Audiowerks News Issue 4

tripleDAT Welcome to the Audiowerks Newsletter pages. These articles address the operation and functionalily of the tripleDAT audio recording system. Advise for computer optimization and support as it appies to the PC and the Windows Operating system

Ahh, summer is here and for some of us this means a slowdown. Time to perhaps to do some "house keeping" and perhaps some optimizing and updating. Every one should do some regular maintenance to the "studio computer" to ensure continued reliability and flawless operation. This month we will look at some basic information about your recording medium, the Hard Drive Partition. I have tried to make this understandable by everyone regardless of computer savvy.

Disk Partitions

Cluster and Cluster size

Creating a Partition

Disk Fragmentation

Tips and Tricks

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Disk Partitions


Computer technology has provided us with more speed, more power and more space. Often the analogy of files in a filing cabinet is used to visualize how your computer stores files on your hard drive. Today's hard drives have a much larger capacity than previously. Often when you "get your new computer" the system drive is set up as one large partition. Everything you do happens on, and to, this drive. The larger the capacity the more data, or files it will hold. Today, a large capacity drive of 9 gigabytes can also waste a great deal of space and make it increasingly more difficult to keep your files organized. The surface area that your drive heads have to search for requested files is tremendous and really does slow down access and transfer rates. Remember the file cabinet analogy? Think of your single C:\ partition as the drawer of your virtual file cabinet. At 500 meg, the drawer pulls out about 5 feet, and at one gig it extends another 5 feet. The more surface area the heads have to search, the longer it takes to find and read requested files. You get the picture.

Dos and Windows have made it easier to store and retrieve greater numbers of folders and files by letting you sub-divide you hard drive into additional partitions. This is like adding another drawer to your file cabinet. This is a logical way of utilizing the space you have more efficiently. Three things happen when you use multiple partitions on a single physical drive:

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Cluster and Cluster Size

In preparing your disk so that it can be used most efficiently, your computer pre-organizes the space on a disk in order to manage the reading and writing of files. The file system is created for every floppy, hard disk, removable disk and partition on a drive prior to its first format. You can think of it as drawing the lines on the paper to help you to write on it and read from it easily. Windows and DOS will organize the space on the disk into clusters (the sheet of paper with lines on them). The maximum number of clusters that Windows and DOS can allocate is 65,536 cluster in any partition, regardless of size. Clusters will vary in size because all partitions have the same maximum number of clusters (65,653) therefore the larger the partition, the larger the cluster size.

What does this mean? Your OS can allocate up to 65,536 clusters on each partition, the clusters on a 200 meg partition can be much smaller than on a 1 gig drive. Thus, larger drives potentially waste more space than a smaller drive. For example; you have a one-gig partition with 32 k cluster size and a file that is exactly 32k in size. This file occupies one cluster. If you were to add one character to the file and increase its size to 33k, the system would allocate another sector to the store the file. The 33k file is now occupying 64k of hard disk space. Since two different files cannot occupy the same cluster, there is 32k of wasted space.

By dividing the drive into partitions, you can maximize the space of the drive. The same 32k file on a 100 meg partition with 2k clusters would occupy 16 clusters adding the single character to the file only uses another 2k. While this is still somewhat wasteful, it does yield a savings of 30k. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see the potential waste that can occur on drives that are larger than necessary. Working with very large files a large cluster size lets you store your files on fewer clusters. This can be an improvement performance wise, but larger cluster sizes can waste disk space if you have lots of small files as well. The tripleDAT cutter files are very small; on average, 3k while the audio files are gargantuan by comparison. What is the best in this situation? Find out the result of my benchmark tests next month.

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Creating a partition

DOS and Windows use a program called "FDISK" to create partitions and file systems on your hard disk. Unfortunately, changing the partition on your drive with FDISK means "loosing all data" that is on the disk, thus you have to back it up before proceeding. After creating or modifying your partition, you will have to reinstall and restore your system from the backup. DOS and Windows do not offer any way of changing the cluster size and it is automatically set to the maximum for the partition size.

You can only create a maximum of 4 physical partitions on a disk. This was OK for smaller capacity disks (<>500mb) but larger disks can prove inefficient. You can however create an extended partition in which you can create subsequent logical partitions. There are three different types of partitions:

Primary - The physical portion of the hard drive from which you can start your computer and Windows. Your C:\drive is your primary Partition.

Extended - a physical partition that can be divided into multiple, logical sections that will be seen as partitions. An extended partition cannot contain "boot" information because this drive is only seen "after" the operating system starts.

Logical - a portion of an extended partition that the OS sees as an actual partition. The Logical partition will only be available after the extended partition where they reside is recognized. Like the extended partition, logical partitions cannot contain boot information.

Confused yet?

Each of these partitions are known as FAT (File Allocation Table) systems, because a table of contents for the partitions is created to find files in those partitions. This table holds records identifying the files in the partition and the blocks of data associated with those files. The size of these records can vary depending on partition size. Fat 16 uses 16 bit records to locate a file and its starting location with in the partition and Fat 32 uses a 32 bit record. FAT 32 supports larger physical partitions (up to two terabytes). Fat 32 has some advantages over FAT 16. The cluster size varies greatly to conserve wasted space. For example:

Partition Size

125 to 250mb

250 to 500mb

1/ to 1 gig

1 to 2 gig

2 to 8 gig

Cluster size FAT 16






Cluster size FAT 32

512 byes (1/2 k)





Unfortunately Windows 95 has no facility to let you choose a cluster size in a given partition and your are forced to use the defaults (WIN98 has the feature to convert an existing fat but will not change the partition size without deleting the partition table and starting over). There are a number of second party software developers that offer products to let you not only partition your drives easily, but allow for a cluster size change as you see fit without data loss.

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Disk Fragmentation

Creating smaller partitions will increase speed and seek time when your software is locating files and folders. Creating and deleting files can have the opposite effect. When a file is written to disk, Windows tries to do it as efficiently as possible by writing to adjacent clusters on your disk. This facilitates an efficient and fast read of the files. As you write and delete files from the disk, the newer files become more scattered. This is called fragmentation. If left unchecked, you could have files that are spread out across the entire disk or partition. Part of the file at the beginning; part near the middle, part at the middle part near the end and then near the middle and then near the end and then... well, you get the picture. Your disk has to work very hard to get to those locations and read the data. If the partitions are smaller, your drive does not have to work quite so hard to find fragmented files and defragging time for the drive is greatly reduced.

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tripleDAT Tips and tricks

Plan your recording strategy before you begin. Determine where you are going to record your files (drive and folder) before you even start tripleDAT. Name all of your samples and files at the time you record them. This may seem time consuming, but believe me, once you examine your drive contents and see that there are 1000s of "takes" you will wish you had taken the extra few keystrokes to record the info at that time.

Hey all you tripleDAT and Masterport users! Get to know, and start using your Hot Keys! Every tripleDAT and MasterPort manual has a "HOT KEY" section for your referral.

In tripleDAT's Cutter, you can play the cutter and select a block of audio by pressing and holding the "S" key. This will mark a block in red until you let it go. This makes selecting a block by ear quick and easy. 

When you are moving a sample from track to track, hold the "Ctrl" key while moving. This process will let you move the samples to different tracks without moving them in time.

Set the grid to "2" at 120 bpm (or to 4 at 60 bpm) to display the grid in seconds. **The grid will only display at zoom levels where the grid will not overlap. i.e. At 30 minutes this grid of 1 second intervals would be all that you see, therefore you will not see the grid until you zoom closer in the arranger and it displays a minute or less.

Some CD players have difficulties with start IDs directly at the beginning of the sample. It is recommended to set the start IDs 0.3 sec before, but you cannot use any snap function in tripleDAT to do so easily. Solution: Set all IDs directly at the beginning of the samples (with snap to sample), then select all samples (Ctrl + A), zoom in at the start of one sample and move it (and with it all others) 0.3 sec to the right.

Some recordings from radio or TV have a high whistling sound at about 16 kHz, which is sometimes difficult to hear (depending on your ears). To check, use the real-time pitch control (or merge with - 12 halftones with TDAT16) to adjust the speed to -50%. The whistling noise will be at 8 kHz and easier to identify.

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Written by Anton Bernhardt - July 1998 © Anton Bernhardt - All rights reserved. 1998

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