Audio / Buying Guide

Storage Solutions for Multitrack Recording Live Shows and Studio Productions

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When people record live concerts and studio productions, multi-track recording is ideal. It grants you the power to fix and mix the performances in ways that would not be possible if only a stereo mix was recorded. However, multi-track creates a large amount of data in a hurry. Your recorder’s drive needs to be able to handle the burden imposed by writing and reading a multitude of large, uncompressed audio files simultaneously. There are several important factors to consider when shopping for a suitable drive: speed, durability, compatible connectivity with your recording device, and simple transferability to other devices. Thankfully, there is a buffet of choices available from manufacturers such as Lacie, Seagate, WD, Drobo, Samsung, Crucial, G-Tech, and Glyph. Let’s break them down by application.

Recording to a Flash Drive

Many digital mixers and stand-alone multi-track recorders designed for use in live stage applications support recording directly to USB flash drives via USB Type-A ports. The SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive and the Lexar JumpDrive C20c have USB Type-A and Type-C connectors, allowing them to be used directly with many digital mixers, stand-alone recorders, and personal computers. With one of those, you could connect via USB Type-A to a digital mixer, record the show, then (later) connect to a computer via USB Type-A or Type-C and transfer your files for editing and mixing.

SanDisk 32GB Ultra Dual Drive USB Type-C Flash Drive

Although flash drives are fantastic for their convenience and compatibility, their read and write speeds are somewhat limited. It’s not uncommon for flash drives to have read speeds around 150 MB/s and write speeds near 25 MB/s. The listed speeds for a drive typically reflect peak (not average) performance. So, don’t assume that the flash drive will always be writing at its listed maximum speed. For a point of reference, 48 channels of 24-bit/96 kHz audio would hit just over 13 MB/s. If your flash drive’s average write speed fell to 12 MB/s, you’re gonna have a bad time! Furthermore, a USB 3.0 flash drive connected to a USB 2.0 port will be speed-limited by the USB 2.0 specification. There are high-performance models like this SanDisk Extreme Pro USB 3.1 Flash Drive, which boasts read speeds up to 420 MB/s and write speeds up to 385 MB/s (assuming it is connected to USB 3.1-compatible device). If you’re more concerned with speed than the presence of multiple connectors, that might be the ticket.

SanDisk 128GB Extreme Pro USB 3.1 Solid State Flash Drive

Recording to an Internal Drive

Purpose-built computers and high-end stand-alone recorders in stage and studio recording applications often utilize internal SATA III drives due to their prolonged high-speed capabilities. Although they offer staggering performance—sometimes over 500 MB/s read and write speeds—they sacrifice the universal connectivity of USB. If affordable performance is your top priority, consider traditional HDDs (hard disk drives) such as a WD Black 2.5" Hard Drive or a WD Gold 3.5" Hard Drive. Whereas many stock computer hard drives spin at 5400 rpm, the WD Black and Gold series offer 7200 rpm rotational speeds and large caches for optimal performance. They are designed for long-lasting reliability and fast transfer rates (up to 115 MB/s for the Black series and up to 184 MB/s for the Gold series). Plus, the Gold series drives are available in sizes up to an absolutely massive 10TB! If you’re after all-out speed and can plunk down additional coinage for it, check out internal SSDs (solid-state drives) such as the Samsung 850 Evo 2.5" SSD and the Crucial MX300 2.5" SSD. Both boast maximum read and write speeds of more than 500 MB/s and energy-efficient technology. An added benefit of SSDs is their increased physical durability. HDDs have moving parts, while SSDs do not. This contributes to SSDs being able to withstand wider temperature ranges, greater shock forces, and magnetic fields.

Samsung 250GB 850 Evo 2.5" SATA III SSD

Recording to an External Drive

If you’ll be recording to a laptop or computer in which access to internal drives is cumbersome or restricted, an external drive will likely be the ideal storage solution. External drives present the opportunity for an intriguing balance of speed, multi-device compatibility, reliability, and reasonable cost. They are available with HDDs, SSDs, and a variety of connection types.

In the world of external HDDs, let’s start with the Seagate DJI Fly Drive. The 2TB DJI is bus-powered, has a USB 3.0 Type-C port, and sports a protective bumper case. If the computer is equipped with USB Type-C, all will be well. The bus-powered Lacie Rugged Mobile HDD is available in 2TB, 4TB, and 5TB models, each with Thunderbolt, USB Type-C, and USB Type-A (via an included Type-C to Type-A cable) connectivity. Additionally, the Lacie features AES 256-bit encryption to prevent unauthorized file access and an IP 54-rated enclosure that protects against damage from shock, dust, and water.

LaCie 2TB Rugged Thunderbolt

For increased performance, there are 7200 rpm external hard drives, such as this G-Tech G-DRIVE. It offers 4 to 10TB capacities, Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.0 Type-C ports, and transfer speeds up to 180 MB/s. In the same class, there is the Glyph Technologies Studio Drive. It has USB 3.0 (Type-B with a Type-B to Type-A cable), FireWire 800, and eSATA connectivity, comparable transfer speeds, and 1 to 10TB storage capacities.

G-Technology 4TB G-DRIVE Thunderbolt 3 External Hard Drive

Both models require AC power rather than bus power.

To unlock the highest performance, consider external SSDs like the Samsung T5 and the WD My Passport External Solid State Drive. They provide blazing transfer rates beyond 500 MB/s, AES 256-bit encryption, and USB 3.1 Type-C (Type-A with provided cables). Their diminutive size is another impressive element to behold. With roughly the same footprint as a credit card, they pack immense performance into a tiny package.

WD 256GB My Passport USB 3.1 Type-C External Solid State Drive

One more impressive technological marvel to see is external RAIDs (Redundant Array of Independent Disks). They use multiple drives to facilitate real-time data backup, faster data transfers, and more. The AC-powered Drobo 5C is a USB Type-C-equipped enclosure designed to provide the benefits of RAID and beyond. You can load up its five drive bays with your preferred 3.5" SATA III/II drives, or 2.5" drives and SSDs via drive carriers (available separately). That’s neat, but where things get exciting are in the protection department. In the event of a power loss, its built-in battery keeps the Drobo powered on while it writes cached data to its internal SSD. You can have gobs of storage space, enhanced speed or redundancy, and protection from power failure! How cool is that?!

Drobo 5C 5-Bay USB 3.0 Type-C Enclosure

Conclusion

The options available to you may seem overwhelming, but that’s a good thing. It means that there are solutions for a diverse array of situations. Which is right for you? First, figure out what connection type (USB 3.1 Type-C, USB 3.0 Type-A, SATA III) the recording device offers. Next, ask yourself what you need most from the drive. Speed? Portability? Security? Multi-port connectivity? Then, go shopping! The products mentioned in this article are just some of the many you’ll find. If you stumble upon some cool storage devices in your physical and digital travels, feel free to mention them below, in the Comments section.

1 Comments

This is a very useful article.... 

It covers latest technology in storage, connectivity, convenience, ease of use, links, features, etc. 

Thanks!

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