external firewire (400) harddrive vs internal 7200rpm drive

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by ashjamben, Jul 29, 2008.

  1. ashjamben macrumors 6502a

    Oct 28, 2007
    Shanghai, China
    recording onto, which is best?

    its a macbook so its only firewire 400. also, i'm thinkin about the 'extra heat' that i've read the 7200rpm drives give out.

    thanks for reading
  2. Vaphoron macrumors 6502


    Aug 5, 2004
    I don't find that my 7200RPM drive in my MacBook Pro generates any more noticeable heat than the previous 5400RPM drive. Honestly they should both perform pretty well and the best thing to do would be try it out. Test both drives and try to push them to the max to see what they are capable of.
  3. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    In general having a second drive to record onto (not your System drive) is recommended.

    Make it a 3.5" drive -- laptop sized drives are already throughput impaired because of their small platter diameter - and performance drops off dramatically as the drive fills up.

    A nice big 7200 RPM 3.5" drive will be able to keep pace with the audio tracks well.

    A Samsung 1 TB or Western Digital 640 MB in a SATA/Firewire case would be close to ideal. If you had a MacBook Pro, you'd choose a Firewire 800 case.
  4. SigmundFraud macrumors member

    Jun 11, 2007
    FW 400 not so bad

    Sure, FW 400 is much slower than the theoretical speeds eSATA, but for most music work, probably not as bad as it seems. Remember that the insane transfer rates of eSATA (upwards of 1.5 Gb/s) is for reads of nice continuous data blocks with no seek times. With music, writing multiple tracks while reading multiple tracks, there is seeking going on all over the place. As such there will usually be a ceiling effect that will mostly be well under FW 400's band-width. It would only be with at striped RAID set-up (or may be a 10,000 rpm drive) that you'd likely notice the difference between FW 400 and 800 or eSATA - at least for DAW work. I'd agree with the above post that writing to your system drive will be more problematic due to a whole additional read/write layer going on for the operating system and any running apps, and the intrinsic limitations of laptop drives. If in doubt, see if you can audition a FW 400 drive and see if it bears up to your music. I think it will.
  5. nicorojas macrumors member

    Jul 18, 2003
    fw doubt

    I use a powerbook to record my band hooked up to a phonic firewire mixer. We usually record 10 simultaneous tracks (4 drum mics, 2 guitars, 2 for bass (mic and line), 1 guide vocal, 1 keyborad (stereo)).

    I'm going to buy a LaCie mobile external drive to record. The question is: will I notice any improvement by buying a fw800 drive? is it justified?

    There is a nice 320 Gb mobile Lacie with fw800/fw400 and USB2. However, buying a mobile drive with just fw400 is quite cheaper.

    Please help!
  6. SigmundFraud macrumors member

    Jun 11, 2007
    We need to do a trial

    I probably use too many words. I don't think FW800 would produce that much benefit for the sort of multitrack recording you're talking about with ordinary drives. The seek-times (the time it takes the read head finding the bit of drive to read from or write to) are likely to be the what limits the speed, not the bandwidth.

    This is just theory, however. Could someone with an USB2/FW400/FW800 +/- eSATA drive (single drive - no RAID) do an experiment to see the maximum number of audio tracks for each interface. It would be really interesting. I don't have time right now, but if no one's done within six months I might try it then! Personally, I think we spend too much time theorising here - some answers can only be found through action!
  7. cschreppel macrumors regular

    Jul 17, 2006
    Boston, MA
    The 7200rpm internal won't generate much more heat, but if you're recording audio, as mentioned before, is much more efficient if done on an external.

    I'd recommend getting a 7200rpm or 10,000rpm external drive with both FW400 and FW800 to futureproof yourself a bit.
  8. nicorojas macrumors member

    Jul 18, 2003
    fw 400 v fw 800 v 5400 v 7200

    What about 5400 drives? I read (I think it was in barefeats) that the transfer rate of a fw 400 external drive was so low that the gains in speed from a 7200 drive against a 5400 drive would be lost.

    So, if you tell me that firewire 800 would not make a difference, I think I'll buy the cheap fw 400 5400 rpm mobile (bus powered) LaCie drive ($100 for 320 Gb), instead of the fw 800 7200 rpm mobile (bus powered) LaCie drive ($227 for 200 Gb).

    What do you guys really think? I'm getting married soon, so every penny saved counts....
  9. cschreppel macrumors regular

    Jul 17, 2006
    Boston, MA
    7200rpm FW400 drives will suit you just fine. I wouldn't go below 7200rpm for audio drives.
  10. SigmundFraud macrumors member

    Jun 11, 2007
    My writing must be incomprehensible....

    The 400 mb/s is unlikely to be the rate-limiter when multi-read/writes are going on - seek-times are. Want to find a way to make seek-times slower; spin the disk slower. A striped RAID set-up (where data is written to 2 drives simultaneously) or a 10,000 rpm drive MIGHT challenge a FW400 interface for music.

    Try it out yourself - time a nice simple file transfer across FW400 or 800 (or SATA for that matter), and it usually gets to about 70-85% of FW's theoretical speed (USB is usually worse). Now try coping 3 files simultaneously while reading a forth - you'll be lucky to achieve 20% of the theoretical speed for the combined files for FW400. Switching to FW800 in this instance is very unlikely to yield improved T/F times. Sure, DAWs optimise the read-write activity where simultaneous file-transfers don't, but it's a lot closer to the latter test than the former. If you're serious about multi-tracking, the faster the platter the better. I'm sure someone on the web will have done some benchmarking anyway.
  11. MowingDevil macrumors 68000


    Jul 30, 2008
    Vancouver, BC & Sydney, NSW
    Make sure its 7200, thats key imo.

    Also one thing to factor that I've learned is....if the Mac has 2 FW ports they are both on the same bus. So, in other words if you have an 800 drive in one port and a 400 in the other then they both work at 400. The only way to keep 800 rollin' is to not have a 400 in the chain...and yes that included daisy chaining them into the same 800 port.

    Now I'm not sure if that just applies to HDs or if a 400 audio interface will also slow down the pipe but I don't see why it wouldn't. Something to keep in mind. If Apple had REALLY wanted to make a Pro machine they would have had seperate buses for each port from the get-go.
  12. nicorojas macrumors member

    Jul 18, 2003
    Thanks a lot guys. I think I'll buy a OWC Mercury fw400 enclosure and a Hitachi travelstar 7200 200 Gb. It's quite cheaper than the LaCie and it's really portable and bus powered.
  13. nicorojas macrumors member

    Jul 18, 2003
    New question

    Hey guys:

    I was pretty sure I had made the decision, but another option crossed my mind.

    The thing is, we record on my laptop and then, usually we mix at home. That's why I needed the portability. But, what about recording in a big pendrive. There are 16 Gb pendrives out there that are quite cheap (LG, SanDisk Cruzer), and some brands are releasing 32 Gb pendrives.

    16 GB is usually less than what we use in a regular rehearsal. I could then take the recording and transfer it to a desktop external hard drive I have at home (a LaCie d2).

    What do you think?
  14. SigmundFraud macrumors member

    Jun 11, 2007
    Mmmmm...... no.

    Well look, it would be cheep enough to try out, wouldn't it, if you already had a suitable drive to test? You'd need to be careful though. There is huge variability in the speed of those drives, and they tend to be very asymmetric, i.e. much faster read than write times. I'm guessing that they are entirely unsuitable. After all, if you pull one open there might be two chips - the storage and a simple controller. It's hardly what you get with a real drive, and certainly not the equivalent of one of those solid-state drives Apple uses in the Air. I am almost certain that your internal drive would have better capacity, transfer rates and inter-file latency, so there would be no point.

    Have you even tested your internal drive for field work? I've found on my MB pro I can comfortably record 2 tracks (and I'm sure I could do at least 4) simultaneously while playing back a few more - and that's with a 5400 platter. It's not ideal and I use an external drive for more serious work, but it sounds like this would be worth at least testing for your purposes. With a higher capacity drive you could even have a separate partition - say of 80G for the purpose - to protect your systems partition from fragmentation. But back to your question, I think a pen drive would be hopeless - but test it and give us feedback. We get a lot of opinions here and not enough results of trial-and-error. You got me curious.
  15. dcocharro macrumors newbie


    Oct 24, 2008
    external drive

    A friend of mine uses to record audio a express card sata adapter to connect a sata external server drive with sata connection. So far he didn't complaint.
    He uses a macbook pro.
    The macbook 13" black doesn´t have express card slot,but I find these adaptors that turns your usb2.0 port into a sata port.
    Do you know something about the performance of this adaptors?
    It has sata performance or a usb performance?
    for example usb connection only sends data in one direction at a time, right?


    best regards
  16. SigmundFraud macrumors member

    Jun 11, 2007
  17. Macchino macrumors regular

    Jan 13, 2008
    I asumeyou are talking about the Lacie d2 Quadra.

    I have to of them daisy-chained trough firewire 800 to my imac, and use 1 for my samplelibrary, the second for recordings - And of course the internal HD for Logic itselve;-)

    I have as few issues with these drive

    First... MY GOD they are noisy - You can almost here thempretty good on recordings - So you should have them in a box or another room.

    Second... They fall a sleep sometimes, wich is very anoying... having to wait up to 15 seconds for it to start playback...

    The good thing is that it is one of the most robust drives within an affordable price range, and that is the most important thing to me! They are very very hard to break.

    I also like that they have both FW and USB. This means that i can use firewire on my iMac, and USB when i get my new mackbook... (nothing said about apple ditching FW)

    Thats my take on that hard drive...
  18. synth3tik macrumors 68040


    Oct 11, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN
    I would use the internal 7200 as your scratch disc. Once do working for the day though I would copy it over to the external. I have always shied away from putting those audio files I works so hard on onto the system drive.
  19. AKmike macrumors newbie

    Sep 15, 2008
    Someone here should be able to answer this... I hope.

    I am getting set up with Logic 8 using a MOTU 828 mk2 as a firewire interface on my 1st gen Macbook. That part is working great. The problem, and I haven't had time to troubleshoot much yet, is that when I add an external hard drive to the mix everything locks up as soon as I hit record and I have to restart. I tried plugging in the two devices in different ways and nothing made a difference. I thought about using a hub but that shouldn't matter.

    Is this just too much for firewire 400? Has anyone tried the same type configuration on a Macbook with any success? I'm not sure what setting might affect this so for now I plan on using the system drive but I really want to use an external as my "tape".

    Thank you.

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