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Question I need a SAS Expander card but what about the specs? x16 versus x8 and 12Gb/s versus 6Gb/s...

cemster

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Sep 21, 2020
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Hi,
I found myself in need of a SAS expander card to accommodate my Z590 series motherboard that I am running an audio workstation with. Which only comes with 6 HDD Bays.

I am not going to RAID. I need 6 ports. So they are gonna be 12 total with my MOBO. They should support at least 8 TB drives, and they are all going to be needed at any given moment in my workflow.

But most of the cards I found Googling are either: x1, x2, x4, or Lanes are not mentioned at all.

And then there is 6Gb/s versus 12Gb/s cards... I've heard that the performance is %30 better with the latter.

I am perplexed about which specs I should chase. Which would be good enough? Obviously, I'd like a fast and reliable card.

So help on the subject and also maybe some specific card suggestions would be appreciated.
 
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thecoolnessrune

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Jun 8, 2005
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Do you need a SAS Expander? Or do you need a SAS HBA? A SAS expander takes SAS as an input, and outputs more SAS Ports. They're usually used as backplanes in rack servers where the server already has a SAS Controller. A SAS HBA would be a SAS Controller that doesn't do RAID and in typical cases uses a PCI-e slot to create SAS Ports. Does it need to handle the speeds of SSDs? Or is it for HDDs only? When you say good enough, are you shopping used? Or are you shopping new and current generation with current drivers and firmware? What OS are you running this on?
 

cemster

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Sep 21, 2020
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I am on Win 10. SAS HBA would be okay. I thought, maybe in the near future I might RAID my main system drive with the daily fresh data for backup. But it's not a must!
However, the SSD/HDD ratio in my system might change by more SSDs replacing HDDs. Or 2.M drives in a bit more far future... :)
But at the moment, I have 2 SSDs and 10 HDDs that need to be armed and ready.

I didn't think of shopping used or not, well I couldn't really find a card that has all these specs, yet..
 

thecoolnessrune

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Running Windows 10 means you can get by with almost anything, as there's likely either built-in drivers, or generic drivers that work. If you have spare PCI-e slots, a Highpoint 640L HBA gives you 4 SATA Ports for less than $100, doesn't need any active cooling, and is based on a Marvell controller that is just fine on Windows. The downside is that it's just PCIe 2.0 4x lanes. That's more than enough for 4 HDDs, but you might have just a little bandwidth limitation with 4 SSDs at full throttle simultaneously (personally I don't think it's enough to worry about).

If you don't want higher port density, or something that can handle SSDs and SAS, the Broadcom 9300-8i is a gold standard for HBAs, is regularly supported with Driver and Firmware updates, and has enough PCIe bandwidth to support All-Flash connectivity. It's about $350.

If you want the "All-In" version that can do PCIe 4.0 for SAS, SATA, or NVMe connectivity, that's the Broadcom 9500-8i. Last time I saw it available, it was around $500. With the Silicon shortage it's pretty hard to get a hold of.

All of these are available used to for cheaper, but of course you'll have to watch out for counterfeits.
 
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cemster

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Sep 21, 2020
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Thank you so much... These were very informative. It's still hazy but at least I can see around a bit... :)

I will study these a bit further and then I'll be back bothering you...

cheers
 

mxnerd

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Jul 6, 2007
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Maybe


 
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thecoolnessrune

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Maybe


Agreed the 9201-16i is a great option for 16 ports on one card, especially if their hard drives. I think the biggest issue is usually trying to find a non-fake one used. They are counterfeited incredibly often just like the Intel NICs. Not that counterfeit one will necessarily have problems, but it's something to be on the lookout for. The only other thing I'd note is that the 16 port card is a 16W monster, and in Desktop scenarios they should definitely have a little 40mm Noctua fan or similar pointing at the heatsink to keep thermals under control, since the heatsinks on those HBAs are always tiny (even on genuine cards). In servers / workstations it's not a problem because the midplane fans keep enough air going over the PCIe slots. But in a Desktop scenario those lower PCIe slots are usually on their own with little-to-no direct airflow. They can operate at high temperatures (over 110C IIRC), but you can build a lot of safety margin in by removing the heatsink, scraping off the old hardened compound, putting on some Arctic Silver or preferred decent thermal paste, and aiming a 40mm quiet fan at them. Will be more than enough to keep it cool in a desktop scenario.
 
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cemster

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Sep 21, 2020
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Thank you for your suggestions.
All I need is 6 extra ports. And at the moment, they all are going to hook up 6GB/s SATA drives. So maybe, for now, I should just get a cheaper card; an x8 6Gbs&s one and seize the day...
 

Billy Tallis

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Aug 4, 2015
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I think the biggest issue is usually trying to find a non-fake one used. They are counterfeited incredibly often just like the Intel NICs.
Are there really counterfeit LSI HBAs out there, or are there just a lot of listings using the LSI/Broadcom card names but actually selling re-branded and OEM-specific cards based on the same chips and same or nearly-identical firmware?
 

cemster

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Sep 21, 2020
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Thank you for the suggestions but I feel like I should at least have a PCIe 3 card. Perhaps I don't exactly know what I am talking about but it feels like there is some importance
in that...

When you are the guy who had built your system and in fact that you are not an engineer you end up reading and trying to learn tones and tones of information that eventually you want to forget. I am a composer/arranger and there is already enough of a steep and never-ending learning curve in my own area, I am miserable to lurk around forums trying to figure out things that I don't really need and essentially not my thing... First Windows and then hardware. I can't spend time working on music! So, I truly hate the experience but...

I am glad these places and these communities exists, otherwise, none of this would have been possible. So thank you, everybody, that chipped in, I appreciate you...
 
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mxnerd

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I have no idea about audio station software processing , but the Tidal HiFi lossless music consume just around 1Mbps. Nowadays 8TB disk sequential reading or writing is about 200MB/s and 1Byte = 8 bits. The bandwidth of PCIE 2.0 X 8 lanes = 4GB/s . Don't know why you will need PCIE 3.0?

 
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cemster

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Sep 21, 2020
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There will be lots of samples and sound data that is not HiFi. Also project data, some of them huge... There will be raw video footage that goes back and forth.

What I understood (not deeply) V3 is double the speed and the performance of V2. As what the V4 did for V3... Now, I didn't know how my Nas Hdds were going to be affected, but your math shows that it won't be, not even close... But how about an SSD (a regular one)? I have a feeling my SSDs might be happier with V3.00... I can't say I know for sure... Yet.... :)

Thank you guys
 
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mxnerd

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Regular SSD's bandwidth is limited at 6 Gbps, same as HDD SATA 3.0. Nowadays standard SSD is over 500MB/s, so probably 2.5X faster than HDD.

If you want anything over 6Gbps without using RAID , you will need a NVMe slot & a NVMe drive.

My 1TB Crucial SSD ATTO benchmark
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mxnerd

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Found Mozart: Violin concerto in D major - Allegro , a 9min 14s DSD 256 sample file size in 1.4GB (about 12Mbps) on the following website


If you save it as another file on an SSD, it will take less than 3s. And on a 200MB/s HDD, it will take about 7s.

If you constantly work with big files, see if PrimoCache can speed up the system
 
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cemster

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Sep 21, 2020
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Interesting...
I tried to understand if the Primocache uses available Ram or not, and I failed! :)
I have 128 GB Ram, I wonder would that be, any factor or not? A second thought is that,
I wonder if the process that Pcache applies to the HDD, would add any extra stress to the drive?
I, for example, always turn the search index off to avoid extra HDD friction...

I don't have SSD 860 Pro which is @ 560 MB/s
But I have 2x Samsung SSD 870 EVO

This is what has been said about it in a Samsıng SSD 860 Pro review:
"The theoretical peak sequential read speed for PCI Express 3.0 x4 drives is much faster—3,940MBps,
although the fastest one we've tested in-house at this writing is the Samsung SSD 870 EVO,
which topped out at 3,372MBps read speed in the Crystal DiskMark 6 benchmark."


Of course, if I was buying SSDs today I wouldn't consider an old-school SSD. Yet, I am grateful that I have them.
And it seems that the general conception is in favor of PCIe 3.0 considering SSD drives.
 
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mxnerd

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Jul 6, 2007
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Interesting...
I tried to understand if the Primocache uses available Ram or not, and I failed! :)
I have 128 GB Ram, I wonder would that be, any factor or not? A second thought is that,
I wonder if the process that Pcache applies to the HDD, would add any extra stress to the drive?
I, for example, always turn the search index off to avoid extra HDD friction...

I don't have SSD 860 Pro which is @ 560 MB/s
But I have 2x Samsung SSD 870 EVO

This is what has been said about it in a Samsıng SSD 860 Pro review:
"The theoretical peak sequential read speed for PCI Express 3.0 x4 drives is much faster—3,940MBps,
although the fastest one we've tested in-house at this writing is the Samsung SSD 870 EVO,
which topped out at 3,372MBps read speed in the Crystal DiskMark 6 benchmark."


Of course, if I was buying SSDs today I wouldn't consider an old-school SSD. Yet, I am grateful that I have them.
And it seems that the general conception is in favor of PCIe 3.0 considering SSD drives.
They must have mentioned the wrong model. SATA 3.0 top bandwidth is 6.0 Gbps.

(Your) Samsung SSD 870 EVO uses SATA interface, not PCIE 3.0. How can it top out at 3,372MBps?


The drive they mentioned probably is Samsung 970 EVO NVMe drive.


Run CrystalDiskMark on your 870 EVO SSD and post the benchmark result.
 

cemster

Member
Sep 21, 2020
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That's where I got that comment from:

Naah! I won't run any benchmark... :)

I believe you...

But one more thing I can ask you though...
Which I mentioned before; This; separate Chipset's lane business, what's that all about?
 

cemster

Member
Sep 21, 2020
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Oops! Sorry, that was mentioned elsewhere...

There was a link that was posted for me there:
"Found this page which has a very nice run through of PCI-E lanes and expansion possibilities for different uses/scenarios: https://www.cgdirector.com/guide-to-pcie-lanes/"

I replayed:
"I did stumble upon and check that page. Not entirely then, but now that I read the whole thing, I found out that 4 lanes are actually enough to support an NVMe SSD...
To tell you the truth reading more made it less intelligible for me. Now, I have to understand where (probably in BIOS) and how to figure out to choose and assign CPU or Chipsets lanes?

So the 24 CPU-provided lanes you mentioned before are not the whole story? Now, I also have Chipset lanes in the picture! Damn..."
 

mxnerd

Diamond Member
Jul 6, 2007
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The fact is that even a slow HDD has way more bandwidth than your job need, why would you care about anything faster than SATA interface or even how many PCIE lanes the whole system has? Any modern PC with any chipset can handle audio related tasks easily. A simple SATA SSD drive is all you need, and you already have 2 SATA SSDs. Don't even know why you need 128GB RAM to run an audio workstation?
 

cemster

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Sep 21, 2020
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Ahh! Now that you've mentioned it. You don't need 128 GB Ram for Music production... Yet...
64 GB Ram is enough even for most demanding projects. But... About 8 and a half years ago,
when I built my first WS, people were making fun of me, choosing 64GB of Ram for my WS...
Nobody is making fun of me for 5-6 years now...

Some orchestral projects require an enormous amount of sample instruments loaded together. When you add hundreds of plugins to the equation and the fact that the amount of Ram these things desire, getting higher and higher, It's not very hard to see that the future is not too far away...
 

mxnerd

Diamond Member
Jul 6, 2007
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I said I'm not in the industry and I had no idea. I just posted what I googled randomly regarding audio software.

You are an audio pro and just find the forum that suits you better. I'm done.
 
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LikeLinus

Lifer
Jul 25, 2001
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He's saying, you're asking in the wrong place. Ask a forum that specializes in this specific topic.

Maybe talk to a company who builds work stations for audio engineers?

Tell them what you are trying to achieve and what hardware they recommend. If you're actually working in the industry, I'm surprised you wouldn't buy a purpose built machine. DIY is not where I would invest time for something that is mission critical. Especially if you don't have knowledge in the hardware side of the profession.
 

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