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Solid Snake-Oil Storage: This SSD Is Aimed at Audiophiles

Audiophile SSD
(Image credit: Audiophile Style)

If you thought a $2,500 audiophile-focused ethernet switch was strange, then you'll also be amused with this NVMe SSD designed specifically for audiophiles. Last known to be in the sampling phase, the new device was posted to the Audiophilestyle forums. Supposedly, the drive can increase audio quality and give you real 3D sound along with an experience that only comes from vinyl recordings, but don't look for this drive on our list of Best SSDs any time soon — its impact on audio quality is questionable, to say the least.

The developer claims to have designed and built the device from the ground up in close collaboration with an unnamed SSD controller manufacturer. The pictured device has a Realtek SSD controller, a company better known for its sound processors even though it began making SSD controllers a few years ago

SSD

(Image credit: Audiophilestyle Forums)

The drive comes with 1TB of 3D TLC flash, but it only has 333GB of usable storage capacity. That's because the SSD runs in pseudo-SLC (pSLC) mode, which trades off usable capacity in favor of performance and endurance. Notably, there are already SSDs on the market that use pSLC modes for some tasks. The maker claims that using this mode increases sound quality, outperforming standard TLC mode:

"The sound quality is just our test experience, this test is performed under the same standard product (PCB, external power jack, crystal oscillator, capacitors, etc. have not been modified)

TLC mode: It sounds like background music, no features and powerless, everything is flattened, lacks extension and density.

pSLC mode: There is a special natural feeling, it becomes more smooth and calm, the thickness is slightly increased, and overall it is more resistant to hearing but still slightly dry."

As for the rest of the drive's features, it is specced out with a Crystek CCHD-957 Femto clock oscillator, two Audionote Kaisei 220uf capacitors, an external 5V DC power input, an eight-layer PCB with 2oz of copper, Milspec PCB stiffness, 300% grounding area, 5u gold plated connectors, and a CNCed copper heatsink.

Additionally, the maker claims this SSD is powered by an external power source (power doesn't come from the motherboard) to enhance sound quality further. You can see the power jack in the lower-left corner of the device.

Drives were apparently sampled to several forum members, many of whom later "lost contact" with the maker after receiving the product. However, one sampler did leave a bit of feedback about the device, saying, "Still trying the drive out, just received 2 days ago. Initial impressions are positive, this is easy/pleasant to live with as OS boot drive, unlike the Samsung 970 Evo plus NVME."

Thumbing through the forum thread, it appears this experience is based on the users' subjective measure, though, meaning there are no actual measurements of sound quality. That's par for the course for many insanely-priced devices for audiophiles, though.

Honestly, we highly doubt the fancy gizmo provides any additional sound enhancements over a "standard SSD." Regardless of the tech surrounding the chips, at their most basic level, SSDs store data in binary 1s and 0s, meaning that you can only have 1s and 0s of data. Simply put, adding extra gadgets or power isolation to an SSD can't change those 1s or 0s into something better, and any rarely encountered errors are immediately corrected through various types of error-correcting code.

If anything, the SSD should be very fast simply due to the nature of pSLC, and have crazy overkill power conditioning. Besides that, it's hard to believe that it would provide a better audio experience. That's because SSDs are incapable of altering audio quality — that's all done by the audio processing unit on your computer. 

Paul Alcorn
Paul Alcorn

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.

  • ottonis
    The audiophile community tends to be somewhat esoteric at times, that's why some companies can sell audio cables 100x as expensive as "normal" cables, and the alleged sound advantages of which actually never materialized in a blind testing.
    That being said, I like the pSLC approach of this drive that makes it very durable and significantly extends its time of usage.
    This might be of interest for everybody who prefers a fixed, static set-up ("switch on and don't touch ever again") approach.
    Reply
  • papaspud
    There is a special natural feeling, it becomes more smooth and calm, the thickness is slightly increased, and overall it is more resistant to hearing but still slightly dry."

    Sounds like something you could say about a glass of wine, to justify it's price.... a bunch of nothing.
    Reply
  • malachi.b
    I'm an IT guy, firmware audio engineer and did a fair bit of recording on computers over the years.

    This product is 99% marketing nonsense. What Tom's Hardware says is basically true, that you're dealing with ones and zeroes. The 1% truth comes in that unwanted noise is very prominent from the computer and tends to permeate incoming analog signals. External audio ADCs / codecs really get this under control well, but sometimes you do still get bleed.

    I had recordings where you could faintly hear the hard drive in the back of the signal, and it was not because it was directly audible but rather traveled up the Firewire cable itself as digital noise likely into the ADC directly. So, there are conditions where you want to reduce the noise in that context and the extra caps on the SSD could indeed help.

    That said, your by far best bet is to get a better isolated external ADC / Codec and not diddle with the no-win scenario of quieting down the electronics of the PC itself. As one would imagine, it's all about purity of the incoming analog signal.

    And insofar as the SSD directly improving audio quality, creating a thicker sound...that's pure nonsense.
    Reply
  • Lafong
    papaspud said:
    There is a special natural feeling, it becomes more smooth and calm, the thickness is slightly increased, and overall it is more resistant to hearing but still slightly dry."
    Sounds like something you could say about a glass of wine, to justify it's price.... a bunch of nothing.

    Absolutely correct.

    Round, somewhat insouciant, with only a hint of obtuseness. Mouth feel vaguely reminiscent of an 8 inch crescent wrench.
    Reply
  • ottonis
    malachi.b said:
    I'm an IT guy, firmware audio engineer and did a fair bit of recording on computers over the years.

    This product is 99% marketing nonsense. What Tom's Hardware says is basically true, that you're dealing with ones and zeroes. The 1% truth comes in that unwanted noise is very prominent from the computer and tends to permeate incoming analog signals. External audio ADCs / codecs really get this under control well, but sometimes you do still get bleed.

    I had recordings where you could faintly hear the hard drive in the back of the signal, and it was not because it was directly audible but rather traveled up the Firewire cable itself as digital noise likely into the ADC directly. So, there are conditions where you want to reduce the noise in that context and the extra caps on the SSD could indeed help.

    That said, your by far best bet is to get a better isolated external ADC / Codec and not diddle with the no-win scenario of quieting down the electronics of the PC itself. As one would imagine, it's all about purity of the incoming analog signal.

    And insofar as the SSD directly improving audio quality, creating a thicker sound...that's pure nonsense.

    Once I had a laptop that produced some weird noise whenever I moved the mouse. That noise was indeed creeping into the headphones and was clearly audible.
    So, yes, you might have a point that shielding electronic components may contribute to keeping the signal path from the DAC to the analogue audio output as clean as possible.
    That being said, most people who are halfway serious about hi-fi music will use external audio devices.
    Reply
  • Neilbob
    Maybe they're hoping people who think Beats are high quality headphones will buy these.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    malachi.b said:
    This product is 99% marketing nonsense. What Tom's Hardware says is basically true, that you're dealing with ones and zeroes. The 1% truth comes in that unwanted noise is very prominent from the computer and tends to permeate incoming analog signals. External audio ADCs / codecs really get this under control well, but sometimes you do still get bleed.
    With the amount of stuff between the SSD and analog output (an entire PC), there is practically no way in hell that whatever noise may be caused directly by the SSD isn't getting swamped by incidental noise from PCIe, chipset, GPU, CPU, RAM, peripherals, etc.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    Digital is 1's and 0's.
    This drive imparts a 1.1. Richer, rounder, warmer sound.

    Closer to the original vinyl, especially if you're sampling 78RPM vinyl, from the Before Times.
    Similar to the oxygen infused, or oxygen free cables.



    As the manufacturer states:
    pSLC mode: There is a special natural feeling, it becomes more smooth and calm, the thickness is slightly increased, and overall it is more resistant to hearing but still slightly dry.

    The thickness....
    Reply
  • Nolonar
    I think it's time for me to sell nail clippers for audiophiles.

    With the proper trim, your nails are less likely to interfere with the sound waves coming out of your speakers, allowing for a richer, rounder, warmer sound quality even more real than real.

    /s
    Reply
  • OMGPWNTIME
    As someone who has always been obsessed with audio quality; I've always used high quality DACs with quality AD/DA converters into quality studio monitors, I will never understand the absurd amount of garbage people seem to believe with regards to audio. It's no surprise there's an endless amount of products tailored to their nonsense. From those outrageously stupid expensive cables to forcing ASIO always or magical wave transformation. Of course you wan't decent quality cables but you can get those for less than $60. People don't seem to even understand the purpose of ASIO through a DAW, or that WASAPI is fully capable of bit perfect audio. The easiest improvement to your audio is set windows audio to 100% to limit the windows mixer interaction (obviously WASAPI exclusive bypasses the mixer always) and match your audio bitrate to your source as windows will resample.
    Reply