External HD VS Flash Drive Sound Quality Question

Hi have an Oppo BDP-95. I am up to around 25 Flash drives which is getting ridiculous.

2 questions (hoping for folks who know the definitive answers; I have my own guesses, bu that's all they are.)

1. HD Tracks has written that the Flash drives sound better than any spinning disc or drive due to lack of jitter from lack of a spinning disc. Is that accurate?

2. I have noticed a new generation of external hd's that get all there power through the USB port, & do not require an out board power supply.

A. Would there be any detectable sonic difference either way? If so, which is better: the cheap wall wort power supplies or getting power solely through the USB line?

B. The Western Digital USB drives with no power supply have a proprietary cable that looks quite cheap. Would the lack of an audiophile USB cable be sonically problematic?

I'm basically trying to decide whether to ditch the lash drives or a USB hard drive; & if so whether to go with a powered or unpowered drive. A couple +'s re the new WD's: they are teeny & they run cooler than the Seagates I've used.
First of all, jitter is not caused by spinning discs, that is nonsense.

Secondly, I prefer USB drives that have their own power supply. You are not subject to the noisy environment that is prevalent in most PCs. Also, an outboard power supply is preferable to drawing current from the USB ports.

Finally, try not to get too caught up in the audio nervosa that seems to plague many folks on this forum. If it sounds good to you sit back and enjoy it, don't worry what others think...

Actually, jitter is produced by vibration of the CD, by slight wobbling of the CD that's caused by out-of-round condition of the disc (exacerbated when the transport is not absolutely level). We won't even get into the jitter produced by the background scattered laser light, especially the invisible light that cannot be influenced by colored pens or mats.
My spelling is pathetic!
Hoping for folks who know the definitive answers; I have my own guesses, but that's all they are.
IMO the only folks who would know the definitive answers are those who have carefully compared a variety of recent generation drives from different manufacturers, some of which utilize wall wart power supplies and some of which utilize power from the USB bus, and have compared them using an Oppo BDP-95 or another similar Oppo player. In other words, just about nobody.

IF any of the alternatives you described make any difference, IMO it would be the result of coupling of electrical noise from the drive and/or its cable and/or its power supply to unrelated circuit points within the BDP-95, and possibly to points elsewhere in the system. And/or effects within the BDP-95 that may result from the fluctuating current drawn from it by the drive, in the case of a bus powered drive.

Noise effects don't have a great deal of predictability. And I see no reason to expect much if any consistency between experiences that may be reported with computer setups and what can be expected with your Oppo.

Personally, I'd just follow the advice RW offered in his last paragraph.

-- Al
Geoff, he's not talking about playing CDs. The spinning disc he's referring to is the one in the hard drive mechanism. The data being read from the hard drive gets clocked, processed, and reclocked multiple times through all kinds of digital circuitry before it ends up being converted to analog. The jitter that matters is jitter in the timing of digital-to-analog conversion.

-- Al
Found a 3tb Seagate for $90 delivered. Hopefully no noise issues...... Thanks for the replies! Now what to do with the 25+ flash drives??!
Been doing some on line reading. Sounds like it's necessary to spend at least $100 on a high end usb cable(sigh). I may just stick with the flash drives & enjoy the extra backup / storage.

See what my ears tell me when it arrives.
Was what you read based on experience connecting an external USB hard drive to an Oppo player, or to some other kind of player, or to a computer, or to connection of a computer to a USB DAC? Those are all very different situations from a technical standpoint.

Also, if you hear a difference between playback from the new hard drive and from the flash drives, I would see no reason to necessarily attribute the difference to the cable. I would think that a more likely explanation would be that the design of the player is such that the player itself sounds different when it plays from one medium compared to the other. Due for example to differences in internal noise coupling that may affect either analog circuit points or jitter at the point of D/A conversion.

-- Al
08-02-13: Moomoo
what to do with the 25+ flash drives??!

I have Oppo bdp-95 and use USB flash drives for FLAC and MP3 music files. Music files on root directory sound better (transparent, faster, and musical) than files in sub-directories or folders. If you hear the difference of sound quality between root and sub-folders, you want few flash drives for your favorite music in root directory rather than all music in sub-folders in Seagate.
Moomoo, Please keep us posted about how your experiment turns out. I'd like to listen to more high res downloads but don't think the server systems are at my price/ease of setup and use point yet, so I'm really interested in what you're doing.
I've been very pleased with the Flash Drives re: the Oppo sonically; but they're impossible to sort (I just put files on the drives as I get them, so they're in no order); & my collection of hi rez is getting huge. Even as far as cd goes, I really need to physically downsize. That & the sale price made me pull he trigger.

What made me think of the question when I posted is that with 2 piece cd players I've always heard HUGE differences between digital cables (I am currently using an Illuminati between my aging Esoterc P-10 & PS Audio SL3 which FYI sounds better on red book cd than the Oppo does; though the Oppo blows the cd set up away on hi-res); & it dawned on me that USB cables would likely have the same issue. Possibly worse as generic USB cable is ike generic radio shack cable quality wise.

Additionally the flash drives are 100% solid state & there is no wire involved.........

Will report back.
What made me think of the question when I posted is that with 2 piece cd players I've always heard HUGE differences between digital cables.
There are many reasons why large differences can be expected between digital cables that connect CD transports to DACs. Not only the type of cable, but even the length of the cable can make a major difference. See this paper for starters.

Basically, in those applications the effects of impedance mismatches between the cable and the components it is connecting, the introduction of noise due to ground loop effects or RFI pickup (both of which are cable sensitive), and other ways in which the cable may affect waveform integrity can ultimately have very significant effects on jitter at the point where D/A conversion is performed within the DAC (to a greater or lesser degree depending on the jitter rejection capability of the particular DAC).

None of those factors have any relevance to transmission of digital data from a USB hard drive to your Oppo, as long as nothing involved is defective. The technical considerations are completely different, and vastly less critical with respect to their potential effect on sonics.

-- Al
What about using an SSD with the SATA to USB converter? I know they're expensive, but the available sizes 500 GB for about $350 would hold all those flash drives and you wouldn't need external power either. It would be like having a giant flash drive.
@ Almarg, Hi, your 8-04-13 post is interesting and quite a learning exsperience for me, on a different thread called,, what are the best source direct to amp,, I was wanting to ask you if you may repost that post there, I have questions I believe you can help me with, that have nothing to do with the ops thread here, that is the reason of the asking if you can repost to the other thread,all of the post if you do not mind, thankyou.
@ Almarg, I meant, what are the best direct to amp digital players, thats the thread.,cheers.
Audiolabyrinth, I've done as you requested.

-- Al
My post might have read like a statement, but it was a question. Has anyone tried an SSD to a USB input in place of a standard spinning hard drive? I was thinking it might be the best solution other than the high cost. Thanks all.
I have an SSD with USB power and also an ESATA hard disk with battery power. I use them on Oppo-95 with Mod-Wright tube analog stage.

The hard disk provide a better sense of dynamic while the SSD sounds a little bit dark and subdue.

But I prefer SACD over both the above options. I only listen to classical music.
Thankyou Almarg.
Very interesting Dchan88. I would have thought the SSD to slightly outperform the spinner. Thanks
I would also have expected the SSD to sound better. Interesting.

The HD is here. It's taking several days to transfer files (partly due to the amo8unt, partly because I am trying to make 3 drives identical & the other 2 weren't quite there); should be able to report back next week. The USB chord is the same semi proprietary cable that Western Digital uses; I'm not sure if there is an audiophile option.
A few VERY INITIAL comments:

1. It works!

2. It's definitely putting out a lower (digital) volume level than discs or flash drives. No idea why. Not a big deal, I'd say I'm turning the volume control 1-2 clock markings higher

3. I decided to use an older hard drive that does not have the proprietary usb jack, so if I ever do have the $'s to try an audiophile cable, it would be an option.

4. Due to the layout of my power conditioner, I can only plug in the wall wort in 1 direction, so I can't test the audible effects of polarity unless I use a cheap power strip or plug straight into the wall.

5. I really feel I need at least a couple weeks to make an accurate statement regarding what I'm hearing (other than the volume drop, which is not subtle). My INITIAL reaction is: not bad, but seems to be a bit less of a sense of depth & sound stage on i-res, 44/16 sounded about the same.

I'm going to take some time o get used to the current sound, then do some a-b', then I will report back.

I have a suspicion that despite some comments above, the cables are going to have an impact. Of course the problem with subjective hearing is we often hear what we expect to hear, unless it's really obvious!

The benefits for me is not having o have all those flash drives (& possibly eventually moving a huge disc collection to hd's) & as compared to Flash Drives, everything is sorted by genre & alphabetically o I don't have to look at a list to see what album is on what Flash drive.

But the sound quality will be my real determination.
Either I'm going brain dead, or my "s" & "t" keys are intermittently not working (or both......)
It's definitely putting out a lower (digital) volume level than discs or flash drives. No idea why. Not a big deal, I'd say I'm turning the volume control 1-2 clock markings higher
If so, I'd expect that the reason is not that the hard drive is "putting out" a lower volume than the discs or flash drives, but that for some reason the player is treating the data that is received from the hard drive differently than the data that is received from the other media. Perhaps shifting the data within each sample by one bit location, at some point in the data path, which would probably result in a 6 db change in volume.

-- Al
A couple more quick comments: I'm going to break what I said above about waiting:

1. The volume issue was me; I'm too embarrassed to say what I did, bit it was me.

2. WITHOUT a/b ing at all, my initial reaction is that other than missing HDCD (the Oppo only encodes HDCD on discs), 44/16 sounds fine; based on memory 44/16 sounds just as good as it does on disc. As I may have to do a major physical downsize, I may end up ripping most discs to hd's.

3. I hear very little difference WITH THE HARD DRIVE between hi-res & 44/16. Based on memory alone, the Flash drives & real discs are much better on hi res. Don't know if it's my imagination, or a cable issue; but that's what I'm hearing.

The Oppo's strength is sound staging & depth on high res material, & at least today that strength is almost totally gone with hi-def files played back through the USB HD (identical files to those I've been playing on the Flash Drives).

Again, I will report back in a couple weeks, though I do not expect to have the money to try audiophile cabling options in the meantime so that will remain a variable.
Thanks for the update Moomoo. I hope you can get those high res files sounding like they should. I'm looking forward to hearing more on your findings.
I'm compelled to create an account instead of lurking. There should be no direct difference in sound quality due to hard drive or ssd or usb cables. The files are transferred to the Oppo as files and Oppo does the conversion from file in Oppo memory to audio and the differences in components discussed here shouldn't make any real difference. To put it another way, if you put your bank statements on a hard drive, flash drive, or SSD and then tried to read it over a USB cable, would you expect to get different results on the computer? Would your bank statements be more accurate if you used an audiophile quality USB cable? The data is transferred and then opened by Excel (or whatever) and displayed. The frequency at which errors would happen in the transfer from data source to computer would be extremely low. If you trust bank statements or homework to these storage technologies, then the audio files are just as reliable in terms of 100% fidelity after transfer.

With that said...I do own an Oppo 103 and switched to using an SSD since it seems my wireless network couldn't transfer high-res 5.1 files fast enough for continuous play (really choppy buffering problems like when you try to watch a video online and it just can't keep up and buffers). But the hard drive transfer rate over USB is much faster and more reliable than a crappy wireless connection. There is a big difference between not having sufficient bandwidth (buffering problems and no continuous play) and loss in fidelity or sound with continuous play (which should NOT happen).

The only other source of differences would be from some subtle interactions in stuff other than pure transfer issues (does the power source interfere in some way with other cables, etc.). Personally, I would suspect the impact is reasonably low for reasonable hardware. The most annoying sound impact that I can think of would be that some spinning disks I've owned I can actually here them spin and the heads move (you can hear on computer boot up...the ticking that isn't from the fan). This is worse if the data is fragmented. Defrag your spinning disks! :) SSD don't have the problem since there are no moving parts.
I still haven't spent enough time, but my initial reaction is on hi-res with the BDP-95 The Flash Drives seem to sound quite a bit better. I so far haven't heard much difference with 44/16, though.

I need to spend more time before I make that statement definitively, though.

The main comparison I did was the 96/24 Flac version of Keith Jarrett - Koln Concert. The Flash seemed to have more air, better soundstaging, definition & more detail; the hard drive was a bit bright in the loud passages where the Flash was not.

Identical files.
While I don't know for certain which physical differences would cause what sound differences, in the world of cd there are HUGE difference both between standalone cd transports, digital cables, & at least some of us hear differences between power cables (I certainly do, though I don't understand why).

Taking that comparison here (both the Flash drive & the hard drive are filling the same role as the standalone cd transport); on the one hand we have a solid state device with no power, no cable & no moving parts.

On the other hand, we have a spinning disc, a $2.00 digital cable, a $5 cable including a power supply (the power supply alone in my Esoteric cd transport is probably a $100 part), & who knows what inside the box connecting the hd to the USB enclosure.

As I mentioned in one of the posts above, I can also only check the polarity in 1 position at this time on the drive due to the physical set up of my power conditioner.

All that said, I'm still not 100% certain that the Flash Drives sound better; I can only say with certainty the flash sounded much better on a solo Piano album. I just haven't had the time to do more comparisons. I will admit I developed a bias from the one comparison, but I do plan to check a few more albums when I can.

For complete transparency, the comparison I made on the Jarrett is between a Seagate Backup Plus 2 TB STCA2000100 USB 3.0 HD & an Adata C008 32 GB USB 2.0 Flash.
Thanks for your viewpoint Krikdf, but it has turned out pretty often that things that shouldn't affect sound quality do, at least for some people. Have you compared high res files on flash drives to the same files on your your SSD into your Oppo?
I don't have an SSD.
Hi Moomoo, my question was for Kriskdf. I hope he will compare flash drives to his SSD and tell us what he hears.
I can try to give it a try today (my wife is out of the house for a bit :) ), but I don't expect much difference. The SSD is basically a large flash drive, with some subtle differences. It is powered by the USB directly just as the flash drive (not even requiring the extra USB pigtail that can be used to power spinning disks). If I were to predict any differences from different sources, I would suspect they would come from big spinning HD and power differences there (besides...I really do hear the clicks and spinning of some disks. Some are quieter, but some annoy me). Also, some other comments:

* I am using hdmi out of the Oppo (it is the 103 not 105, so I don't gain a lot by going analog out). So my expectation is the same bits are streamed to the DAC and any interference introduced would actually need to be in another component a foot away.
* Speakers are B & W CM9 powered by Emotiva XPA-5 and a Denon receiver, so not the highest-fi, but not too bad.

BTW, most of my comments earlier about the drive transfer stuff is in agreement with Almarg that comparing this to CD players digital connections are not appropriate. Thus, whether the files are in the root or a sub-folder are really irrelevant unless Oppo has totally screwed something up. The files either transfer off the disk fast enough or they don't. Oppo also doesn't know if they are SSD or HDD connected. To quote Almarg's key point: "None of those factors have any relevance to transmission of digital data from a USB hard drive to your Oppo, as long as nothing involved is defective. The technical considerations are completely different, and vastly less critical with respect to their potential effect on sonics."

While i'm doing this test, I may try to compare to a hard wired network cable too instead of the free wifi connector that Oppo provided. My SSD is starting to get full. I just added some Stanley Clarke after seeing him live last night. I've got room for about 8 more albums before I need another bigger SSD. I'd rather stream it if I can since the server is in another room and has a lot more storage.
hmmm... OK. So I put Beck's Sea Change on a usb drive. I then compared the USB drive to the SSD for Stereo mix. Nothing obviously different. I then compared it to a wired network connection to the same file on my server. Also, nothing obviously different. Then I tried the 5.1 mix from my server over the network. No choppy buffering issues. I switched back to Wi-Fi. I tried the same 5.1 mix, and no issues! So maybe the wi-fi issue was transient, but i'm not reproducing the issue. However, when I compared my 5.1 mix to stereo mix, I was surprised at how much more detailed it was in 5.1. This makes a little bit of sense (more information if done right), but more than expected. So I pulled out the actual DVD-A and tried the Stereo mix. It is harder to switch back and forth on the oppo, but I think the DVD-A stereo version is better than the ripped one. So now I will have to try ripping it again and make sure I didn't screw something up. It reports as 88khz, but maybe I accidentally set it to 16 bit or something.

This drives me crazy. I re-ripped about 300 CD's because I did screw something up on some of them (something didn't sound "right"), but couldn't easily tell which few I screwed it up on. :( Luckily, I don't have too many DVD-A.

Regarding the A/B test, it probably wasn't super fair given to switch back and forth, the SSD was always plugged in, so any weird side effects may exist even if playing off of the flash drive. Also, if it isn't my imagination and I did screw up the rip of the stereo mix, maybe I can't sense any differences between flash and SSD because it starts off with somewhat less than ideal music for the test.
Thanks for doing the test Kriskdf, I hope we didn't take up your whole Saturday. At least you got the wifi working.

Let us know if you come to a firm conclusion that there is or is not any difference in sound quality between flash and SSD.
Hi Moomoo, How is your hard drive into the Oppo 95 experiment going? Are you happy with the sound?
I don't have many further opinions yet. I also spend time paying discs, & work. I continue to lean towards the USB wired/powered hd seems to cause a slight drop in sound quality & adds a ton of convenience but I don't feel that I have formed a definitive (for me at least!) opinion yet.

Commons sense would seem to say that an SSD with a male USB plug built in shouldn't have any disadvantages to a flash.
That's an interesting idea.

I'd appreciate an explanation I can understand as to why Power cords & digital cables make a dramatic difference with transports, but not with an hd.

I also know there is a big market for audiophile US cables. It could be a scam, but I can sat with 100% certainty that
digital cables make a HUGE difference from transport to D/A.

I do apologize that I haven;t had much time for my experiment. Other then yet another redundant backup, it almost feels like it was a waste of money.

The only other a/b I've had time for was Joni's Court & Spark in 192/24. I didn't hear as much difference as with the Jarrett, but there seemed to be a better sense of ease with the Flash. I'll be the first to admit I am developing a bias & what I hard on the Joni COULD be psychological.

I also agree with a previous poster that factory pressed discs seem to out perform both files & iso's sonically.
I'd appreciate an explanation I can understand as to why Power cords & digital cables make a dramatic difference with transports, but not with an hd.
I attempted to explain that, with respect to digital cables, in my post in this thread dated 8-4-13.

Basically, differences in digital cables connecting transports and DACs can directly affect the signal that is received by the DAC in such a way as to affect jitter (timing fluctuations) when the digital signal is converted to analog within the DAC. Jitter at the point of digital to analog conversion has directly audible effects. A lot has been written on that subject.

None of that has any relevance to the connection between between a USB hard drive and your Oppo.

As far as power cords are concerned, if I recall correctly you are using a bus powered drive that does not have an AC power cord or power supply. So the drive receives 5 volt DC power from the Oppo, while a transport receives 120 volt AC power. A transport is a physically large component containing extensive amounts of circuitry and parts that generate electrical noise, which can be fed back into its power cord and pollute the AC that is received by other components. Again, none of that has any relevance to the situation of a bus powered USB hard drive.

Now, I am not saying that it is impossible for the cable connecting your hard drive to the Oppo to have any audible effects. But if it were to, it would be in ways that are subtle, indirect, unpredictable, and much less audibly significant than in the transport to DAC situation. What I am basically saying is that the fact that you have found cables to make major differences in the transport situation should not create an EXPECTATION that differences will occur in the hard drive situation.

-- Al
Kriskdf, I apologize if I missed this in your post. You're outputting I2S/HDMI out of your Oppo to your DAC? What is your DAC and does it have an I2s/HDMI input?

If you're using any USB cables what are they?

I found the Seagate external HD's to have noisy fans. Try before you buy.
Thanks Moomoo. Please keep us informed as you come to any conclusions.
Al, I am using a powered Seagate. I believe I stated that above. My original question did reference underpowered WD's which I would have preferred to avoid the power quality issue); but the price on the Seagate was too good to pass up.

Does anyone know if Robert Harley has written on these issues? In the past I found that I often heard similar to how he did (he also recommended my SUPERB PS Audio SL3 DA during an in store many years ago; which was the only blind mail order purchase II ever made before the Oppo.
Weatherb, my Oppo's fan is louder from my listening seat than that of the Seagate!

And in 3 months or so, the central heat will be 5 times louder than the 2 combined............
I had my first (non counterfeit) Flash Drive die tonight. It was a 3 week old Lexar, which WAS my go to brand.

It was 64 gb, Anecdotally they seem to die more often than smaller ones do. Fortunately, all files were backed up on 3 separate hard drives, & fortunately Fred Meyer gave me a no hassle exchange with no receipt.

I've had a couple of HP's & a Verbatim get flakey, but this one totally died. Windows couldn't read it, & neither could my Oppo.

The moral of the story: ALWAYS back up ANY music file (burned cdr, dvdr or file) that you can't easily replace.

Hopefully this one will last longer than the three weeks I got from the last one........

I mention counterfeit above as I ordered 2 Sandisks a few months back from I Offer (the net's fav boot auction site) not knowing they were from China. They were worthless. The seller refused to do anything; Pay Pal refunded my money with no requirement to ship back to China
It's been a bit frustrating how long it's taking me to do a series of comparisons. Combination of life, & I'm also a movie fan. While my main system is optimized for music (& is stereo, NOT 5.1); I also use it for film. For the sake of these comparisons, system is stock Oppo BDP-95 with an after market power cord that I don't currently remember the name of (it was recommended her), connected by Tara Pandora to a Mod Squad Line Drive Deluxe (same electronics are the first McCormick model), which is connected by Tara Analog standard to a McCormick DNA 1 Mod 12 (mod done by Conrad Johnson); connected by Tara Omni bi wired speaker wire to a pair of NHT 2.5 I's (IMO the system's weak point).

Did another brief comparison tonight; the 1st 2 tracks from Peter Gebriel's Scratch My back (Heroes & Boy In The Bubble) in 24/48.

Tonight I intentionally played them through the Seagate first. Sounded quite nice; I was thinking there was no way the Flash drive would be better.

I was wrong. The Adata Flash had a slightly bette sense of midrange liquidity, sound staging & air.

I'm still not finished; but am continuing to come to the conclusion that the HD is much more convienient; and that in my system the Adata (which I've done all comparisons on so far) is slightly better.

As the weak point in my system (imo) is a lack of detail in the NHT's, I'm guessing in a system with a higher level of resolution the differences would be more pronounced.

I'm still not feeling this is definitive, though.

For times where listening isn't the #1 focus, if it wasn't for the bloody 1-2 second gap the Oppo's flac decoder puts between tracks (wav's also), I would probably be ripping & selling most of my cd's. The HD is certainly good enough for 99% of 44/16 cd's. Of course an option is to edit certain tracks together, but there is only so much time in this life!

One other issue with that idea; as far as I can tell, with 44/16 the Oppo only sees HDCD on real discs, not in files (again both flac & wav).
A question: When you change between listening to the flash drive and the external hard drive are you removing one and then connecting the other to the same USB connector? Or do you have one always connected to the rear panel USB connector, and the other connected to the front panel USB connector? If the latter, when you reach a more definitive conclusion I would suggest that you reverse which connector is used for which drive, and see if the same results still occur.

-- Al
Yes, both are connected to the front jack. The back is used for the hardware region free hack.
I can sympathize Moomoo. Doing these kind of comparisons is a pain in the butt. I do appreciate your sharing your findings with us.
I apologize that I've neglected this thread & the testing. I just haven't had the time to do it thoroughly; while I live in a house my neighbors are quite close & the best time for me is late night when I can't crank it up because of the neighbors.

That said, my current INCOMPLETE conclusion is that for unknown reasons the Flash Drives do sound a bit better than the hard drive; though 96/24 on the Hard Drive still beats the heck out of 44/16 on a cd.

For specifics please see my earlier posts. I will still try to flesh this out eventually.

On the other hand, i am starting to see Flash Drive quality go downhill; especially Lexar which used to be my go to brand. I've had 3 recent manufacture Lexars fail in the last month; & the latest I bought a series new to me called the S23 is the flimsiest Flash drive I have ever seen, though so far it works perfectly.

So far I've never had a bad Adata, nor a bad Sandisk (other than 2 obvious Chinese counterfeit Sandisks I bought on Ioffer). I own around 50 Flash drives; the only total failures have been the 3 Lexars, the 2 fake Sandisks & a no name 64 gb drive that a friend loaned me last year. I've also found HP to be very flaky, but never had a total failure.

I do practice redundant backups on all hi-res music just to make sure. Most of my hi res stuff is on either disc or Flash; + 2-3 external hard drives in addition.
Hi Moomoo, As I'm sure you know, you're not under any obligation to come to any conclusions quickly or even add anything more to this thread. I do appreciate your keeping us informed about your research though.

From what you have posted it seems to me that the differences between thumb drives and hard drives are subtle and one could come to different conclusions in different systems. Would you agree?