Sample libraries on a portable hard drive

Discussion in 'KONTAKT' started by sm0108, Aug 25, 2012.

  1. sm0108

    sm0108 New Member

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    2
    Hey,

    Currently I'm running kontakt 5 through ableton 8 on bootcamp (windows 7), on my macbook pro.
    I have put all my sample libraries and such on my WD portable hard drive (500GB, USB 2.0). It seems to run okay, but it does take a while for everything to load when browsing through the libraries, and sometimes when playing an instrument, the sound drops out.
    I imagine that this method puts a lot of strain on the external hard drive, but is this normal? is it risky? I generally use the DFD (direct from disc) sampling mode, but does this put too much strain on the portable hard drive?

    Since I'm almost out of space, I want to buy a new portable hard drive to put everything on. Ideally I want to use USB 3.0, but my mbp is not compatible with USB3.0, and thunderbolt is too expensive for me. Another option I have is to buy a hard drive with firewire and reformat from HFS+ to NTFS, however I'm not too confident that I can do this.

    So I guess what I want to know is how much strain is being put on the hard drive, and how much difference does it make when using USB2.0/3.0/firewire/thunderbolt? is USB2.0 sufficient?
    I know there are figures like USB3.0 being 20 times faster than USB2.0 and such, but I'd like to know how this translates to use with kontakt.


    Thank you!
    Thank you!
     
  2. EvilDragon

    EvilDragon Moderator Moderator

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    15,052
    eSATA is better than USB 2/3. I didn't see a lot of Thunderbolt drives out there.

    Also you should at least be using 7200 RPM drive.
     
  3. David Das

    David Das Moderator Moderator

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    7,039
    I haven't done tests myself, but I wouldn't expect USB3 to offer significant benefits over USB2. The throughput of USB2 is sufficient for moderate quantities of streaming as Kontakt requires. The hitch is that the one statistic of hard drives that really improves Kontakt's performance is the seek time (lower seek times = better), and the seek time is internal to the drive, and is not affected [much] by the interface (USB3, USB2, etc.)

    So I wouldn't expect a USB3 drive to perform much better than a USB2 drive. It's possible it might offer some advantages during extremely heavy polyphony, but it would have to be extremely heavy polyphony.

    EvilDragon is right that eSATA tends to outperform USB 2 and USB3. But again, eSATA doesn't affect seek times.
     
  4. EvilDragon

    EvilDragon Moderator Moderator

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    True - however you could connect any regular (internal) SATA drive via eSATA enclosures (like those listed here) and not lose any performance whatsoever. This includes SSDs as well!
     
  5. reddog2

    reddog2 NI Product Owner

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    166
    The other alternative is Firewire 800. I use a Glyph Portagig drive. They are a lot more expensive than the WD drives (I have one of those as well that I use for backup), but they work vey well.
     
  6. sm0108

    sm0108 New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Thank you all, I really appreciate your replies.
    So just to clear things up, what factors affect the speed?

    -RPM, interface (not as much?), and seektime?

    How am I able to look into these parameters of each different portable hard drive?

    also I don't quite understand eSATA/SATA, is it just another type of connection interface?
     
  7. EvilDragon

    EvilDragon Moderator Moderator

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    15,052
    RPM, seek time, interface, in that order. These specs should always be stated by the manufacturer in product description.

    SATA is currently the most widespread HDD connectivity interface.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SATA
     
  8. David Wise

    David Wise NI Product Owner

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    398
  9. sullivang

    sullivang Forum Member

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    I have in fact done some performance testing. I agree with David(s!) that the seek time is paramount.

    Suggestions:
    a) Try to make sure that all drive power management is disabled. On Windows, I have found that I need to use a special utility to do this: Drive Power Manager Not sure about Macs. I had a problem with another software sampler with notes dropping out after I began to play after a period of inactivity. (Kontakt seemed to tolerate the power management ok, but it could still be an issue) Before I found that utility, I discovered that if I kept the drive busy by accessing it periodically outside the sampler, it all worked fine.
    EDIT: I've just tried this utility with an external USB drive, and it's saying that the drive doesn't support power management - I can't do anything to it. Not sure whether it's because it's USB, or whether the drive simply doesn't have the type of power management that this utility can control. Up to now, I have only been using this utility with SATA drives.

    b) Defragment the disk and keep the samples all together, as close to the outer cylinders as possible. I use Ultimate Defrag for this, to avoid having to use disk partitions. This utility makes it very easy to put the samples anywhere you like on the disk. (typically, I use the "high performance" mode of defragmentation, telling it to only bother with the samples, and then stop after that)
    EDIT: Sorry - I see that your disk is actually full. It won't hurt to defrag, but I don't think it will help much.

    c) Increase your Kontakt pre-load as much as you can. This will have two effects:
    - Kontakt will read larger chunks of sample data each time it goes to read from a sample file, which increases the overall data rate that is achievable from any given disk. This increases polyphony.
    - A larger pre-load will reduce the probability that Kontakt will need to access the disk at all, because a larger portion of each sample will be permanently held in memory.
    Drawbacks: It increases instrument load time, and consumes more memory.

    I would not expect miracles though.

    I've done a bit of testing with some USB FLASH thumb drives, and they can work very well. Their transfer rate is lower than a hard drive, but they make up for that with their extremely low seek time.
    (I see that you are using a 500GB drive and it's full, so this is irrelevant for you!)

    Greg.
     
  10. EvilDragon

    EvilDragon Moderator Moderator

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    15,052
    UltimateDefrag is gold.
     
  11. sullivang

    sullivang Forum Member

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    It sure is. :)

    Another thing to be aware of: during playing, the system will do extra caching (over and above the pre-load, which is fixed) of the samples, to reduce the amount of disk access. This is good, however it can make deterministic testing very difficult.

    If you want to simulate what it would be like to start playing Kontakt after a fresh reboot, before any extra caching has occurred, for Windows there is a utility called RAMMap that allows the system cache to be cleared. The command you need to select is Empty | Empty Standby List. This avoids the lengthy reboot process inbetween tests, if you want to stress your disk. I've found that to get truly representative performance, I need to reload any Kontakt instruments AFTER clearing the cache. (I was doing controlled tests, to determine exactly how many simultaneous voices my disks could stream) It wasn't even enough just to reload the samples - I had to close down the instrument entirely and reload it. (I left Kontakt open though)

    Greg.
    ---
    sm0108: Also, when you upgrade the disk, you could consider getting the very largest disk you can, to improve performance. The reason for this is that the smaller the percentage of the disk you use for the samples, the less amount of seeking there will be. (a "seek" is when the mechanical heads in the disk move to another part of the disk - this mechanical operation is very slow) This assumes of course that all the samples are packed together on the disk - not spread out over the disk.

    I guess another idea is to use an SSD in conjunction with a hard drive, and transfer all the samples you need for any given project to the SSD.

    Have you tried it with the samples on the internal disk at all? If so, did that work better than it is when using the external disk? The problem may not necessarily be due to the disk.

    Greg.