten up quite quickly. Having your OS on a SSD is far more useful in terms of performance anyway IMO. Obviously 2 SSD's would be the dream - maybe when they get a little less expensive for the larger drives! BTW, I have recorded 16 tracks of audio at 96kHz in my setup and my machine did not bat an eyelid! I am sure if I had more inputs, it could have handled plenty more....

samtastic
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Re: Live gigs: worth having a second drive (SSD) for audio?

Post by samtastic » Sat Aug 13, 2011 6:15 pm

trevox wrote:I have two HD's in my MBP too (one SSD, one regular 7200RPM drive), but I use them differently. I have my OS and all apps installed on my SSD and read/write all audio to the regular drive. I guess if you can get a big enough SSD, it would be great, but I record my audio at 96kHz (sometimes 192kHz) and my current 80Gb SSD would get eaten up quite quickly. Having your OS on a SSD is far more useful in terms of performance anyway IMO. Obviously 2 SSD's would be the dream - maybe when they get a little less expensive for the larger drives! BTW, I have recorded 16 tracks of audio at 96kHz in my setup and my machine did not bat an eyelid! I am sure if I had more inputs, it could have handled plenty more....


yeah that sounds really similar to what i want to do!

except I don't think I'll record at such high sample-rates.


Yeah I was thinking i'd install the system on the SSD, as well as the Live Library (mine is about 42gb) and maybe some key sample libraries (30gb) (for vst-instruments, I don't really use samples that much anyway)...



and I can see the logic in your recording/reading audio from the HDD.


My only question is:

if your System & Live Lib are installed on the SSD, and you're recording and reading all audio from the HDD, where would be the best place to keep your ableton project folders? On the SSD with your live library, or on the HDD with all your audio?

To me, it makes sense to keep it on the HDD with your audio, as that's what most of the data in an Ableton project usually is

and i'd also keep the latest couple of productions I'm working on at that time, I reckon. And also my live sets.

42+30 = 72gb (of 120gb total SSD, can't afford the larger-capacity ones!)


All photos, media and emailing stuff, I'll use my older Macbook (2.1Ghz, white 2008 model)... so the quad-core will be for audio only : )

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