So here's the list; In the order of importance as I see them they are as follows:
- Audio Interface
- DAW Software
- Power Conditioner
- Acoustic Treatment
- Studio Monitors (speakers)
- External Hard Drive
- Cables & Accessories
[EDIT] First very important to point out, if you have a desktop/tower, much of this can be done with an internal HDD so you aren't writing to the drive with the OS, however the vast majority of those we work with setting up home studios do so with a laptop, or the odd Mac mini, so we wrote this with that perspective in mind[EDIT]
Why is it important to have an external HDD? Not only will this free up your computer's internal hard drive, give you portability and flexibility in your recording environment, it may be *required* by your DAW Software. We're talking about ProTools, in case you haven't read the instructions that came with your software. Even if you don't use ProTools, an external HDD can be a real necessity - a life saver even. Keeping your files stored on an external HDD gives you easy access, and keeps a client happy, if your computer is unexpectedly out of commission and the file you sent was lost or accidentally deleted (happens at least a few times a year).
So what is it about an external HDD that make some recommended, and others not? There are a number of considerations (especially with ProTools) that you will want to know first. Already know - go see the full list in our Store.:
1) Is it large enough?
If you are just looking to store files, or backup your computer's internal HDD, then you're in luck - that's easily done and several HDD options will work. While I highly recommend LaCie or Glyph drives (Glyph is ProTools certified), your preference may be different and run more in the Western Digital territory. If you are just in need of an option for automated backup, get an external HDD at least 2-3x bigger than your internal drive - this will allow for automated programs to back up your files properly. My recommendation - buy *at least* a 1TB HDD. External HDD's are very affordable these days and audio files can be surprisingly large. While you may ultimately send the files in mp3 format, always save the originals in the highest quality (PCM WAV, AIFF or similar), then convert them to the desired format. It might be overkill, but it's come in handy several times before with clients. Just remember you can never truly 'upsample' a low quality audio file, but you can always 'downsample' a high quality audio file.
2) Is the External HDD spinning at the same speed as your internal HDD?
The speed we're talking about is the disk speed. The two most common are 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM. It's part f the formula of making sure you're matching the disks up properly. It might not seem important, but if your external HDD is slower than your internal HDD, it may always be behind, trying to play catchup and your data may be lost in the process. Unless, of course the next question makes that moot.
3) What is the actual write speed of the external HDD vs the Internal HDD?
You want to insure that, when writing data to an external HDD, it's going to be able to receive the information from the internal HDD where the files are temporarily cached. Without getting too technical, the 7200 is usually faster - just don't assume it will be. Insure as well that you're connecting by a means that will actually use the speed of the hard disk drive - that means Firewire 800 or eSATA (potentially USB 3.0 - though most computers only suport USB 2.0) Solid State Drives are not on this list as of yet, but keep your eye on them in the future.
4) What are the power requirements of the external HDD?
Are you going to be working in the field? Then lugging around a generator to power your external Hard Drive might not be an option. The usual conundrum is - USB powered options don't write fast enough and Firewire doesn't power an external HDD. However, with the Firewire, there are a few exceptions. One, used by a team member, is the 'Mercury On-The-Go Pro' in 500GB, 750GB and 1.0TB.
5) What options for connecting are available/required with my external HDD?
Several options are available and the requirements depend on your intended use. Using a software like ProTools, that requires you to write to the external HDD, means using the fastest option available - namely Firewire 800 or eSATA (potentially USB 3.0). Anything else will not write fast enough and you may experience a bottleneck of too much data flowing through too small a connection. Again, if you're just using the drive for storage or backup - USB 2.0 will do well enough for you. Soon, new technologies, like Firewire 1394d and USB 3.0, may become standard. They promise to be incredibly fast, though some emerging USB 3.0 products have shown to be a bit less than favorable.
6) How do I keep it all organized? (this is just a bonus for you)
Use a filing system! Many talents explain their in detail on forums - Just Google it. Below is an example of one client's folder. For me - I start off with the Client name (the computer automatically puts them in alphabetical order). In each of those client folders, is a folder for the year (2011, 2010, 2009), and in each of those a folder for a month I did work for a client. This is very useful when the client says, ‘can you do this job just like you did that one last March?’ When I no longer do work for a client, I typically compress (aka 'zip) the files move them into an 'inactive client' folder. After another 6 months I may decide to archive or delete that folder.
I name my individual files as follows: year_month_day_client_project_my firstname_mylastname.wav So a recent file is named ‘2011_06_03_Client_elearning_Mel_Allen.wav’
I did a screenshot of an example of the folder structure for you below:
Now that you know what the requirements are, go see the full list in our Store.