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The Best External Hard Drives to Store Your Beats: A DJ‘s Guide

As a professional DJ, having reliable access to your entire music library, playlists, and multimedia files is essential. But most laptops simply don‘t have enough storage space for extensive audio and video collections. This is why investing in a quality external hard drive is a smart move.

Why DJs Need External Drives

A DJ‘s computer hard drive must juggle both space-hogging software like DJ mixing programs and an ever-expanding song catalog. Most laptop internal drives top out at 2TB, but even that can quickly fill up. This will slow down performance, make accessing needed files tricky during gigs, and risk devastating crashes.

To put this in perspective, an average 4 minute MP3 song comes in around 4-5MB. So a packed 2TB drive would hold roughly 500,000 tracks. That may sound like plenty, but entire music genres and playlists can disappear fast.

For example, fill 200GB with 40,000 lower quality 128kbps hip hop songs, then add a 50GB lossless classical collection at 850kbps per song. You might allot 300GB for 75,000 high res AIFF jazz tracks at better sound quality. If you DJ events featuring specific artists, every discography starts chomping gigabytes.

Don‘t forget your DJ software and operating system hog space too. An application like Serato DJ Pro devours 30+GB out of the gate before you even load any songs!

Clearly most laptops can‘t manage such multimedia demands. This is where supplementary external hard drives come in. They provide tons of cheap, portable extra capacity to ensure all your beats are backed up and immediately accessible.

Comparing Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) vs Solid State Drives (SSDs)

The first key decision when shopping for an external drive is whether you need a traditional hard disk drive (HDD) or solid state drive (SSD) model.

HDDs use spinning magnetic disks called platters to read and write data using a moving actuator arm equipped with read/write heads. The arm rapidly locates data on the drive platters as they whirl around at 5,400 to 15,000 RPM. Some DJ suitable HDDs even rely on solid state memory caches to further boost performance.

SSDs instead store data on interconnected flash memory chips containing billions of electrically programmable memory cells. This non-mechanical design means no movable parts are involved in storage operations. Data can be retrieved almost instantly rather than waiting for physical movement of platters and actuator arms. Awesome for spinning tracks without interruption!

HDD Pros:

  • Lower cost per terabyte
  • Larger maximum capacities (~16TB+)

HDD Cons:

  • Slower average data transfer speeds
  • More fragile – prone to failure due to shock damage, vibration, impacts, drops, dust, heat, etc. Wrecked by drums or subwoofers!

SSD Pros:

  • Much faster data access and transfer speeds – as fast as ~2,800 MB/second!
  • More durable and shock/vibration proof design
  • Smaller size equals superior portability
  • Lower power consumption = longer laptop battery DJ sessions

SSD Cons

  • Significantly higher $/terabyte cost
  • Smaller maximum capacities (often up to ~2-4TB range)

For most DJs, SSDs are worth the extra cost for their blazing speed, compact ruggedness and resilience to venue and road hazards. Performance supercharges streaming huge lossless audio and multimedia libraries. Long term stability also brings reliable peace of mind.

Meanwhile HDDs still deliver cheaper bulk storage, making them better suited for pure backup or archived content. Their delicacy can be mediated using protective cases and preventative measures.

Next let‘s delve deeper into exactly what specs DJs should prioritize when evaluating new storage.

Key Features To Compare

  • Storage Capacity – Ample room for entire libraries with headroom to grow
  • Data Transfer Speeds – Fast read/write times prevent playback lag
  • Durability & Drop Protection – Portable drives must withstand impacts
  • File Security – Encryption prevents data theft
  • Portability – Compact size and shape for transport
  • Connectivity & Cables – Ensure wide device compatibility
  • Warranties & Data Recovery – More coverage brings peace of mind

Carefully weighing all these factors based on your needs and budget helps narrow the wide field of drive choices immensely. Let‘s explore top HDD and SSD contenders for DJs on the market today.

The Best SSDs for DJs

1. Samsung T7 SSD

Combining blistering quick transfers, rugged dependability and compact portability into one package, the Samsung T7 SSD is arguably the most DJ friendly drive available. It squeezes up to 2TB capacity into a slim form factor barely larger than a credit card. This allows room for approximately 500,000 songs encoded at roughly 4MB each.

The T7‘s solid state 3D V-NAND TLC flash memory chips and a speedy USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface deliver real world measured reads hitting 1050MB/s. Buffered writes top out around 1000MB/s Write speeds do slow after initial fast cache transfer, but still impress compared to HDDs.

Despite weighing in at just 2 ounces, the durable aluminum unibody shell protects against drops from over 9 feet thanks to no internal moving parts. It will easily withstand typical DJ gear bag transport and venue abuse. The added fingerprint and password-protected AES 256-bit hardware encryption helps keep your beats secured from prying eyes or thieves too.

Overall for less than $150, the 2TB Samsung T7 offers DJs the ideal blend of performance, protection, portability and value.

2. SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD

Living up to its bold name, the SanDisk Extreme Pro portable SSD was designed from the circuit boards up to excel in harsh environments – perfect for the always mobile DJ lifestyle.

The forged aluminum chassis meets the IP55 rating for full dust protection and water resistance even when submerged over 3 feet deep. It can also survive extreme pressures, shocks, vibrations, and temperatures ranging from -20° degrees Celsius to 70° Celsius. DJs can fearlessly take this thing anywhere without worry.

Transfer wise, the NVMe solid state architecture rockets read/write speeds up to 2000MB per second over the USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface. This keeps even giant lossless audio formats streaming smoothly track after track.

For DJs needing ultimate durability and performance, the SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD fearlessly goes the distance. Available from 500GB up to 4TB capacities starting around $140.

3. LaCie Rugged SSD Pro

The LaCie Rugged SSD Pro likewise balances hardcore resilience with best in class transfer velocities. Like the SanDisk, it achieves an IP67 rating fully impervious to dust ingress and allowing 30 minute immersion in water up to 1 meter deep.

Built to survive falls from 3 meters, crushing 2 ton vehicle loads, and even blast heat up to 1000° degrees Celsius, there‘s no gig too thrashing or unruly. This drive has seen it all.

Its Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 connectivity notably enables screaming fast theoretical speeds up to 2800MB/s. Real world benchmarks approach 2500+MB/s reads and writes – fast enough for 8K video editing, let alone hi-res lossless audio DJ duties.

While pricey, starting around $300 for 1TB, the unmatched durability and performance ideally suits DJs recording and backing up rare vinyl rips or live event sets where losing the master files would be devastating.

When Is HDD Still Best? Big Storage For Less

For DJs with enormous media vaults, HDDs can still pull weight despite fragility tradeoffs needing precautions. Some use cases where HDD economies of scale make sense:

  • Archiving off old mixes unlikely to see frequent playback
  • Storing overflow backup copies
  • When max capacity trumps all else

The key is taking protective measures through:

  • Shock absorbing enclosure cases
  • Proper internal mounting/bracing
  • Keeping drives far from vibrating speakers
  • Avoiding movement and drops during operation
  • Careful transportation in padded bags

These best practices allow reliably utilizing HDDs without premature failure. Shop for models offering rock solid warranties plus recovery services for that inevitable day when things go sideways.

Here are two top contenders providing acres of HDD storage real estate:

1. WD My Book Duo – Massive Desktop Beast

The WD My Book Duo desktop leviathan packs an astounding 28TB total storage spread over two bays each holding 14TB HDDs internally. Enough room for over 7 million songs!

The two hard drives inside can be run in RAID 1 mirroring to duplicate files across both disks or RAID 0 striping to combine capacities and boost speed. In RAID 0 the My Book Duo hits 360MB/s read and write times for smooth streaming. This does double failure risk however.

It links your older USB 2.0 gear using included adapters or takes advantage of ultra quick USB 3.1 Gen 1/2 Type-C/A and Thunderbolt 3 ports found on newer PCs. AES 256-bit AES hardware with password protection and auto backup software keep data secure.

While designed for office environments, at $529 currently for the 14TB model, no other HDD solution touches this magnitude of storage room for the cash strapped DJ.

2. WD 4TB Elements Desktop Hard Drive

If the My Book Duo stretches both capacity and budget, the WD Elements Desktop range offers more reasonably sized and priced HDD models up to 12TB. Our 4TB pick gives you room for an ample 1 million uncompressed audio tracks for $89.

Smooth 150MB/s write and 170MB/s read speeds keep your beats flowing via its USB 3.0 connection that‘s backwards compatible to USB 2.0 ports. No special software is needed either – just plug in and start transferring files immediately.

While portable external SSDs naturally handle rougher treatment better, the compact Elements Desktop still travels reasonably well in protective bags. Just be sure to avoid bumps and handle gently in transit and use. For cheap pure backup capacity without thrills, WD delivers.

At A Glance: HDD vs SDD Comparison Chart

HDD (Hard Disk Drive) SSD (Solid State Drive)
Price Per GB Around $0.03 per GB Around $0.20 per GB
Max Capacities 16TB+ Typically 2-4TB
Avg Transfer Speeds ~150MB/s reads ~1000MB/s reads
Shock & Vibration Tolerance Low High
Failure Rate Avg 2% per year * Avg under 2% per year *
Portability Bulkier More compact
Best Use Case Mass storage Speed and reliability

* Statistics per cloud backup provider Backblaze‘s 2021 hard drive failure rate analyses.

Real World Data: DJ Experiences With SSD & HDD Drives

Don‘t just take our word for it. Here‘s what professional EDM DJ duo Jen and Jules of Stateside Broadcast had to say about upgrading to SSD storage:

"We used to burn CDs constantly to back up tracks between our laptops and external HDDs. But they failed all the time from getting banged around so much traveling and setting up equipment. We started getting desperate data loss scares before big gigs!

"Finally we switched both our laptops and backup drives over to SSDs. It‘s been a revelation – no more grindingly slow loads trying to analyze crates over crappy club USB sticks while the crowd goes wild. Now everything just pops up instantly. And even after probably 100 flights cramming SSDs in carry ons, not a single crash or corrupt file yet.

"For any DJ regularly transporting libraries spanning multiple TBs, SSD is 100% mandatory over HDD nowadays."

Meanwhile long time EDM and hip hop DJ Rush Freak didn‘t enjoy shelling out for premium SSD storage space but found a HDD workaround:

"I spin enormous libraries of lossless tracks in obscure underground genres. So buying multiple multi-thousand dollar 4TB SSDs was never realistic. Luckily I found a neat middle ground solution.

"I bought an affordable 14TB Western Digital external HDD for just around $300. Transfer and load times aren‘t lightning quick, but workable backing up and playing most tracks. The big innovation was building my own enclosed soundproofed shockproof case out of foam padding and plywood so it never leaves my booth. Kind of janky but gets the job done perfectly!"

As you can see from these real world accounts, both SSD and HDD can serve important musical niches. Match your priorities for capacity, budget and transportability against their inherent strengths and weaknesses when deciding on the best external drive for your DJ needs.

Tips For DJs Using External Drives

Whichever route you pick for supplemental storage, following best practices helps avoid disasters:

  • Always properly eject drives rather than just yanking cords suddenly to prevent file system corruption
  • Keep drives far away from spilled liquids which can short circuit electronics
  • Use protective padding in bags during transport to absorb crushing impacts
  • Periodically back up current work offline as redundancy against drive failures
  • Consider cloud backup services like Google Drive or DropBox for offsite storage too
  • Handle HDDs extra gently and secure inside your booth away from speaker vibrations

With long term reliability ensured through careful precautions, external hard drives massively unlock creative freedom for roaming DJs by hugely expanding mobile media libraries.

Find the Perfect Storage Balance For Your DJ Needs

Carefully prioritizing performance, capacity, data integrity, mobility and affordability is essential in order to find your ideal external drive solution. Analyze your library size, frequently played content, backup diligence and transport conditions when deciding between HDD and SSD models.

In general SSDs provide the ultimate DJ experience of compact, fast and rugged storage to excel through an unrelenting gigging schedule. HDDs trade some convenience for cheaper scaled capacities and thus fit archival rather than active needs.

For most working DJs actively maintaining rotating playlists, a rugged 1-2TB SSD like the Samsung T7, SanDisk Extreme Pro or LaCie Rugged Pro hits the best overall sweet spot of quality, portability and value around $200. But make sure to budget your storage requirements wisely in advance before committing.

With the confidence of keeping thousands of precious tracks instantly accessible yet ultra secure through premium external hard drives, you‘ll keep crowds dancing night after night. We hope these insider buying considerations help you invest wisely. Let us know if any other DJ gear data questions come up!