Quantegy, which dominates the analog reel tape market, has introduced a line of inexpensive FireWire hard drives that are perfect for those who want good performance and gigabyte bang for-the-buck for their desktop or portable, pro editing and recording system.
Product PointsApplications: Digital audio workstations
Key Features: 80 GB, 7,200 RPM drive; dual 1394 ports; internal fan; power switch; DrivePak case and FireWire cable included
Contact: Quantegy at 800-752-0732, Web Site.
+ Makes use of popular, low cost FireWire technology
+ Faster than SCSI
+ Glitch-free performance
+ Front-mounted power switch
+ Handy carrying case
– No spin-down
Score: Quantegy enters the drive market with a trouble-free, brisk performer that is tailored for pro audio use.
The FHD80 drive, retail priced at $275, is similarly sized to other FireWire drives available from computer retailers and mail order firms, but the Quantegy drive has been tailored for use for pro audio. It features a fan for extra cooling, a front on/off switch and is housed in a heavy-duty metal chassis, durable Lexan case.
Since FireWire drives are ideal for easy disconnect, they can be removed and transported to other workstation locations. The FHD80’s DrivePak carrying case features an anti-static foam drive compartment, FireWire cable and extra room for other media.
Because of computer FireWire connections, low-cost, external FireWire drives are becoming more popular while prepackaged external SCSI drives are becoming scarce.
For audio use, SCSI drives have been very robust with good transfer rate speeds and reliability – especially the Ultra Wide versions. FireWire and USB-interfaced drives, though, have caught up in speed and offer a lot of storage per dollar versus SCSI drives.
Up until now, SCSI also was considered more glitch-free when working with audio or video, but the new FireWire 1394a drives with the Oxford 911 bridge chip set are quite fast with few read/write errors.
(Update: With FireWire 1394b now at twice the potential speed of FireWire 1394a, Quantegy says all drives built after Sept. 1, 2003 will be upgraded with the new Oxford 922 1394b chip.)
The FireWire 1394a spec has a maximum transfer rate of 50MB/s (megabytes per second, which translates to 400 megabits per second as it is stated in the standard). Most FireWire 1394a drives, however, are real-world rated at under 50MB/s.
The FHD drive has a claimed 32MB/s transfer burst rate. All Quantegy FHD drives come with a test data sheet for that particular drive.
I used the Quantegy drive with my G3-converted Mac 7600 sporting the Digigram VX-442 I/O PCI card, capable of 24-bit, 96 kHz audio. The G3 was loaded with BIAS Peak 3.0, and connection was made to the drive via an Adaptec FireWire PCI card.
Sources included an Alesis MasterLink and a Sony DAT deck. Playback was through the Benchmark DAC-1 D/A using AKG K271 headphones, and a Legacy high-current balanced preamp feeding a set of NHT A10 powered speakers. For comparison purposes, I used a two-year old 80 GB Maxtor FireWire drive.
I put the Quantegy FHD drive through its paces by recording various tracks of music, then editing, processing and playback. The exact same tracks were also done on the Maxtor drive and the existing IDE internal hard drive. Most of the material was stereo; some 24-bit/96 kHz, and some 16-bit/44.1 kHz.
I found the Quantegy drive perfect for my home studio use. First, I appreciate the front-mounted power button. The Maxtor has none, and I have to turn off the power strip, which handles a lot of other gear, just to shut off that drive. The fan noise was not as loud as the computer fan, so that was no problem.
In recording, processing and audio playback, the Quantegy drive worked flawlessly. I could immediately see a time advantage over the Maxtor, when I copied a 4-minute stereo CD cut with Peak, the Quantegy was just a second or two faster. But when I copied about 800 MB using BIAS Peak’s CD copy function, the Quantegy bested the Maxtor by 16 seconds, copying the 21 cuts in 11:27 seconds while the Maxtor completed the task in 11:43.
I also recorded some live guitar stereo audio in Peak to the Quantegy from a discrete two-channel mic preamplifier, and the record/playback was totally glitch-free.
Using the Maxtor drive, I have noticed occasional glitches in playbacks · with clicks and pops. With the Quantegy I never had those problems. To be fair, the Maxtor is a first generation FireWire drive, but the comparison shows you that advances in hard drive technology are good for pro audio.
I had no complaints with the Quantegy drive. It stored and played back glitch-free audio, came in a handy case, and its retail price is competitive, considering that you get in the complete package.
Judging by the quality of Quantegy’s first foray into hard drive products, I would say the FHD80 is a smart choice for pro audio engineers. I’ll take two.