running a live set off usb flash drive

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
Bunky Freaks
Posts: 192
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2007 9:45 am

running a live set off usb flash drive

Post by Bunky Freaks » Mon Jan 07, 2008 6:59 pm

does anyone successfully run a live set from an usb flash drive?
i am asking because the hdd of my aging laptop is pretty slow and struggles to play back my current live set.
But i neither want to replace the whole brick yet nor buy a new hdd.
Cpu wise the machine is running my liveset without any problems.

The set is pretty sample heavy with 3,5 gb of audio files, so my idea was to buy a 4gb usb flash drive which are quite cheap nowadays and simply run the set off that thing.
Besides having the sample data running on a very low latency device with low access times it would also free the internal hdd from streaming the samples and let it do operating system tasks only.

Generally the speed of usb 2.0 flash drives should be more than adequat.
My only concerns are that parallel data transfer performance could be subpar and that the usb interface could add some wierd behaviour to the whole setup (an attribute for which a lot of usb devices are famous for).

it would be great if you have any experiences to share about this "low cost upgrade" scenario :)

cheers

kaffein
Posts: 1195
Joined: Fri Nov 03, 2006 2:52 pm
Location: Houston, Texas
Contact:

Post by kaffein » Tue Jan 08, 2008 7:02 am

Generally speaking USB2.0 flash drives are still not anywhere near the speed of even a 4200rpm HDD.

kaffein
Posts: 1195
Joined: Fri Nov 03, 2006 2:52 pm
Location: Houston, Texas
Contact:

Post by kaffein » Tue Jan 08, 2008 7:20 am

Flash memory cards are available in different speeds. Some are specified the approximate transfer rate of the card such as 2 MB per second, 12 MB per second, etc. The exact speed of these cards depends on which definition of "megabyte" the marketer has chosen to use.

Many cards are simply rated 100x, 130x, 200x, etc. For these cards the base assumption is that 1x is equal to 150 kibibytes per second. This was the speed at which the first CD drives could transfer information, which was adopted as the reference speed for flash memory cards. Thus, when comparing a 100x card to a card capable of 12 MiB per second the following calculations are useful:

150 KiB x 100 = 15000 KiB per second = 14.65 MiB per second. (which is a little more than megabytes because MiB is binary.)

Therefore, the 100x card is 14.65 MiB per second, which is faster than the card that is measured at 12 MiB per second.
Sata 3.0 = 300 MB/s

Bunky Freaks
Posts: 192
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2007 9:45 am

Post by Bunky Freaks » Tue Jan 08, 2008 11:18 am

kaffein, thanks for your response. of course any internal interface is way faster than usb.
but like i said i am searching for a low cost solution for my problem and adding sata3 functionality to my laptop doesnt seem like a way to do it cheaply :)

i just did some quick calculating, and if did it correctly, streaming 8 x 44kHz/24 bit stereo audiotracks results in just a bit over 2 Megabytes per second of data which needs to be transfered.
This should be sufficently provided by current usb memory sticks.
So the reason why my internal 4100rpm hdd struggles with the set surely has nothing to do with transfer rate.
Certainly the slow access time is the culprit here.

Anyways, ill simply try it out and see what happens. thanks again!

Marx
Posts: 325
Joined: Tue Aug 28, 2007 11:40 pm
Location: Detroit
Contact:

Post by Marx » Tue Jan 08, 2008 6:21 pm

You have a live set that has 3.5 gb of samples? Jesus Christ.

beats me
Posts: 23319
Joined: Fri Mar 30, 2007 6:39 pm

Post by beats me » Tue Jan 08, 2008 6:27 pm

Why not just give it a try? If it doesn't work then you're only out the price of a decent dinner and it can still be used to archive porn that's a quick flush when the FBI raids your house.

Bunky Freaks
Posts: 192
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2007 9:45 am

Post by Bunky Freaks » Wed Jan 09, 2008 2:02 pm

I did some testing with a cheap 1 gb usb 2.0 stick and it performed excellent in streaming scenes with 8 44khz/24bit clips of various length.
General playback performance and jumping between other scenes was ultra responsive (much better than from my interal 4100rpm hdd).
No hickups or other strange behaviour occured.

My laptop is a 3ghz P4 w/ 786 MB ram, running win xp pro optimized for audio work and an rme cardbus/multifaceII combo. Buffer was set to 512 samples.

Its hardly possible to tell if this result is transferable to any other combination of computer/stick/usbcontroller.
But to me it is indeed a great solution to increase sample streaming performance and i definitely recommend trying it out!
Storing the whole live set on a memory stick also has the nice side effect of making it simple to run the set on a back up computer ;).

So at least my findings show that its a stable and cheap solution to play live sets with huge amount of samples.
This also might help others who have problems with stuttering clip starts or unresponsive playback performance to get things working properly.

Lo-Key Fu
Posts: 166
Joined: Wed Apr 21, 2004 5:37 pm
Location: Perth WA Australia
Contact:

Post by Lo-Key Fu » Wed Jan 16, 2008 2:47 pm

Bunky Freaks wrote:I did some testing with a cheap 1 gb usb 2.0 stick and it performed excellent in streaming scenes with 8 44khz/24bit clips of various length.
Corsair Voyager GT
Cheers for the informative rundown mate; and your post in the other thread. I too am about to take the plunge with one of the Corsair Voyager GT sticks (4GB) and will do the same for the reference of others. From my research so far it seems that the Corsair has almost double the transfer rate of most other options - and ridiculously fast access speed - but admittedly is also around twice the price. Still, with a ten year warranty (and some reviewers claiming they have frozen, pan-fried, hit with a hammer and run over these babies without issue) I have my fingers crossed that it will happily run (up to) 16 tracks of 16bit, 44.1, mono samples simultaneously.

What Brand?
I know you mention you are using a "no name" brand of USB stick, but does it have any indication of manufacturer on it at all? Even on the packaging if you still have it? I am just keen to track it down online and see what kind of specs it is pulling on paper for reference purposes.

Beating Sub-Bass Vibration
Hopefully this idea will save me the drama of having to worry about vibration in a bass-heavy club environment, but I'll let you guys know once the stick has arrived and I've had a chance to properly test it. For that purpose, I have already booked some sound checks in a couple of local venues renowned for their low-end sound, so if the OS or Live itself (which will still be running from the 7200RPM HD) is going to bounce at all, I am expecting this scenario will do the trick. Watch this space...
Marx wrote:You have a live set that has 3.5 gb of samples? Jesus Christ.
My current set tally's around 1.5 GB total, but I intend to more than double that if this flash drive does the business. I like layers to play with... :)

Onwards and upwards!

PS. For anyone doing any data-transfer number crunching, I found this Wikipedia article particularly useful to avoid false transfer-rates claims from product manufacturers (EG. Note the difference between MB/second and Mb(it) per second...):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_rate_ ... per_second

Bunky Freaks
Posts: 192
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2007 9:45 am

Post by Bunky Freaks » Thu Jan 17, 2008 12:13 pm

thanks for you reply! I had a look at the USB stick again and it is from a company called "cnmemory", so its not even "no-name", it was just the cheapest i could find.
As far as i can see it is this one:

http://www.cnmemory.de/seite_13en-0-a0.html

(just as a side note: they even have "smelly" usb sticks, whatever the appropriate usage may be...: http://www.cnmemory.de/seite_12en-0-a0.html )

I am also looking forward to testing it in a bass heavy environment, theoretically this is also a big plus for flash drives, allthough i never experienced any problems in this area yet.
Nevertheless i am looking forward to your findings.

Regarding the prices of 4GB+ sticks, surely they are not that of a bargain compared to 2,5 inch mobile usb hdd and their capacity.
But since they seem to be insusceptible to the harsh club environment, they are well worth their money.
Like with everything concerning giging with a computer thorough testing is mandatory, even for flash drives.
I yet have to do a 2-3h test to check for long-term reliability.
Marx wrote:
You have a live set that has 3.5 gb of samples? Jesus Christ.
The set is simply that big because of the way i constructed it from my prepared productions.
Storage is way less precious than working time, so the trade-off was made to saving time over storage space :)

Lo-Key Fu
Posts: 166
Joined: Wed Apr 21, 2004 5:37 pm
Location: Perth WA Australia
Contact:

Post by Lo-Key Fu » Thu Jan 17, 2008 5:20 pm

Bunky Freaks wrote:thanks for you reply! I had a look at the USB stick again and it is from a company called "cnmemory", so its not even "no-name", it was just the cheapest i could find.

As far as i can see it is this one:
http://www.cnmemory.de/seite_13en-0-a0.html
My pleasure mate; more than happy to get engrossed in a solution that may save all sorts of performance headaches. I appreciate the link too, and have pulled these specs from the page you referenced:

* Capacity: 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, 8GB
* Read speed: 166x / 200x
* Write speed: 80x /100X
* Supports ReadyBoost
* LED display
* Weight: Only 8 gram
* 5 years warranty
* 2GB / * 1GB

I can only assume that these transfer stats are listed in Megabits per second - not Megabytes - which, according to the Wikipedia entry mentioned earlier would translate to reading at about 20 / 25 Megabytes per second... If these specs are in fact accurate, it's certainly no slouch for a cheap drive mate; comparatively one of the faster ones I have seen so far in fact. Nice purchase!
Bunky Freaks wrote:(just as a side note: they even have "smelly" usb sticks, whatever the appropriate usage may be...: http://www.cnmemory.de/seite_12en-0-a0.html )
Uhh... That's fantastic(ish). I don't know about you, but I can't help jamming my nose right into a brand new USB stick as soon as I have it in my sweaty little hands. Yessir. Sniffing solid state is the new black. All the kids are doing it.
Bunky Freaks wrote:Regarding the prices of 4GB+ sticks, surely they are not that of a bargain compared to 2,5 inch mobile usb hdd and their capacity. But since they seem to be insusceptible to the harsh club environment, they are well worth their money.
If I understand the vibration issue correctly, the problem with a HD - USB or otherwise - is the moving parts involved in data retrieval (unless you are talking about expensive solid state models of course). Because they still operate mechanically, vibration could - and in my recent case probably has - caused some major performance issues which I would rather not repeat. Ever if possible. I'll be sure to post any findings here as soon as I get the opportunity.

:)
Bunky Freaks wrote:
Marx wrote: wrote:
You have a live set that has 3.5 gb of samples? Jesus Christ.
The set is simply that big because of the way i constructed it from my prepared productions. Storage is way less precious than working time, so the trade-off was made to saving time over storage space :)
Entirely mate, I'm right with you on this one. I would rather spend the extra time on a new tune than needlessly deconstructing & reconstructing an old one if the only sacrifice I need to make is a little storage space.

Bunky Freaks
Posts: 192
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2007 9:45 am

Post by Bunky Freaks » Thu Jan 17, 2008 6:04 pm

Lo-Key Fu wrote:
If I understand the vibration issue correctly, the problem with a HD - USB or otherwise - is the moving parts involved in data retrieval (unless you are talking about expensive solid state models of course). Because they still operate mechanically, vibration could - and in my recent case probably has - caused some major performance issues which I would rather not repeat. Ever if possible. I'll be sure to post any findings here as soon as I get the opportunity.
sorry, i was unclear here. I meant that usb sticks are expensive compared to mobile hdds, gigbyte per euro/dollar-wise.
Of course the external hdds suffer from the same shock sensitivity as the internal ones.

The other big advantage is the lower access latency of flash memory. You can perform some test for yourself to measure latency and throughput with these tools, very helpful programs:

http://www.hdtune.com/

and this one

http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/in ... est=HdTach

Lo-Key Fu
Posts: 166
Joined: Wed Apr 21, 2004 5:37 pm
Location: Perth WA Australia
Contact:

Post by Lo-Key Fu » Thu Jan 17, 2008 6:35 pm

Bunky Freaks wrote:You can perform some test for yourself to measure latency and throughput with these tools, very helpful programs:

http://www.hdtune.com/

and this one

http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/in ... est=HdTach
Nice! Thanks for the links!

Lo-Key Fu
Posts: 166
Joined: Wed Apr 21, 2004 5:37 pm
Location: Perth WA Australia
Contact:

Post by Lo-Key Fu » Thu Jan 17, 2008 10:57 pm

After playing around with both utilities (across different 3 computers) I came to a conclusion as to why the USB Flash performs so well despite the significantly lower throughput of USB2...

Despite SATA2 being rated at a top speed of 300 Megabytes/second, it became plainly obvious that most of my drives were performing a helluva lot slower than I would have expected. I realise that they are no more likely to perform at max throughput than a USB2 flash drive, but I must admit I was surprised at the comparative difference:

HARD DRIVE: SATA2 Rated at 300 MB/s; Performing at around 40-60MB/s
FLASH DRIVE: USB2 Rated at 60 MB/s; Performing at around 33MB/s

Couple those figures with the lightning fast access time of a Flash Drive (Corsair Voyager GT purportedly gives 1.2ms random access speed vs 12-15ms from my HDs) and it's no wonder that this type of memory is performing so well in comparison to some of the older laptop drives.

I am now feeling extremely confident that when my USB stick arrives it will provide ample throughput for my live set; and if I still get interference from vibration (courtesy of the OS/Ableton still running off my HD), I will almost certainly be investing in another (larger) stick to run the entire OS and the set as well (if this is indeed possible).

Thanks once again for those utility links Bunky Freaks, they have certainly cleared up what was previously a bit of a mystery for me!

Bunky Freaks
Posts: 192
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2007 9:45 am

Post by Bunky Freaks » Fri Jan 18, 2008 11:18 am

Thanks for posting these numbers, i will also post the results of my disks here soon.
These figures are "synthetic", but they translate quite well to audio application, showing what i experienced. Streaming feels a lot more responsive from flash disks.

Just as a small outlook:

http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3167

When solid state hdds will eventually drop in price they will be the no 1 choice for all things (audio) for sure.

kpa
Posts: 179
Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2006 4:50 pm
Location: Glasgow, Scotland
Contact:

Post by kpa » Fri Jan 18, 2008 6:06 pm

i like the idea of this thread, i will trying this out next week for sure. Just think, if you use a standard controller/mixer which the venue would have, you could just turn up at a club and pop in your set on SD card into the venues computer, meaning you have no gear to lug about at all. This is the future, man!

kpa
Cryptomnesian - the recall of memories not recognised as such, but thought to be original ideas.
www.Cryptomnesian.com
www.myspace.com/thekpa
www.myspace.com/thebodesapha

Post Reply