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External HDD, connect via USB or eSATA?


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I'm following the CAPv3 thread and will soon put together my own. Rather than a NAS, I'll be using an external 3.5 hdd in an enclosure that allows connection to server via USB or eSATA. I think I know that eSATA would be the faster of the two interfaces, but are there other considerations? Is faster better in all circumstances?

 

Tell me what I don't (but should) know!

 

This is the enclosure I have.

 

OWC OWCMEP944FW8EU2 Mercury Elite Pro Quad... in stock at OWC

 

Thanks for your thoughts, Peter

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Yes, eSATA is slightly better for two reasons:

1) it is faster, and speed is nothing to look down on :)

2) it is not USB. And although we are pretty sure that the SOtM card uses a different USB bus (PCIe) than the stock USB inputs on the CAPS V3 motherboard, it is still best to NOT put your DAC and hdd's on the same bus. eSATA removes all doubt.

 

The good news is that you can do either. But remember that the motherboard does not have an eSATA port so you need to run a SATA-to-eSATA cable out of the box via some hole in the backplate as described by Chris. Using the PCIe riser and Lagoon backplate, however, doesn't allow for much room for a cable hole.

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The good news is that you can do either. But remember that the motherboard does not have an eSATA port so you need to run a SATA-to-eSATA cable out of the box via some hole in the backplate as described by Chris. Using the PCIe riser and Lagoon backplate, however, doesn't allow for much room for a cable hole.

 

Thanks Ted, I imagine I could figure something out, but am waiting for Carbon and it's possibilities before ordering parts.

This drive will be powered by the Red Wine (I need to confirm viability of idea). With that in mind, I'm wondering if the SOtM sata filter would be prudent or would just add unecessary redundancy.

 

Your thoughts?

Silver box with blue light > smaller silver box with tiny lights > black box with blue display > black and silver box with glowing glass > reddish brown boxes > living room

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Peter, I love just about everything that SOtM has delivered, but am not a fan, personally, of the SOtM SATA filter. I found it constricted dynamics, but thatw as on my lower power SSD. YMMV. I have one that you could demo, if needed.

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Ted

Did you find that it tended to favour the HF area a little ?

If so, I suspect it may come down to the non availability and PCB area needed for much larger capacitance value surface mount electrolytic capacitors, that could have otherwise been used at the output of the filter.

Kind Regards

Alex

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 28-06-2020

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Not that I'm any level of professional at this stuff, but I think more people need to try things for themselves. I hope most people understand that no two setups behave exactly the same. I've had to learn that lesson several times now, so I hope I got it now...

 

I built a CAPS v2 and absolutely love it. I too do not like the SOtM SATA filter as it makes the sound a little hard and constricted. It does other things as well, but those issues made me not like the sound.

 

I also started with an eSATA drive for my music storage. When I first built my CAPS v2, I did a lot of comparisons with my favorite tracks played off the internal SSD vs. the eSATA drive. I couldn't hear any differences whatsoever. However, I had some issues with the drive parking and J.River not being able to wake it up quickly causing 30-40 second dropouts in the music. This caused me to test a 2.5" USB powered external drive to see if it had similar issues. The good news is that it did not. I also find the sound quality indistinguishable from the internal SSD. I also don't believe speed is any issue of any kind short of large data transfers. Playing music files certainly doesn't require high speeds. My CAPS reacts virtually instantly to any track or album change I've ever done, so where is the need for speed?

 

One thing I like about using the USB powered drive is that it powers on and off with the CAPS server. I have never had an issue with it, and the sound is by far the best I've ever heard from any source I've heard.

 

One thing I'd like to mention is that there has been a lot of talk about noise from theses computers. I just don't hear it with my setup at all. I've never heard anything like Chris described with his setup. Why? I don't know. But one advantage I do have is that my Eastern Electric DAC Plus doesn't need the 5v from the USB cable, so I have it switched off on my SOtM card.

 

My point is that some people should test things for themselves. Maybe you won't "need" some of the things people talk about depending upon your mix of gear. Another great example is that I got to test a Paul Hynes linear power supply for about a month not too long ago. It did more bad than good in my setup, and I'm a firm believer in great linear power supplies as I've used them with great results in the past. I would have been upset had I purchased the thing vs. getting it loaned to me for testing.

 

As always, YMMV.

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Peter, I love just about everything that SOtM has delivered, but am not a fan, personally, of the SOtM SATA filter. I found it constricted dynamics, but thatw as on my lower power SSD. YMMV. I have one that you could demo, if needed.

 

That's a mighty generous offer, Ted. Let me ge a little further down the road and I may take you up on it. The whole music mass storage/playback thing is new ground for me, so I appreciate your experience and analysis.

Silver box with blue light > smaller silver box with tiny lights > black box with blue display > black and silver box with glowing glass > reddish brown boxes > living room

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My point is that some people should test things for themselves. Maybe you won't "need" some of the things people talk about depending upon your mix of gear. Another great example is that I got to test a Paul Hynes linear power supply for about a month not too long ago. It did more bad than good in my setup, and I'm a firm believer in great linear power supplies as I've used them with great results in the past. I would have been upset had I purchased the thing vs. getting it loaned to me for testing.

 

As always, YMMV.

 

Point well taken, TJ. It's really easy for me to get sort of gear centric because I like to get things right from the beginning and well, truth be told, I like the gear....

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Peter, without any intention to steal your tread, may I ask you or anyone else for that matter what disk are you considering to put into that enclosure. The enclosure you are referencing is almost perfect for my needs: it is the right colour, size, fanless and FW800, among other things. I am considering Hitachi 5K4000 but that drive is difficult (if not impossible) to find. I have 4 7K3000 in my NAS but it is difficult to judge their loudness from associated fans. In specs for 7200rpm drives, most are rated by their acoustics at 2.9 bells in idle mode. 5400rpm drives should be cooler and less noisy, but I am just not able to find an appropriate one in >3TB size.

DS411+II <-> Mac Mini -> El cheapo 1 ft USB Cable -> QB9 -> Tyr XLR -> YBA Passion Integre 300 -> Auditorium 23 -> Vaughn Cabernets

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Peter, without any intention to steal your tread, may I ask you or anyone else for that matter what disk are you considering to put into that enclosure. The enclosure you are referencing is almost perfect for my needs: it is the right colour, size, fanless and FW800, among other things. I am considering Hitachi 5K4000 but that drive is difficult (if not impossible) to find. I have 4 7K3000 in my NAS but it is difficult to judge their loudness from associated fans. In specs for 7200rpm drives, most are rated by their acoustics at 2.9 bells in idle mode. 5400rpm drives should be cooler and less noisy, but I am just not able to find an appropriate one in >3TB size.

 

I used these

 

Newegg.com - Western Digital WD Blue WD10EZEX 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

 

The preloaded OWC external drives used Western Digital Black drives, known for high performance but also noisy. I've used Blue drives in the past successfully, they're quieter while still giving good performance. If I'm not mistaken this particular drive is a single platter, which I reasoned was less stuff to go wrong.

 

In time I'll probably transfer all to a ss drive, but the price needs to come down a bunch before I can see their value for high capacity drives, so that's a ways down the road.

Silver box with blue light > smaller silver box with tiny lights > black box with blue display > black and silver box with glowing glass > reddish brown boxes > living room

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  • 3 weeks later...

This is a topic I have been pondering and experimenting with for a while. I strongly agree with the poster above who suggested to try for yourself as I have obtained very different results than what is suggested throughout this site, most recently in the CAPS3 articles.

 

This started because I had several audiophile type USB cables here that I was experimenting with from my server to my Alpha USB converter so on a whim thought I would see what happened if I put one between my external drive and my server. I was shocked at the outcome. The impact was similar to the impact of changing USB cables between my server and Alpha USB. I use Acoustic Revive USB cables, these are by far the best I have found. They sound extremely organic, musical and real bringing a presence to digital music that I have not heard before. This is what I heard when placing it between my HDD and server too. I was using eSATA but find that with the addition of the AR cable, USB now sounds much better. This is very noticeable. I have to wonder if Chris and others that suggest eSATA have tried comparing to USB using cables similar to the AR. Now maybe it has something to do with the server I use and how it handles eSATA and USB. I don't know enough about it to make that determination but I do know enough about how my system sounds to determine the sonic result. Heck, I bought the drive enclosure (OWC Mercury ELite) mainly because of the eSATA ability so I wanted it to work as intended but by trying other methods it appears not to be the case.

 

Anyone else try this? I plan to buy the CAPS Zuma but will be using USB with an Acoustic Revive cable to connect my drive, not eSATA.

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Scraps, you are lucky to hear what you are hearing, because I would not at all recommend using USB for both data and music. They can interfere with one another (i.e same bus or same chipset). That is primarily why we recommend eSATA or firewire for hdd's when used with USB DACs. But don't change if it sounds good.

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That is primarily why we recommend eSATA or firewire for hdd's when used with USB DACs. But don't change if it sounds good.

There's also (IIRC) theortically a lower CPU load with SATA and FireWire vs USB.

 

Eloise

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Scraps, you are lucky to hear what you are hearing, because I would not at all recommend using USB for both data and music. They can interfere with one another (i.e same bus or same chipset). That is primarily why we recommend eSATA or firewire for hdd's when used with USB DACs. But don't change if it sounds good.

 

I understand why it is recommended...in theory it makes sense. A lot of things make sense on paper in computer audio but not so much in application. I wonder how many guys have actually tried what I am suggesting. I started a thread in the general forum as to not get too off track here, I'm real curious if others who have the resources...ie a higher end USB cable, external storage with eSATA and a resolving system.....reach a similar outcome in practice, not theory. Again, maybe it's something unique to my situation such as how my particular server handles eSATA or USB or maybe it's unique to USB cables with separate connectors for power runs, I don't know. I do know it is very audible.

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I understand why it is recommended...in theory it makes sense. A lot of things make sense on paper in computer audio but not so much in application. I wonder how many guys have actually tried what I am suggesting. I started a thread in the general forum as to not get too off track here, I'm real curious if others who have the resources...ie a higher end USB cable, external storage with eSATA and a resolving system.....reach a similar outcome in practice, not theory. Again, maybe it's something unique to my situation such as how my particular server handles eSATA or USB or maybe it's unique to USB cables with separate connectors for power runs, I don't know. I do know it is very audible.

 

My small contribution here is that I run a LaCie 3TB external drive to my laptop via eSata, fortunately my laptop has an eSata port as well as more USB 3.0 than 2.0 ports. I can say unequivocally that in my setup - with good USB cables and just a stock eSata cable - running the external drive via eSata instead of USB sounds significantly better, in fact, the noise level dropped to near nothing and the setup runs dead quiet, I never have any dropouts or 'stalling' (having 12Gb RAM is a plus on that front).

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This is a topic I have been pondering and experimenting with for a while. I strongly agree with the poster above who suggested to try for yourself as I have obtained very different results than what is suggested throughout this site, most recently in the CAPS3 articles.

 

This started because I had several audiophile type USB cables here that I was experimenting with from my server to my Alpha USB converter so on a whim thought I would see what happened if I put one between my external drive and my server. I was shocked at the outcome. The impact was similar to the impact of changing USB cables between my server and Alpha USB. I use Acoustic Revive USB cables, these are by far the best I have found. They sound extremely organic, musical and real bringing a presence to digital music that I have not heard before. This is what I heard when placing it between my HDD and server too. I was using eSATA but find that with the addition of the AR cable, USB now sounds much better. This is very noticeable. I have to wonder if Chris and others that suggest eSATA have tried comparing to USB using cables similar to the AR. Now maybe it has something to do with the server I use and how it handles eSATA and USB. I don't know enough about it to make that determination but I do know enough about how my system sounds to determine the sonic result. Heck, I bought the drive enclosure (OWC Mercury ELite) mainly because of the eSATA ability so I wanted it to work as intended but by trying other methods it appears not to be the case.

 

Anyone else try this? I plan to buy the CAPS Zuma but will be using USB with an Acoustic Revive cable to connect my drive, not eSATA.

 

If you can stand more experimenting and have FireWire capability, it would be interesting to know how a FireWire connection with an inexpensive audiophile cable like, e.g., the Audioquest Forest might compare. It's what I'm using and I'm happy with it, but I have no eSATA setup for comparison.

 

It sounds to me as if there's perhaps some very low level noise on the power side with eSATA that the AR cable may have gotten rid of for you.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> wi-fi to router -> EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> USPCB -> ISO Regen (powered by LPS-1) -> USPCB -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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When having the choice, I would always go for eSATA. Unlike USB, it always and reliably allows for SMART, drive power management (standby, sleep, ...), does not put any extra load on CPU, offers max speed of the drive. Plus decent eSATA (SATA) controllers (e.g. inexpensive Silicon Image chips) support hot-plugging just like USB.

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When having the choice, I would always go for eSATA. Unlike USB, it always and reliably allows for SMART, drive power management (standby, sleep, ...), does not put any extra load on CPU, offers max speed of the drive. Plus decent eSATA (SATA) controllers (e.g. inexpensive Silicon Image chips) support hot-plugging just like USB.

 

Any thoughts on eSATA vs. a FireWire connection?

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> wi-fi to router -> EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> USPCB -> ISO Regen (powered by LPS-1) -> USPCB -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Any thoughts on eSATA vs. a FireWire connection?

On a KISS basis (keep it simple) then eSATA is always going to be best as the drive uses SATA so you eliminate conversion / interface steps.

 

Eloise

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Personally, I, prefer USB 3.0 because my new laptop doesn't have an eSATA port. I am currently using two four-port USB 3.0 hubs so that I don't need to swap the cables each and every single time I want to access another drive. I own eleven external harddrives, which give me a total of 19 TB external storage. Using my old laptop, which does have an eSATA port, I ran some long comparison tests which lasted several months, and I even invited some friends and relatives to partake in these tests.

So far, noone has been able to hear the difference between USB and eSATA. When I asked these same people whether they thought my system was resolving, they were all unanimous about it and I was rather flattered with the replies I got. Non surprisingly, as soon as I swapped my asynchronous USB DAC with another one, a less resolving one, the asynchronous USB interface of which didn't have proper galvanic isolation, that's when people (including myself) immediately started hearing differences between USB and eSATA, between different software players, between FLAC and WAV, between........

If you had the memory of a goldfish, maybe it would work.
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