External Hard Disk

USB 2 or Firewire??

Hi Folks,

I am currently running my n-track files from a laptop off an external Hard Drive caddy which has both USB 2 and Firewire capability. I am currently using USB 2 with no problems but so far am only handling 4 or 5 tracks at a time. The project will soon require me to handle 2 or three times this many. I am running a 2.6 GHz processor with 512Mb RAM. The drive in the caddy is a Seagate Barracuda 40Gb 7200 rpm.

My question is: I have read that Firewire is faster than USB2, is this correct? Will i gain any advantage in changing to Firewire, given also that i will have to buy a PCMCIA card to give me a firewire port (laptop does not currently have one). Will using firewire via PCMCIA effect the speed of the Firewire?

Over to all you techie experts, as I really have no idea.


Although I do believe firewire (optical) is a bit faster than USB 2 - I have been using a set of 3 400GB UDMA IDE hard drives (7200 rpm, less than .002 ms access time) that are all USB 2 external enclosures I built myself (your standard compusa usb2 enclosures and 3 off the shelf maxtor 400GB drives).

I have had ZERO problems with video and audio projects of various sizes. Video, as you know, is a thousand times more demanding than audio in most cases - and no problems. I’ve had projects with 40 and 50 tracks with vst effects (no synths) and no problems (was running Nuendo 1.0 at the time on a windows 2000 box).

What does matter is the USB 2 card you buy and the fact that each drive has to be on a separate port of the USB2 card. NO HUBS!!!

Hope this helps.


Hi Bombdog. I also use a laptop to run n-T and have seen a few problems. Here’s what I learned.

Laptop USB ports are sometimes not “full spec”, especially in power delivery. Some external USB soundcards are not happy with some laptops. For example, I had trouble with an M-Audio Audiophile USB, and the Novation SpeedIO didn’t work either. The Tascam US-122 I now use is OK.

If you have a USB external soundcard, it is very unlikely that a USB external hard disk will work well with it. Generally, the sound card needs 100% of the USB bandwidth. Use a firewire external disk. This is what I do, and it works fine, even using Gigastudio with samples stored on the external disk while recording tracks to the external disk.

Conversely, you can use a firewire external soundcard with a USB external disk.

In any case you should not use any other USB devices except maybe a mouse.

I bought a WD external HDD that has both firewire and USB 2 so I have the option to change soundcard.

Cheers, happy tracking


Generally, the sound card needs 100% of the USB bandwidth

This is only true for USB 1.1.
You’ll need quite a soundcard to fill the whole USB 2.0 bandwidth (20x usb 1.1 bw IIRC).
Still, it’s best not to use the same bus for audio and HDD.
The difference in throughput for USB 2.0 and Firewire isn’t that big (theoretically you could expect ~4 tracks (mono 24bit@96kHz) for USB 1.1, ~80 tracks for USB 2.0 and ~130 for Firewire).

Thanks all for the input. I have been thinking about an external soundcard, and hadn’t thought about the effect that would have on other USB devices.

Is anyone here running either a USB or Firewire soundcard successfully through a laptop PCMCIA card connection??

Thanks agoan for the input!


I used to run my old SoundBlaster Audigy 2 NX (before it randomly decided to not power up any more) through a PCMCIA card with no problems. Its single channel, so take that into account…


I bought a Firewire Glyph ext drive, which I love. I also bought an Audigy 2 ZX (internal) and a DuoConnect card. Instead of installing the DuoConnect card, i realized the Audigy 2 has two Firewire ports, so I’m running the Glyph through the Audigy.

Anyone see a problem with running the Glyph through the Audigy? I don’t actually use the Audigy 2 when I’m recording or mixing - that all gets piped out to the Delta 1010. Do you think I’d have better pipe performance if I install the DuoConnect and use its firewire port instead?

Btw, I remembered this:

I used the NX and an external HD through the same PCMCIA port without any recording problems.