looking for a few good ideas

  amongst the irregular verbiage

Audio Hard Drive Hell

Maestro, my music PC, was acting up. It would stop recording, stutter, or just plain fail to perform its function of being a digital audio workstation. I finally did what I should have done a while back: benchmarked exactly how many stereo 24-bit audio tracks it could handle before suffering from "dropouts" which is when the software halts because it is too busy to keep up with the audio flow.

The answer was 8.

I thought this sounded a little low, so I did some research on other users of the software to see what was acceptable to them. They were pretty shy about it, citing things like "well, it depends on your hardware, etc etc" (even the KEYBOARD magazine review of the software wouldn't say), but eventually I found a review online that came out and said 72.

72!!!

OK, so maybe they were mono tracks. So, in stereo that'd be... 31.

I got 8.

The online review went on to say that with tweaking, he could get 110. (I'm sure they were mono tracks.)

Aaughhh! As Charlie Brown would say.

After much audio parameter tweaking and changing cluster sizes and posting on the newsgroup for advice, I was still unable to record a 9th track without the "disk activity" meter pegging at 95% followed by a dropout.

Clearly, the wonderful choice of a Ultra-Wide SCSI-only disk subsystem for Maestro when I specified it two years ago just wasn't cutting it any more (I don't think the data throughput rate went *down* exactly, it just wasn't the right choice for audio applications.

After some consideration of budget, size and speed, and desirable goals of having at least two useable PC's at the end of the day, we ordered (1) ATA/100 60GB Hard disk and (1) ATA/100 controller card. (ATA-100 is a fast but different kind of hard disk interface from SCSI.)

Last night I dismantled Derek's old PC (we dubbed it "Athena") and Maestro, threw all the hard drives into the air and held out a PC chassis in each hand, catching the drives as they fell. (ok, not really!)

End result: Athena has the SCSI system, with the two hard drives, CDR, and CDRW originally from Maestro. As primary boot disk she has the 15GB IDE drive. The case is pretty full, but it seems to be working.

Maestro has the motherboard IDE controller disabled, as before, but now has the ATA/100 controller card in a PCI slot. He's running the 6GB drive from Derek's old PC as a boot device (operating system and other audio software) along with the CDROM on one IDE channel, and the new ATA/100 disk on the other channel, as a dedicated audio storage drive and back up drive. 

End result? After reinstalling all the drivers, software, etc, and loading up my test project, I got it playing back 20 stereo tracks, with the disk activity meter hovering pretty steady around 38%. Say 40%. I didn't continue, but I conservatively estimate 40 stereo tracks would be a safe top end for this configuration. That's much more in the ballpark.

So, happy happy. Studio work continues.

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