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When you're working with digital audio, you are asking your hard drive to find data and play it back in real time or continuously. That can be demanding enough if you're asking for one or two tracks, but you might find yourself in the situation where you are asking for 24 or 32 tracks to be played at one time, and hard drives will have a big impact on that. The hard drive speed refers to how fast the disk spins, and it's rated in RPM or Revolutions Per Minute. Basically, the faster it spins, the faster you can get data from that disk. So, I've shown a few speeds here that you can get drives, and typically there's 4200, 5400, 7200, and 10,000.
4200 and 5400 end up being a little too slow if you want to do lots of tracks. They just don't spin that fast, you'll find those in a lot of laptop computers. Newer laptops will have 7200 drives in them now. Most tower computers, PCs, G4 and stuff like that will come with 7200 or faster drives. A 7200 speed drive works great for audio and 10,000 speed drive will work even better. Shoot for 7200 RPM for your hard drives, especially if you're dedicating one drive just to audio.
The other thing to keep in mind is the Cache size. A Cache is essentially a buffer that allows the drive to read and write data smoothly and continuously. Cache sizes can range from 2MB to 16MB. Anything over 8MB is preferred, a really small cache makes it a little bit slower. The other thing to think about is the bus or how your hard drive connects to the computer. Now, there are a few different types, there are external drives and internal drives. Now with an external drive you might use FireWire or USB, and again, it's good look for the most recent versions of those standards.
FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 are both a lot faster than the earlier versions of those standards. If you have an internal drive, it probably connects via the IDE system bus, or it could be via a Serial ATA, or SATA Drive. The IDE is plenty fast, and it uses that big fat ribbon cable and connects right to your motherboard, and you can connect a couple different drives in sequence with that. The Serial ATA uses a smaller connector, a lot of newer computers come ready with Serial ATA, drivers on board, but they don't necessarily ship with Serial ATA drives, you generally have to kind of look for those.
Serial ATA is a faster bus system than IDE, and if you are doing lots of tracks, that definitely might be worth looking into. Another thing to consider is that certain digital audio software requires that you have two hard drives, one that drives the software itself and one that you actually use for just recording and playing back the audio data. This can be good and bad. It's good that you are allowing different drives to do different tasks that need to happen simultaneously, so each drive is just looking for certain kinds of data. The bad thing is if you want to be portable with a laptop, and you have this kind of software, you'll have to carry an extra drive with you.
Another thing to think about is if you are going to use really high-capacity hard drives, like up to 300 GB or so is that you could partition them or divide it into a few different drive sections. This can sometimes improve the efficiency of the drive, it also can make your life easier instead of having one gigantic 300 Gig Drive, you've cut that up into three drives, and you call it audio one, audio two, and audio three, then you can do stuff like say I am going to put projects on audio three and on audio one I'll do the work for my buddy, and on audio two we'll store our samples or something like that.
So, in terms of kind of finding data in a 300 GB area, it's like the first step in kind of a file system, and it can be really helpful. But the main advantage is that it reduces the amount of geography on the disk where the data can be stored for a certain session. So, the computer effectively can find it faster, because it's searching a smaller area. Finally, and this isn't really necessarily a hard drive thing, it's kind of an overall general computer thing, but there are a couple of things you can always do to optimize the PC. One thing is when you're working with your digital audio turn off other applications and maybe some background applications so that you can dedicate all the resources of the computer to working with digital audio.
Another thing to do is to turn the screen saver and the sleep modes off. Sometimes if you're recording a long session or a 4-minute song, then boom! Up pops the screensaver. Sometimes, you can just come out of it, and it will be fine, but other times it will throw things off or screw up the recording process. So, also if you're just sitting across the room, kind of watching the monitor or you are laying down a drum track, and you're watching it go across and all of a sudden up pops the screensaver, that can be a little disconcerting and throw off your performance a little bit. So, remember to turn those off when you're working with digital audio.
In the next movie we'll talk about some of the noises and sounds that PCs actually make, and we'll talk about ways to address that.
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