Recording - April 2016 - 63

USB 3.0 slots, which my particular external drive can use for
a big boost in transfer speed.
Like a lot of audio people I used to have a closet shelf
filled with hard drives, mostly internal drives in caddies.
That ended the day I knocked one off the shelf, which
ended that drive's career. Now, my hard drives that aren't
inside a computer all live in a desk drawer, where they're
less vulnerable to accidents.
One of the dirty little secrets of hard drives is that
they're made in batches, and reliability varies from batch
to batch. So how should you choose a hard drive? I follow
the advice of my friend and former student Shaun Wall,
who told me to pick out a likely candidate for purchase,
then go to newegg.com and read the user reviews of that
particular drive-all of them, positive and negative.
Newegg is a big enough dealer that its site has lots of
reviews, and you can get a good sense of what buyers'
experiences have been. If the same problem pops up in a
bunch of negative reviews, that might be a model to avoid.
While we're here, this is probably a good place to mention that you should be utterly fanatical about backing
everything up, in multiple places. As my Sequencing
teacher used to tell us, "If you ain't got it in three places,
you ain't got it." Not only do I back things up on the big
hard drive, I put current work-in-progress on a thumb
drive-excuse me, flash drive; I get these from the local
Micro Center at ridiculously reasonable prices.
Which brings me to...

this way, there are now USB 3.0 flash drives that are
effectively tiny SSDs, but they aren't cheap.
While we're talking about flash drives and other things
that connect via USB, the newest doodads I've gotten for
Bert and Ernie are USB hubs. Why? Because I spend a
lot of time plugging and unplugging USB things, and
quite frankly I'm concerned with wearing the jacks out;
I'd much rather wear out the jacks on $15 hubs than on
the computers themselves. Note that these are powered
hubs, not passive ones, which provide the juice external
hard drives and interfaces need.
Please don't interrupt me
Something else which is vital to do with a computer that
will run audio, whether it's to be a dedicated audio machine
or a do-everything box, is to clear the decks, which means
optimizing the computer for recording and processing
audio. One strategy for finding out how to do that is to
Google the search terms "optimize [OS name & number]
audio", without the quotation marks, filling in the name of
your operating system (Windows 8.1, Mac OS X 10.11, et
cetera). Print out a hard copy of the instructions; you'll
need them to work from as you configure the computer.
The folks at the dealer Sweetwater have put together a
composite site, containing instructions for optimizing several
current operating systems. You can find it at
tinyurl.com/sweet-opt. Most of the changes you'll be advised
to make involve turning off automatic functions that operate

You should be utterly fanatical about backing everything up,
in multiple places. As my Sequencing teacher used to tell us,
"If you ain't got it in three places, you ain't got it."
No moving parts!
Mike Metlay's review (Recording, June 2015) of a solid
state drive (SSD) had me turning green with envy. Solid
state drives are basically flash drives writ large; they're
silent, they're fast, and with no moving parts they're a lot
more clunk-proof than hard disk drives.
The price still hasn't fallen to match that of hard drives
-my 2 TB hard disk drive sells for about $90, but as of
now you can expect to spend $600 or more for a similarly
sized SSD. I expect that prices on SSDs will come down
fairly quickly, though.
While I wait, I'm using thumb drives to store individual
works-in-progress, as mentioned. The whole Ottoman
Underground session (four songs, including "Arbetslosen
Marsch", from which this series' sample clip is drawn; nine
audio tracks, and several takes of each song) occupies 4.5
3GB, meaning I could carry it home on an 8 GB flash drive
($5) with room to spare. For routine storage and transporting files from place to place, I use generic, house brand
flash drives from Micro Center; for applications when I
need faster writing and reading, I use Verbatim drives.
Which brings me to the question: can you actually use
a flash drive as your active storage when working on it
with a DAW? My answer is a tentative "Yes, but..." I've
done it a few times, processing files using iZotope RX on
the university's computer, and leaving the files on my
"Sneakernet" flash drive rather then copying them to
the computer's hard drive. (Computer mavens say this is
a bad idea.) It worked, but the system told me it wasn't
happy; it processed the audio a bit slowly, and saving
took a while. If you want to make a career of working

in the background while the computer is running-things
like software and antivirus updates, calendars, and the like.
Those are useful things to have in a do-everything computer,
but if they trigger while you're recording audio, they could
ruin a take with glitches (and it'll always be the best take).
If you're using some version of Windows, you should
create a System Restore point before you start monkeying with computer optimization. If you do something that
upsets the whole shebang, you can perform a Restore to
get back to the way things used to be. Note that one of
the things most system optimization procedures tell you
to do is to disable the automatic creation of System
Restore points; you'll either have to manually make a
new one every few days or re-enable the automatic function when you're not working on audio.
One thing I haven't touched on so far is electric power for
your computer. Contrary to a few enthusiastic sales people,
you almost certainly do not need fancy power conditioning
for your studio, but your computer does need an effective
surge suppressor, which you can get at any computer store.
And with that, I'm going to sign off on this article. It's
already way long, and could be much longer if I let it-
computer audio has nearly endless back roads to explore.
But there's a good Midwestern thunderstorm brewing outside my workroom right now, and I'd rather not imperil
Bert further-surge absorber or no. Next month we'll go
on to the software that makes computer audio possible,
the digital audio workstation (DAW). Stay tuned!
Paul J. Stamler (stamler@recordingmag.com) is a recording musician, engineer, educator, and collector of bizarre vintage recordings, living in St. Louis.
RECORDING April 2016

63


http://www.newegg.com http://www.tinyurl.com/sweet-opt

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - April 2016

Contents
Recording - April 2016 - Intro
Recording - April 2016 - Cover1
Recording - April 2016 - Cover2
Recording - April 2016 - 1
Recording - April 2016 - 2
Recording - April 2016 - 3
Recording - April 2016 - 4
Recording - April 2016 - 5
Recording - April 2016 - Contents
Recording - April 2016 - 7
Recording - April 2016 - 8
Recording - April 2016 - 9
Recording - April 2016 - 10
Recording - April 2016 - 11
Recording - April 2016 - 12
Recording - April 2016 - 13
Recording - April 2016 - 14
Recording - April 2016 - 15
Recording - April 2016 - 16
Recording - April 2016 - 17
Recording - April 2016 - 18
Recording - April 2016 - 19
Recording - April 2016 - 20
Recording - April 2016 - 21
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Recording - April 2016 - 24
Recording - April 2016 - 25
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Recording - April 2016 - 27
Recording - April 2016 - 28
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Recording - April 2016 - Cover3
Recording - April 2016 - Cover4
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