Do I really need a FireWired external HD...

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by wts, Oct 12, 2009.

  1. wts macrumors member


    Oct 3, 2009
    Firewired HD has always been the recommend external hard drive to capture in real time digital data.

    Recently I have noted that USB external hard drives are available running at rpm 7200 and they are somewhat cost less then the same speed FW drives.

    Which makes me ask: do I really need a FW external HD costing considerably more than a USB drive. :confused::confused::confused:
  2. mcpryon2 macrumors 6502a


    Dec 12, 2008
    Need? Probably not. What software are you using to record? What are you recording?

    I used an Mbox 2 with my internal laptop hard drive for doing sound effects for years with no problems. One of our studios did 12+ tracks of recording with no firewire and never had any problems. Pro Tools only "supports" firewire HDs...but what Digi supports and what works are two different things. It all depends on what you're doing.
  3. wts thread starter macrumors member


    Oct 3, 2009
    Thanks for your reply/interest in my specific problem.

    The software I use is listed in my profile at the bottom of the posting.

    The computer has an PCI card ( M-Audio: audiophile 2496 for audio InOut ).

    My actual audio recordings are done on dedicated hard disk recorders ( VS 1680 expanded and Yamaha AW16G ) because they never crash during recording sessions and they are more portable for out of studio work.

    Then I transfer the audio over to my Mac whereby I apply editing/mastering and then burn or transfer back to the VS1680 or AW16G for some additional mastering and burn from those dedicated recorders.

    I do have FW hard drives but do need more storage/recording units. The USB devices do cost less and now those USB's run at 7200 rpm which matches the Mac's internal hard drives rpm.

    This is just another area that I think I know but more then often I really don't know or understand. Therefore it's great to hear what other users of such equipment have to say.
  4. jackerin macrumors 6502a

    Jun 29, 2008
    RPMs matter little if the USB-bus isn't capable of maintaining a constant data stream. Just for storage they'll probably be fine, but I wouldn't try mixing a project stored on a USB HD...
  5. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Want a car analogy?

    "RPM" on the disk drive, tells you how fast the drive is just about as well as RPM on your car's tachometer tells you how fast your car is. In both cases there is a loose relationship between RPM and speed but it is not accurate.

    Both FW and USB connect the drive to the computer but FW is more efficient. Again back to a car analogy. Let's say both go at 70MPH but one goes in a straight line with no stop signs and the other takes a worse route. So you can't simply looks at "bits per second" either.

    All that said for the simple home use case of recording two tracks at 48K any disk will work fine. A notebook drive on USB works for that. But if you have many tracks and high sample rates look for the best performance disk system you can buy.
  6. wts thread starter macrumors member


    Oct 3, 2009
    Just wondering why Apple's latest computers have only one FW port and some with 4 or more USB ports.

    To me that's a strong clue that once again Apple is heading for the USB technology.:rolleyes::rolleyes:

    In addition the data transfer using USB or FW is nearly the same. :D:D
  7. deej999 macrumors regular

    Apr 1, 2009
    USB is seen as a more consumer level connection (mice, keyboards, etc). Firewire is less common but used by the more 'pro' hard drives and audio interfaces and video cameras.

    On paper USB and firewire stats look similar. But in the real world and with "sustained" data transfer (which is very important in the audio and video field for real time playback) Firewire is a more suitable choice.

    For many devices you can use a firewire hub and run multiple firewire devices and still get better performance than using USB 2.0

    The other element to consider: You may have 4 USB ports on a Mac but if they all run from the same internal USB Bus then having 4 USB devices connected will not translate to high transfer speeds for all these devices.

    Go firewire if you can, if performance really matters, like streaming samples and recording multiple tracks, otherwise USB 2 may be fine for your needs.

  8. salientstimulus macrumors member

    Jul 3, 2009
    I've never had any problem with mixing/mastering off of my iMac's internal drive (using Logic). It doesn't sound like you're recording onto your mac at all, so I really wouldn't worry about it unless you get some catches on playback. Recording is when hard drive access really gets critical, and when a firewire drive can really save the day (believe me, it's frustrating to look up after a perfect take and see a drive access failure). That said, I think either FW or the internal drive is preferable to USB -- just use the USB for backup once you're done working.

  9. Teej guy macrumors 6502a

    Aug 6, 2007
    Just to clarify what a poster above me said in simpler words, this is NOT the case.

    USB sends data in packets and I believe it isn't full-duplex either. Firewire is full-duplex and sends data in a constant stream.

    If you're only doing two channel work, it probably doesn't matter. For medium to large multitrack projects though, you'll want Firewire all the time. USB 2.0 just can't keep up. I believe USB 3 fixes this though, although that's a year or so out.
  10. dbean76 macrumors newbie

    Oct 14, 2009
    I picked up two 1TB Iomega Mini Max 7200rpm external HD's with 2 FW800 ports, 1 FW400, 1 USB, and 1 eSATA, for $101 at Best Buy. I don't see them on their site any more but last time I was at the store by my house I picked up my second one and they had 3 more left. They seem too work great for me. I could possibly pick one up if there is any left and sell it to you through paypal for cost plus shipping and of like an additional $5.00 for gas and running around if you like.

Share This Page