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Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Being a relative newcomer to computer audio and have just recently built a dedicated music only computer, I was wondering what other people thought of the two recording mediums for storing music on. What are their experiences with the two mediums ( pros and cons ). I am presently using a mechanical hard drive to store my music on, but I am using an ssd for the operating system etc. The computer is virtually silent as it only uses one 80mm fan for cooling (passive heatsink ), but the hdds are housed in a seperate unit and are cooled by a small fan which is quite noisey and quite irritating at times. I could swop out the fan and replace with a quieter one but I was toying with the idea of using an ssd instead. Has anyone used solid state for storing music on ? , I would welcome their input. I have read that some people prefer music stored on solid state and others prefer mechanical drives, again I would like some input. I know that solid state is more costly than mechanical drives but for me a 256gb ssd ( able to store around 600-650 cds using FLAC ) will be more than enough for the next 2-3 years for me. I look forward to ( hopefully) some replies.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #1
As far as sound quality is concerned, it doesn't make a difference. Other than that, SSDs are pretty much better than HDDs in every way: speed, latency, reactivity, power consumption, operating noise, even reliability. Transcoding audio can be faster (if your CPU is fast enough), and your music player will update your library (or search it, or whatever) a hell of a lot faster.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #2
Has anyone used solid state for storing music on ?


What's the point ? The benefit of a ssd is that apps are launched faster. Storing music on ssd, is just a waste imho.
It's more interesting to put the operating system on the ssd.

Quote
but the hdds are housed in a seperate unit and are cooled by a small fan which is quite noisey and quite irritating at times.

You mean that small fan is noisy ? Try to change the fan. The purpose of the fan is to extend the life expectancy of your hard drives,
but they might work  just as well without. There are "green"  hard drives that spin slower at 5400 rpm, that require less energy,
and I  guess would produce less heat. I 'd think such hard drive would be good to store music.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #3
The most elegant solution is to put noisy equipment in another room. It's always a good idea to keep equipment cool, so keep those fans running.
If that's not an option, SSD sounds like a good solution. Your DAC won't notice a difference.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #4
Because the audio that moves from either medium to the player and hence to the DAC will be exactly the same.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #5
It's a lot easier to change the fan for a quieter one.

OR get a "mechanical" hard drive solution that is both quiet and fits your needs. If the drive must be external, most portable USB drives today would be just fine for music. I would suggest the USB powered models, so you only need 1 cable. These drives don't need a fan, and are typically very quiet.

While not as as fast as an SSD, music "listening" doesn't benefit much from such speeds. Trans-coding or editing is another matter, but even then must programs would use temp files that could also be on your OS's SSD.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #6
Wow... is this a "give your own opinion" thread?
No single answer so far is on the same line than the other.

The price difference for the GB is still quite different between HDD and SSD. You say that you're fine with 256GB, but at that price, there are 3TB external HDDs (At least USB-3. Not sure about e-Sata ones, if they still exists..).

It all depends on the setup that you have.
The setup (as for the HDD's) that you describe does not correspond with the expected usage... Externally housed HDDs are used in a networked fashion and to contain lots of data (possibly in RAID setups). Replacing that by a single 256GB SSD sounds like they didn't suit your needs at all.

You might even think about buying a NAS disk. You can put that wherever you want in your network, and use it directly (ok, having Gigabit ethernet would be desirable in this case).


As for strictly, the benefits of using one or the other, skamps answer is mostly "to the point" (although I would like an explanation about that "reliability" part...)

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #7
[quote author=[JAZ] link=msg=847623 date=1382201842]I would like an explanation about that "reliability" part[/quote]

Mostly my own experience, but also this:
SSD Annual Failure Rates Around 1.5%, HDDs About 5%

Basically, mechanical drives with moving parts are a lot more likely to fail than electronic chips.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #8
Any modern spinning hard drive is far faster than you'll ever need for general audio storage. For mass accessible long term storage of audio there is no benefit in using SSD's. Take the money you save by using mechanical drives and spend it on far more capacity on a larger number of drives, and set them up on a reliable filesystem like ZFS. This way you can protect your audio from drive failures of every kind, even silent corruption.

I host my audio and video on a FreeBSD ZFS mirror in an external esata enclosure in my basement. Out of sight, out of earshot, and protected from an outright drive failure and protected from corruption at the block level by full checksumming.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #9
Yes, things with moving parts are conceptually more fragile, compared to things without moving parts. Said that, I don't recall HDDs failing for the moving parts, but mostly because of failing sectors in the platter, and failing circuitry.

And then, I also remember how Flash Memory used to be quite prone to errors (especially USB pen drives).
I think I've read that the problem about limited amount of writes per cell is either fixed, or the number increased enough to not care about it. In the recent years, even operating systems have changed some habits (i.e. not defrag a SSD drive).

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #10
If I'm not mistaken, current SSD controllers just frag themselves to increase the life per cell, and defragging is a no-op as best, and harmful at worst.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #11
What's the point ? The benefit of a ssd is that apps are launched faster. Storing music on ssd, is just a waste imho.

Exactly. Music playback (and storage) is pretty much sequential in nature. This is where the good old mechanical hard drives shine. Sure, SSDs are faster even during sequential transfers. But, hard drives are performing very well, too, and are just sooooo much cheaper per GB.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #12
I would be amazed if you were unable to find a solution that employs a hard drive for storage that isn't (for all practical purposes) silent. An SSD will work just fine for music storage, but it shouldn't be necessary.

For quiet hard drives, start by going with a modern 3.5" 5xxx RPM drive. A modern desktop drive of, say 500GB will have just one platter and be both quiet and cool, so will require minimum cooling. If housed in an external enclosure, it should require no fan.

For just a little more money (and far less than an SSD) use a 2.5" laptop hard drive instead, also 5xxx RPM. The smaller drives are generally quieter due to having less mass for both the platter and the head mechanism, and they run cooler. If your enclosure only houses 3.5" drives, then use a 2.5" to 3.5" mounting adapter. Or, you could just a buy an external portable drive already in an enclosure. One with 500GB capacity can be had for about $60 today.

Also consider installing the drive you choose internally in the computer case, which will take advantage of any cooling already in place to keep the CPU and motherboard cool. I tend to avoid external drives, except for backup or portability reasons. The extra cabling required and the unnecessary gear hanging off the computer just isn't an elegant solution for storage, IMO.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #13
Outside of the much higher cost, I don't see any reason not to use SSD, even if this application doesn't benefit from most of SSD's advantages other than the noise issue.

But if the computer in question is networked, I would just get a NAS hard drive instead. Then you can locate the drive anywhere to avoid the noise issues, and you could also easily get at the music from any machine on your network.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #14
[quote author=[JAZ] link=msg=847623 date=1382201842]I would like an explanation about that "reliability" part


Mostly my own experience, but also this:
SSD Annual Failure Rates Around 1.5%, HDDs About 5%

Basically, mechanical drives with moving parts are a lot more likely to fail than electronic chips.
[/quote]

Remember there's no replacement for backups. A "low risk" probability, on the eyes of the beholder is 100% failure.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #15
Remember there's no replacement for backups. A "low risk" probability, on the eyes of the beholder is 100% failure.


Exactly. I would spend the spared money on backup solution, at best an automatic one, with manually inserted/removed offline copies.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #16
[quote author=[JAZ] link=msg=847623 date=1382201842]I would like an explanation about that "reliability" part


Mostly my own experience, but also this:
SSD Annual Failure Rates Around 1.5%, HDDs About 5%

Basically, mechanical drives with moving parts are a lot more likely to fail than electronic chips.
[/quote]

Indeed, and here we have brands like OCZ with higher return rates, slewing that rate. AFAIK Intel have a 0.3% failure rate on SSD (hence their 5 year warranties), that is an order of magnitude more reliable than the average HDD failure rate.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #17
About using the money to buy large HDDs: note that the OP is talking about a computer dedicated to playing music only. Not a NAS or whatever, with large storage capabilities for all kinds of data. 2 or 3 years from now (referring to the OP's timeframe), large HDDs bought today will be a lot closer to failure.

About drive reliability and making backups: it's not one or the other. Backups are necessary in all cases, but I'd rather buy a drive that is less likely to fail, even if I have backups.

If 256 GB is enough for the OP for the foreseable future (like he said), and if he has the financial means, then I suggest he buy an SSD, put it inside the music PC and remove the drive cooling fan. That will eliminate all noise induced not only by the fan, but also vibrations and head parking noises induced by HDDs. Not to mention the sheer comfort of using an SSD for any kind of data, and all kinds of uses beyond just sequential reading for playback (e.g. updating / searching / filtering the music library and such).

EDIT: fans are necessary for drive bays that contain 2 or more HDDs next to each other. For one single 2.5" SSD? Not so much.

Also, if the music PC is meant only for playback, the OP could store his FLACs somewhere else (in a NAS, external HDD or some other dedicated storage unit), and transcode them to lossy for playback on the music PC, thereby dramatically increasing the number of albums and songs that a 256 GB SSD can hold.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #18
2 or 3 years from now (referring to the OP's timeframe), large HDDs bought today will be a lot closer to failure.


I think it's an exaggeration. I remind reading an article explaining how the cooling has dramatic impact on life expectancy of hard drive.
I have  two hard drive with more than 5 year of life, and no sign of failing down yet (I  cross my fingers).
A velociraptor WD3000GLFS, and a samsung hd501LJ.  And off course I  guess, it depends of how you use them.

And regarding the better reliability of SSD , I'm glad it was improved. However you still need to need to know which precise models / brand to buy for this.

Quote
If 256 GB is enough for the OP for the foreseable future (like he said), and if he has the financial means, then I suggest he buy an SSD, put it inside the music PC and remove the drive cooling fan.

Why not. But, as someone suggested, it might just be more logical/efficient  to try to swap the fan. Someone buying a ssd just to store music, is at least, unusual.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #19
I think it's an exaggeration.


Not really, that's why HDD warranties vary from model to model.

I remind reading an article explaining how the cooling has dramatic impact on life expectancy of hard drive.


Indeed, which is one of the benefits of swapping, say, two HDDs, with a single SSD, if it satisfies one's storage requirements. For instance, one HDD for the OS and one HDD for data, vs. a single SSD for both.

However you still need to need to know which precise models / brand to buy for this.


Same for HDDs: Western Digital, for instance, covers their models from 2 to 5 years (the VelociRaptor is one of those with a longer 5 year warranty).

it might just be more logical/efficient to try to swap the fan


No fan is always more "efficient" than any fan, however "silent" (as far as unwanted noise goes). Unless you're talking about cost, but everyone has their own threshold where cost is no longer a matter. Since the OP himself mentionned buying a 256 GB SSD, I suspect that's his case.

Someone buying a ssd just to store music, is at least, unusual.


With falling prices and increased storage / speed / durability, I suspect that will get less and less unusual.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #20
No fan is always more "efficient" than any fan, however "silent" (as far as unwanted noise goes). Unless you're talking about cost, but everyone has their own threshold where cost is no longer a matter. Since the OP himself mentionned buying a 256 GB SSD, I suspect that's his case.


I was assuming that his pc case use more than one fan, and that the one he wanted to remove the one that was the most noisy.
But I  don't know  all the details.  Otherwise there is a specialized website regarding silent pc, and the op might ask for advices there as well:
http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/
Since hydrogenaudio website is more concerned about sound quality, I think it has been clearly answered that using a ssd has no impact.

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #21
SSD PROS
No noise
No mechanical parts
Fast on smaller data/files
Fast on non-sequential data

SSD CONS
Not so fast on sequential data
Costly compared to HDD
Slower than HDD on writes especially large sequential.

HDD PROS
Generally fast on reads, especially fast on large sequential reads
Very fast on large sequential writes compared to SSD.
Cheap.

HDD CONS
Can be noisy
Mechanical parts
Not that fast on random reads or writes of small data.

HYBRIDS
This is basically a HDD with a SSD for caching and small file storage or frequent file storage.
It has most of the PROS of SSD and HDD and mitigated to none of the CONS of SSD and HDD.
Can be costly.


Now this is based on some research I did some time ago and it's from my vague memory of stuff.
SSD keep improving and especially in the writing speed and also on large sequential data handling.
So it really is down to cost.

What is recommended? Whatever gives you the speed/storage/reliability you need.
If you do a lot of audio work (large files and latency is important) then a good HDD my be a better choice than a cheap SSD for example.
If noise is an issue and you do not have any particular requirements and you don't mind the cost the a SSD may shave off a few dB noise in your system. (although compared with CPU and GPU fans the noise of a HDD is not that much).

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #22
SSD CONS
Not so fast on sequential data
Slower than HDD on writes especially large sequential.

Where the hell did you get that idea? Really fast HDDs manage maybe 150 MB/s (optimistically)
  • . My current SSD reads 8MiB blocks at 473 MB/s, and writes them at 369 MB/s. SSDs are (a lot) faster than the best HDDs in every way. Small write, large writes, random writes, sequential writes, everything. Even cheap SSDs write large files at 200 MB/s and up, a far cry from the fastest most HDDs.

  • except for the Velociraptor, which manages a decent 200 MB/s

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #23
SSDs are massively faster for sequential access than magnetic disks.  Magnetic disks are agonizingly slow on random access, and only very slow on sequential

Mechanical hard drives versus solid state drives

Reply #24
SSD CONS
Not so fast on sequential data
Slower than HDD on writes especially large sequential.

Where the hell did you get that idea? *snipetisnip* Even cheap SSDs write large files at 200 MB/s and up, a far cry from the fastest most HDDs.

Um.. *points*

Now this is based on some research I did some time ago and it's from my vague memory of stuff.
SSD keep improving and especially in the writing speed and also on large sequential data handling.
So it really is down to cost.

I haven't bothered to look at SSD's since then since the prize is still insane, and would give no benefit to me compared to the current use of my HDDs.
The early firmware of SSDs had major issues, and I'm sure many know of the improvements to sector (I think it was sector) recycling to extend the lifespan of SSDs.

I just checked a popular and very large online retailer her in Norway. The cheapest 3.5 inch HDD is a 500GB one, and a matching (in size) 500GB SSD costs 6 times that much.
Now if one where to get a SSD that costs the same as the 500GB HDD, then one could get a 30GB SSD.
Now given that, the 30GB SSD is about 2.5 times faster on reads, but over 16 times less storage space.
The 500GB SSD is about 5.6 times faster than the HDD, but then again, for the same price one could get a 3TB or 4TB servergrade HDD or a 1TB NAS or RAID setup.

Also, with lasers being experimented on for HDDs who knows what will happen there.
By all means if you got cash to burn then burn it. While SSDs have gotten big enough/cheap enough that you can get almost 6 times the performance for 6 times the price, that still leaves the fact that it's 6 times the price.

A "Green" HDD would be quiet, energy saving, and provide plenty space and fast enough to stream whatever you need for a music and video collection. If you do audio and videowork then up the priceclass a bit and you got drives aimed for that. If you need high storage and performance (I'm assuming that is popular setup among editing pros) then a hybrid might do the trick.

When a 500GB SSD costs only twice that of a 500GB HDD, then I'll bite. But it's simply not cost effective. Those who have nice big paying jobs probably do not care, but people barely scraping by (like me) do not have the luxury to deal with high prices.

I see now that I forgot to mention the PROS/CONS of SSDs providing typically small storage for the price, while HDDs providing typically cheap storage for the price.

Disclaimer: My advise is based on my own opinion and observations. I noticed no specifications on what/which form our responses should be in this thread. So apologies if I missed any.

 
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