Question: Better sound from a $40 budget USB 2.0 HDD external drive OR from a custom-built (assembled) low noise, low vibration external USB 2.0 HDD device?
Covid-19 Lock Down frivolous activity experiment: Audio from 2 varieties of 500GB 2.5” HDD.
Is this of interest to this forum then I am happy to start the following experiment.
I spent some time building my own great sounding streamer (IMHO) and during lockdown just looked at the pile of stored stuff I had left over. Almost enough stuff to perform this pointless or maybe useful experiment; I can not decide myself which it might be?
Drive #1. A WD Blue HDD in an external case with a USB 2.0 connector (power & data).
Drive #2. A custom-built, low noise, low vibration external USB 3.0 HDD device configured as follows:
Using a 2 stage EFI mains power filter + standard 12V/5V DC switching power supply (SMPS) + SATA Power Noise Filter from the SMPS to the USB 2.0 interface. A 10,000 rpm WD VelociRaptor (1 Amp) HDD mounted to a mass block cooler for heat dissipation mounted on 2# separate levels of anti-vibration mounts in addition to rubber feet (so, 3 levels).
All mounted in a fancy aluminium chassis: blue LED front panel push power switch + small LED at the rear beside a fused C14 power socket. A rear panel mounted USB 3.0 Type B socket for USB to a Streamer or PC etc. Chassis air flow to be passive via holes in the base plate at the front and holes at a higher level on the back plate.
This filtered mains power supply and the SATA noise filter we hope will reduce power supply interference? to improve? audio Quality? from the hard disk and USB interface??? Cleaner power can also help protect the HDD, slightly increase efficiency and stability. The SATA filter should also help lower working temperature, buffering, current ripple, EMI interference and isolation of the HDD.
The SATA noise filter to have Audio SMD WIMA capacitors, TDK power inductor, AVX tantalum capacitors and two-way filter ground isolation.
Why USB 3.0? (updated to USB 2.0 for parity)
For this amount of co$t it should also function as an expensive backup drive also and USB 2.0 could be limiting for its transfer rate of say 500 CD’s in FLAC etc.
Why Not an SSD?
1.) I had spare mechanical HDDs 2.) cost, using most of what I had. 3.) easy to swop-out to an SSD in the future. 4.) I can not get to the bottom of which dives have less electrical noise; some say 2.5” mechanical, 3.5” mechanical, Solid-State Drive…!?!?
Why not use the spare 3.5” HDD?
I am not yet sure of any heat dissipation issues in this experiment so am playing safer with a 2.5” HDD. The spare 2.5” 10,000 RPM HDD should access audio-files at speed (not as quick as an SSD) as data bandwidth is not an issue in this application. This HDD needs 1 Amp+ so most external standard interfaces/housing will not work without an external power source.
Which will sound better? The estimated $300 custom-built, the budget drive or neither (no difference)???
Testing outline: Unscientific and not to lab conditions. 6 well-known tracks played to 2 listener’s 5 times (60 tracks in total demo. 30 each). The other listener to be the random external HDD swapper an equal amount of times per 6 track session x 5. After a benchmark listen, marking to be simple, after each track = Better, Worst, No-difference. HDDrives feed to a Raspberry Pi 4, using, Volumio/Moode maybe roon via a NUC (TBC) USB 2.0 into a PS-Audio PerfectWave mkII DAC then a Chord Electronic Pre-Power combo and Wilson Benesch ACT speakers. OR via my own custom-built streamer to a Chord DSX1000 DAC (TBC).
Is this of interest ?