Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Funky Space Reincarnation

High resolution digital audio is big data. For any sizeable collection, we aren't talking gigabytes of data, more like terabytes (1 TB = 1,000 GB = 1,000,000 MB). Where do you store it all, and is your solution reliable?

I'll admit to hard drive paranoia — too many moving parts, too many failure modes Flash drives are my preferred storage solution.

But the 1TB flash drive housing my WAV library of nearly 1,000 full-length titles is nearly full, and my other drives are also maxing out. What's next?

Enter the LaCie Blade Runner, a 4TB USB 3.0 hard drive in a physical package by designer Phillipe Starck that is both beautiful and practical. (See photo, above.) The series of ribs will be immediately recognizable to anyone in the automotive audio business. They serve as a heat sink, dissipating the heat generated by the internal mechanism over a large surface area, eliminating the need for a cooling fan. The sealed enclosure also dampens vibration, and the raised rubber feet prevent vibration from being transferred to the desktop. The result is cool and quiet operation at state-of-the art transfer speed.
Where does all the space go? CD-quality WAV audio (16-bit/44.1 KHz) consumes 1GB for every 95 minutes of material. High-resolution lossless (24-bit/96 KHz) will cost you 1GB for every 29 minutes of audio. (Lossless compression — e.g. FLAC — will cut down the storage requirement, but not all media players support it as a native format and decompression is an additional step in the playback pipeline for those that do.) I prefer keeping material uncompressed.
In my weightless digital library I have 677 titles (600 hours) of 16/44.1 audio, and 300 titles (212 hours) in 24/96. The former is, not surpisingly, source from CD. The latter is almost entirely mastered from vinyl. Together they occupy more than 800 GB of disc space. Factor in album art and miscellaneous other audio and you can see that a 1TB drive will run out of space before I can add ten new 24/96 titles. The 2 TB drive holding the backup copies of mastering projects and FLAC downloads (compression is good for transport) is nearly full as well.
I see a Blade Runner in my future.  
            Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #51            

Artist: Marvin Gaye
Title: Here, My Dear
Genre: Soul and R&B
Year: 1978

Ordered by a judge to turn over the profits from two albums to the first wife he'd left, Marvin Gaye produced this bitter, sad, bewildered masterwork. [N.B. The album includes the track used as the title of this piece.] Over sprawling funk tracks, he questions her, himself, love, family, and, of course,  asks, "Why do I have to pay attorney fees?" Both incomparably smooth and incontrovertibly twisted, Here, My Dear is Gaye with the mask off: even the multiple vocal overdubs can't hide his pain and his weariness. — Rickey Wright

© 2013 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.

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