The Best Hard Drive Setup For Music Production
As budding music producers, we all dream of that first big royalty cheque but standing out can sometimes mean making sure our composed music uses the best sample libraries and virtual instruments. The problem is, these sampled instruments can take up masses of storage space on our computers so here are a few hard drive setups to consider, based on different budgets.
BIG BUCKS - BUYING A NEW MACHINE
Now, if you happen to be someone with a bottomless wallet then good for you. Obviously, you have a massive advantage here but you also need to have foresight as well. Because sample libraries and virtual instrument packs are so big these days, you will inevitably run out of storage space. To delay that moment, when purchasing your next computer, you need to have the hard drive size customised to the maximum. When deciding what computer to get, you should be going for something with more power, like a desktop. I personally use a 2018 Macbook Pro laptop which has a bit more power than most laptops, though I got it for its portability. When buying it, however, I was only able to afford the default 500GB (gigabyte) Solid State Drive (always go for SSD, it's faster and more secure) model. From about 2016 onwards, Apple decided to solder their hard drives to the motherboard, meaning that older models of Macbook Pro released before this could have the hard drive removed and upgraded to a bigger size, something I managed to do with my last Macbook Pro, which was a 2011 model.
On Apple's website, you can buy the new 14" Macbook Pro with a 1TB (terabyte) SSD at a minimum yet hefty price of £1,899. But, for all you folks with money in your wallet, I suggest customising that up to the 8TB which adds an extra £2,200 and that's before you touch any of the other upgradable customisations (which, if you have the money, why wouldn't you?). 8TB is (at the moment), no matter whether you choose a laptop or desktop, the maximum SSD size you can have in an Apple Mac.
'HI, I'M A MAC', 'AND I'M A PC'
I should briefly mention Windows PCs here. I don't have much experience with them but they are A) considerably cheaper than Apple Macs and B) the desktop towers are fully customisable so you can keep upgrading over the years as and when you like (being careful of compatibility with each other) which also includes having multiple hard drives installed.
I'm a Logic Pro user through and through, which is only available on Mac but with great DAWs (digital audio workstations) like Ableton Live, FL Studio, Pro Tools, Cubase, Reaper, and many other greats, all available on Windows as well as Mac, there's no reason not to look into a PC instead of a Mac to save the pennies.
ON A SMALLER BUDGET - GO EXTERNAL SSD
Regardless of which platform you're on, for those of us with a tighter budget (or for those of you who have already filled up their 8TB SSD and any other internal hard drives they have in their computer), there is the option of buying an external hard drive. These come in various sizes though, again, the bigger the better which does unfortunately mean spending more money except it's nowhere near as expensive as a new computer and, again, SSD all the way, for the quick reading of your sample library data!
I keep bringing up the SSD thing because I have now gone through three regular hard drives, all 2TBs that, not only filled up fairly quickly but got to a point where I noticed the reading time of the sample libraries and virtual instruments was becoming quite slow as they themselves got quite big and, in some cases, the audio playback began to skip. So, while you might be tempted to go with a regular hard drive, which come in bigger capacities than SSDs (which currently have a maximum of 4TBs) and are much cheaper, DON'T (not for music production anyway) as you'll ultimately be wasting your money.
I went for the SanDisk Extreme Pro, capable of read/write speeds of up to 2000MBs though you'll need a computer with up-to-date USB-C slots to utilise this maximum speed as I average out at half this, which is still pretty quick and 4x faster than my previous hard drive. I also like to think I'm future-proofing for the next computer upgrade. These models are going for around £250-£350 on Amazon at the moment. Down from the one on eBay I found for £380 when I originally wrote this blog a couple of years ago.
There is a cheaper version, the SanDisk Extreme, with speeds of 1050MBs. If you want to save money and aren't interested in future-proofing, that can be purchased right now for £227 on Amazon and is available elsewhere also. There are, of course, other options out there (again, SanDisk offers the Professional G-Drive SSD with the same specs. as the Extreme) but not many of them offer the same 4TB size and fast read/write speeds as these. For example, the Crucial CT4000 with speeds of up to 800MBs or the Samsung T7 which matches the Extreme's speed but only goes up to 2TBs. There are more out there but I do think the SanDisk Extreme is the one to beat.
FINANCE - PAY LESS IN THE SHORT TERM BUT MORE IN THE LONG TERM
When it comes to buying options, we aren't so limited by our wallets these days thanks to finance options; the ability to pay monthly installments to pay off the cost of a product. Unfortunately, not all items come with 0% interest and, again, based on my previous experience with Macs, in the UK, Apple uses either Barclays for up to 36 months of installments or PayPal Credit for up to 24 with both currently having a fixed 14.9% interest rate.
I'm not going to lie, that's a lot of extra money on top of the retail price. Using the calculated finance examples on their website, in the case of a 16" Macbook Pro with just the hard drive specced up to 8TB, it's around an extra £715 on top of the £4,799 cost of the laptop. So, over 24 months, you would be paying about £230 a month. If you think you can afford to pay out around £230 for 24 months and don't mind the interest, go for the computer. It would be cheaper over the 36 months but there's more interest, knocking it down to around (at a guess) £180 a month. My maths isn't great though and these interest rates do have a habit of changing so, if you're on the fence about this, go in-store and have a chat with one of the Apple team.
IT'S YOUR MONEY
Whatever you decide, whether it's a new computer, an external SSD, or you're lucky enough to have a PC capable of having the internal hard drive upgraded, when you see that 'disk space running out' message, don't panic as there's a solution. Just be prepared to spend some money. How much you spend is up to you but make sure what you get has/is a fast SSD and has a large capacity otherwise it won't be enough for the ever-growing sample libraries and virtual instrument packs that are being released.