Jump to content
  • The Computer Audiophile

    USB 4.0 Is A No-Go, For Now

     

     

    I write this tangentially HiFi related article in service of the Audiophile Style readership. I researched this for many hours and would like you guys to benefit from this research. Don't waste your time, waste mine :~)

     

    A couple weeks ago the power in my house went out, and my QNAP TVS-872XT NAS went out with it. I replaced the power supply in the QNAP, but to no avail. The unit is now on its way to QNAP in Pomona, CA.

     

    Without a NAS, I'm using a 16TB spinning hard drive that houses a backup copy of my 10.4 TB  music library. Since switching to this spinning drive, I've been underwhelmed to say the least. Most underwhelming is the time it takes applications to start playing a track. If it's my first track of the day, it takes a while for the drive to spin up. If it's my hundredth track of the day it's OK, but can still be slow at times. In addition, when using an app like Roon that scans this drive at startup, I dread restarting the application because it takes longer than I feel like waiting. 

     

    What does any of this have to do with USB4.0? My impatience with slow performance got the best of me and I started researching faster USB drives to store my backup library.  Given the price of high capacity solid state drives and the options for housing two 8 TB SSDs externally, among other things, I dialed back my expectations. I decided to look for a solution that could store part of my library. Due to the way I organize my music files, this is entirely possible without much pain, until my QNAP is returned.

     

    I have my music files split into two directories, based on how frequently I listen to the music. On the 16 TB hard drive I have a folder named Current (2 TB) and a folder named Archive (10 TB). I started organizing my music this way because over the years I've used nearly every playback platform in high end audio, and I've learned that some don't work very well with 22,000 albums / 330,000 tracks / 10 TB. With two main directories I can point an application at only the Current music for indexing, if needed. It's this Current directory that I'd love to house on a very fast external USB drive, for times like these when my QNAP is out of commission. 

     

    The Current folder is 2.02 TB, which puts me in a position to either spend money on more storage than I need, or see if I can move more music into the Archive folder, and fit the Current stuff on a 2 TB NVMe drive. I opted for the 2 TB route and started researching the best external housings for NVMe drives. I like to purchase the drive separate from the housing, so I can easily swap one of the two out in the future if needed. 

     

    My Mac Mini (M1) has USB 4.0 ports and I like to purchase items that will last as long as possible. I figured a USB 4.0 drive will be viable much longer than a USB 2.0 drive and should also outlast a USB 3x drive. This is when my USB 4.0 research started. 

     


    A Little Background

     

    The USB 4.0 spec was ratified by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) on August 29, 2019. The big thing consumers will see with USB 4.0 marketing is support for 40 Gbps throughput. Please, do your best to ignore this theoretical maximum throughput speed because it will only cloud your judgement for now. Similar to how my 16 TB spinning USB drive has an actual capacity of 14 TB and a usable capacity of 12.7 TB after formatting, USB 4.0  won't get anywhere near 40 Gbps for the foreseeable future in real world conditions. 

     

    With that out of the way, let's look at the NVMe drives that go inside a USB 4.0 external housing. The current Samsung 980 Pro Gen4 NVMe SSD has a maximum read speed of 7 Gbps and write speed of 5.1 Gbps. This is a new drive using PCIe 4, not some old technology about to be upgraded. If the theoretical maximum speed of the NVMe SSD was reached, this would still leave 33 Gbps of headroom on a USB 4.0 connection. Learned computer audiophiles will also understand that hitting the top speed of an SSD required laboratory conditions using benchmarking tools designed to get the most out of a drive. In the real world, these speeds are never seen. 

     

    So, we have a USB 4.0 interface with a 40 Gbps theoretical maximum speed and the fastest drive with a theoretical maximum speed of less than 20% of that interface (7 Gbps). Still think it makes sense to pay the premium for a USB 4.0 drive? Keep reading. 

     


    My Findings

     

    There are three main external NVMe housings that tout USB 4.0 support, the Orico M2V01-C4, Yottamaster SO3-C4, and ACASIS TBU401. The fact that these external housings get away with saying USB 4.0 is beyond me, but let's just say it's bending the rules into a circle. Support for USB 4.0 in this case just means that the drive will work on a USB 4.0 port. If this is really the standard used for marking a USB 4.0 drive, then all USB 3.x drives could be called USB 4.0. 

     

    orico M2V01-C4 usb 4.jpg  Yottamaster SO3-C4 USB 4.jpg  ACASIS TBU401 USB 4.jpg

     

    Getting away from the marketing side and looking at the actual capabilities of the chips inside these external housings tells the real story. All three housings use the JHL7440 Thunderbolt chip from Intel (The Yottamaster says it uses a nonexistent JHL440, but I believe this is a typo given the model numbers of Intel's Thunderbolt chips). The Orico and Yottamaster feature a separate USB chip, the JMicron JMS583. Let's look at each of these chips.

     

     

    Orico M2V01-C4 USB 4 Controllers.jpgIntel JHL7440 - This is a Thunderbolt 3 controller with native USB 2.0, USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbs), USB3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbs) support. No Thunderbolt 4 or USB 4.0 support in that it isn't in the spec, but will certainly work on those ports due to backward compatibility.

     

    JMicron JMS583 - This is a USB 3.1 Gen 2 to PCIe Gen 3x2 / NVMe bridge controller. It's a fantastic USB 3 controller that can theoretically saturate the USB 3.1 Gen 3 10 Gbps bus, but it isn't a USB 4.0 controller. 


    Let's take a step back and look at the NVMe drives again. Note, both of these controllers support PCIe 3, not PCIe 4. The Samsung 980 Pro is a PCIe 4 device that works great on a PCIe 3 controller because of backward compatibility. However, don't worry about PCIe throughput limitations as the transfer speed to PCIe 3 is 8 GT/s and PCIe4 is 16 GT/s. I write this only to let people know that getting a drive that supports PCIe 4, just because it supports PCIe4, doesn't make much sense. 

     

    These USB 4.0 housings are also picky when it comes to NVMe drives. The ACASIS recommends the WD Black SN750, but not the faster WD Black SN850. It also recommends the Samsung 970 EVO, but not the Samsung 970 EVO Plus. The Yottamaster seems to work best with Samsung drives. It's as if the device was turned for these drives due to the better performance scores in a lab.

     

    Back to HiFI for a second, I use this drive to store music and connect it to various music servers and computers. I like maximum compatibility when possible. The only one of the three main USB 4.0 housings that says it supports the older USB 2.0 standard is the ACASIS TBU401. The Orico M2V01 and Yottamaster SO3 don't support USB 2.0, even though the JHL7440 and JMS583 natively support it. 

     


    Wrapping It Up

     

    All is not lost with these drives and USB 4.0 technology. These three drives are incredibly fast on paper and in some laboratory testing done by others. They seem to work great and outperform others spec'd at only USB 3.x GenX. However, don't be fooled by the USB 4.0 marketing. The drives's controllers don't physically support USB 4.0 speeds and included enhancements. it's a fact. Look at the specs and papers from Intel and JMicron.

     

    I've yet to make a decision on what to do, but I highly doubt I'll purchase a "USB 4.0" housing anytime soon. 

     

     

    Product Details:

     

    Orico M2V01-C4 ($180)
    https://www.orico.cc/us/product/detail/7328.html
    USB Controller - JMicron JMS583
    Thunderbolt Controller - Intel JHL7440

     

    Yottamaster SO3-C4 ($180)
    https://www.amazon.com/Yottamaster-Enclosure-Compatible-Thunderbolt-Support/dp/B08T8TMJ43
    USB Controller - Micron JMS583
    Thunderbolt Controller - Intel JHL440 (However, this isn't a Thunderbolt chip part number according to Intel. My guess is this is a JHL7440)

     

    ACASIS TBU401 ($140)
    https://www.acasis.com/h-pd-9.html
    USB Controller - No separate USB Controller
    Thunderbolt Controller - Intel JHL7440

     

     

    Links:

    • Intel 7000 Series Controllers - PDF Link
    • Intel® JHL7440 Thunderbolt™ 3 Controller specifications - Link
    • JMicron JMS583 product brief - PDF Link
       


    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments



    I bet that we should have realized all three brands were coming from the same country, maybe in some cases someone over there could feel very so free to claim just about anything without the burden of proof?

    Heck, Yottamaster turned out to be nothing more than a trademark of Orico to begin with

     

    https://trademarks.justia.com/877/93/yottamaster-87793446.html

     

    In other words, we've gotta know what the deal is by now.

     

    BTW, the stringent requirements of USB 4.0 turned out to require some kinda certification / compliance etc. in order to achieve 40Gbps for real

     

    https://www.usb.org/sites/default/files/D2T1-2 - USB4 Compliance and Certification.pdf

    https://www.techadvisor.com/test-centre/accessories/best-thunderbolt-4-usb4-cables-3802567/

     

    Or maybe only the cables would require that certification from Intel or something?

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    NOTE:  ALL ANECDOTAL...NO SPEED TESTING PERFORMED.

     

    I salvaged a couple of 512GB Samsung NVME OEM drives from a laptop that could not withstand a quick shower.  I put them in different housings (I can look them up if need be) and have USB-C connectors.  Off the top of my head...I have no idea of the specifications they "adhere" to...but they seem pretty quick.  Quick enough that I use my myriad of spinning drives (1.5 TB to 4 TB) to store stuff I may never see or use again.

     

    No surprise to me that the USB 4 spec is out with no hardware available.  If the chip shortage is sidelining F150s no one wants spend fab space on geeky stuff.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Ouch, I forgot to ask if Chris were having any Thunderbolt 3 cables so that switching to JHL7440 might give us an idea of how close one could get to that 2,800MB/sec (theoretical) limit

     

    https://eshop.macsales.com/blog/68484-thunderbolt-on-the-m1-mac-mini/

    Quote

    Wow, that’s unlike any other Thunderbolt-equipped Mac I’ve ever used. System Report indicates that there are two Thunderbolt buses, one for each of the Thunderbolt ports!! This means that each port has its own dedicated bus and doesn’t have to share its bandwidth with any other port. Each one will have 2,800 MB/sec all to itself. I was a bit skeptical and wanted to test this to be certain.

     

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    9 minutes ago, Danny Kaey said:

    it's genuinely fascinating the break-neck speed of development when you consider that I still remember the novelty of USB keyboards and mice! LOL! 🤣

    The beauty of upgrading from a parallel printer to a USB 1 model!

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    52 minutes ago, jcbenten said:

    NOTE:  ALL ANECDOTAL...NO SPEED TESTING PERFORMED.

     

    I salvaged a couple of 512GB Samsung NVME OEM drives from a laptop that could not withstand a quick shower.  I put them in different housings (I can look them up if need be) and have USB-C connectors.  Off the top of my head...I have no idea of the specifications they "adhere" to...but they seem pretty quick.  Quick enough that I use my myriad of spinning drives (1.5 TB to 4 TB) to store stuff I may never see or use again.

     

    No surprise to me that the USB 4 spec is out with no hardware available.  If the chip shortage is sidelining F150s no one wants spend fab space on geeky stuff.

    There is some USB 4 hardware out there, but not much.  OWC sells a couple of Docking station things.  I am sure there are others.

     

     

    Screen Shot 2021-08-05 at 11.29.42 AM.png

    Screen Shot 2021-08-05 at 11.30.29 AM.png

    Screen Shot 2021-08-05 at 11.31.17 AM.png

    Screen Shot 2021-08-05 at 11.35.34 AM.png

    Screen Shot 2021-08-05 at 11.35.41 AM.png

    IMG_0954.jpeg

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    9 minutes ago, bobfa said:

    I am using the  OWC ThunderBay Flex 8 as a DAS.  I have a 2TB NVME drive in one of the top bays and an 18TB Spinner in the lower bay.  Now the spinner is SATA so that is the bottleneck.  Note that the NVME in my ThunderBay is a two year old drive from the Samsung external T5 drive case.

     

    NOTE I changed the fan in the ThunderBay to something a lot quieter.  Still hear the HD tick !!!

    IMG_0954.thumb.jpeg.2c0f26d907c20fbb17884955112eab8f.jpeg

     

     

    The M1 Mac mini has two Thunderbolt Ports and busses Each port is USB 4 with Thunderbolt 4 that can split out into two busses each.  I have one hooked to my 4k Display and the other to the ThunderBay.:

    994206050_ScreenShot2021-08-05at11_35_34AM.thumb.png.e3402881b7513c39e038dc53c4b87d26.png1564591917_ScreenShot2021-08-05at11_35_41AM.thumb.png.34c359c655afbee4abb988ecd84b261d.png

     

     

     

    This is the internal drive:

    924581073_ScreenShot2021-08-05at11_29_42AM.thumb.png.fdc76873b963a85699700f95727c4e7a.png

    This is the NVME in the Thunderbay:

    310350052_ScreenShot2021-08-05at11_30_29AM.thumb.png.6464f4386a0db13756461e446564b637.png

     

    This is the NAS spinner in the Thunderbay:

    172193664_ScreenShot2021-08-05at11_31_17AM.thumb.png.720260b14d63a890051ab00f374daf12.png

     

     

    Bob, can I use this as an excuse to buy this for when my SO asks why I need it?  

     

    But honey, Bob has one!

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Simpler thing to do....

     

    USB 3.0 hot swap cradle - SATA to USB. I have one and tested the transfer rate at 5 GB/S with a SATA 6 8 TB Spinning HD.

     

     

    Thermaltake BlacX Duet - HDD docking station - SATA 6Gb/s - USB 3.0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Perhaps I missed how long this has been a problem, but does windows index a drive similarly to the way MAC OS does? If so, could that be the problem? Otherwise, I am guessing it's Roon scanning the drive constantly as it watches for new files.

     

    I just ordered one of these with 4 spinning drives for my Mac mini , the 16TB enterprise drive version because that's the smallest.  https://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/TB3SRE16.0S/

     

    Thunderbolt should be fast enough.

     

    edit: and I just realized your CAPS motherboard has thunderbolt connectors!

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    2 hours ago, AudioDoctor said:

    Perhaps I missed how long this has been a problem, but does windows index a drive similarly to the way MAC OS does? If so, could that be the problem? Otherwise, I am guessing it's Roon scanning the drive constantly as it watches for new files.


    Windows and Mac differ in how they index a drive, so what you’re thinking about is a possibility. If you were talking about a backup program there would be settings allowing the changes made by both file systems to remain intact so you wouldn’t be constantly adding Windows changes and subtracting MacOS changes, and vice versa. I have no idea what the Roon settings are “under the hood.”

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    On 8/5/2021 at 10:38 AM, The Computer Audiophile said:

     

    At first I thought you were referring to the concept of using an optical USB4 cable for DAC isolation 😝

     

    In the storage space for super high speed external NVME NAS we are seeing new NVME storage arrays connected by 100Gbe fiber for ... breathtaking speed

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    46 minutes ago, Jud said:


    Windows and Mac differ in how they index a drive, so what you’re thinking about is a possibility. If you were talking about a backup program there would be settings allowing the changes made by both file systems to remain intact so you wouldn’t be constantly adding Windows changes and subtracting MacOS changes, and vice versa. I have no idea what the Roon settings are “under the hood.”

     

    I am only referring to what Mac OS does with Spotlight to enable search of files and such on the drives. I don't know anything much about windows and how it works.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    7 hours ago, jabbr said:

    In the storage space for super high speed external NVME NAS we are seeing new NVME storage arrays connected by 100Gbe fiber for ... breathtaking speed

    It make sense for a corporate environment, where many (maybe thousands) users need to access data, but I really don’t thing that this can be useful for an home environment where you access one file at a time … it seems like to buy a McLaren Senna to run around in courtyard …

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    13 hours ago, stefano_mbp said:

    It make sense for a corporate environment, where many (maybe thousands) users need to access data, but I really don’t thing that this can be useful for an home environment where you access one file at a time … it seems like to buy a McLaren Senna to run around in courtyard …

     

    Well on one hand ... sure. On the other hand I've never been fond of the USB interface to store a music library, or for a storage array.

     

    NVME has become popular for hanging fast storage on the PCIe bus and NVMEoF is extending the PCIe bus over the network ...

    The reason this discussion is apropos to this thread is that Thunderbolt was envisioned as a way to extend the PCIe bus over a wire -- that's essentially the protocol. USB4 has merged thunderbolt and USB ... Thunderbolt has had disappointing motherboard support and really hasn't caught on ... 100Gbe NICs are already yesterday's news so I'm discussing two competing visions of how to extend the PCIe bus out of the box.

     

    Sure, you can still just put your storage on a 1Tb USB thumbdrive and years ago no one could imagine that a home would need 1Tb or storage ... regarding speed, think virtualization, VR, holographics etc and why not at home?

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    TLDR USB 3.1 USB C external drives with 2.5" SSDs can work quite well as a music store without lag using Roon. 

     

    I recently moved my Roon Core install from my main PC (which is a beast) to an older Dell Workstation I had around (about 7 years old, but a Core i7 with 16GB). My music drive is a 4TB 2.5" Samsung 860 SSD.   I tried Ubuntu first, and that worked with the drive inside the machine on the SATA bus.   But I couldn't get my Windows machines to connect to drives I've shared from Ubuntu.  So instead I installed Roon server to make it a Rock, or Mock.  I was surprised that this worked perfectly without any customization or fiddling. And the shared drives show on every one of my devices without an issue (though the network paths are kind of convoluted and you can't change the name of the music directory to something easier).

     

    I tried the SSD drive as both internal SATA and with a USB 3.1 USB C enclosure (connected to PC with USB A 3.1 cable to USB C into enclosure) There was no delay starting music tracks to my ears with either configuration.  I setup the SSD internally.  I have a houseguest staying with me that is a non-audiophile techie.  He without prompting told me he liked the sound better with the new setup. It was smoother and more relaxed.  I heard the same.   Since I use some Parametric EQ in Roon and I play a lot of higher rez files, there has always been a slight delay when starting and stopping tracks while that processing kicks in.  With the Mock, it is actually substantially decreased to be almost unnoticeable. That was a surprise.

     

    I then setup a used 2TB Western Digital Blue SSD 2.5" drive in the USB C enclosure to be my video network drive.  This also works flawlessly with less lag than my previous PC internal hard drive.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I'm a little confused by this article because the speed of the interface is not the source of the problem it's the spinning media.

     

    If you put 16TB of Flash memory inside a USB 2.0 (480Mbps) enclosure you would see a massive speed up of your music library.

     

    Spinning disks are orders of magnitude slower than Flash memory in terms of access time and latency.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    The author is not the source of the problem it's the failure to read the entire article from the beginning to the end.

     

    It's 16TB SATA spinner at the very beginning, and then the author clearly stated that's changed to a 2TB NVMe SSD afterwards.

     

    Duh.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    1 hour ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    The drive is connected to CAPS Twenty. 

     

    then I guess I should read more thoroughly... the situation there could be similar, I don't know. the latest USB schemes are very confusing.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Thermal Throttling:  SSDs often slow down after writing some amount of continuous data because they overheat, which triggers their firmware to slow down the transfer rate.  To observe this, you can let the SSD speed test run for several minutes.  It's easy to do that with the Blackmagic app, which simply repeats the 5GB write and read tests until you stop it.

     

    My Oyen Helix Dura 2TB external drive has 950 MB/s write speed for the first 3 minutes, then drops to about half that.  I just ordered from Costco a similar SanDisk drive that, according to reviews, suffers less thermal throttling.  I'll find out.  Both are USB 3.2 Gen 2.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    On 8/16/2021 at 5:35 AM, AudioDoctor said:

    the latest USB schemes are very confusing.

     

    Here's what I recently figured out (corrections appreciated, of course):

     

    USB 3.1 is identical to USB 3.2!  The speed is specified by the Gen suffix, not by the .1 or .2 suffix.  Weird.

     

    USB 3.1/3.2 Gen 1 = USB 3.0 = 625 MB/s = 5 Gbps.

    USB 3.1/3.2 Gen 2 = 1250 MB/s = 10 Gbps.

    USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 = 2500 MB/s = 20 Gbps.  (I think this is same as USB 3.1 Gen 3.)

    USB 4.0 = 5000 MB/s = 40 Gbps.

     

    Thunderbolt 1 = 1250 MB/s = 10 Gbps.

    Thunderbolt 2 = 2500 MB/s = 20 Gbps.

    Thunderbolt 3 = 5000 MB/s = 40 Gbps.

    Thunderbolt 4 = ??

     

    Thunderbolt 1 & 2 use identical Apple-only connector.

     

    Thunderbolt 3 & 4 use same USB-C connector as USB 3.1/3.2, but Thunderbolt 3 and USB protocols are different.  Thunderbolt 3 hosts on Mac can communicate with USB Gen 1 and Gen 2 peripherals but probably not Gen 2x2.

     

    M1 Mac Mini has USB-C connectors with USB 4.0 and Thunderbolt 3.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now



×
×
  • Create New...