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Optane SSD as Boot drive - SQ Nirvana?


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Some of you may know that I don't like Flash drives or MLC or TLC based SSDs. (I know nothing about SLC SSDs). While I love the fast boot time, the flash memory based product used here always seem to diminish sound quality with a kind of glaze over the sound.  Yes, I have tried external LPSes to power SSDs.  I have also gone to extraordinary lengths to get rid of SSDs using hard disks, NAS based iSCSI boot drives, and most recently USB 3.0 hard drives via an Adnaco fiber connection.  The last solution is the best and fastest so far.

 

Despite every effort to stop random disk reads and writes during music playback, Windows 10 seems to want to talk to the disk drive incessantly.  Worst, player software like Roon logs everything without providing user controls to turn logging off.

 

Having read about the new 3d Xpoint technology from Intel and Micron for years, product has finally shipped under the Optane brand.  16 and 32gb SSDs are now available using this technology. Whats promising is that Optane has a very simple structure that is lower latency then flash memory.  The question is "Does Optane generate far less noise during operation then a flash based SSD?"  If so, this could be audio SQ Nirvana.

 

It seems that regular SSDs are constantly testing memory cell data and moving data around even when they are not being accessed.  They depend on massive redundancy for reliability. SSDs have internal microprocessors running to get this done.  This is a noisy process.

 

In comparison 3d xpoint is actually non-volatile RAM and is directly addressable by the processor. See more here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_XPoint.  

 

For $80 you can now get 32gb of Intel Optane packaged as an NVME SSD or drive cache(caching only works on a i7-77XX Z270 machine).  My music PC is a i7-6700k Z170 machine. I read an Optane review the other day, http://www.tweaktown.com/reviews/8234/intel-optane-raid-worlds-fastest-system-disk/index.html and realized that my machine will run an Optane SSD. So I bought one at Microcenter yesterday.

 

In the SSD package tested here, I suspect there is a processor of sorts to handle the serial to parallel interface from the NVME PCIE bus to the NVRAM.  Nevertheless, this process should be much less noisy than a normal SSD.  After shrinking my Windows boot drive down to 26gb, I used Paragon Migrate to move the boot image to the Optane memory stick in the motherboard NVME slot.  After some BIOS configuration, I can now boot from the Optane stick or USB 3 based 4 TB hard disk at will.

 

All of that aside, as a new technology, the exercise is to learn Optanes impact on sound quality.  New memory technologies happen infrequently. My hope is that Optane is far quieter then flash memory and therefore usable as a boot drive.  With 4 hours in, I can tell you it's far quieter then any SSD I have ever tried, but still needs to open up a little. The good news is that I am hearing bass lines in well known test tracks that I never heard before. Soundstage started a little too zoomed in, but has receded over the 4 hours of operation so far. Let's see what happens in the next few days.

 

Stay tuned,

 

Larry

Pareto Audio aka nuckleheadaudio

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Larry, are there music files on that Optane or just the system OS?  If no, is music on the 6 inch SATA-cable-connected (via mSata adapter) hdd we discussed (and I implemented)?  Or am I reading you moved on to USB 3 something?

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Wish I still had the link, one tech article I read said that SSD was basically hobbled because the industry choose to make it SATA compatible vs create a new hw controller optimized for SSD architecture. I suspect that  the disk  being PCIE attached has more to do with sound improvement heard than  the Optane logo.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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14 minutes ago, ted_b said:

Larry, are there music files on that Optane or just the system OS?  If no, is music on the 6 inch SATA-cable-connected (via mSata adapter) hdd we discussed (and I implemented)?  Or am I reading you moved on to USB 3 something?

Ted, yes Optane is for the system only no music.  There is no room.

 

Yes, I moved to using the Adnaco USB to connect to a new UASP USB 3.1 disk enclosure for the 4 tb hard disk. The SATA controller on the motherboard is now disabled.  The Optane lives in the M.2 aka NVME slot on the motherboard previously occupied by the Msata adapter.

 

I also removed the PCIE ethernet card, disabled the motherboard ethernet controller, and bought a $20 USB 3 ethernet NIC at Bestbuy which is also plugged into the Adnaco USB. The Adnaco is still powered by an LPS-1, and the Hard Disk enclosure via a high quality 12 volt LPS.  I have been running this config with two virtual drives one boot and one for music as previously discussed.  This separation made the transfer of the Windows image to the Optane drive very easy.

Pareto Audio aka nuckleheadaudio

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46 minutes ago, lmitche said:

 

For $80 you can now get 32gb of Intel Optane packaged as an NVME SSD or drive cache(caching only works on a i7-77XX Z270 machine).  My music PC is a i7-6700k Z170 machine. I read an Optane review the other day, http://www.tweaktown.com/reviews/8234/intel-optane-raid-worlds-fastest-system-disk/index.html and realized that my machine will run an Optane SSD. So I bought one at Microcenter yesterday.

 

 

Problem with the Z270 chipsets is I haven't found one that can run on 12v yet.  I've been waiting for a Q or H270 chipset which may come in the thin mini-ITX form factor which also may allow for a 12v connection.  Until then I'm using a Q170T/CSM.  What mobo model and Optane drive model are you using?

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8 minutes ago, Johnseye said:

 

Problem with the Z270 chipsets is I haven't found one that can run on 12v yet.  I've been waiting for a Q or H270 chipset which may come in the thin mini-ITX form factor which also may allow for a 12v connection.  Until then I'm using a Q170T/CSM.  What mobo model and Optane drive model are you using?

The motherboard here is an Asus Z170M-plus.  I'm upsampling everything to DSD512.  I don't like the DC only boards. They have on-board SMPSes.  You may be better off with an ATX board and a titanium level ATX SMPS, or a big linear power supply and a Hdplex dc to dc converter.  I use a 1600 watt EVG ATX titanium monster here.

 

I am using the 32gb Optane drive.

Pareto Audio aka nuckleheadaudio

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Just now, lmitche said:

The motherboard here is an Asus Z170M-plus.  I'm upsampling everything to DSD512.  I don't like the DC only boards. They have on-board SMPSes.  You may be better off with an ATX board and a titanium level ATX SMPS, or a big linear power supply and a Hdplex dc to dc converter.  I use a 1600 watt EVG ATX titanium monster here.

 

I am using the 32gb Optane drive.

 

Hynes is building my SR7 with an adjustable rail up to 19v so I can use the HDPlex converter if I want.  This is tempting me to go that route.

 

I'm guessing this is your drive. Intel Optane M.2 2280-S3-B-M.

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37 minutes ago, Johnseye said:

 

Hynes is building my SR7 with an adjustable rail up to 19v so I can use the HDPlex converter if I want.  This is tempting me to go that route.

 

I'm guessing this is your drive. Intel Optane M.2 2280-S3-B-M.

The Hdplex is good to 300 watts so that will be a great solution.  Yep, that's the Optane drive model I purchased.

Pareto Audio aka nuckleheadaudio

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Found this article reviewing Optane, they seem to think this is being implemented by MOBO manufacturers as another disk cache solution, not as an alternative to SSD storage. Which would lead one to assume that your testing is limited to can OS cached on the Optane drive improve audio. Or is there a way to store music on the Optane drive itself for an A/B comparison to SSD drive?

 

http://www.computershopper.com/storage/reviews/intel-optane-memory-32gb#review-body

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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33 minutes ago, davide256 said:

Found this article reviewing Optane, they seem to think this is being implemented by MOBO manufacturers as another disk cache solution, not as an alternative to SSD storage. Which would lead one to assume that your testing is limited to can OS cached on the Optane drive improve audio. Or is there a way to store music on the Optane drive itself for an A/B comparison to SSD drive?

 

http://www.computershopper.com/storage/reviews/intel-optane-memory-32gb#review-body

Yes, my testing is limited to storing the boot drive, OS (Win 10), music apps and Roon database.  My hard disk stores the music files, or they stream from Tidal.

 

And yes, the audio quality appears to be improved by using the Optane drive for the system rather then the hard disk.  More on that later.

Pareto Audio aka nuckleheadaudio

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Larry:

 

I am using 2-pc Jplay, with both pc's remote booting (iSCSI) with Win10 images on a third computer, with all fiber network (fiber NIC in all three pc's, with dual port Intel fiber NIC's in Control, and Audio PC's one for network connectivity, and one for direct connection between Control, and Audio PC). My music is on a Synology NAS (fiber FMC's).

 

What you are doing is quite simple, and I like it to be simple with least amount of devices; and I also I know that you have used iSCSI boot and fiber in the past. Do you think Adnaco with USB drive and Optane for OS will improve over my setup? I know it is a loaded question, but based on your experience with similar systems, what is your opinion?

 

Could you please provide links to Adnaco PCI to USB card, and 4tb HDD you are using. Also, if Win10 loaded from scratch (from USB), does M2 or Optane drive appears as an option to use to load Windows to? Thanks.

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The Adnaco stuff is their S3B which is unfortunately sold out.  Adnaco advised me just yesterday that the expected lead time is 2-3 months.

https://www.adnaco.biz/products/s3b-01-000-p-e

 

NUC7PJYH/AL --> Berkeley Alpha USB --> Jeff Rowland Aeris --> Jeff Rowland 625 S2 --> Focal Utopia 3 Diablos with 2 x Focal Electra SW 1000 BE subs

 

i7-6700K/Windows 10 Version 2004/HDPLEX 300W/HDPLEX 400W DC-ATX --> EVGA Nu Audio Card --> Focal CMS50's 

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2 hours ago, sig8 said:

Larry:

 

I am using 2-pc Jplay, with both pc's remote booting (iSCSI) with Win10 images on a third computer, with all fiber network (fiber NIC in all three pc's, with dual port Intel fiber NIC's in Control, and Audio PC's one for network connectivity, and one for direct connection between Control, and Audio PC). My music is on a Synology NAS (fiber FMC's).

 

What you are doing is quite simple, and I like it to be simple with least amount of devices; and I also I know that you have used iSCSI boot and fiber in the past. Do you think Adnaco with USB drive and Optane for OS will improve over my setup? I know it is a loaded question, but based on your experience with similar systems, what is your opinion?

 

Could you please provide links to Adnaco PCI to USB card, and 4tb HDD you are using. Also, if Win10 loaded from scratch (from USB), does M2 or Optane drive appears as an option to use to load Windows to? Thanks.

Read more  

Hi Sig8,

 

Rickca has pointed to the Adnaco device webpages, thanks Rick.  I'm using a Western digital 4tb black drive for music that is partitioned into boot and music drives.

 

I didn't load win 10 from scratch, but the nvme drive should visible within the Windows installer as a drive. Like me, you may have to fiddle with the bios and diskpart to get this going.

Pareto Audio aka nuckleheadaudio

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12 hours ago, lmitche said:

It seems that regular SSDs are constantly testing memory cell data and moving data around even when they are not being accessed.  They depend on massive redundancy for reliability. SSDs have internal microprocessors running to get this done.  This is a noisy process.

From Anandtech:

 

3D XPoint memory has better endurance than NAND flash, but not enough to get away without wear levelling. The fine-grained accessibility of 3D XPoint memory gets rid of a lot of the wear leveling and write amplification headaches caused by flash pages and erase blocks being larger than the sector sizes exposed by the drives, but the drive still needs some spare area plus storage for error correction overhead, metadata for tracking the mapping between logical blocks and physical addresses, and potential replacement of bad sectors, similar to normal SSDs.

 

Future products promised from Intel should add non-volatile DIMMs to the mix, and then later on, if everything goes to plan, a potential wholesale replacement of NAND flash (or at least a strong competitor).

 

To me, it's NVDIMM that will mark the arrival of 'real' Optane products.  Today's products are just transitional.  That doesn't mean they aren't useful. 

NUC7PJYH/AL --> Berkeley Alpha USB --> Jeff Rowland Aeris --> Jeff Rowland 625 S2 --> Focal Utopia 3 Diablos with 2 x Focal Electra SW 1000 BE subs

 

i7-6700K/Windows 10 Version 2004/HDPLEX 300W/HDPLEX 400W DC-ATX --> EVGA Nu Audio Card --> Focal CMS50's 

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7 hours ago, rickca said:

From Anandtech:

 

3D XPoint memory has better endurance than NAND flash, but not enough to get away without wear levelling. The fine-grained accessibility of 3D XPoint memory gets rid of a lot of the wear leveling and write amplification headaches caused by flash pages and erase blocks being larger than the sector sizes exposed by the drives, but the drive still needs some spare area plus storage for error correction overhead, metadata for tracking the mapping between logical blocks and physical addresses, and potential replacement of bad sectors, similar to normal SSDs.

 

Future products promised from Intel should add non-volatile DIMMs to the mix, and then later on, if everything goes to plan, a potential wholesale replacement of NAND flash (or at least a strong competitor).

 

To me, it's NVDIMM that will mark the arrival of 'real' Optane products.  Today's products are just transitional.  That doesn't mean they aren't useful. 

Rick,

 

Well the vote is still out on useful  I made a second change to Windows and now can't tell if the SQ bump is from the software tweak or Optane.  I going to pull Optane, make the software change in the prior config, and then retest.

 

Either way, what I am hearing is a major bump in SQ, but with some caveats.

 

It should be said that the big benefit of this new technology is very low measured latency which is ideal for a chatty OS like Windows.  I haven't seen a storage technology with lower latency then Optane.

Pareto Audio aka nuckleheadaudio

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I'm fascinated by 3D Xpoint / Optane technology, but not impressed by the 1W idle power rating of these Optane Memory modules.  By comparison, Samsung SATA SSDs such as 850 EVO and 850 PRO can achieve 40mW or less of slumber (HIPM+DIPM) power consumption.  I've been searching for low idle power SATA SSDs for audio use, with the hope that lower idle power means lower electrical noise levels thereby causing less contamination to sensitive digital audio circuits.  But perhaps it's the power consumption difference between active and idle drive states that contribute more to audible differences?

 

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In my experience SW like Audiophile Optimizer, /Fidelizer and HW like USB3 connected fast SD cards yield better audio. The "picture" I have of this is that data transfer from disk to Ethernet packet or USB out is a "swiss cheese" output riddled with "interrupt or system error correction" holes and that the fewer of these "holes" that occur during processing, the better the timing integrity of audio data at output. Can one make a case that the Optane memory will reduce interrupts during read off an SSD or does this mean that more will occur? 

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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OK, so I pulled the Optane card, booted off the disk image, made the same software tweaks as with the Optane, listened to a few tracks, put the Optane back in, and listened to the same tracks.

 

Optane wins, no doubt.  Biggest difference is the bass line from Eva Cassidys live version of Blue Skies that sounds "one note" without the Optane.  It is easy to follow the bass line with the Optane.  Imaging doesn't seem to change, but resolution seems higher, so the entire spectrum has gains.  I am noticing improved presence as well, depth, room reverb and increased difference between redbook to high resolution tracks despite running DSD512 upsampling.  My 96khz version of Fleetwood Macs Never Going Back Again is jaw dropping.  The 2L classical recordings at DXD resolution sound crazy good.

 

The improved SQ and faster boot times makes this a very worthwhile $80 tweak.

 

Enjoy,  Larry

Pareto Audio aka nuckleheadaudio

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On 7/9/2017 at 8:16 AM, davide256 said:

In my experience SW like Audiophile Optimizer, /Fidelizer and HW like USB3 connected fast SD cards yield better audio. The "picture" I have of this is that data transfer from disk to Ethernet packet or USB out is a "swiss cheese" output riddled with "interrupt or system error correction" holes and that the fewer of these "holes" that occur during processing, the better the timing integrity of audio data at output. Can one make a case that the Optane memory will reduce interrupts during read off an SSD or does this mean that more will occur? 

I do think the Optane is helping on timing as windows is constantly logging small bursts of data to the system disk, and the low latency at small data sizes is where Optane shines in benchmarks.  This is mentioned in article I linked to above and I've been able to duplicate the benchmark speeds in that article here.

 

The 3x to 6X shorter service times for the Windows logs must increase the chance the processor is available to play music as opposed to the OS playing with itself.

Pareto Audio aka nuckleheadaudio

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I'm using an SLC SSD which, while pretty expensive, offers a very nice improvement in sound.

 

It also offers me the ability to power that OS drive with an LPS.

 

My concern with the Optane SSD, which sounds very interesting, is that it would be very difficult to power via an LPS.

 

I'd love to find out that my concerns are unwarranted.

 

Thoughts?

 

Joel

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On 7/7/2017 at 8:37 AM, Johnseye said:

Problem with the Z270 chipsets is I haven't found one that can run on 12v yet.  I've been waiting for a Q or H270 chipset which may come in the thin mini-ITX form factor which also may allow for a 12v connection.

You can still use a 12v to boot the board. however, which just limit your overclock action. 

DigitalDac: Chord DAVE, Amp: MC275 Mono, Preamp: FirstSound, Source: Esoteric K01X, Cable: TaraLab GME interconnect,
CASSOtM Trifecta Mod 75ohm MCI, TheLinearSolution TCXO Router

Analog: SME 20/2, SME V, Skala, Esoteric C03 Phono

 
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Optane should be better, simple put it just by pass the worst MLC/Sata controller . But what about storage? USB?

DigitalDac: Chord DAVE, Amp: MC275 Mono, Preamp: FirstSound, Source: Esoteric K01X, Cable: TaraLab GME interconnect,
CASSOtM Trifecta Mod 75ohm MCI, TheLinearSolution TCXO Router

Analog: SME 20/2, SME V, Skala, Esoteric C03 Phono

 
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2 hours ago, joelha said:

I'm using an SLC SSD which, while pretty expensive, offers a very nice improvement in sound.

 

It also offers me the ability to power that OS drive with an LPS.

 

My concern with the Optane SSD, which sounds very interesting, is that it would be very difficult to power via an LPS.

 

I'd love to find out that my concerns are unwarranted.

 

Thoughts?

 

Joel

I am not feeling any need to use external power with the Optane, but YMMV.

Pareto Audio aka nuckleheadaudio

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