External hard drives and sound quality

I've just about filled up the internal hard drive on my Macbook with music files and am now looking at external hard drive options. Was wondering whether folks report any difference in sound quality when playing files from an external drive versus the internal?

I'm especially interested in hearing people's experiences using wireless hard drives. An Apple rep told me it would be no problem, as the hard drive wouldn't directly interface with the USB output, but I of course always like to be skeptical of anything an Apple rep says.
Bits are bits...no inherent difference in sound quality between internal and external drives.

The thing that matters with a disk (other than storage capacity) is how fast data can be retrieved when needed and whether data can be retrieved off the disk fast enough to keep the music playing without audible delays. Some disks are faster than others. An external drive storing just music files can be beneficial in that there is no disk access contention issues with other programs on the computer that must access the internal system drive in order for the computer to operate.

I use 2 Seagate multi Tb USB drives for my music files and disc speed is no issue.

Occasional defragmentation of the disk, internal or external especially as it starts to fill up, is beneficial in that this puts related bits onj the same part of the disk more and that helps read data faster.

Data retrieval from a wireless hard drive is inherently slower than a disk with a wired connection and this can become a factor. I'd consider newer wireless N technology for router and all networked devices that will intereact with a network storage drive probably before relying too heavily on wireless network drives alone.

I agree with there is no appreciable sonic improvement or degredation going onboard or outboard with the drives containing the files.

Wireless G allows sufficient through put of packets so it should be good enough to allow seamless playback. Interruptions can occur, but these are normally caused by outside factors affecting the frequency 'G' operates at. Vista as well using it's Windows default packet sending settings can be an issue for streaming wireless info, but it's an easy fix.... another thread I posted here shows exactly how to overcome slow feeds/seek and interruptions or 'drop outs'.

I can stream DVD's I've place onto a NAS drive via G to my laptop without interruption of either the audio or video stream, and I did not compress The DVD's orig info... it/they were ripped at 1:1.

There are threads here which expand upon which way is better, wireless or wired, if you look into the discussions search engine. I seem to recall the use of ethernet wire as being better.... I think.

I've tried both ways but not both ways with the exact same PC OS. Just XP Pro SP3 and Vista SP2.

Reportedly Macs have an easier time of it sonically, than do PCs. As with your own audio rig though, theres more than just a couple things which will come into play that can and will affect the audio output from your personal confuser and the overall SQ.

Mapman and Blindjim are quite correct. There is no sonic drawback to using external hard drives. I use 2 LaCie d2 Quadras connected by firewire 800, with good results. Haven't tried a wireless hard drive, so I can't advise about that. Good luck.
i have some recent experience with this topic and some odd observations. i began, as you, ripping and storing on my laptop and about 6 weeks ago had filled it. this led to the process of evaluating external storage...nas, usb hd etc and i finally decided an a seagate blackarmor nas 110. i transfered all my music from the laptop on to the nas and to my big surprise, i had a noticeable improvement. things were airy and open where as i had a muddy, loose sound with my laptop (this negative change in sonics occurred as it got closer to full, was not always like this). very strange but very real. my guess is this had to do with overload on the processor in my laptop as there were more than a few quirks with the drive full. i realize many will say i am crazy but that is what happened. i am finding more and more that everything matters in computer audio. stuff we used to think did not actually does. i have a feeling we will all learn allot as this format begins to mature.

good luck with your transition...
You ask a question that only you can answer. The only way you can tell is to try it and see if you hear a difference. These types of questions always get 2 types of responses which has already occurred.

1. bits are bits, how could it possibly matter?

2. Everything matters. I tried it and heard a difference.

Go to the audioasylum.com PC audio forum and you can find a lot of discussion about this. People propose that solid state drives sound better, lower rpm drives sound better, if you have a usb dac then a firewire drive sounds better and vice versa, different usb ports sound different, etc.

Take a look at Western Digital's heavy duty drives enterprise class.
Two different computer configurations can and may well sound different but guaranteed it is other factors in either the ripping process to disk or the D to A conversion process at play and not the location of the hard drive. I'll stand by that assertion!
Thanks folks - some very helpful comments all around. Sounds like the consensus is that even a wireless external drive shouldn't compromise sound quality provided the network is fast enough. I've seen a couple of comments to the contrary elsewhere, but I think I will go ahead and give it a try - for my Macbook, probably an Aiport Extreme coupled with a Western Digital of some kind. Will let you know how it goes, and thanks a bunch!
The biggest issue I see with networked storage is with backup times.

I have almost 300Gb of music on my USB drive currently. It takes several hours to back all this up initially to a second attached USB drive. It would take many times longer than that to a network drive using wireless G.

Key is having a backup program that only backs up new files and not everything everytime.

Everytime I've bought a brand new hard drive, regardless if USB, NAS, or just another one to put into the box, the music files or video files I put onto it sound fresher, crisper, more open and just better overall.

So there’s something to be said for newe HDDs.

I've also heard slight diffs from the format of the disc. Finding FAT to 32 sound more open than NTFS. Go figure. Maybe it was the drive materials... the format... the cabling... beats me. But new drives with freshly transfered files always sounds best to me.

There is too a thing called "bit decay" or something like that which says files stored on magnetic mediums tend after time passes, to begin deteriorating. Slowly. So slowly in fact it takes a while. A good while and a side by side comparison to truly notice these desparities.

I've discovered this in my own drives and pcs but only after some years of storage. 2-3 perhaps. Wiping/reformating and reloading the files usually fixes that incidence. again, it's near non noticeable unless you compare similar files on an older drive and a new one.

That’s why backing up and reloading from time to time is important . For the more anal of us, and to be sure it is more pertinent to redoing the OS about once every year to two years depending upon usage, in addition to the norm of error checking and defragging. Your disc (s) .

In general if the OS is on the drive with the media files, and you are at or above 75% capacity, things will begin to act up and/or slow down. If at all possible, and today it is more than ever before, add another storage center. usb, NAS ESATA, etc., or at least another physical Drive into the box.

unless you have on hand some partitioning software and can create or split, your drive into two, with one being a logical drive merely for storage data.... get a secondary drive!. Things will spped up and become more stable too.

SS drives now, in the USA anyhow are still very costly and not terribly large. There are also bugs with interfacing them into 64 bit OS, and OS older than Win 7.... or so my Geek buddy is finding out with his new 30GB SS unit where he places only his Wind 7 64 gbit OS.

Even adding a new ROM drive for ripping will aid the freshening up sound of the ripped files to some degree.

your results may vary, but these thoughts are those which I've discovered over the past eighht to ten years, using various OS, boxes, AND drives in various configs.

Good luck.

Hmm, do you notice deterioration in your digital photos, video or other files stored as well or only with audio files?
mapman...same files, same dac cables etc. the only change was moving them from my laptop to nas. weird huh? my system is very revealing and i am certain of the difference. glad it's for the better!

things that should not make a difference sometimes do. i recently switched digital cables (to an mit oracle ma-x) from my transporter to berkeley alpha dac and it is the biggest change i have ever experienced in my system. that cable is spooky, very spooky. sorry to get of topic...
SSD's, that support trim and garbage collection, are pretty much plug and play with Windows 7. I've installed SSD's in all my laptops and desk tops. Music is stilled stored on conventional HD's (all 2.5"). With the older SSD's, and older OS's, it was a bit of a PITA setting up offsets, OS specific block lengths, and doing manual trim and garbage collection.
FYI - I just picked up an Airport Extreme and a Glyph GT050Q 1T drive, if that means anything to anybody out there... Will report back on the sound when I get everything hooked up, and thanks again!
I should add that an audio/video specialist at the store where I bought the stuff said he had never heard of somebody streaming music from an external hard drive to a Macbook wirelessly! Am I pioneering with this or what?
Blindjim -

Your internal drive could be maxed out, or heavily fragmented. There is so many other possibilities - for instance Itunes could be updated or options changed exactly at the time of switch to new drive.

Fat32 is garbage. Using non-journaled format is asking for a disaster.

If bits would "decay" then checksum errors would be reported all the time with hundreds of thousand of files on computer, compressed files (including jpegs) would be corrupted etc.

The fact that you need partitioning software to split drive or "redo" OS every year tells me that you have PC and Windows (I'm sorry).

Firewire does not load main processor (has own processing unit) the way USB does. It is also more elegant, in my opinion, with daisy chaining instead of hub (only one cable coming out of computer).

Richard_stacy - I'm not sure why you bother with NAS, unless you have network of people using it. It does nothing other than making hard disk slower. Why not just plug external drive into computer. External drives are also cheaper than NAS drives.
Kijanki...it was a tough choice deciding on the nas. connecting a usb hd to my computer would be cumbersome. the player is on my laptop which floats around my house and would not care much for anything connected. i do not even really like the n+dualband dongle i use hanging off but, unlike the post above, g band does not handle the streams/transfers as well. i do not find the nas slow in comparison to any other configuration either. this nas was not much more expensive than an external drive, $165 for the small, fanless and simple box at best buy. so at 1tb, maybe $60 more give or take. i do find that a good router is really important for smooth, fast performance.

i went through a bunch of trials before choosing this and still do question it. i tried the readynas duo which runs the player on the nas. i tried a external hd connected via usb to my router. finally i just flipped a coin (actually i asked my wife which one she thought was prettiest) and picked the blackarmor nas 110.

I'm the last guy to ask about image or video file deterioration.

As there's tons of variables in my case (s), I've mixed and pulled in and out drives now into and out of several boxes over the years, all I can account for is the audio side of things getting duller and duller. Again, side by sides show it well. Only the oldest Files I have stored way back from Napster's free file trading deally seem most affected.

yeah... Gatesware. 100% on every box and notebook.

...and all govt boxes too. Meaning over priced and low end units usually. Everytime I get one I'm grateful for it, but have to upgrade a good bit of it for it to be stable and as responsive as I prefer.

lately they'vve come with ACRONIS loaded onto a hidden partition, with an image of the fresh install of OS. A re-do takes only 15-30 min. A full re-do and reload of all my accessiblity software and fav apps takes longer. So I've begun doing an image of the partition once fully restored onto a separate drive, and thereafter simply clone to each successive drive as needed. Takes about an hour, front to back... inst the HDD and loading the completed image.

if you don't mind things slowing down a bit, and are keeping all the data off the OS drive, you can go a couple years I suppose. I've done that once... my oldest now retired box has 4yrs or more on it, maybe five, without wiping & reloading. it's a JIC box anyhow.

With windows it makes sense on the larger discs 500GB & up, to partition. Error checking and defragging then take way less time... and the data is easier to recover and back up.

It's simply what I did and do, until high functioning accessibility software makers take aim at Macs.... which likely isn't going to happen.

maybe it's like driving a stick or an automatic... once you get into it, it's OK.

it is what it is.
Richard_stacy - I completely forgot about laptops. It's good to hear that it can be done successfully - I might need it one day (wife uses laptop).

Blindjim - the most important that you can manage it over long time. Some things are better in Windows some in Mac. Friend of mine uses Dragon Naturally Speaking (Windows program) on the MAC instead of Mac Speech that is based on the same engine, because it works better for her. Multiple Sclerosis affected vision and her hands are shaking a lot.
I use 1TB drive but with close to 1,000 CDs in ALAC it is only 300GB. I keep second identical backup drive at work but am still worrying about something going very wrong during backup.
Kijanki: Fat32 is garbage. Using non-journaled format is asking for a disaster.
Excellent point. One way in which such a disaster could happen is if power were to drop out at exactly the wrong moment. The file table could be corrupted, resulting in the entire contents of the drive being lost.
Kijanki: If bits would "decay" then checksum errors would be reported all the time with hundreds of thousand of files on computer, compressed files (including jpegs) would be corrupted etc.
Agreed 100%.
Blindjim: With windows it makes sense on the larger discs 500GB & up, to partition. Error checking and defragging then take way less time... and the data is easier to recover and back up.
Also, partitioning can make the computer faster and more responsive. Read and write times for files near the "beginning" of a hard drive (corresponding to the outermost parts of the platters) are typically about twice as fast as read and write times for files near the "end" of the drive (corresponding to the innermost parts of the platters). The reason being that since the platters are spinning at fixed rpm's, tangential velocity is much faster near the outer edge than near the inner edge.

Since the operating system and program files typically consume just a very small fraction of the size of a modern hard drive, it therefore makes sense to put them on a relatively small partition that is located at the "beginning" of the drive.
Blindjim: If you don't mind things slowing down a bit, and are keeping all the data off the OS drive, you can go a couple years I suppose. I've done that once... my oldest now retired box has 4yrs or more on it, maybe five, without wiping & reloading. it's a JIC box anyhow.
While it is very common for Windows PC's to become increasingly sluggish over time, that need not happen if the right practices are followed. I have five Windows XP PC's in my house, most of them a few years old, and one that I built 7 years ago. I have never had to do an os reinstall, and they all work as well as when they were new. See the second of my two posts dated 11/22/09 in this thread for what I attribute that to.

Best regards,
-- Al

Like I said it is what it is.. hence some of what I’ve said might be contingent on my use of the Accessibility softw it’s ongoing updates etc. But whatever I’ve said here or elsewhere, even if I’m misinformed, or off the mark a mite, is always the truth as I know it to be.

Aren’t the File Allocation Tables written & rewritten as they are accessed such as a log of sorts?

I use NTFS again, now, exclusively but once lost 50 or so out of 200GB of audio files residing on a NTFS disc . The word I got from my tech who had to use NOPIX to get in there to them, said the permissins had been changed for access. I could see ‘em all but couldn’t run any of them.

That foloowed me finding out someone close by was onto my wireless router without my knowledge. I knew squat about wireless security back then, but a tad more now . It was some WAR driver sitting out on the street using my bandwidth covertly. They must have messed up something. Since I’ve made some changes on my WAP’s security features I’ve had no other issues.

That Geek told me if they’d all been on a FAT drive permissions wouldn’t have been able to be altered, or been a problem and access to them would have been a breeze unlike NTFS which has provisions for permissions to files..

Was he right on that point? I know most of that 50GB were ‘purchased’ files and many were lost altogether . Or scatter across a couple hundred CD compilations

Backing up files has a higher priority for me now

My exp with using govt. pc boxes and the accessibility software I have to run which enables me to see things better is a mixed bag.

With daily use on predominately one box I do the usual things for maintenance and ese of use. Erroe check usually each mo. Defrag about every 60 days. Keep the OS on a smaller active partition and the data on a logical partion and/or an outboard drive.

I run minimal processes. And aps at any one time. Add the full bank of RAM as much as is required.. 3-4GB on 32 bit sys.

I feel the main issue that accounts for a good number of incompatibility issues is the AI squared software. The Zoom Text screen reader magnifier. There are things it simply does not like. Times when it just won’t do what it’s supposed to do. It’s almost like a person. At best it’s a two edged sword. I’ve finally gotten to where the latest box which I’m turning into a dedicated server soon, works great. No bugs so far. Quick, responsive, etc. So I leve well enough alone there.

Even some of the Windows updates affect ZT. And after updating at MS website, a day or so later things tend to act differently. So in all, MS plays a role in all this too. Same thing with the ZT updates, though they normally fix the MS ones . At times. Amazing.
Aren’t the File Allocation Tables written & rewritten as they are accessed such as a log of sorts?
Jim -- I think you might be referring to the fact that FAT32, NTFS, and many other file systems store information about when each file was created, modified, and most recently accessed. However what I was referring to were the file tables that define the location(s) of each file on the drive, which are updated whenever a file is written or modified or moved. Those file table updates typically require considerably more than one write operation, and if a power dropout or system crash occurs during that sequence of writes, the file tables of non-journaling file systems such as FAT32 can easily become corrupt.

NTFS, on the other hand, is a journaling file system, which means that it keeps track of the changes it intends to make in a journal before committing them to the main file system. The journal normally allows a crash or power dropout to be easily and quickly recovered from, invisibly to the user.

Another disadvantage of FAT32, btw, is that defragmenting a FAT32 partition is a much slower process than defragmenting an NTFS partition of comparable size.

You are correct that NTFS incorporates file permissions as metadata, while FAT32 does not. I have no idea, though, how the problem you ran into might have happened, in which permissions were somehow changed. I've never heard of that happening before. Just your luck!

Best regards,
-- Al

Live and learn I suppose. The wireless security precautions seem to have eliminated that nonsense.
Hello all. Would like to offer a tweak that everyone above will find beneficial. Every piece of gear mentioned above suffers from internal vibration plus digital jitter which lowers the fidelity of your system. Putting your drives (internal or external)and receivers on 3 brass footers supported on a wood plinth (preferably maple) and rubber/cork supports under that will provide significant gain in the quality of the sound produced. Mapleshaderecords dot com can provide pictures of the above solution. I use isoblocks (rubber/cork) to support my Logitech Duet Receiver and home made wood blocks (2 pieces of 1"x1"x8" with 2 deck screws through each) under my PC to penetrate the carpet and drain the vibration from the hard drive. This solution is very cheap and produced positive results for my system. Happy Listening.
It depends mainly on the software you are using for playback, using external hd's with a good music playing software is very effective and i dont hear differences between.
Really depends on the resolution ability of your system the audio signal is going through.

On many systems, you wont hear a difference. On a high res. system, a NAS has a less darker background than a spinning HD, which is not as quiet as a solid state HD.
"On many systems, you wont hear a difference. On a high res. system, a NAS has a less darker background than a spinning HD, which is not as quiet as a solid state HD."

Sorry, not to be rude, but that's total crap. If you can read/write data to the device without corruption, how can music files retrieved sound different (all other things being equal) depending on the back end storage type?
I have to agree with Johnss, in general. To me, there is a most certainly a difference in sound from different types of drives. Why this is, I do not know. What I am learning about computer audio is that so many things matter that we figured should not and I imagine this will continue to get more complicated as new digital sources mature. Personally, I decided not to get into trying to choose a drive based on sound and went with convenience and simplicity. The differences are subtle enough that it was not worth the effort.
Larry_s - I don't understand it either. If data is there the only difference could be jitter and it doesn't apply here since data is synchronous (clocked). In addition it goes thru disk cache buffers and output FIFO buffers. At first I thought it was about audible noise of device itself (HD vs. SSD) - this would make sense.


There are similar tweaks that work well too. Mostly those we apply to the audio components themselves, as you pointed out.

Outboard drives, USB or NAS in my home respond to compliant footers by decreasing both vibration and it's inherent noise. yes. With Bright Star nodes and/or some other like affair, the actual noise of the drive diminishes or dies out. In my arrangement, all drives and gear are in a separate room so their vibrating - spinning noises are mostly inconsequential, although I feel there seems to be a slight improvment in Sound Quality or I’d like to think so. If there is it’s pretty small.

Additionally, exchanging the OEM power cords for better ones add audio gains too. Use of electrical conditioning filters - conditioners, are of still more help in keeping out the junk the pc puts off into the homes electrical service... it's just like a CDP. My tower resides in a OEM filled Sound anchor rack with compliant footers beneath it's shelf. it also uses a Voodoo Black Dragon or Nirvana pc. It's fed by a PSA UPC 200.

All outboard drives are fed via a PSA Duet supplied by a Python VX from another dedicated ckt on the same phase.

Merely removing the large access panel from the tower affords better cooling and oddly enough lowers vibration too while reducing heat. Gratefully, my Dell runs so quiet I almost can’t hear it run standing right next to it.. In fact I’ve accidentally had to restart it a couple times as I couldn’t hear it wind up following pushing the Start button on the tower..

Noise in the track associated with the drive itself?
I think that might be accouhnted for by the outlet, wires touching each other or in close proximity to one another somewhere, or junk on the power line more so than the resonance from the HDD.
some disk drives are physically noisier than others (fans, etc.). You might be able to hear them if in the listening room. Adding an external drive might add noise to that from the computer itself resulting in more background noise than otherwise. That's the only thing that makes any sense to me regarding the "sound" of disk drives. This has nothing to so with the digital bits or signal source per se.
Kijanki - The only reason why some people claim they a difference using different types of disks is because they know they changed something and had faulty recollection of what they heard previously. It's basically impossible for the disk type (local or NAS) to affect the sound. Even if somehow a few bits got flipped, it wouldn't be in such a way to uniformly change/shape the entire audio bit stream. Disk drives don't use S/PDIF to transfer data. :^) Again this assumes everything after the data read is working correctly.
Larry...with all due respect, that is a very grandiose position. In the bigger picture, I'm fascinated with posts such as yours where people on internet forums decide...based on their knowledge base...that another poster is imagining the basis for his comments. Ones knowledge base must be quite vast to begin assuming such positions! Especially in an audiophile forum where so many things most folks do not understand have such striking impacts. On paper, your comments may be true (although I seriously doubt it) but in practice they are quite false.
The only thing I can add is that with my music server setup which has used both internal and external storage, I cannot attribute any sonic differences to the disk storage media used and I will loose no sleep over this.

Changes to any of the parts of my system that are involved in making or transmitting the analog music signal (Roku network players, DACs, amps, wires, speakers) as opposed to merely storing and sending digital data are all clearly audible to me.

I suspect clearly there must be cases with devices perhaps not functioning correctly or up to specs where sound or even basic operation must be affected, but this is an exception case and not the norm. The solution is to use devices in good working order, not necessarily to change device type in teh quest for better sound.
Richard, you can believe what you want. One doesn't have to know the actual physics or low level mechanisms how disk drives transmit data to the host. If reading disks was so unreliable to the point where data is being modified undetected, then we wouldn't be posting on this forum. Claiming the sound is different depending on the type disk storage is the same thing as saying the type of storage causes the audio stream (data) retrieved to be different. How else can the eventual audio heard be different? We're not talking clocking the stream or retrieving a clock, D/A or anything else. We're talking about moving bits from point A to point B - USB, ethernet, PCI, take your pick. If they're broke, we're not here.

The backing store for music files should have zero impact on sound. All that is required is that the data make it intact to the memory buffer. What happens after that is not part of this discussion.

I'm not debating what the person claimed they heard, just the reasons why they claim what they heard or remembered hearing.
I'm going to agree with Mr Stacy on this one. I'm not saying that they do or don't affect the sound as I haven't tried it myself, but I am saying it is impossible to predict what effect something will have on a system without trying it. If a bunch of people say they have heard a difference then no matter how many logical reasons you have why it won't, it is simply guesswork to conclude that they are wrong.

To the finer point of your position.
Claiming the sound is different depending on the type disk storage is the same thing as saying the type of storage causes the audio stream (data) retrieved to be different.
I don't think anybody has stated that the data is different. They are saying that using an external drive somehow affects the sound of their system. There are a myriad of ways that hooking up an additional device to a computer would affect its operation. Focusing on one part of the equation (uncorrupted data transfer) ignores a large number of possibilities.

Until you have tried the experiment on numerous, varied systems then trying to prove a negative (HDs do not affect the sound) with logical arguments is a waste of time since you have undoubtedly ignored many variables some of which we may not even know exist.

It has been scientifically proven that bumblebees can't fly which just goes to show that scientific explanations and logical conclusions don't always result in the correct answers.

Larry_s is correct.

People can believe what they want but there is no technical basis for it.

If you hear something different it is either a placebo effect or something other than the hard disk being external versus internal is responsible for it.

That's about all that I can say with any certainty.

Oh, and also that I am sure that there is someone out there willing to sell someone who believes different disk drive technologies sound different a very nice sounding audiophile grade hard drive for a very reasonable premium as well. Then you can be rest assured that only the best sounding disk drive technology has been introduced into your system.
People can believe what they want but there is no technical basis for it.

Just because you can't come up with a technical reason why doesn't mean it isn't true. It looks to me like you are dismissing something you don't fully understand. Are you a hardware and software engineer well versed in this technology? Have done extensive research and explored every possible reason why changing a component could in any way affect the operation of a computer system and scientifically proven that it does not or could not affect the sound? I can think of many possibilities, increase or decrease in RF levels, different load on the power supplies, difference in the timing of operations caused by the need to service another device, etc. Until all of these reasons and more have been thoroughly explored and discounted there is no "technical basis" for dismissing the possibility that it has an effect.


"Are you a hardware and software engineer well versed in this technology?"

As a matter of fact I am.

I would not say it is not possible for the integrated computer and hardware software as a whole to have some effect on resulting sound in certain cases, only that external drives inherently sound no different than internal ones. In fact, there is no sound at all until the bits hit a DAC somewhere.

Various aspects of computer hardware and software can and do affect the DAC process for sure, but using an internal versus external drive in of itself alone is not one of them, so there is no reason to categorically steer someone away from an external drive in the interest of better sound.
Mapman - Name brand of the drive is also very important. Names starting with sibilant like Seagate or Sony will bring more sibilant sound (logical) while name brands containing word "digital" - like Western Digital should be avoided at all cost (we all know what digital does to music). Word of caution about Maxtor. On the surface it looks OK but after closer look we learn that Maxtor bought HD business from Quantum in 2000 that bought HD business from DIGITAL Equipment Corporation in 1994. Again digititis could attack our system. One cannot be too careful. It is all perfectly logical but if you don't believe me, let me quote Herman's post:

"but I am saying it is impossible to predict what effect something will have on a system without trying it."
Assuming you really are, it still doesn't refute any of what I said. If you are not it lends less credence to your position but once again, you can't prove a negative by focusing on one aspect of a problem.

Have you done extensive research and explored every possible reason why changing a component could in any way affect the operation of a computer system and scientifically proven that it does not or could not affect the sound?

I think I've made my point. Unless you can prove it does not then the possibility exists that it does no matter what you choose to believe.

Happy listening.

Well, I am what I say. And someone actually pays me pretty well to be what I am. So there!

I would adapt your position except the problem is then we would both be wrong.

You are free to stay clear of external drives if you prefer, but I will continue to use them.

Regarding wireless (NAS) drives, I tried one prior to my current external USB drives (and after using the internal disk drive prior to it filling up) and dumped it. It had nothing to do with sound quality, more that it was slow and unreliable, even when used only for backups. Other wireless NAS devices may be better.

My current Seagate USB drives are just the opposite, ie fast and reliable in every aspect. Other model external drives may have a different set of strengths and weaknesses as well.

Sound quality has never been an issue for me either in theory nor in practice because, well, as I pointed out disk drives HAVE NO SOUND. When a difference is heard, it is for other reasons. In my case (NAS, internal, external) I have heard no differences in practice.
Why do you assume I would not use them? I have 3 external drives hooked up to my computer. I have no idea whether or not they can affect the sound and neither do you because neither one of us or that other fellow have done the testing to prove it one way or another. I use software that loads a file into memory before it plays it which I like to believe mitigates any negative effects reading from any drive might have. It seems perfectly logical but I have no proof of that. For me to state external drives do affect the sound would be just as silly as you stating they don't because neither of us has any proof.

I'm having a hard time believing you are an engineer. If you are then you must have been trained in the scientific method yet you completely ignore the basic premises. You have a hypothesis that you now believe to be a scientific law with very limited testing. Going back to a previous post, using your logic you must believe that bumblebees can't fly. There is no scientific reason they can so therefore they can't. That is exactly the same logic as "People can believe what they want but there is no technical basis for it."

As for wireless I got my sister a 1TB Buffalo NAS drive that hooks to her wireless router via ethernet that works fine. She uses iTunes on a PC to stream from that wirelessly to an Aiport Express hooked into her stereo. No claims whether or not any of that affects the sound as I've done no comparisons but it sounds fine to me and she has no dropouts. The transfer rate is a bit slow but fine for audio. It also has a USB port so you can use that to hook up direct to the PC to speed things up when you load it.


I have some evidence to support my "hypothesis".

I have used internal, external USB, and wireless NAS storage and I have heard no differences. Nor do I hear a difference having used three different computers as music servers.

I do hear differences whenever I change any other part of my system.

So my data points support my hypothesis even though scientifically it proves nothing as you say.

Also, none of this surprises me based on my understanding of how computer and audio systems work. So I am as comfortable as I can be in my "beliefs".

You are the one bringing "scientific law" into the discussion not me.

I also would state that I do believe bumblebees can fly, so your model for predicting my beliefs is apparently not working very well.

Hopefully my limited experience in the area of question can be of benefit to someone.

So what practical advice or opinion is it that you are offering those interested in the question again besides the wisdom of realizing that nothing proves anything?
Mapman wrote: "I have used internal, external USB, and wireless NAS storage and I have heard no differences. Nor do I hear a difference having used three different computers as music servers."

Mapman - you're not going to win this argument because "somebody else might hear it". To me this is utterly nonsense that is anti-scientific and brings voodoo-harm to this forum. If we really don't know anything and have to test everything than perhaps we should test if red car has better gas millage than blue car before buying - because: "would be just as silly as you stating they don't because neither of us has any proof".

If we would pay attention to every possibility we would not have computers today.
Kijanki, I reread your post a few times and I'm not sure which side you are on, if either.

Mapman, you finally bring something to the table.
"I have used internal, external USB, and wireless NAS storage and I have heard no differences. Nor do I hear a difference having used three different computers as music servers."
Sorry if I missed it but it looked to me like everything you posted before was telling us why it shouldn't make any difference, not that you have tried it and found none. I have no problem with somebody taking a position based on their own experience even though I'm not sure your limited tests are in any way conclusive other than for you. What bothers me are those making dogmatic statements based on what they believe should be true based on "technical" matters or what they've heard from others. That's what gets us statements like:

All well designed and built amps sound the same. All wires sound the same. Transistors have lower distortion so they must sound better than tubes. Horns honk. Negative feedback lowers distortion so it must be good. All digital is the same because bits are bits. Computers have too much non-audio stuff in them to be any good for audio. And on and on and on.

Herman - The key is to make some sorting. Most of items you mentioned are in analog domain where things are getting extremely complicated but "bits are bits" is relatively easy to explain. Data stored on HD is retrieved without error - (not even single bit) or computers would not work. Data is extracted first to HD cache buffers and then to computer memory to end-up in FIFO output buffers. Data leaves FIFO buffer bit by bit exactly same (no matter what drive it came from). Digital data can only sound different if jitter is involved (noise in time domain). It doesn't apply here since transmission between HD and computer is synchronous (clocked). Computer has to present on its output exactly same information from the same file on different HD otherwise networks would not operate properly.

Asynchronous S/Pdif data coming from CDP could be an example of place where bit are not just a bits because of jitter.

It is remotely possible that you might hear different sound from different HD because of ground loops created by disk that affects analog audio - but it has nothing to do with type of HD. That would be pretty good example of case where experiment is useless (brings false conclusion).

People claim that jitter rejecting Benchmark DAC1 is still sensitive to transports therefore not exactly jitter rejecting. Strange part is that cheap DVD players often sound better with DAC1 (according to their testimony) than expensive transports. How is it possible? Again - wrong conclusion. Jitter rejection of Benchmark DAC1 has nothing to do with it and it is simply ability of given player to retrieve data from CD (DVD players have good tracking). It could be issue of ground loops as well.

Negative feedback that you mentioned indeed lowers distortion and sounds better but only if is used intelligently. Good designer would design amp as linear as possible to get below about 5% THD and then apply negative feedback to knock down THD to about 0.5%. Now it becomes necessary to lower input bandwidth to one that amp had before feedback was applied (to prevent TIM distortions) and voila - we got great sounding amp that nobody will buy because it has limited bandwidth and 0.5% of THD.
The issue here is the whole idea that something may in fact be happening to alter the sound that you do not understand. It is just not possible, no matter how extensive your expertise, for you to know all that could alter sound. I apologize if this is difficult for you to digest and realize it can be humbling.

To clarify again...I found the difference in sound to be subtle and not worth influencing my decision which HD to purchase. This occurred when trying different NAS units in my system. It had nothing to do with internal vs external drives rather two NAS drives. I was not aware of any faulty hardware or ground issues and am comfortable assuming there were none.

This reminds me very much of a discussion I was having on another forum trying to convince someone that digital cables can sound different. His "expertise" was making it very difficult for him to digest this fact.
Once people encounter something counter-intuitive like digital cable affecting the sound they tend to stretch this to every possible case. Different sound of NAS drives could be related to something else then drive itself - for instance music was ripped two times to drive and is not identical - even if this is the same song/piece, or system was just turned on while second drive was tested later when system was warm and tweeters (ferrofluid) warmed-up. In addition to this we have placebo effect. In coducted tests people often swear to hear big difference while in reality they listen to exactly same set-up.

I remember joke about Russian scientist that was removing flea legs one by one ordering it everytime to jump. When he removed last one and flea did not follow his order he wrote a note "Removing all legs makes flea deaf"
One has to be very careful with conclusions.