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USB Cable Length for Audio Interface

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by kmetal, Jul 1, 2017.

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  1. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    hey I was just wondering if the length of the USB cable matters for audio interfaces, or at what point (length) performance becomes effected?

    I'm just messing around with a Scarlett solo during his interim, and have a chance to mess with various orientations and configurations for a few (prof of concept) swipe I've started to get going.

    Anyway I'm testing out having my computers and interfaces in a machine room or seperated from the edit area.

    So not critical in this case, but got me wonderin'.

    Thanks.
     
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  2. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

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    Yes, there are limits. (As good a reference as any).

    If you need the full data transfer rate from a USB cable, keep it as short as possible, preferably under 10ft.for USB 3 and under 16ft. for USB 2.
    If you need to go very far, you either need a series of hubs, a repeater, or an active range extender over twisted pair.
     
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  3. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    Good to know Dave. I'll plan on keeping any USB interfaces close to the computer.
     
  4. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    For any type of peripheral, the limit is 15ft. After that, some will work and some won't (most won't).
    You would thing they would have make a better technologie by now.. but no.. they want to sell you Wireless units, which none are available for audio recording.
    Bluetooth has more latency anyway...
     
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  5. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

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    Dave has got you covered there. What I will say is that there is no "slowing down" as the cable length is increased. What you get is an increasing rate of errors until the transfers collapse altogether.

    For fully sequenced and checked transfers, having occasional errors will generate retries, and this may appear to slow the overall progress. However, most audio transfers are not of this type, and what you end up with is corrupted audio data. This is non-correctable, and must be avoided.

    When one of my audio pals told me a little while ago that he was getting occasional errors on his interface when using a 10m USB cable but not with 8m, I said that meant that he should be using 5m or less, the rule being that you halve the length that starts giving you trouble. That said, the quality of cable can make more difference than small changes in length. If he had been prepared to buy 20m lengths of all the USB cable types he could find, he may well have found a type that would be reliable at a length of 10m.
     
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  6. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    I Wonder if there is such limitations with FireWire ?
     
  7. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    Interesting stuff. Does anyone have any thoughts or experience with something like this USB over Ethernet adapter? I got the idea from daves link https://www.monoprice.com/product?p_id=6042

    Beside messing w the interface, I'm trying for real to get data from a couple USB harddrives on a hub in one room downstairs to the upstairs.

    I'm wondering if this might be an economical and suitable way to go?
     
  8. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    This is a working way to break the length limitation of usb.
    I used it in a couple customer's setup. But I never used it for data transfer or audio recording..

    As for router interfacing, it's a working solution. Altought you can't expect it to be light fast specially if it's via wifi.
    Your router will make the HDD appear as a network disk (like a NAS).
    If you want to start a backup when you finish a session and you don't mind the time, it's ok.

    I'm a impatient person. I prefer having my computer open all the time and I just swap harddrives on the sata ports. My cables are all hanging out of the computer but it's in an old industrial cabinet to reduce noise and hide it.
     
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  9. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

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    I would not attempt to use that USB extender for the purpose you describe. It's a USB1 (12Mb/s) device needing a dedicated (non-networked) cat6 cable. Furthermore, the power for the A end and any attached peripheral will have to be taken from the B end and sent down the cable.
    Possibly, but hard drives themselves do not have USB interfaces. Yours will probably be SATA drives in USB cases, connected to a PC or to a USB hub. Presumably this PC or hub is networked, so in strict connectivity terms you should simply be able to set this up as a network drive on the PC upstairs. However, that doesn't say anything about performance, and if you wanted to run multi-channel audio I/O in real time to and from these drives on the hub, you would be placing huge demands on the network, and it's likely you would experience audio drop-outs if there were other concurrent users of the network. Copying projects over the network from these USB drives to a local drive and then doing your DAW work from the local copy would be a way round that.

    An alternative might be to unplug one of the USB drives, take it upstairs, copy the job off it and take it back downstairs again. Sneakernet rules.
     
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  10. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

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    Yes, theoretical limit is 4.5m (14' 9") on a Firewire cable. A repeater like this one from Kramer gives you 4 ports of FW800 and can double that length to 9m. Kramer claims you can go up to 72m by cascading repeaters (that would take 15 repeaters + 15 places along the way to power each repeater), and at over $230 (USD) each you're throwing a lot of money at a solution with a pretty limited outcome. For $3500 you should be able to put together one helluva robust network RAID drive if it was strictly for storage and transfer.

    @kmetal , for USB 1 or USB 2 range extenders over Cat5/6 (shielded), I was thinking more along these lines:
    Kramer VA-1USB-T (transmitter)
    Kramer VA-1USB-R (receiver) again, not cheap at over $600 for the pair. You could buy a lot of sneakers for that.

    I have several 2TB WD Passport Ultra USB3 drives for grab and go file storage of recording sessions, so I can work remotely on a laptop and bring the session straight over to the desktop when I get home. And I also have a 4TB WD My Cloud network drive that I can back-up files to, and access files from - either using the in-house wired network, in-house wi-fi, or remotely from anywhere over the internet.

    Video production and storage is done on a 4TB Glyph drive. Long-term archiving is done on a variety of drives by Glyph, G-Raid, or WD.
     
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  11. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    Dude, good call on the router interfacing, im gonna have to check the specs on mine. This could be perfect since this is essentially a one off transfer, the router is about 30' away, and I've got cat5/Ethernet on a USB hub I was intending on using a the drives. This could be the best solution all around for this one. Fingers crossed my router is capable, if not I'm due for a free upgrade from the cable company since mine is a few models older. Never changed it out cuz it works ok for me. Maybe now is the time.

    That's some good info, particularly for some of the upcoming projects.

    in this particular situation, I have, two old drives, one is actually ATA connection I belive lol, one is sata, one Mac one windows, in their own powered cases. 160 and 250gb. One was in my house and the other at one of the studios, and both got water damaged (only miles apart, close to sea level over here) so they ended up in my basement in a pile of stuff that's gotta be backed up or photocopied ect, before disposal. Frankly I'm not sure if they work, since it's been a couple years since last power on. Not sure how wet or damaged they got, if they were even actually soaked. I'm not sure how high the water got.

    I'm honestly just trying to avoid bringing any of my brand new computers or drives to the abyss down there, or them up here. There's a full house remodel going on, and I've been pulling the computers in and out of plastic storage each day, since I've started the process of archiving the old material and organizing the new software.

    There's all my work from home and some stuff from the studios on those drives from the past 8-9 years, so it's all just session and audio files, no realtime audio (yet), as soon as this is done that's what i wanna be into as you know.

    If the router method doesn't work, I'll just spring for a hub and that'll keep things in a comfy range.

    I didn't even realize that hub I linked was USB 1. (Face palm)

    -edit-

    I'm planning to connect everything to the MYcloud NAS hawk is talking about, ideally thru it's USB expansion port. I'm hoping to avoid any Mac/pc issues this way, since my computers are PCs. So this might handle things from a networking perspective.

    Love that Kramer stuff. Looks like something that could be useful in the next rig. I'm guessing the price reflects its quality, which is worth anything you can spare when it comes to network reliability and important data transfer.

    I've been using a WD store and go 2tb for the last week, super quiet, usb 3.0 and was a good sale. I actually bought the 2 tb My Cloud drive the same day, and hooked it up to one of those wifi boosters that hook into an electrical outlet. https://www.netgear.com/home/products/networking/wifi-range-extenders/WN3000RP.aspx
    It has the cat 5 jack so the NAS connects to it, and it worked first shot. It was cheaper to go wireless than use the 50' cable they had at the big box. I've since got some connectors, wire, and cat 5 tool, to make the cables instead of waiting for mail order or paying premium.

    I remembered you reporting good things about the drive and wanting to grab one for your son even, and since this all happened last minute, it was super simple to get going, and I felt comfortable buying this spur of the moment, which normally I wouldn't. My qnap needs its own LCD and has more to dig thru, so the my cloud makes more sense immediately. I got the qnap based on Marcos suggestion and my own research, so I thank both you guys for the insight you offered.

    Hawk, are you exclusively using WD drives? Is that what's in the glyphs? I've got one seagate for the qnap, which holds two. Looking for a couple large capacity HDD for it.

    Also, have you used the NAS for anything sorta critical or as a test, like say recording a gig and transferring it thru a phone or laptop, then opening at home. Or even streaming like a session from the cloud drive at home, to the gig?

    I'm basically trying to design some sort of remote realtime setup of sorts after this archive project is done. I'm using some of this off the shelf stuff to help me evaluate what my needs would be for something more robust. So the next couple years is trial error and r and d.

    ----

    @Boswell @dvdhawk @pcrecord @anyone else

    Since quality of USB cable has been mentioned, have any of you made your own USB cables, either for QC, or just neatness reasons? I've cut and taped random ones together back in the day to make it around the room or watever, but that's about the extent of it for me.

    Just wondering what you guys think about that in general. Making your own, not taping them together, lol which did work for the application, but ya know, not real classy.
     
  12. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

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    I would strongly advise against trying to fabricate your own USB cables. The connectors (both A and B types) are designed for machine assembly in order to achieve low VSWR (signal reflection) on the impedance-controlled pair. This is particularly important for USB3, which needs a different approach entirely.

    All that said, the market is flooded with cheap rubbish cables that, in my experience, give continual problems if used for anything other than phone charging and the like. For pro digital work including audio, shell out for known-branded machine-assembled cables. Put a recognisable mark using an indelible felt marker on each end of the cable near the connector so you can see which are the quality ones when you are peering down the back of you computer to check on what is connected to where.
     
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  13. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    Thanks bos, duly noted. I'm gonna start looking for a good reliable brand to use in general for critical things.
     
  14. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

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    I have no idea what brand of drive live inside any of the 4 different Glyph drives, because, you know... if it ain't broke, don't tear it apart just for fun. One of them is a rack-mountable Glyph X-Project that has nothing but old PT audio sessions on it. It is old enough that 30GB was a lot of storage, and it still works perfectly when needed. The same goes for an 80GB Glyph Companion portable full of a/v projects. The newer Glyphs are rackmounted GT series. I don't know who made the actual drives, but the Glyphs have all been super-reliable.

    The only drive that ever lost me a big chunk of data was a G-Raid 320GB FW800/FW400 drive. The unit was still just barely under warranty when it quit working, so I sent it in without cracking it open. G-tech offered to try to recover the data, but made no guarantee. It took G-Tech several weeks to get back to me to report the data could not be saved. The tech I spoke to said that the little fan apparently quit working. Heat is the enemy of these things, so it caused 1 of the 2 internal drives to seize up. Shortly after I got the drive back, the same thing happened, the new drive quit working again - which disables the whole unit. This time I opened the case myself to find the fan not working again, not because the fan was bad - but because of an obviously horrible solder job where the (probably less than 5¢) 2-pin Molex connector was soldered to the PCB. So they had it almost a month, couldn't recover any data, and didn't make the incredibly obvious repair. I diagnosed, and made the repair myself in the amount of time it took the iron to get hot, and had them mail me a new drive. But once again, I lost another chunk of data. It's been 5-10 years I suppose by now, and it's been ok ever since, but I just don't trust the G-Raid with critical data anymore.

    I can't imagine the scenario that would make me want to DIY a USB cable. Ethernet Cat5/6, sure. They're no fun, untwisting the pairs and getting them in the RJ45 in the right order, but extremely doable. USB / FW / HDMI / even VGA - no thanks.
     
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  15. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    I know several other people who've had flawless performance from glyph as well. Looks like I'll be sticking to pre fab for the computer/data type cables, gonna have to find some solid brands.

    I have this notion I've been messing with where I use molex and connectors in some places where you'd otherwise solder, like say to make swapping an xformer super quick on a pre. Sort of like lego block style componentry. Not that that has much to do w the thread but just throwing it out there.

    Anyway, totally scary about your G-Raid experience. Seems like a 1-2 combo of bad luck and service.

    Just for clarity were they in an actual raid configuration? Like, did you loose data from a raid configuration in that case?

    I'm starting to wonder if I need to just plan on pairs of drives by default moving forward.

    @Boswell @dvdhawk @pcrecord

    I have the same question as far as power cables. Do any of you make your own power cables, for any reason?

    Before I do anything dumb, just trying to see if that's safe, and practical. I've seen some cool stuff on the furman, amphenol, and triplite sites, as far as breakers and outlets. I'm also interested in like locking connectors, and water resistant wiring methods, and I would imagine pre fab stuff (cables) would go at a premium in this area.
     
  16. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

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    For clarification-
    Although the G-Raid could be configured as a RAID drive, I did not have it set-up that way. At 320GB, I didn't feel it was worthwhile to cut it down to 160GB for a RAID 1 mirrored drive. I manually backup files periodically, and when it crapped out, I was between backups. So I get my fair share of the blame for some of the data loss.

    I make my own power cables all the time. If you're looking for water resistant locking power connections, you might look at the Neutrik PowerCon True 1 series. They lock and are rated at IP65 for water and dust resistance.

    IP (Ingress Protection) Ratings use the first digit to rate dust protection 1 (no protection) - 7 (totally dust tight) and the second digit is water protection 1 (no protection) - 9 (protected even when submerged underwater for prolonged periods).

    So IP65 =
    Dust Protection 6: Protected against dust that may harm equipment
    Water Protection 5: Protected against water spray from all directions
     
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  17. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    Awsome that's gonna make things way more fun and efficient. I enjoy all the cool options out there! as far as raid goes, I think im gonna try a couple arrays and see how it works overall. I've got no experience with it so why not start learning now.
     
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    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

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