Sound Quality: Mac Internal vs External HD / Spinning HD vs SSD Storage?

Hi, I have a late 2019 Mac Pro with 4TB SSD internal storage. I have had my Roon Core on an external 4TB ArmorATD (spinning drive), from G-Technology connected through Thunderbolt 3. I tried an experiment where I duplicated some albums and moved them to my internal SSD storage on my Mac. I then compared the duplicate song files and heard a distinct different in sound quality. The files on the internal SSD drive sounded better every time than the same files on the external HD. Am I just crazy or does anyone know if this is a real thing? If there is a sound quality difference, what causes it? Is it an issue of internal vs external storage location or is it a spinning drive vs an SSD drive? Or both? If I get more internal storage (SSD or spinning disk) and move all my entire Roon Core internally will it make a difference? Or can I stay with and external drive and just upgrade it to and SSD drive vs a spinning disk drive?

Thanks for any insights, in advance!

In my opinion something very weird is going on if you are hearing distinct differences in sound quality just from having the music files themselves on an internal drive vs external drive or SSD vs spinning disk. If the external disk or a NAS was creating an issue it would be with buffering, dropouts, etc. but not sound quality. Of course it is important to run the Roon core program itself on an SSD (or at least have it’s database on the SSD (and database is the roon database, NOT the music files themselves). For feeding the music files themselves from storage, spinning disk is just fine.

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Try a sorta single blind test for yourself. Take 2 or 3 songs and put some on your internal SSD drive. Put copies of the same songs on your external spinning drive. give the songs unique titles (so you can track later which was played). Add the locations of both places in your Roon music library. Then create a playlist containing all these files from both locations. Play the playlist in Roon on random order a few times. Take notes on which you thought sounded better. Then go back and look at history of playback and see if your notes correlate with the source of the files. I suspect it won’t (and while listening you wil struggle to tell any differences (basically you’ll find yourself just guessing the source).


If you’re happy with that, then stick with it.

My opinion is, there’s absolutely no difference. There’s no music on either media, just data, and this data is repackaged, cached, and clocked long before you hear any of it it. Expectation bias is real, but who am I to argue with you. Enjoyment is in the ear of the beholder.


Are you sure your Roon Core is on the external HDD? The recommendation is to run the Core on SSD. Perhaps it’s just your music library on the HDD?

Yes, my mistake. By ‘core’ I meant the music files themselves. The actual Roon Core is on my internal SSD.

I frequently move files from an internal SSD to an external spinning drive and have never heard a difference. I’m with @mikeb on this one - expectation bias is both real and very powerful, but I’m also not going to argue with you. This is one of the many audiophile rabbit holes I’m happy to avoid :slight_smile:

I appreciate all the feedback. Thanks so much!

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