Hard Drive versis Flash Drive


I am planning to buy/build music server based on either MSB DAC or new PS Audio PWD DAC. Meanwhile, I want to start process of ripping CD's. I have not too many may be 500 or so. My question:

Is sound quality differ from storage on hard drive versus that on flash drive ? On one hand, flash drive, as far as I know has only UPS port which is not the greatest for music whereas hard drive may have other digital outputs like HDMI which is (are) much better. On other hand, solid state memory was shown to be superior (for sound again) over magnetic moving memory like a hard disc.

Also, if to use USP port then Flash drive seem to me clearly better (on paper) for one more reason - you plug and play whereas with USP based hard disc you need to use USP inferior cable.

Much appreicate if members will share their sonic experience with these two types of the storage.

Another question: what type of ripping software is the best for sound, and later on for ease of navigation? EAT, Monkey etc.... 955 of my CD collection is classical which may make a difference in navigation, I suspect....

Thank you
Whether the music files are stored on an external flash drive or an external usb or firewire hard drive has no relation to how the music is communicated from the computer to your dac. In each case, the computer has to read the music file from the external drive, process it through its internal circuits, and then send it out via whatever output you have connected to the dac (spdif, usb, etc.).

As long as your computer is reasonably modern and not handicapped by too much garbage software running in the background, it should be able to handle this without any intermittent breakups or other problems. Given that, there should be no sonic difference resulting from what medium the music files are stored on.

-- Al
Like Almarg said, the audio data is sent from the storage to the computer via high speed bi directional error corrected bus, and it shouldn't really matter whether the source is magnetic drive or solid state. On the other hand, SPDIF, HDMI, or USB audio signal is sent over unidirectional bus where the devices on both side need to synchronize on the clock embedded in the signal, thus the timing error or jitter may affect the sound quality.
A hard drive is more durable in the long run.
Also, a flash drive will run much hotter. The flash is quieter though.
Being mechanical design doesn't mean it's more prone to the failure. Over 20 years of owning various computers, I have had one hard disk failure but more than half dozen memory failures. Solid state drives do not have moving part, but don't make an incorrect assumption of solid state being more durable. Agreed on the heat, power consumption and noise.
Have also had a half dozen memory failures. Unfortunately, none had to do with flash or hard drives!
Anecdotal evidence about hard drive reliability varies widely. Some people, like Jylee, almost never have a failure, while many people receive hard drives which are doa or fail within the first days, weeks, or months. The user comments on specific hard drives which are posted at NewEgg.com are good illustrations of this unpredictability, even within the same model. Besides random or age-related failure modes, deficient manufacturing processes and quality control, and sometimes bug-laden firmware design clearly play a part in many drive problems.

I think that the best example I have ever encountered of Mark Twain's famous dictum that "there are lies, damned lies, and statistics," is the hard drive mtbf (mean time between failure) specification. Essentially what the manufacturers do (and these numbers are very approximate, chosen just to illustrate the point), is to operate 100 hard drives for a year, find that one has failed, and declare that the mtbf is 100 years. Of course, had all 100 been operated for even say 20 years, nearly all of them would most likely have failed due to accumulated mechanical wear and tear.

In my own fairly extensive experience, with about 7 or 8 computers over 10 years or so, containing around 25 or so internal and external hard drives, drive life has averaged around 3 years. A few months in some cases, many years in other cases. FWIW, I've had best results with Western Digital.

I back up important data files to BOTH a second internal hard drive and an external hard drive. I update those backups daily, and once a month or so I create a drive image of my system partition, so that if it fails or is corrupted I don't have to spend a lot of time reinstalling all the software. I consider all of those practices to be fundamental to any serious use of a computer, although remarkably few people do those kinds of things.

Flash memory, whether on a flash card or in one of the new solid state hard drives, has a fundamental limitation in how many erase/write cycles it can undergo before failing. Here is a quote from this Wikipedia writeup on solid state hard drives:

Limited write (erase) cycles: Flash-memory cells will often wear out after 1,000 to 10,000 write cycles for MLC, and up to 100,000 write cycles for SLC[18], while high endurance cells may have an endurance of 1–5 million write cycles (many log files, file allocation tables, and other commonly used parts of the file system exceed this over the lifetime of a computer).[33][34][35] Special file systems or firmware designs can mitigate this problem by spreading writes over the entire device (so-called wear leveling), rather than rewriting files in place.[36] In 2008 wear leveling was just beginning to be incorporated into consumer level devices.[18] However, effective write cycles can be much less, because when a write request is made to a particular memory block, all data in the block is overwritten even when only part of the memory is altered. The write amplification, as referred by Intel, can be reduced using write memory buffer.[37] In combination with wear leveling, over-provisioning SSD flash drives with spared memory capacity also delays the loss of user-accessible memory capacity. NAND memory can be negatively impacted by read and program (write) disturbs arising from over accessing a particular NAND location. This overuse of NAND locations causes bits within the NAND block to erroneously change values. Wear leveling, by redirecting SSD writes to lesser-used NAND locations, thus reduces the potential for program or write disturbs.[38] An example for the lifetime of SSD is explained in detail in this wiki.[dubious – discuss] SSDs based on DRAM, however, do not suffer from this problem.

As a result of wear leveling and write combining, the performance of SSDs degrades with use [39][40]. Eventually, wear leveling will use each page on the drive at least once, so further writes always involve a block erase. Although write combining (if supported by the device) offers advantages, it causes internal fragmentation in the SSD which degrades the sequential read speed. Such fragmentation cannot be mitigated by the operating system.

As you can gather from this, the reliability degradation of flash memory based on the limitated number of erase/write cycles can be minimized by having an amount of storage capacity which is as far in excess of the amount of data being stored as possible.

I believe that the forthcoming Windows 7, now available in release candidate form, is the only Windows os which is optimized for ssd's with respect to these and other considerations. Although that is of greatest significance to system drive applications, not to drives used mainly for long-term storage of data files.

-- Al

The best option would be to use a NAS, especially if you go with the PWD and plan to use the Bridge when it becomes available later this year. Check out the Buffalo Linkstation products here These are DLNA certified - which you will need if you go with the Bridge option (which, with its dedicated Digital Lens is going to be hard to beat for jitter issues).
Thank you Almarg, 2chnlben and everybody else who tried to help me. So, its NAS hard disc + backup disc and Buffalo Linkstation NAS, indeed, seem to be very suited for my purposes.

One more question. best external CD/DVD ripper (hardware)?

I never rip CD's - I have old and inexpensive Dell and while I tried to see if EAC software I am not sure about quality and prefer to spent a few hundred dollars extra to be sure that quality of ripped audio files is the best.

Thank you again
Since EAC is free, try downloading it to your Dell to see if it is compatible. EAC is very good ripping software, although it is slow. It will provide you with bit-perfect rips (I highly recommend ripping in flac - especially if you go with the Duet, as the SB devices will natively support flac). I have no experience with dBpoweramp, but it is said to be a very good software choice (it is faster than EAC)-but it will cost you to download. Check outTHIS little device. It is a ripper and a NAS - pretty cool. The more affordable approach would be to use your Dell or a cheap/used Celeron processer/tower and load EAC onto it.
Hello 2chnlbean,

I am familiar with RipNAS but I like more your idea of having Buffolo NAS (say Pro Duo Link 2T for about $300) and separately CD ripper. RipNas is nuch more expensive (about $1.4k) and can rip only CD's not DVD's So, I am not sure where its advantage.

I downloaed EAC and it works - I simply do not trust my old CD/DVD - read/write internal drive. I would prefer to spent $100-$200 to have newest high quality external CD/DVD drive..

Thank you

I agree that the RipNAS is too pricey. It's pretty cool though. I like your idea of using the Buffalo NAS in conjunction with an external ripper. You can get an external DVD/CD drive for cheap - check out Best Buy.
If you are going to use the PS Audio PWD with integrated bridge (which is what I will be doing as well), you don't really need to worry about the quality of the storage since it doesn't have any affect on the quality of the audio. In that configuration it literally is just a file server - the bridge converts the file to digital stream for the DAC and keeps it in the optimal I2S format.

Forget about all the fancy NAS boxes with partial operating systems and integrated CD drives & ripping software - cool as they may be you can spend half the money and get twice the value with off the shelf stuff. Instead, get a simple 1TB NAS and stick it in the closet with your router. While you are at it, get a 1TB USB drive to back up all your files too - $350 will probably get you both.

Software wise, nothing beats Exact Audio Copy (EAC). If you don't like the complexity of it, then Poikosoft Easy CDDA has a much friendlier interface and has integrated many of the same secure ripping features - it will cost you about $25 I think. If you have a ton of CDs and don't mind paying for it, there are services that will rip everything for you and send you DVDs of your ripped files.

Have fun!
Hello 2chnlben,

As I understand you are investingating PWD for your use and for NAS you recommended: " Buffalo Linkstation products " as well as ..."I highly recommend ripping in flac".
Looks good, however, today I saw on PS Audio forum interesting post without reply:
Quote {The Buffalo LinkStation Mini looks like it’ll do fine for this}

I see that this product utilizes an embedded iTunes server. Since iTunes is not compatible with flac, I assume this DNLA NAS would not work with flac files? My entire library is flac. I will not re-rip it again. Are there any DNLA NAS options that are flac compatible?

Update: I confirmed with Buffalo that the Linkstation Mini will NOT accept FLAC. I need some alternatives. Does anyone know of FLAC compatible NAS devices?

Are you agree with this poster? ...I feel that instead of saying "does not accept FLAC" he probably meant to say that FLAC files will not be managed by iTune..... if so who cares if PWD Bridge WIL stream these files to DAC...

Thank you in advance,


You are correct in your assessment. If you already have a server (i.e.: the new PWD, SB device, or other), you will only be utilizing the NAS device for storage (i.e.: an external hard drive – only linked to your network). Your server will do all of the “work” streaming your music files. As long as your server accepts flac, then you will be fine. It is true that iTunes does not support flac, but as you stated, that is a mute point since you will be relying on your existing music server to manage and stream your flac files.

Thank you very much for your answer. Being novice I have to ask another naive question...

PWD (and few others) is both DAC + Server . However, I saw number of excellent DA's which are .."only" DACs e.g. Weiss Minerva or MSB Platinum and let say I want to use one of these DACs...because they are excellent...

Until your answer above I thought I must buy another (and better inexpensive) server which would stream , say WAV files to it and output with some jitter data via,say coaxial digital output.... and DAC will digest it and throw out great music

Are you saying that as long as I do not use FLAC files (WAV is fine with me) I can use Buffolo both as a storage device AND a server ( you said it has build-in iTune, if I understood correctly)?

Secondary question: If true then to navigate this storage/librery I would need to buy something like iPod or iSomething?

Thank you very much
You got it. I think iTunes supports WAV files - if so, then your statement is correct. An iPod device (such as the iTouch) will do exactly what you want, and as long as you are using it in conjunction with a NAS (which is your storage device) then you don't need to be concerned with the storage capacity of the iTunes device (the least expensive 8 GB iPod Touch would suffice).
Dob- MusicVault server/NAS device also functions as you describe (I think).