It's common knowledge to computer-based digital audio geeks (like myself) that USB is the latest, greatest thing since sliced humble pie. For those who are new to the scene, the Universal Serial Bus is a protocol for easily plugging external hardware devices into a PC or Mac. It's plug-n-play sophistication often (but not always) makes installation a breeze and the fact that devices can be plugged/unplugged without rebooting the 'puter is an absolute miracle. Not all's peaches-n-cream in USB-land, however, as bandwidth limitations can be a problem (if you don't spread the data flow over several bus connections and not through a single port), but with common sense, it can make your techno-life a lot easier - portable and powerful. Having said that, I just have to tell you about my latest, greatest find. The CA-805U2 from Part II is an IDE drive case that can accept any 3 1/4"fixed hard drive or 5 1/2" IDE removable drive bay, CD-RW, DVD-ROM or RW device, and communicate the data to/from the computer via USB 2.0. (USB 2.0 is a new high-speed protocol that's faster than USB 1.x and is already superceding FireWire in popularity - I predict in a few years it'll be firewhat?)

Okay, so what's all the fuss about? For me it means that I can put my computer in a special alcove on the other side of the room, so I don't have to hear the drives and fans. It's completely silent! With the Part II case, I can have my handy-dandy CD-RW sitting on my desk at arm's reach (don't forget to unplug the box's internal fan during assembly, as the CD-RW won't need it). In addition, I have an identical case that can jump through an even more impressive hoop! This one houses a 5 1/2" removable drive bay that lets me swap removable drives without having to reboot the computer. That's right, you heard me: just plug in the drive, turn the Part II case on and the computer auto-recognizes the drive. No multiple reboots, no resetting the BIOS several times - just quick- n-easy access to any drive you want. I use the removable drives as backup media (the removable and box fan noises are more than I like during production, but that's not a biggie during backup). Since the USB 2.0 bus seems to be about 2/3rds the speed of an Ultra-DMA IDE drive, you probably still could use it on most multitrack sessions. Ah, yes... since only the newest computers come equipped with USB 2.0, you'll probably have to buy a multi-port 2.0 PCI card. Mine cost about $30 and Windows XP installed it instantly. In fact, XP saw both the card and the drive case instantly - and I was up and running in a brave-new world in a matter of minutes! MSRP for the Part II drive case is $89. I got mine from for $79. (

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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