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Audible differences between hard disks

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Hello and greetings from sunny GREECE

I’m into computer audio playback for nearly 3 years started with an soundblaster audigy 2 nx moved to benchmark dac1 usb and now weiss Minerva

What I have noticed all this years is that every hard disk plays differently ( at least it sounds differently ) I have used disks from Seagate ,western digital ,Maxtor you name it and of different connection formats ( lan usb firewire )

So far only the internal hard disk is 100% acceptable to my ears

I had in my acer laptop one 120 gigabytes changed it to 500 ( western digital ) but the whole thing keeps bothering me , and at least for me is the only drawback on computer audio

Is anyone else listening to differences between hard disks playback?



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Hi antonisgr - You're not the only person who thinks this. I know some people who have done extensive listening to solid state drives versus spinning drives and the SSD comes out on top every time. In my limited testing without a state of the art playback system I believe I can hear the difference and prefer SSDs. I have yet to conduct a more scientific test however so take this opinion however you wish.


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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I have three different hard drives. A Seagate, a Western Digital and a Samsung.


The Seagate has my 'blues' collection on it, the WD my 'acoustic/americana' collection and the Samsung my 'rock' collection. I can confirm that the sound I get from all three drives is significantly different. ;)


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Kind of stirs a memory from the days of the Acorn BBC computers. There was a programme someone wrote that made the drive heads of your floppy drive make (something almost but not entrely unlike) music.






...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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And clearly all that wonderful Greek sun has completely gone to your head! :D


No, just kidding :)


(lots of smileys added in the vain hope that people don't consider me too stupid, opinionated, or too much of an a$$hole)


I have killed a few hard disks in my time, so I know from bitter experience that they are not all created equal. It does constantly amaze and amuse me that I regularly hear on the news about how 'some people' can recover data from multiply erased, burnt, broken hard disks, but every time I have sent the recovery guys a failed disk they say 'sorry, nae chance', and that's when they stand to make £££ from the recovery.


Having said that, your system must sound pretty awesome if you're noticing differences in hard disks.


Some factors you may want to consider, aside from the issue of access speed ratings for disks:


1: When your OS runs out of ram it pages to the hard disk, which is a great deal slower than ram. Which will affect the data rate for reading from that disk. You can actually hear the noise of the disk head moving when multiple different processes are trying to read and write to the same disk. For example, Photoshop users with massive amounts of ram benefit from creating a ram disk and pointing photoshop to that as the primary buffer. So it might be interesting to try creating a ram disk and copying some music to it, then direct your playback software to the ram disk.


2: If your music is on a usb external disk and your dac was also on usb. Same idea with firewire. It was the same with the old SCSI interface. They're all supposed to be fast enough to share multiple connections, but sometimes they're not.


3: Disk fragmentation may come into play. There are various utilites that will defrag your disk according to your priorities. Also copying data from one disk to a newly formatted one will create a less fragmented version of the data. The actual data will be exactly the same, but it will be quicker for the OS to read.


Looking forward to yours (and everyone else's) thoughts / experiments / opinions.


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I've never noticed a difference between any of my hard drives wherever, or whatever, they were connected to. But the cautionary side of me would have to say 'rule nothing out'! I would also say that the engineer in me loves the idea of SSD's. Data transfer sans 'spinning things' can only be a step forward, for me.


So, personally, I'd love to see SSD's come out top in a shoot-out with disc drives. Then I'd be able to justify the expense of replacing everything!


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  • 2 weeks later...

I am listening to differences too. And my setup isn´t exactly high-end. You can see it below. I´m using foobar2000 to play music which is stored on only one drive: an external USB-drive from Lacie. Inside this drive resides a HDD from Seagate. Inside my laptop a HDD from Fujitsu is used. Both drives are defragmented regularly with PerfectDisk.


To hear the differences between the internal and external drive I just have to copy an audio file from one disk to another. All in all I have to say that I prefer my external drive.


However the differences are subtle and I think that 99% of all people won´t hear them at all. I myself could very well listen to a placebo.


E-MU 0202 USB wired with Monster USB Cable --> Audioquest King Cobra --> (sometimes) Corda Arietta --> Sennheiser HD-600

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