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Flash Drives

Pulse was kind enough to compile a thread regarding flash drives as it seems people don't quite understand all the nitty gritty about them. And we're here to do what we do best - help you out!

Capacity
You get home with your shiny new 8GB flash drive, plug it in and notice that it only has 7.67GB of capacity. What gives? It's all math! There's 1024 bytes per kilobyte, 1024 kilobytes per megabyte, 1024 megabytes per gigabyte. 1GB isn't 1,000,000,000 bytes so don't worry, you're not getting shafted on the quantity if it looks like there's less than 32GB on a 32GB drive.

It doesn't matter what capacity you buy but remember that you'll always pay more to be on the "bleeding edge". As of this writing, 32GB is the largest drive on the shelf, but it will cost you around the $130 mark to have that much storage in your pocket. A 16GB drive will set you back $50-70. 8GB and 4GB drives are in the $25-40 and $15-30 ranges respectively. If you're talking bang-for-your-buck averages:

$4.00/GB for a 32GB stick
$3.75/GB for a 16GB stick
$4.00/GB for a 8GB stick
$5.50/GB for a 4GB stick

You can see that they're close but your best bet is a 16GB stick - but remember that's the average. At the top end of the 16GB spectrum, you could pay $90 (which works out to $5.63/GB), but that won't necessarily net you the best drive.

Speed
Many manufacturers test their drives with one large file which skews the results since an operating system can handle one large file faster than many small files. There's also a difference between continuous (sequential) reading/writing and scattered random reading/writing. 

As DJs, we transfer multiple folders with files in the 3-15MB range (typical sizes for 320k MP3s). The good thing is a drive's speed won't play much part of the actual DJing process. Why is this? 

A 320k MP3 streams data at 320Kb per second (note the small b - that's for BITS). That's 40KB/s (note the large B - that's for BYTES and there's 8 bits per byte), far below the USB1.1 standard of 12MB/s.

The key for a high-speed drive is in the amount of time it takes you to load-up the drive with new music.

Extras
U3, ReadyBoost, SecureStore, etc... these are ALL UNNECESSARY! Encryption software is totally undesirable for DJ purposes and auto-encrypting drives are only going to be more expensive and give you the potential for problems. U3 drives are bad news because they create a virtual partition. Do away with it right away. Go here to get a U3 removal utility specifically designed for your brand of drive. The only good thing to say about ReadyBoost is those devices are typically a bit faster than the rest of the pack.

File Format
No matter what format your drive arrives in, FAT32 is your best bet because it will work with both Mac and PC machines. If it's a new drive, format the thing using a FULL FORMAT (not the "Quick" variety) and do it TWICE. This will help dodge problems down the road.

Housing
Metal, plastic, rubber, waterproof, impact-resistant, folding, no-LED, an LED you could use to land airplanes or blind assailants... there are endless choices as to the housing for the USB drive.

While it doesn't really matter what the memory itself is encased within, you should probably get something durable enough to withstand the rigors of DJ use. Let's face it, we're rough with the gear and no matter how hard we try, something's bound to break.

Having used several different types of drives, I would avoid anything with a retractable USB connector as well as smaller, flimsy housings.

Freebies
We all love freebies but the free flash drives handed out (by what seems like almost anyone these days) are typically garbage. They're meant to be cheap to keep costs low, they're not performance units. Use them for personal stuff, not for DJing (unless you give them out with your mix stored on it, but even then the recipient could just erase it without even listening!). Personally, I keep a couple around with various firmwares stored within for updating or re-flashing hardware while out and about. Perhaps a backup copy of your DJ software or even some PortableApps for working with your own programs and data on the road without your own computer!

Drive Reviews
As I said above, I've used plenty of flash drives so here's a quick review and benchmark of several flash drives I had kicking around.

 

A) Maxell generic promotional drive (512MB)
- Average Read Speed: 10MB/s (link to graph)
- Status indicator: Ugly green LED
- Retractable USB connector (bleh)

B) Generic promotional drive (Avery labels) (256MB)
- Average Read Speed: 4.8MB/s (link to graph)
- Status indicator: Tiny ugly green LED
- Flip-style cover - nice that it can't be lost but I don't like the pocket clip so much, plus it had a hideous Avery logo on it so I took a Sharpie to the whole thing.

C) Patriot XT (8GB)
- Average Read Speed: 28.6MB/s Fastest of the bunch in real-world testing too! (link to graph)
- Status indicator: Tiny inoffensive blue LED
- Awesome rubber housing but I was disappointed that the lanyard loop is only rubber and not rubberized metal connected to the drive itself. Rubber end-cap. 

>> UPDATE >> I have to point out that this unit has one serious flaw and that's the build itself. The rubber housing sits outside a plastic shell which encases the electronic components. If you should be as stupid as I am and accidentally pull the lanyard and the housing of the flash drive away from the computer while diving to answer the phone, you may end up doing what I did which is to tear the outer casing completely off the innards and breaking the USB connector from the circuitboard in the process. Yes, I wrecked this flash drive by accident and I'm not proud of it. Yes, it had data on it but I will be able to recover it by re-soldering the connections, but it will be retired immediately following that. It is with regret that I lower my opinion of this drive -- my current picks are the OCZ drives (all metal enclosure) and the Corsair Survivor.

D) SanDisk Cruzer Mini (512MB)
- Average Read Speed: 15.1MB/s (link to graph)
- Status indicator: Ugly green LED at the end of the unit
- Simple, came with 3 plastic end-caps so I can always replace it. 

E) OCZ Rally (512MB)
- Average Read Speed: 28.5MB/s (link to graph)
- Status indicator: Inoffensive blue LED at the end of the unit.
- Metal housing takes a beating (as mine has), a very solid unit. Metal end-cap.

F) OCZ Rally2 (4GB)
- Average Read Speed: 27.7MB/s (link to graph)
- Status indicator: A freaking LIGHTHOUSE-power orange LED at the end of the unit - I wish it weren't so bright.
- Metal housing looks as solid as my old Rally unit. Metal end-cap.

G) Pioneer generic promotional drive (1GB)
- Average Read Speed: 13.9MB/s (link to graph)
- Status Indicator: A little red LED which is hard to see on off-angles.
- Metal swivel cover and rubber housing is decent, loop isn't big enough for a key-ring though.

H) Lexar JumpDrive Firefly (4GB)
- Average Read Speed: 11.8MB/s (link to graph)
- Status Indicator: The entire end of the unit lights up blue, verges on annoying but not too bad.
- Plastic housing with a removable plastic cap. The lanyard loop is on the cap which I find a bit useless. It's a tiny little unit but the performance is lacking.

I) OCZ Roadster (1GB)
- Average Read Speed: 10.0MB/s (link to graph)
- Status Indicator: None
- This unit is so tiny that the entire drive is barely larger than the USB connector! It's the kind you NEED a lanyard on so you won't lose it. It's too bad the performance isn't as cool as the size of this minute drive.

J) SanDisk SD Card (1GB) in generic reader
- Average Read Speed: 6.4MB/s (link to graph)
- Status Indicator: Depends on the reader, mine has a little green LED
- I don't think this is really a great solution but I figured I'd test this out as someone would be bound to try it. As a standard SD card, it's not tremendous for speed but you can certainly get higher-end cards.

K) Corsair Survivor (16GB) 

- Average Read Speed: 20.3MB/s (link to graph)
- Status Indicator: A little blue LED just below the threads for the cap.
- This unit is supposed to be one of the toughest on the market. When encased in its outer "armor", the drive is water resistant to 200M, drop-proof (I think that means it won't be affected by any impacts) and even carries a warranty which will last longer than the usefulness of the drive itself - 10 years. When the sleeve is over the drive, it's big and heavy, I won't deny that, but it also does really seem to be durable and rugged. I'd feel confident having my data on this drive provided the lid is on tight. The speed isn't too shabby so it was well worth the sale price.

Closing Comments

I'm sure others would appreciate your own reviews in addition to mine. If you want to benchmark your own drives and provide information and feedback similar to what I've done, you can download the benchmarking software here and post a reply!

<update 2008-12-23> I just found a FANTASTIC review by TestFreaks, it reviews 21 drives and shows them with much better speed comparison charts than my tests do. Check out the test results here.

<update 2009-05-14> I found another awesome drive comparison today and wanted to update this post to share it.ArsTechnica on the task of reviewing some seriously fast drives, a couple of which I mention in my test above!

<update 2011-06-20> I've purchased a Patriot Rage XT 32GB with quad-channel memory, and while I haven't done a speed test or graph as I had for the other drives above, it smokes the pants off the rest of the drives I have in terms of read/write speeds.  Get one.  Heck, if they're on sale, get two!

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Comments

  • Avatar
    Christoffer Földes

    Hi!

    Thnaks a lot for this threa awesome reading. I am looking for a usb memory that fits me but i havent found any yet.

    After reading this I want to buy a patriot exporter rage. They seem to be very small and fast. But you said that you would avoid retractarble connectors... It seems like the rage memory got a retractable connector.

     

    /Chris

  • Avatar
    Pulse

    Yes, it does have a retractable connector, but as compared to some others, this one trumps because it doesn't have a thumb-push knob, the whole outer sheath of the housing moves to cover the connector.  I'm very happy with it after 5 months!

  • Avatar
    Christoffer Földes

    Alright! I am thinking about buying 2 of those or 2 of the corsair:

     

    http://www.pixmania.se/se/se/5304451/art/corsair/usb-2-0-minne-flash-voyag.html#tech-specs

     

    Have anyboy tried those?

     

    For the moment I use the sandisk cruzer blade but i think it is not a proffessional memory.

  • Avatar
    David James Barker

    so which USB stick would you say is the best?

  • Avatar
    Gavin

    @David > My personal preference are Corsair Survivor sticks as they are fast and solidly constructed.

  • Avatar
    David James Barker

    cheers gavin. i should of said. which is best to use with the cdj 2000? would that still be the corsair survivor stick?

  • Avatar
    Jayson Larose

    I just thought I'd add some clarification about storage capacities:

    RAM manufacturers (and Windows) use a "binary gigabyte"... 1024 bytes in a kilobyte, 1024 kilobytes in a megabyte, 1024 megabytes in a gigabyte... which is actually 1,073,741,824 bytes, not 931,322,574 as stated in the article.  If you want to check, type "1 gigabyte in bytes" into google.

    Now, take that little bit of knowledge and forget it!  Hard drive and flash media manufacturers (and newer versions of Mac OS) talk about "decimal gigabytes"... 1000 bytes in a kilobyte, 1000 kilobytes in a megabyte, 1000 megabytes in a gigabyte. (1,000,000,000 bytes).

    You may be asking yourself, "Why am I seeing only 931,322,574 bytes on my shiny new 1 gigabyte device?".  This is because of formatting. Every storage device, be it a hard drive, SSD, USB stick, or venerable old floppy disk, needs to store things like what the directory structure looks like, the names of the files, where to find them on the media, and so forth.  So you lose a certain amount of capacity to this, and this amount depends on whether it's formatted for Windows (NTFS), Mac OS (HFS+), both (FAT32 or EXFAT), or something else (like Linux). The size of the media itself also changes the amount of space used for the filesystem, as a lookup table for a 1 terabyte harddrive needs to be larger than one for, say, a 250 gigabyte one.

  • Avatar
    Sammy

    So we have those "CDJ-2000 USB's" from Pioneer (atleast I have one , Thanks again to Foster).

    It works in all cdj's I have come across (2000 , 850 , 400 and the 350).

  • Avatar
    Sammy

    *also add to the above post the "Sandisk Cruzer Edge" works verry well.

    (Retractable connecter though those are verry though USB's since I carry those arround in my purse/pocket all day and night exept they are in use).

  • Avatar
    lee bidmead

    im using sandisk 8gb on cdj2000 nexus,realy happy fast transfer from stick to player,no issues when playing,all round a good solid prodduct!

  • Avatar
    Crimson Twins

    Sill question: I'm trying to copy one USB to another, so that I have an exact backup just in case one of the USB sticks fail. 

  • Avatar
    Gavin

    @Cesar > Use cloning software to duplicate from one stick to another (CCloner / SuperDuper etc).

  • Avatar
    port

    thank you for the helpful info am using an 8GB Kingstone flashdrive and a Mac user.

    would like to know the Average Read Speed cause even after formatting to FAT32 the 400's tilt and are giving me a hard time during my long sets... 

    should i go back to cds? 

  • Avatar
    Gavin

    @Jad > We don't particularly like Kingston flash drives. I'd recommend Corsair Survivor Stealth USBs.

  • Avatar
    matty menck

    hi, i ´m using 2 (clone) corsair stealth survivor for more then a half year. worked just great. now i got some player freeze errors and recognized that only 32GB were supportet from pioneer. is the 32GB limitation about the size of the stick, or is it about the content size i have transferred to the stick ??

    could be the reason of these player crashes, because my stick content is about 34GB now. would mean that i still can use the 64GB corsair survivor but load them just half to work with. is that correct ??

    on the other side i started thinking about a suitable external SSD drive with usb connection. DOES ANYBODY HAS ANY EXPERIENCES with SSD FLASH DRIVES FOR CDJ2000 ??? thinking about a 128GB SSD, or is it about the same 32GB limitation like usb sticks ??? in this case i should look for standart 5200RPM 2,5inch hard drive.

    thanks guys !

     

     

     

  • Avatar
    BriChi

    I use a 256gb Samsung SSD in a USB casing and it works fine on the 2000Nexus for about 2 hours and then the decks slows down a lot, but that's not the drive issue, it's the FW at this point

  • Avatar
    matty menck

    thanx for the info BriChi. did you meant by FW a firmware problem ? your SSD is bus / usb powered, right ? no external power supply needed, hopefully.

  • Avatar
    BriChi

    yes sorry

    FW=Firmware of the Nexus

    SSD is usb bus powered, no external power supply needed

  • Avatar
    matty menck

    thanks a lot BriChi !

  • Avatar
    matty menck

     @ BrChi, has the slowing down FW issue of the nexus only happened with your hard drive, or does it happen with other devices like usb sticks too ?

  • Avatar
    BriChi

    it's with any device, others have reported this too

  • Avatar
    matty menck

    ah ok,  just wanna be prepared, because we will have 3 new nexus at the club soon. can you resolve this with a restart of the player ?

  • Avatar
    BriChi

    yes, restarting gives you a few more hours before it slows down again

  • Avatar
    matty menck

    thanks a lot mate

  • Avatar
  • Avatar
    Roeland Jansen

    you might update the prices ;-)

    I do have several USB sticks. well known makes as well as nonames.

    Rearding kingston... I have Datatraveller G2's. They do approx 10MB/sec on read and 5 on write.

    I did see some mentioning about slowing down after a while.  I believe that this also may be the cause of fast forward/backward positioning that seems to fail / skip after some time on my CDJ850s.

     

  • Avatar
    Cory

    I have a question regarding USB's, do I need to sync all my tracks into rekordbox? Then from there drag them to my usb for my XDJ-Aero to analyse the tracks? I work without a laptop and only ever use USB's with my aero.

     

     

     

  • Avatar
    Kelvis Renato

    @Gavin > Good Night! I have a question! You can pause the music in normal mode? Recently I have XDJ-R1 and noticed that it only pauses the music on vinyl mode. If I press pause in normal mode the music starts jumping instead of stopping. What would that be?

  • Avatar
    BriChi

    that is normal, it is called stutter cue

  • Avatar
    Kelvis Renato

    @BriChi > I thought my machine had been faulty!! So is only possible stop the music in Vinyl mode, right?