Recording - June 2016 - 8

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please remember to include your name and where you hail from.
One drive, two drive, old drive, new drive
Hello Paul Stamler: Thank you for your recent First
Steps article relating to dedicated audio computers
and external drives (April 2016). I have had some of
the issues you described, and I now intend to add an
external drive to my recording rig.
I want to ask you if you might make more clear what
types of files are best moved onto an external drive and
which types it is best to leave on the host computer?
I see the value of audio files on an external drive.
Do you include in that the .wav loop libraries a person
might have? How about MIDI files and virtual instrument
collections, as well as plug-ins of various types?
Using an external drive as an active part of the
recording process is a new idea for me. I have, until
now, thought of such drives as being for storage and
backup-"just in case" scenarios. Thank you for any
thoughts you might share with me on this.
James Wirth
Heber, AZ

Hi, James! Thanks very much for your question. Paul
thanks you for your letter; he's busy with matters musical in St. Louis this month, and has asked me to step
in and flesh out his comments.
It's actually pretty straightforward to figure out what
should go where, if you stop to think about the
process involved. What we're trying to avoid is a lot
of physical movement (repositioning) of the hard disk's
read and write heads over the spinning platters as we
work, especially situations that would make the drive
read from one place (the OS, the DAW, etc.) while
trying to also write to another (the tracks you're
recording), forcing the heads to jump around a lot.
Remember, movement of electricity through the computer (over cables and buses) happens at effectively
the speed of light, but physical movement of drive
platters and heads is many orders of magnitude slower. With that in mind, in the very simplest terms, you
want to be writing to one drive without interruption
while reading from another. If all of your audio tracks
are on an external drive, it can be writing away happily while your OS and DAW and plug-ins are being
read from the internal drive.
Now, what about loop libraries and plug-ins? If you
strictly apply the rules above ("read from one drive,
write to another"), then at first blush you'd think that
loop libraries should be on your main drive with your
OS and DAW, because you're reading them as you
play, not writing to them. But many DAWs will cache
looped audio ahead of time; they'll read the necessary

material into RAM when you load up your song, so your hard
drive's not being hit as hard while you record and play back
audio. (MIDI files also get cached; they're comparatively tiny.)
The same is often true of virtual instruments that make use of
large sample files, but it can be tricky to know just how much is
being cached. You might think you can store large libraries on a
big external drive with your audio tracks, because they won't be
read while you're writing new audio... or will they?
You have to think about how each plug-in uses stored audio.
Modeled instruments and virtual synthesizers might have little or
no sampled audio; once you open them in your DAW, they're
running in RAM and you don't have to think about them any
more. On the other hand, there are plug-ins that use large
libraries and have to be able to stream audio in large quantities
from disk, because you can't fit everything in RAM. The very
biggest libraries often like to live on their own drives!
Putting all that together, how does it affect you? If you're
working with an internal drive that has been doing everything
up until now... OS, DAW, plug-ins, loops, libraries, and recording audio... and you're getting occasional hiccups when you
record, then you can probably get away with just recording
audio to an external drive. Your system has showed that it can
handle everything else just fine.
However, if you want to get into really large loop libraries or
plug-ins that store a lot of audio for their sounds (a very common example among our readers these days is Toontrack
EZdrummer, whose high-quality libraries can be fairly large),
you might consider a third drive to store them. It's important not
to use partitions on the same physical drive; they look like different volumes to you and your computer, but they're just two parts
of the same physical device, which is still being overworked.
You need three separate drives.
Fortunately, these days it's easy and cheap to do this. For a
desktop PC, you'll get the most speed and the lowest cost by
mounting extra drives internally. For laptops and expansionchallenged machines, a powered USB3 hub or Thunderbolt
daisychain can easily support multiple drives at bus speeds that
are plenty fast for reading loops and audio libraries while
audio's being written.
Paul also discussed Solid State Drives (SSDs). If you can afford
them, they're a fantastic alternative... not only are they lightningfast, but because they have no moving parts, they don't suffer from
the same read/write limitations that hard disks do. It's theoretically
possible to do everything on one large SSD and never run into hiccups, but that's not really practical right now because a decentsized SSD can cost more than your computer! A better alternative
is to put your OS, DAW, plug-ins, and (not outrageously large)
sound libraries on an SSD, and put your massive libraries and
recorded audio tracks on one or two external hard disks.
In all cases, back up your data frequently and keep copies offsite for safety's sake... that's something else that's easy to do
nowadays. Good luck!-MM

Write to us at: Talkback, Recording Magazine, 5408 Idylwild Trail, Boulder, CO 80301
Or save stamps and send email to talkback@recordingmag.com
8

RECORDING JUNE 2016



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

Contents
Recording - June 2016 - Cover1
Recording - June 2016 - Cover2
Recording - June 2016 - 1
Recording - June 2016 - 2
Recording - June 2016 - 3
Recording - June 2016 - 4
Recording - June 2016 - 5
Recording - June 2016 - Contents
Recording - June 2016 - 7
Recording - June 2016 - 8
Recording - June 2016 - 9
Recording - June 2016 - 10
Recording - June 2016 - 11
Recording - June 2016 - 12
Recording - June 2016 - 13
Recording - June 2016 - 14
Recording - June 2016 - 15
Recording - June 2016 - 16
Recording - June 2016 - 17
Recording - June 2016 - 18
Recording - June 2016 - 19
Recording - June 2016 - 20
Recording - June 2016 - 21
Recording - June 2016 - 22
Recording - June 2016 - 23
Recording - June 2016 - 24
Recording - June 2016 - 25
Recording - June 2016 - 26
Recording - June 2016 - 27
Recording - June 2016 - 28
Recording - June 2016 - 29
Recording - June 2016 - 30
Recording - June 2016 - 31
Recording - June 2016 - 32
Recording - June 2016 - 33
Recording - June 2016 - 34
Recording - June 2016 - 35
Recording - June 2016 - 36
Recording - June 2016 - 37
Recording - June 2016 - 38
Recording - June 2016 - 39
Recording - June 2016 - 40
Recording - June 2016 - 41
Recording - June 2016 - 42
Recording - June 2016 - 43
Recording - June 2016 - 44
Recording - June 2016 - 45
Recording - June 2016 - 46
Recording - June 2016 - 47
Recording - June 2016 - 48
Recording - June 2016 - 49
Recording - June 2016 - 50
Recording - June 2016 - 51
Recording - June 2016 - 52
Recording - June 2016 - 53
Recording - June 2016 - 54
Recording - June 2016 - 55
Recording - June 2016 - 56
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Recording - June 2016 - 58
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Recording - June 2016 - 60
Recording - June 2016 - 61
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Recording - June 2016 - Cover3
Recording - June 2016 - Cover4
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