Reasons to use separate sample drive(s) rather than system SSD?

WindcryMusic

Senior Member
I’m expecting to soon get a new DAW that will have a 4TB internal SSD system drive. My current DAW has a standard internal drive, so I have most of my sample libraries residing on a pair of Samsung T3 SSDs connected via USB. They aren’t the fastest things available, but they have worked pretty well. But now, with the expected new DAW, I am wondering if using the T3 drives is really going to be the way to go anymore, vs. just having those libraries sitting on the large system SSD.

I have long assumed that the major reason for keeping sample libraries apart from a system drive when it resides upon a standard platter-based drive is because of the performance penalties incurred every time the drive’s physical armature has to relocate to another region of the disk. But as far as I know, that shouldn’t be a problem with an SSD, since there’s no physical action required to reach a sector at the other end of the memory space, vs. the sector next door to the current one; I’d think the SSD performance should be the same regardless of at what address the next sector of data is located. So that leads me to believe that the additional intrinsic speed of the internal SSD as compared to those USB-connected T3 drives that I currently have might yield more of a performance gain overall than what I suspect to be the minimal penalty of not separating sample libraries from the system drive when an SSD is in use for this.

So please enlighten me … what am I missing, if anything? Are there other reasons to keep sample libraries separate from the system drive that I’m overlooking? And if there are, are those reasons impactful enough to make continuing to use the comparatively slow Samsung T3 USB drives for my sample libraries a better option than a large, much faster, internal SSD drive? Yes, the best case scenario would probably be to get a external enclosure for faster SSD external drives and run the sample libraries therein ... but I can only take on so much expense at one time.

(As far as the streaming of live audio tracks, that’s mostly a non-issue for my needs; on any given track there might be one or two live recorded audio tracks at most, and quite often none at all.)
 

Divico

Senior Member
A big topic is parallel streaming. If you split up your read actions upon a couple of disks you can read them in parallel. Fact SSDs dont have to "search" but there is still a benefit to put your libs on a different drive than your system to stream both at the same time
 

Shad0wLandsUK

Senior Member
To echo @Divico: Having them on separate drives is ALWAYS the best way to go.
When you have the same disk reading data, the CPU will queue the commands and then process them in order of priority (configured by the system). So if you are reading all the sample data from the same disk, you will notice much faster data addressing than with a mechanical drive, but you would have a bottle-neck if running high demand libraries.

Having them on separate drives therefore, could also reward you with improvements in reduced CPU usage also
Which can have other rewards across the system.

I have tested both, and as you demand more on the system you do begin to notice the difference.

They do not go into the technical benefits here, but share the same view on many drives:
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/music-computers/451801-number-hard-drives-music-production.html

I also recommend watching this video by our good friend @Peter Schwartz on MPV:
https://www.macprovideo.com/tutorial/orchestration-302-midi-orchestral-designing-templates

Lots of useful information in there!
Hope that helps
:)
 
Last edited:
OP
W

WindcryMusic

Senior Member
Interesting stuff. If you are saying that even using my slower external SSDs would be better than having the samples on a faster SSD internal drive just because it is also the system drive, then that really surprises me. But I guess I can continue doing that for a while, until I can swing a faster external SSD enclosure at least. I’ll still have to have a few libraries on the internal drive, but from what I am hearing here, sounds like I should try to make those my least frequently used libraries.

Thanks for the input!
 

Ric4001

New Member
A related question: which type of samples would be best on the external drive? Strings, piano, drums, etc? I'm thinking the main benefit of the external SSD is search time, and drums (particularly with round robin samples) would be searching often, whereas a string or even a piano library would probably be accessing few samples in any given bar. That said, piano notes tend to be held long, so if stream rates are more important than access time, I could see where it would be best to put piano samples on the SSD. Thoughts?
 

Divico

Senior Member
A related question: which type of samples would be best on the external drive? Strings, piano, drums, etc? I'm thinking the main benefit of the external SSD is search time, and drums (particularly with round robin samples) would be searching often, whereas a string or even a piano library would probably be accessing few samples in any given bar. That said, piano notes tend to be held long, so if stream rates are more important than access time, I could see where it would be best to put piano samples on the SSD. Thoughts?
Imo its the oposite way round. Most drum samples are small in size. Now take for example the heaviest patches of Hollywood Strings that are loading 13 samples per note that are really big in size. One patch can be more than 1GB.
If you have big drum libraries like superior drummer 3 with lots of mic choises its different but I keep normal percussion on a normal HDD without problems
 

mauriziodececco

Maurizio, composer and piano player in Paris
I am sure that the experiences you have done are meaningful.
From a purely technical standpoint, however, tests done with spinning HD do not apply in the same way to an SSD.
An SSD is always (and more so a 4Tb SSD) a highly parallel RAID. nvme imply multiple parallel command queues; and anyway, the execution of commands behind the queue is parallel; then you add all the multilevel caching moderns SSD have, things become even more complex. Modern SSD allows for a lot more transactions in parallel on small elements of data, too.

What i mean is that i do not know without trying, but hard numbers and real life tests are needed, on a configuration and on projects similar to the OP configuration and projects; spinning HD will not produce any useful data.

Personally (as an IT guy, not as a musician) i would make a few tests before deciding which configuration to use; of course, if you can move to a PCIe SSD for samples (like a thunderbolt enclosure for m.2 modules) than i would have no doubts.

Maurizio
 

MartinH.

Senior Member
For what it's worth I have most of my samples on the system drive (ssd) and have no problems. As long as you have enough RAM for the OS not to do lots of pagefile swapping on the system drive, I don't see how it would be a bandwidth issue on an SSD. With HDDs the seek time is a huge issue, which is the primary reason where the advice to separate OS drive and sample drives probably originally came from.
If the external SSDs are connected over something that introduces a new bottleneck (USB 2 would be pretty bad imho), then I could see the all-internal on a single drive solution even being faster.