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USB Flash or SSD?


jolon
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I have a network receiver (Yamaha R-N602) where I play music from a flash drive. I've been using a 3 year old Toshiba USB 2.0 drive which sounds okay but not great. I thought I'd try a SanDisk Ultra USB 3.0 drive I was using in my car and I thought it sounded quite different. The sound was clearer but also brighter and leaner. Thinking that the higher speed drive might have better sound quality I bought a SanDisk Ultra Fit which is rated at 150Mbps vs the Ultra's 100Mbps. I find the Ultra Fit to be a more balanced sound, not bright, warmish, with better bass (also has the same sonic difference in the car).

 

So I'm thinking of possibly getting a better flash drive or a USB SSD drive. Some of the options I'm considering:

 

  1. Get a fast USB drive like the SanDisk Extreme (or Pro)
  2. Get a USB drive with built-in SSD controller like the Corsair Voyager GTX or Samsung T3
  3. Get an SSD drive with a USB to SATA cable

 

I'm wondering if anyone has compared sound quality of USB flash drives to SSD and has a preference for any particular model?

 

Another consideration is power usage. I was reading that SSD drives draw more power than a USB flash drive. Should I be optimising for speed which might indicate better tolerances, or optimising for power usage which might indicate lower noise on the power lines?

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Been there, done that. The extreme low latency of a class 10 SDXC card will beat the pants off an ordinary SD card or SSD drive when it comes to clarity and transient details. I'm only using the SSD drives in my NAS as backup, all music play is from a 512gb SanDisk Extreme Pro USB3 attached to NAS. I found this true of streaming or direct attached drive, the difference being cleaner sound with a network drive using optical connection vs a Wireworld Starlight cable direct connection

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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I tried out the SanDisk Extreme USB in the car, really amazed at the instrument separation. Not as warm and rich as the Ultra Fit but much higher fidelity overall. Bass definition is better.

 

In the R-N602 displays most of the same qualities as in the car. Amazing sound improvement for the price.

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Dave, thanks for that info. What SDXC->USB adaptor are you using?

 

I picked up a SanDisk Extreme USB drive today, but haven't tested it yet.

 

Thanks.

 

The intended market use of the Extreme Pro series is for professional photographers, their preference is the Lexar USB3 card reader for better throughput and less wear and tear on the card contacts when they are added/removed vs other readers. Lexar also offers a modular system where you can buy a hub/stack that 4 readers can be plugged directly into, I'll probably get that in the next 90 days when I purchase a second 512gb card. They also support a thunderbolt connected version of the hub for Mac users. I do notice about a 10% improvement in throughput using the Lexar vs a budget USB3 adaptor. And the card hub stack matters to me as otherwise at some point in the future I'd have a messy arrangement of multiple dangling card readers to support a bigger library

 

hub

Lexar® Professional Workflow line of products

 

SD card reader

Lexar® Professional Workflow line of products

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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You will never get the highest possible SQ from either method unless you at least improve the power supplied to the devices. Even an internal USB card with clean power instead of the noisy +5V SMPS derived power will help. A normal USB hub won't help that either. Those solutions were designed for photography and normal data, NOT Audio where timing is critical, and low Jitter is required . To get the best SQ from USB storage you need to use measures such as many other members have done using USB Regens, USB cables with improved separation between D+ and D- data wires, and the power leads etc..

 

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 13-11-2020

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You will never get the highest possible SQ from either method unless you at least improve the power supplied to the devices. Even an internal USB card with clean power instead of the noisy +5V SMPS derived power will help. A normal USB hub won't help that either. Those solutions were designed for photography and normal data, NOT Audio where timing is critical, and low Jitter is required . To get the best SQ from USB storage you need to use measures such as many other members have done using USB Regens, USB cables with improved separation between D+ and D- data wires, and the power leads etc..

 

Regen on USB HD?

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Regen on USB HD?

 

We are talking about low current devices such as a USB memory stick here, not something that is going to draw more current than the maximum 500mA capabilities of the Regen. Devices such as a 256GB Imation pocket sized portable SSD which I have,also benefit from such measures, The Imation connects via a very short USB lead. When properly powered , both USB memory sticks and the Imation SSD sound quite similar with a much improved performance.

For best possible performance, the same setup for playing from the external Media player should be used. In other words, take the USB memory stick,Regen etc. along to the recipient device and plug it into it's USB port.

 

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 13-11-2020

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You will never get the highest possible SQ from either method unless you at least improve the power supplied to the devices. Even an internal USB card with clean power instead of the noisy +5V SMPS derived power will help. A normal USB hub won't help that either. Those solutions were designed for photography and normal data, NOT Audio where timing is critical, and low Jitter is required . To get the best SQ from USB storage you need to use measures such as many other members have done using USB Regens, USB cables with improved separation between D+ and D- data wires, and the power leads etc..

 

All reasons why I prefer an Ethernet network solution. I've played the power supply upgrade game before with NAS... makes only a little difference, bigger difference in using optical Ethernet isolation. PC solutions are a PITA to get right vs NAS for power supply.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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Cripes... should have given this a go BEFORE I sold the Regen (replaced w/W4S Recovery)

 

We are talking about low current devices such as a USB memory stick here, not something that is going to draw more current than the maximum 500mA capabilities of the Regen. Devices such as a 256GB Imation pocket sized portable SSD which I have,also benefit from such measures, The Imation connects via a very short USB lead. When properly powered , both USB memory sticks and the Imation SSD sound quite similar with a much improved performance.

For best possible performance, the same setup for playing from the external Media player should be used. In other words, take the USB memory stick,Regen etc. along to the recipient device and plug it into it's USB port.

 

Alex

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All reasons why I prefer an Ethernet network solution. I've played the power supply upgrade game before with NAS... makes only a little difference, bigger difference in using optical Ethernet isolation. PC solutions are a PITA to get right vs NAS for power supply.

 

Optical Ethernet etc. solutions aren't always too helpful when the PC is in a different room to the main Audio system, especially with a rented property.

 

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 13-11-2020

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Cripes... should have given this a go BEFORE I sold the Regen (replaced w/W4S Recovery)

 

You would be surprised what you can do with a well implemented USB Regen solution for more than just connecting to a DAC.

 

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 13-11-2020

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If it's mainly clean 5vDC power that improves things, shouldn't there be more cost effective ways to accomplish this?

 

You still need good USB cables that are no longer than necessary, with decent isolation between the data and power pairs.

Even then, Regenerating the signal to improve it's Signal Integrity gives a further marked improvement, just as it does with a DAC at the other end, which is the primary use for a USB Regen.

 

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 13-11-2020

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You still need good USB cables that are no longer than necessary, with decent isolation between the data and power pairs.

Even then, Regenerating the signal to improve it's Signal Integrity gives a further marked improvement, just as it does with a DAC at the other end, which is the primary use for a USB Regen.

 

All reasons why I'd prefer to see an end game of a 20mbps optical connection to a DAC instead of wired USB connections subject to LRC component interaction

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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I ordered a Lexar SR2 SD card reader which arrived today and picked up a SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC-I 16GB SD Card.

 

First impressions compared to the SanDisk Extreme 64GB USB drive is that the sound is a bit more balanced. The USB drive seemed to focus on the top end a bit which could be a bit fatiguing, whereas the SD card with Lexar reader toned down the top end, and the overall sound was a tad warmer.

 

Perhaps the most noticeable difference is that the music sounds slower. I watched a Linn video once which indicated that as noise is reduced music tends to sound slower.

 

I still felt that the USB drive had an edge in one or two areas. In overall instrument separation and detail the USB drive sounded slightly better. The SD card sounded slightly muddier in the midrange. I also felt that the USB drive communicated the emotion of the music better. Having said that, overall the SD card probably sounded better.

 

I then swapped the USB 3.0 cable which came with Lexar SR2 with a 2ft AudioQuest Forest USB 2.0 cable. The midrange came further forward and was better at communicating emotion. The music felt slower again and also quieter, I needed to turn the volume up 1dB. It's worth restating the AudioQuest cable made a significant difference to the sound.

 

Overall I would say that the SD card and Lexar SR2 is better than the SanDisk Extreme USB drive, but the USB drive still had one or two qualities where the SD card combo could still be improved.

 

One annoying aspect of the Lexar SR2 is that it has a bright blue LED which flashes constantly when playing music.

 

I wouldn't mind trying a microSD reader which plugs directly into the amp, bypassing USB cable, and a few microSD cards.

 

Impressed by the changes I'm hearing. I feel like a $50 flash card buys you a $1000 CD player. Dave, thanks for the suggestion of the Lexar SR2.

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One big difference the SD card brings is dynamic range. I'm listening to this Beethoven DSD64 album:

 

https://channelclassics.nativedsd.com/albums/30511-piano-concerto-no-4-sonates

 

I can listen at a volume where the loud passages aren't overpowering but still clearly hear the quieter passages, which wasn't possible with the other flash drives.

 

The SD card is more tonally accurate than the USB drive. Some instruments didn't sound right with the USB drive.

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One big difference the SD card brings is dynamic range. I'm listening to this Beethoven DSD64 album:

 

https://channelclassics.nativedsd.com/albums/30511-piano-concerto-no-4-sonates

 

I can listen at a volume where the loud passages aren't overpowering but still clearly hear the quieter passages, which wasn't possible with the other flash drives.

 

The SD card is more tonally accurate than the USB drive. Some instruments didn't sound right with the USB drive.

 

I've been trying to find an analogy to the improvement, the closest I can think of is the difference between an ordinary and a good telescope lens. An ordinary lens allows you to see details but there's always a limit to the clarity of the detail and some element of prismatic dispersion, color artifacts created because the different color frequencies are refracted to slightly different focus points. A good lens because of the better refractive material and greater precision of grinding/polish allows you to see finer details with exact color shades.

 

So net of all this is that it appears HD and SSD solutions as architected today have data delivery characteristics similar to a poor refractive index in glass optics, some kind of higher jitter impact on the data output clocking than SD card.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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Imagine the possibilities if your card reader was supplied cleaner power. Do you have any information on how much current it actually requires to operate ? Perhaps a good USB card or an external low noise power supply could further improve it ?

 

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 13-11-2020

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Imagine the possibilities if your card reader was supplied cleaner power. Do you have any information on how much current it actually requires to operate ? Perhaps a good USB card or an external low noise power supply could further improve it ?

 

I tried in a PC setup 5v DC from HDPlex to USB3 PCIe card, it was a minor benefit of less digital irritation, similar to what I experienced in running NAS with HD off of HDPlex 12v supply. Right now I'm running the FMC connected to the mRendu off the HDPlex 5V supply since the mRendu is optically isolated from all but the last FMC card.

At this point I think the USB to DAC connection is far more important than an LPS for a passive SDXC card on network attached storage. The PS Audio Lanrover looks intriguing, as it provides optical isolation, hoping that some members with the mRendu buy it and report in on whether the benefits heard on the network side with optical connections transfer to USB interconnection.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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One big difference the SD card brings is dynamic range. I'm listening to this Beethoven DSD64 album:

 

https://channelclassics.nativedsd.com/albums/30511-piano-concerto-no-4-sonates

 

I can listen at a volume where the loud passages aren't overpowering but still clearly hear the quieter passages, which wasn't possible with the other flash drives.

 

The SD card is more tonally accurate than the USB drive. Some instruments didn't sound right with the USB drive.

 

It would be interesting for me to know your opinion if you would compare the discussed SD card and playing the same music from free SoftPerfect RAMDISK https://www.softperfect.com/products/ramdisk/

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It would be interesting for me to know your opinion if you would compare the discussed SD card and playing the same music from free SoftPerfect RAMDISK https://www.softperfect.com/products/ramdisk/

This is apparently just what my Auralic Aries is doing now thanks to its new firmware update, so maybe I should be too cocerned about all of thi stuff.

Now using a 480GB Sandisk Extreme USB SSD that I just got. Haven't done any serious listening of comparisons yet. My plan is to load a bunch of my favorite and demo type stuff onto this drive.

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This is apparently just what my Auralic Aries is doing now thanks to its new firmware update, so maybe I should be too cocerned about all of thi stuff.

Now using a 480GB Sandisk Extreme USB SSD that I just got. Haven't done any serious listening of comparisons yet. My plan is to load a bunch of my favorite and demo type stuff onto this drive.

JRiver already has a play from memory feature, marginal improvement when used. As I've said before a 32gb class 10 SDXC card is cheap to do the comparison between SSD and SDXC card. The Aries has only USB 2.0 ports but that's not a big difference from USB 3 on the PCM files I've played.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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A small update...

 

I have an AudioQuest Jitterbug that previously I didn't like on a USB-powered headphone DAC (it draws its power from the USB bus and I thought the Jitterbug took away some of the dynamics).

 

Up to this point I thought the SD card had less prominent highs than the USB drive. The SD card was perhaps a little too subdued and the USB drive a little to edgy. However, I did miss some of the vibrance and connection with the music that the USB drive provided.

 

Adding the Jitterbug seemed to balance out the two. The SD card becomes a little more vibrant, and the USB drive becomes a little more toned down and warmer.

 

However, one of the things I like about the SD card is the tight punchiness of the sound, particularly how clearly it delineates notes. I thought the Jitterbug detracted this characteristic somewhat.

 

Even though the USB drive/Jitterbug combo doesn't have all of the audiophile characteristics of the SD card, at the moment I think it has the overall best balance of sound for enjoyability. I also tried both in the car and came to the same conclusion. The SD card has a very low noise floor (lower than the USB drive), and the Jitterbug helps lower the noise floor in the USB drive. The USB drive seems have a cleaner midrange than the SD card.

 

I was reading on Anandtech that both the SanDisk Extreme and Extreme Pro USB flash drives contain a USB to SATA controller, making them more like an SSD drive than a USB flash. There is definitely a large step up in sound with the SanDisk Extreme drive over the SanDisk Ultra.

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