Here's what I'm trying to do, someone help me (storage/workflow solutions for audio)


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jul 27, 2011
Okay fellas, I've gone OCD in researching how to "clean up" my setup now that i've ordered a thunderbolt display. I have a ton of questions, but will break up my questions into smaller parts so that this isn't a mammoth amount of reading.

I'm a DJ first and foremost using either Serato Scratch Live or Itch. In this regard, I'd say that i'm in the pro-level category. Secondary to DJing is music production (Ableton), short film/videography, and photography (this being more of an "i take pictures and just like to organize them... very very light post-work if any). The last 3 items are just hobbies (especially that last one).

Hardware I have
2011 MBP 15"
Firewire audio interface (M-audio 1814 for those that care)
MPD32 drum pad
Studiologic Keyboard
Thunderbolt display (on order)
2 External USB drives (both near 80% capacity)

What I'm trying to do
A- Clean up my desk
My MBP is my primary workstation for everything computer related (DJing, production, email, internet surfing, etc). With all of the stuff I have, to "dock" my MBP requires a bunch of wires to be plugged in and a lot of dangling wires.

Good news is that I think i've solved this issue (along with more real-estate issues) by going with the TBD.

B - Clean up my MBP
My MBP is the only laptop I take with me to gigs. Having a secondary laptop is not an option for me right now. Therefore, it's in my best interest to really cleanup my MBP and start setting up workflows that utilize external storage. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but the only files that should probably sit on my MBPs internal drive are the music that I would use for a gig, and of course the applications (word docs and small video clips too).

So this is where I need this forum's help on hardware solutions.

C - Maximize my workflows
As part of effort B, I realize that my hardware solution only makes sense if my workflows are sound. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm going to ask and detail this part out last. If you guys think that this is the first part that needs to be addressed... let me know.

Okay, with that said... here's my first question:

Q1 - Storage solution
- I need to move Ableton's library off my internal drive. I never work on music away from my home mini-studio.
- I need to move my photo library (40GB) off my internal also. I don't do much in the photography realm other than shoot, save, and organize (and sync pics with the iPhone4).
- All of my short film/videography work is done off my internal drive as well, so this should be considered as I want to move that off my internal as well
- If the recommended solution is to buy another external drive, I will transfer the contents of my current 750gb external and use that as my time machine backup. If anything else, lets consider that I need a way to backup things using time machine.
- I'd ideally like the solution to be seamless in the sense that I don't have to do much if anything for my MBP to recognize the additional storage once docked to the TBD.

Knowing i have a TBD on its way, what do you guys recommend for an economical solution? Are the thunderbolt solutions worth it right now for the throughput I need (right now i'm thinking no). If so, should I stick to USB2.0 or build a GigE NAS? I'm assuming wireless solutions are out of the question, but hey I might be wrong.

Then... do i go RAID 0? 1? 5?

Thanks for reading all the way through!


macrumors member
Jul 18, 2009
Why not a FW800 drive?

You could daisy chain it with your 1814. Or even swap out the 1814 for another unit. From your description it doesn't seem like you need that many inputs/ outputs. I have a similar setup doing production with Ableton and use a fast track pro which is 4/4 and more than enough. Its USB with no latency issues. You should be able to come out on top if you sold it off too.

With that you could use the FW and three USB ports on the display and be good. FW800 systems with 7200 rpm drives are the norm in the audio world and would be fine for photography and the small amount of video work too.

I think that's how I would go about streamlining the setup. That way everything is plugged into the display and nothing into your laptop.


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jul 27, 2011
Thanks Asus... I thought about a FW800 drive afterwards.

Okay... FW800 it is... I didn't even realize there are 2 FW ports on the back of the 1814. So...

TBD > FW800 > 1814? (I think my 1814 is FW400)

What about redundancy? Are those Drobo boxes worth it? Or would you trust say a WD (man their 3TB are going for cheap right now), or even get two of them?

So my next dillemma is workflow...

Right now, I download and organize my music on my internal obviously. The music on my internal is about 300GB and what I normally feel comfortably having for a gig. Once a year (when I remember), I go through and archive music that I know I'm not going to use for a gig anymore. Problem is, when I do that, I don't hear it anymore and I forget. I have iTunes set to manage and organize everything for me. So in order for me to hear something I've archived, I've got to power up the external and then import it into my library (which then sorta defeats the yearly archiving).

Is there a way to load both libraries (internal and archived music) into iTunes for listening? I realize I can load the archive library when I startup iTunes, but then I can't listen to my internal library.



macrumors member
Jul 18, 2009
Your 1814 has 2 FW400 ports for daisy chaining. So if you were to daisy chain a FW800 drive it would drop the speed to FW400 rates. Thats why I mentioned another DAC/preamp via USB so that you could utilize the FW800 port on the display and retain those speeds. However I don't think you would notice any degradation in performance at FW400 as a lot of audio applications still utilize it. It was mainly a convenience in terms of transfer rates.

As for drives I use a G-Drive Mini for my ProTools and Ableton work and have had good experiences. I've had a WD controller fail on me after a year so I've stayed away from those.

I really don't have solutions for your library problem. Maybe use a second media player like winamp or something for your external library?


macrumors 68000
Feb 26, 2011
Certainly the suggestions given already are perfectly acceptable. I'd like to mention just a couple of other options too mainly because they would offer more in terms of reliability in case of disk failure.

You asked about Drobos. They are a decent solution but for performance reasons, I can only recommend the Drobo S. The others are pretty slow unless you get into the 8 bay units which tend to be pretty pricey. Drobo in general is a good system, you'll find people that love them and hate them, but generally I tend to like'em.

Secondly, you can do what you looking for with virtually any of the NAS products on the market today. Getting one to connect to your system via gigabit Ethernet is child's play and provides performance exceeding firewire 800 if your NAS is capable of it. There's tons of great units on the market from Synology, Qnap, Thecus, Netgear, and a few others.

I personally use a Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra 6 which is happily serving up 6.8 TB to my home network and running quietly in a closet. When I need more than 6.8 TB of storage, I can simply remove the smallest drives in my array and replace them with larger ones. In a few hours I'll have the additional capacity available to my whole network. This is very similar to the Drobo BeyondRAID feature without some of the tradeoffs.

The advantage of a NAS unit is that you can buy a model with drive trays that can be easily removed and hot-swapped. So, if a drive fails, you can simply pull it out, slide a new one in and the system will automatically start to rebuild the array. There's no downtime to worry about. Plus, your data is safe from the loss of one or even two drives (depending on how you set it up). It can give a lot of peace of mind.

Plus, there's no wires running to your Macbook at all. The Ethernet cable from the back of the TBD will provide full speed access to the NAS over your local network. Also, if you ever run wirelessly you can still have full access, albeit more slowly.

The downside is they tend to be a bit of a bigger investment than just going to the store and buying another usb or firewire external. But, I find that is greatly outweighed by not having to juggle my files across multiple external drives. As always, YMMV
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