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
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Post by Bunky Freaks » Sat Jan 19, 2008 2:21 pm

kpa wrote:i like the idea of this thread, i will trying this out next week for sure.

kpa
Let us know how it worked for you, the more information about that idea we can collect, the better :)

kpa wrote: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
In theory this is a nice idea. In reality things might look a bit different.
Imagine the shock you get when you see the scruffy pc they offer you to play on in some fucked up indy club (like today with some dj mixers they want you to "dj" on).
You give your own standards of "quality management" into someone elses hand, and with anything related to computers this is a *very* dangerous thing to do.
In the future i will happily carry my new 0,3 kg air book with me to make sure i deliver ;)

Lo-Key Fu
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Post by Lo-Key Fu » Sun Jan 20, 2008 10:17 am

Bunky Freaks wrote:
kpa wrote:i like the idea of this thread, i will trying this out next week for sure.
Let us know how it worked for you, the more information about that idea we can collect, the better :)
I second that request - the more information the merrier! I'm expecting my USB2 stick to arrive either tomorrow or Tuesday, so keep your eyes peeled for some test results sometime mid-late this coming week.

Anyone else out there given this idea a go as yet?

Lo-Key Fu
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Road Testing Success

Post by Lo-Key Fu » Sat Jan 26, 2008 4:22 am

Hi again all,

My Corsair 4GB USB2 Flash Drive (Voyager GT) finally arrived - and I have been busily road-testing it's performance for a show later this evening - so as promised, I thought I should share...

Benchmarking
First up, after plugging in the drive and benchmarking it with HD Tune I noticed that the read speed was only clocking in around 23 Megabytes/second (compared to the 30-34 quoted in specs and reviews). It benched the same across four different systems and worried me initially (every bit of throughput counts!), especially after updating my USB2 drivers with no change in performance.

Performance
However, after giving the drive a solid test in the studio (and later at the venue I am playing this eve) my fears were put to rest. Even at the slower-than-expected read rate, the drive runs without a glitch, hitch or stumble and is incredibly responsive considering the comparatively low throughput. I put this down to the lightning fast access speed (0.9ms) and the fact that the drive delivers the 23 megabytes/second consistently throughout the entire drive; unlike my standard hard-drives that slow to a crawl near the end of the test (despite being defragged - using a variety of different methods - literally right before benching).

Laptop Specs
I am currently running Live 5 on an old Dell Inspiron 1100 P4 2.4 with 1GB of RAM. I use both outputs of an Echo Indigo DJ PCMCIA soundcard for live poerformance. The flash drive uses one of the two available USB ports, and I have a Korg PadKontrol connected to the other (also chained via MIDI with an Evolution X-Session running from the mains power). The OS and Live run from an internal 7200RPM HD while the set and samples are all loaded from the USB key.

Set Specs
My set is currently around 1.5GB in total file size and uses a lot of track-length rendered samples - hence it is predominently audio-based. I am streaming up to a maximum of (14)x 16bit (44.1) mono tracks simultaneously (though not consistently) plus FX without a hitch so far.

Sound Check
As mentioned earlier, I took my rig down to the club to give it a crank for an hour and see if I could re-create the issues I had at my previous show (likely a combination of power woes and sub-bass bouncing my HD). Despite the fact the club was empty and relatively cool (the weather here is very hot & humid at the moment) The good news from my end is that the soundcheck went entirely without trouble.

Epilogue
I'll post again after tonights show once we (hopefully) have a room full of people jumping around like loonies and a significantly higher volume/humidity level, but for now it's fingers crossed that I have solved the problem...

Anyone else out there trying this route?

Lo-Key Fu
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Post by Lo-Key Fu » Sun Jan 27, 2008 2:51 pm

The Show
The show last night went ahead without any trouble at all despite the humidity and vibration/shock from both the heavy sub-bass and enthusiastic punters.

Heat Affecting HD Performance
I didn't mention in my previous post that from benchmarking multiple HDs over the last few days it should be noted that performance seems to rapidly deteriorate as the system temperature increases. Most specifically: the maximum transfer speed remained relatively consistent, but the minimum dropped substantially in all of my tests. Something to consider in warmer climates at least...

Conclusions To Date
In my circumstance, it seems that a high-speed USB2 key has been a more than adequate replacement for my (almost new and comparatively expensive) 7200RPM internal hard-drive and I would recommend the idea as a suggestion to anyone having difficulties with vibration, shock or poor HD performance due to excessive heat or humidity; additionally it seems that older laptops with HD issues (but an available USB2 port) could also benefit from this cheaper option to a firewire card/external HD combination to run a live set or perhaps even work on studio projects (pending complexity).

I am of the opinion that I would also be able to run my live set from an even slower (and hence cheaper) USB2 stick too, but have not tested with anything other than the Corsair so far.

Hope all this info helps some of you out there with similar difficulties!
Last edited by Lo-Key Fu on Sun Jan 27, 2008 7:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Bunky Freaks
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Post by Bunky Freaks » Sun Jan 27, 2008 3:30 pm

Thanks a lot for your in-depth review of this tecnic! i am also going to adopt it for my next shows & follow up with some first hand experience. cheers :D

Lo-Key Fu
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Post by Lo-Key Fu » Sun Jan 27, 2008 7:16 pm

You're welcome mate; hope it helps and best of luck with your upcoming shows.

Lo-Key Fu
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Post by Lo-Key Fu » Thu May 01, 2008 10:28 am

Just to dredge up an old thread with a little bit of new information:

Since starting this journey with a Corsair Voyager GT 4GB drive, I have since done a little more research and found that the Lexar JumpDrive Lightning 4GB is of comparable price, and seems to perform significantly faster on my own system(s).

Roughly speaking, I am getting about 23 Megabytes/second from the Corsair and a solid 30 Megabytes/second from the Lexar.

Just food for thought for anyone considering this option.

Pitch Black
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Post by Pitch Black » Thu May 01, 2008 10:58 am

Thanks very much for the detailed research and reporting!! 8)

This is a strategy I'll be looking into in the near future, so thanks again!

P.
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xzusa8ky
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Post by xzusa8ky » Thu May 01, 2008 11:06 am

if you dont want to be serious about what you are doing you should consider to stop producing or do live act's i guess. The HD will be one of the most important factors in your setup! If you are not ready to pay for a proffesional solution you will never get proffesional results. Buy a superfast firewire 800 HD and get used to carry it with you! So simple! :D
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Lo-Key Fu
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Post by Lo-Key Fu » Thu May 01, 2008 11:39 am

xzusa8ky wrote:The HD will be one of the most important factors in your setup!
Indeed it is, which is exactly why I have gone to such lengths to show that the seemingly humble USB key is just as efficient for many peoples needs. Moreso, in my case a fast USB flash drive has consistently outperformed it's technologically aging counterpart on many of the points outlined in this thread; did you actually read it?

xzusa8ky wrote:If you are not ready to pay for a proffesional solution you will never get proffesional results. Buy a superfast firewire 800 HD and get used to carry it with you! So simple!
So explain to me how a HD is any more or less professional than a USB key?

The issue here is not just speed my friend, although that was a key consideration in ensuring this idea would work. Again, if you had read the thread, you would know that a solid state storage medium (like the USB drive) is beneficial in other ways like:
* Avoiding issues with sub-bass vibration (no moving parts).
* Performing consistently in environments with high heat & humidity.
* Performing consistently across the entire drive.
* Significantly faster access times.

Now I'm not suggesting this solution is for everyone, but if you're going to jump in and spout about professionalism, it might be a good idea to read the thread first and understand that others have needs vastly different to your own.
Last edited by Lo-Key Fu on Thu May 01, 2008 11:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

andydes
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Post by andydes » Thu May 01, 2008 11:54 am

xzusa8ky wrote:if you dont want to be serious about what you are doing you should consider to stop producing or do live act's i guess. The HD will be one of the most important factors in your setup! If you are not ready to pay for a proffesional solution you will never get proffesional results. Buy a superfast firewire 800 HD and get used to carry it with you! So simple! :D
Oh for fuck sake, is that all you can say about this informative thread? Did you even read it? Or did you just see the title and think, "oh running a set off a flash, drive, that doesn't sound very professional"? And to tell people they should stop doing music, because they're not up you lofty standards, Mr firewire 800, well words fail me. I hope your superfast drive is well shock mounted and well cooled, so you don't have to experience the problems that others have had to make them look at alternatives. Or maybe you just don't play the kind of bass heavy sweatbox that Low-Key has described. Poor show.

Low-key: Nice work, mate.

forge
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Post by forge » Thu May 01, 2008 12:46 pm

hey, thanks for this! I might have to check this out

I was all set to jump into this thread and say don't do it, but looks like you've proven me wrong - for some reason the USB stick I have is painfully slow sometimes, not sure why

that CnMemory company looks german - that;s probably a good thing

fishmonkey
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Post by fishmonkey » Thu May 01, 2008 1:20 pm

as the thread suggests, USB sticks vary widely in read/write speeds... i think the interface in the stick is the main issue (plus how well it works with the USB interface in your computer)... like anything, you gotta do your research...

worth remembering that flash drives do wear out, quicker if you do a lot of writes and reads... still, by the time a good quality one fails, you will probably be able to buy one 10 times the size for half the price anyways...

Lo-Key Fu
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Post by Lo-Key Fu » Thu May 01, 2008 6:06 pm

@Pitch Black:
You're most welcome! Hope you find the info useful and if you get around to testing it out, by all means let us know how you go!


@andydes:
Ta for the props mate and I think you hit the nail on the head with your observations on the content of this thread. USB seems to be an alternative that is practical, relatively inexpensive and in some cases can provide performance that standard drives don't seem to deliver in more extreme environments. A great way to soup up an aging lappy with USB2 as well.


@forge:
As fishmonkey has mentioned, I think the brand makes a substantial difference in terms of throughput. I did a lot of forum hunting and review reading to arrive at the Corsair Voyager GT (which in my case does the job), but am now even happier with the more recent purchase of the Lexar Jumpdrive Lighting.

* The Lexar is consistently faster (+7-8 Megabytes/second)
* The Lexar has faster access speed (0.5ms vs 0.9ms on my system)

I didn't want to spend a fortune on a punt with either drive, so ran with the 4GB models to start, but I understand that much larger sized drives exist in both brands now which boast even faster read speeds if you really want to go to town.


@fishmonkey
Spot on with the wearing out bit mate, and I believe that drive speed will decrease slowly over time as it is more heavily used. Still, I justify the trade off with the following two points:

1. If memory serves, (and according to specs on manufacturers sites) both the Corsair and the Lexar are durable enough that you would need to write around 2GB a day for the next ten years for it to fail out of warranty. Granted, you would notice a speed difference over this period, but 2GB a day? EVERY day? I would struggle to hit this mark with my current set(s) even if I was working directly off the drive (which I don't - it's a "finish & dump" scenario for this very reason).

2. The speed tests have been so consistent with both drives that it would be easy to keep tabs on a deteriorating unit. Even the weakest of the two (the Corsair) hardly varies more than 1 Megabyte/second in any of the numerous benching tests I have run on it. Plenty of warning if you bench the drive semi-regularly methinks.


Thanks for all the comments guys, and please - if you do give this a crack - with whatever drive you get your mitts on - please post up some results to get a broader range of opinions/data!

Noel
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Post by Noel » Thu May 01, 2008 6:41 pm

I think this is great idea which I will definitely be checking out. Probably best to keep a backup handy untill the reliability is more proven though.

When you think about it most disk related glitching is caused by other processes wanting to access the disk or by swap file activity - which won't affect the flash drive.

As far as wearing out the Flash drive is concerned, I'm fairly sure it's only a problem if you keep over-writing the data on the drive (I once tried using one for a swap disk and it failed after about 2 hours!). If you're mostly reading then I think you are safe.
Noel has left the building!

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