In praise of Solid State Drives

Ignore this if you're only using iPads.

But if you're using a computer, here's a random recommendation in case anyone isn't aware: if your computer has standard spinning hard drives, Solid State Drives (SSD) have become the best bang-for-buck upgrade you can make. The prices are way down.

I changed only the system (startup) drive on my Mac two years ago. That made a dramatic difference to the time it takes to start up, launch programs, save, and so on. My computer felt like a totally different machine.

We all use different music-making tools, but I use a lot of large sample libraries. For some reason, switching to an SSD system drive even cut down the time it took to load my roughly 20GB sampled orchestra template off standard drives. Presumably the operating system does some caching on the system drive, and the SSD is much faster.

To be totally déclassé and mention prices, that 480GB SSD was a couple of hundred dollars. For the same amount of money two years later, I just added a 1TB SSD for my main sample libraries.

*Whoa.*

As an example, it takes eight seconds to load a full sampled EastWest Quantum Leap Bösendorfer piano. That same instrument takes 70 seconds from a standard hard drive.

And this is an older machine with a SATA drive bus with half the bandwidth of the ones you buy today (never mind if you don't know what SATA is). You'll probably get better performance than I'm getting. I don't generally have problems streaming samples from standard hard drives, but the SSD is much better at that too - in fact that's the reason a lot of musicians invest in them in the first place.

Today you can find well-specified 240GB SSDs - enough for most people's system drive - in the $60 range. I don't feel experienced enough with SSDs to make specific recommendations, but you can probably judge the relative lifespan by the warranty, and I'd suggest for drives with read and write speeds as close to 600MB per second as possible.

Nick Batzdorf