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How Big or Fast Should Your Hard Drive Be

A faster drive is fine, if you have the extra cash, and don't mind the higher noise. Will it make your Tyros-2 perform faster in any way? Not a chance. Let me explain why, and hopefully prevent some owners from making a costly mistake.
2.5" hard drives today spin at either 4200, 5400 or 7200 revolutions per minute (rpm). The faster the discs spin, the faster a drive's "seek time" will be. The seek time is the (average) time it takes for the read/write heads of the drive to move to the correct place. Also, faster drives have faster internal data transfer rates. This means how fast the drive is able to actually read a chunk of data into the drive's internal cache, ready to be bursted to the system, through the drive's "interface", which, in the Tyros2's case, is IDE/EIDE (ATA-100).

Now, let's consider the usage of a drive. When used in a computer, a faster drive will greatly benefit the system. When you boot up Windows, for instance, the operating system is in effect reading hundreds of small files scattered across the hard drive, in which case the better seek times of faster 7200 rpm drives are very welcome. The computer will have finished booting several seconds earlier than it would have with a slower drive.

But what about when used in the Tyros-2? What type of usage can we expect?
The hard drive on the Tyros-2 is used for recording digital audio (HD recorder), loading/saving custom styles, custom voices and samples. The bitrate of digital audio recording is about 1.4 Mb/s. 4200 rpm drives have an internal transfer rate of around 370 Mb/s. 5400 rpm have around 440 Mb/s. 7200 rpm have around 500 Mb/s. So it is clear that even with the slowest 4200 rpm drive, you would have absolutely no problem using the HD recorder on the Tyros-2 - even in full duplex mode (which is also possible, it means you hear your previous recording and can at the same time record on top of it). This would use double the data rate. But as we can see, HD recording uses only a fraction of the data rate capabilities of any available 2.5" hard drive.

What about seek times then? Well, there are no "many small files" to load. You always load just one style, one midi, one registration setup. In effect, usually one file. What are the differences in seek times between these drives? 4200/5400 drives typically seek in 12ms (that's MILLISECONDS) whereas 7200 rpm drives do it in 10ms. As you know, a millisecond is one-thousandth of a second. This means in theory, the faster 7200 rpm drives can load a style "two one-thousandths of a second" faster than the slower 5400 rpm drives. In practice however, there would be no difference, as the Tyros-2 operating system is fairly slow in itself, wasting any speed gains in actually reading the style data.
As we know, the USB ports on the Tyros1 are v1.1, which effectively kills the advantage of any fast hard drive when importing / exporting samples or music. It is just terribly slow and I know, because I've already used it.
There is just one scenario where one could slightly benefit from having a 7200 rpm drive: loading a HUGE sample into Tyros-2's sample memory. Let's say you have imported a 500MB voice library using your USB thumb drive (and waited for half an hour for it to finish), then want to play with it. 500MB equals 4000Mb (MB=Megabytes, Mb=Megabits). With the theoretical transfer speed of 440Mb/s, my 5400rpm Samsung would load this in 9 seconds, whereas the faster Hitachi (at 500Mb/s) would manage it in 8.

So that one second advantage in a very unlikely / rarely used scenario is, in my opinion, not enough to compensate for the one very considerable downside of 7200 rpm drives: they are more noisy. Hard drives have motors to spin the discs (duh). Looking at the specifications of the 7200 rpm Hitachi, it emits 35 dB (decibels). That's over TEN decibels more than my 5400 rpm Samsung (24 dB ). That's a fair amount of more noise, as any audiophile will recognize. I don't want my Tyros-2 to sound like an aeroplane (which it may look like ). In noisy environments like at gig venues this will not make a difference, but in the silence of my home, or when I'm doing a recording, I don't want any more noise than is absolutely necessary. The hard drive cover on the Tyros-2 is full of holes (to allow air to circulate) and does not provide any noise insulation. As it is now, I can barely hear my Samsung drive humming when the room is quiet. I would assume a 7200 rpm drive would be much more of a pain....
Just my (more than) two cents worth.

"TheWolf"

- Other related: PSRTutorial.com

Comments

#1 | jkwhyd on July 18 2006 07:01:22
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Thank you Wolf for your informative article on hard drive selection, size and seek time.

Do you have recommenations on the optimal use of the hard drive? I have files for styles, midis, registrations, voices etc. and not knowing how to best utilize the hard drive, these files are stored in alphabetical order regardless of types.

Any insight on how to best use the hard drive in an efficient manner will be appreciated.

Thanks,
Joel

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