Using USB Flash Drives to run sample libraries

Hello all,

Seeing an advertisement for an 8GB flash drive for $30, and also travelling, and also dealing with the fact that I did not have my external hard drive with me and I was running samples off of my C: Drive, I had an idea. I wondered how well a sample library would run off of a flash drive.

My thoughts were that the flash drives have no mechanical process, no ";needle"; that needs to hop around to different files, but I remembered in the back of my mind that maybe USB flash drives were slower than a hard drive. Can't be the transfer rate, I guess, because they both go through the same USB 2.0 bus!

Anyway, my thoughts that having almost non-existent access time for multiple samples on large scores might out-do any difference in transfer speeds. So I bought an LG 8GB drive at Fry's,  mirrored my VDL and Garritan CB/MB sample libraries onto it, and loaded up my most troublesome score in Sibelius. I was running a full band score (winds, pit, battery) and I would get pops on the C: Drive and a pretty clean playback on my external drive but still pops. Well, the Flash drive appears to have out-performed both! The playback ran nearly perfect! I am quite excited!

Yes, I already have tweaked my sound card, etc. to get the most optimal latency, etc. I used the same settings for each of these tests.

Anyway, I researched on the web to see if anyone else has tried this and found nothing. If anyone has given this a shot, please let me know! I welcome more input on this.

It is awesome that I don't have to take my external hard drive, cable, and AC adapter with me when travelling or just wanting to get out of the house to do some work. Now all I use is the small USB stick and so far it has performed magnificently, better than my 7200rpm USB 2.0 ext. hard drive.

This may be helpful to several people, so I thought I would share! If anyone has any stories, please share back!

Thanks,
John Best
Well, when I was using my laptop drive it seemed that it wasn't able to keep up with the number of samples it needed to load off of the hard drive. I did adjust for latency and RAM size and was using the best possible scenario for those numbers. Running off an external drive helped. I think that it was the access time for the hard drive needle needing to access files so quickly that was the problem, not the transfer speed. When running off my laptop, additional system processes would interfere with KP2 loading samples off the drive.

Anyway, I am happy to report I have been using the 8GB USB drive now for a couple of weeks and even with a 37-stave full marching band score runnning, I am not noticing any problems with sample loads, even in the busiest spots!

FYI, I did find that different brands of USB sticks do have different transfer rates.

I would love to get some more numbers on this! I haven't really bothered with too many tests yet because I've been busy actually writing... I want to try a test where I load the same patches in a score on the C: drive, My external drive, and the USB stick to compare speeds.

Thanks for all the input, guys!

- John
Why don't you have your samples on your laptop drive?  It's faster than an external drive, unless it's an older laptop.  I've heard some people say putting samples on a 2nd drive helps, but it hasn't been an issue for me.   

I've talked about this several times before here: Firewire and USB are bottlenecks that limit the speed of your external drive.  I'm very skeptical about an external flash drive solving your problems- here's why:

Firewire: 50 MB/s
USB 2.0: 60 MB/s
Firewire 800: 100 MB/s
Serial ATA: 187.5 MB/s
Serial ATA II: 375 MB/s

Those are theoretical maximum numbers.  Actual real-world numbers are much lower.

You can run the free program HD Tach to see how your drives are actually performing. 

download here: http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/index.php?request=HdTach

Here are my results:

8 GB Flash Drive: 19.5 MB/s
Firewire 400 7,200rpm Drive: 38 MB/s
Internal 10,000rpm SATA II: 135 MB/s

Hard drive speed aside, your samples are partially being loaded into RAM.  If you have a lot of RAM, you can adjust your DFD setting to ";high performance.";  RAM is really cheap, and 2 GB is probably the minimum for a full battery/pit score.

Also, your ";pops"; are possibly soundcard latency related and not hard drive related.

Oh. hehehe  I missed the ";traveling"; part of the OP! Ooops :)
[quote author=perpetualpoet link=topic=2598.msg13817#msg13817 date=1216068256]
To my knowledge, Internal hard drives are still way faster than external drives (usb or firewire) so isn't it better to just get a 2nd internal drive?
[/quote]Definitely, but this is rarely possible for laptop users.
[quote author=johnfbest link=topic=2598.msg13804#msg13804 date=1215966560]
So I bought an LG 8GB drive at Fry's,  mirrored my VDL and Garritan CB/MB sample libraries onto it, and loaded up my most troublesome score in Sibelius. I was running a full band score (winds, pit, battery) and I would get pops on the C: Drive and a pretty clean playback on my external drive but still pops. Well, the Flash drive appears to have out-performed both! The playback ran nearly perfect!
[/quote]

I have a feeling this is going to come in very handy in my near future...

Thanks for the great tip!
To my knowledge, Internal hard drives are still way faster than external drives (usb or firewire) so isn't it better to just get a 2nd internal drive?
Sweet! That's awesome!

  I'm running everything off my ";C"; at the moment. I've thought about using my Firewire 800 drive for the samples but just haven't done it for some reason. I should format it and give it a try.

I ran across this today, it's fairly old but it compares USB 2.0 to firewire 400 and 800. I'm not sure it this is still true, but barefeats said that USB 2.0 goes MUCH faster on a PC than a mac! pretty much rivaling that of a firewire 400

http://www.barefeats.com/usb2.html
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