flash drive as 24/7 music storage?


I just ordered a Rasp3 and a Nanosound DAC. Now I am pondering on, what kind of storage I should use for my music (about 120Gb in total).
I want to connect it directly to the Raspberry via USB. It should be silent (no fans). It should have a long lifespan. It should work without problems (no technical problems with esoteric power saving modes).

Instead of buying an ssd or an external low rpm hdd, I thought about getting a simple 256GB flash drive for 80€. As I want to use it mainly for reading data, I would assume that the life expectancy should be rather high. A headless rasp3 should also have enough power.

Is there anything that would speak against it? What are you using?

You won’t need a SSD for that as speed is not essential. I do advice you to check what is the biggest micro SD a Pi3 can read. I had a 64 GB one and it works fine, however, I did hear somewhere the is a limit. The number of GB can also be different if you use a USB adapter. If it can’t take a 256GB micro SD then a USB SSD will be the only other option for your requirement.

I set Volumio up as you described. I used a 128GB micro SDXC card, which I can confirm will work. If I wanted a 256 GB card I’d take the Samsung EVO Plus, as that is listed on elinux.org as being compatible with RPi3 on Debian, which is the OS Volumio runs on.

I’m not aware of anything that would speak against this setup.

External HDDs, SSDs or large USB drives which protrude from the case are clunky solutions. There is simply something wrong when the storage device for audio files is larger and requires more power than the player it’s hooked up to. At least in terms of size, a nano USB drive works well, but in my experience these are highly unreliable, get very hot, and don’t last long when run 24/7. They sacrifice endurance for the ability to advertise higher read/write speeds.

For normal setups, the SD card is what the RPi boots the OS from. If you can use the same SD card for audio file storage I’d say that’s the best approach. This uses the least power, it doesn’t get hot, and it’s still far faster than anything you’d ever need for audio file playback. More importantly, any non-essential hardware you can remove from your setup makes it simpler and more robust, as there are fewer places where things can break or go wrong. That’s always a good approach.

Volumio shares the /data/INTERNAL/ folder over SMB, which is intended as the place where you store your audio files. This allows you to copy new music to your RPi over your LAN, without having to remove the SD card. I synchronize all music between my main storage (Synology NAS) and the RPi using rsync.

As an added bonus, an RPi without additional storage devices or cables hanging off it simply looks better. :wink:

I store music files on a 64GB USB flash drive. There’s nothing particularly high performance about the drive and power consumption would be quite low. About 5,000 files/ drive is half full. It works perfectly fine. It is synchronized/ managed from a Windows PC using FreeFileSync/ SFTP over Wifi so the drive doesn’t need to be physically removed or accessible from outside the enclosure. Too easy.

Thanks for the hints. I bought a 256gb sd card and (so far) it works like a charm.

That’s interesting to know that higher capacity sd cards work. Would you mind stating the make and type for people in the future looking for this?

It is good to see that a 256GB card works on a RPi 3. According to this list (elinux.org/RPi_SD_cards) someone has problems with a 512gb card.

The reason I said to check if it can take a 256gb card is that some of the Pi clones have a limit. I am playing around with a Banana Pi M2 Zero and it stated the micro SD card slot is limited to 32gb. Armbian support for the BPi M2 Zero is still limited so I am not able to build Volumio on it yet.

Two years in a row, I set up a 24/7 music player at my parent’s house with a RPi, and both times, in less than a year, the USB drive was unreadable when I tried to access it. For some reason, both USB sticks didn’t last that period of time and suffered the same symptoms. There could be several reasons, and I have not had the time to investigate which it could be:

  1. The USB stick is damaged when operating for so long under power (not meant to run continuous duty?)
  2. The Flash memory is written too many times by the Pi and Volumio app which causes it to wear out.
  3. Some other O/S flaw writes too much data to the stick rendering it unuseable over time.

So my recommendation is to tread carefully when running your USB thumb drive continuously. You don’t want to end up like I did where all my downloaded albums are stranded on an unreadable thumb drive.

At the very least back up your collection somewhere you can create a new drive with it without having to rip all your music again.

USB is not written in any way (the only chance is when you RIP a CD to it), so I don’t think 2 or 3 might apply.