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microSD Card Comparison

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  • microSD Card Comparison

    In the few months I have been part of the 1010 team, there have been SO MANY posts, questions, and comments regarding microSD cards, their capabilities, shortcomings, and failures. I decided to do a short and simple test to gain (hopefully) some insight as to which cards are better suited to the blackbox. Below, are my results.

    Navigating all of the various card specs, delegations, and features can be confusing because finding definitive explanations for each of these specs can be somewhere between frustrating and impossible. To make matters worse, how - exactly - do these various combinations of specs affect US...electronic musicians? And more specifically, blackbox owners!

    My take away from this is to use cards with the A1 (or higher) spec as these cards are meant to be used in devices that stream apps and data as a normal condition of operation. Next, HOW you format your microSD card is also important for seamless operation. I can report that DiskUtility (MacOS) claims to be able to execute exFAT formatting. However, I have found DiskUtility to be unreliable for exFAT as it relates to the blackbox. I use SD Card Formatter to format cards for the Blackbox (and other devices). It is developed and maintained by the SD Association, cross-platform, and free.

    You can find SD Card Formatter here:

    Please let me know if you have any questions about the results or my process.

    The Test Parameters:
    1. Start with microSD card
    2. Format using SD Card Formatter (Mac OS 10.14.6 - Mojave).
    3. Record a 32 bar (63 sec) audio loop into all 16 pads.
    4. Stop all audio playback
    5. Add one pad/loop at a time until failure
    6. Repeat steps with all pads in Clip Mode

    (All Pads Contain 32 bar (63 sec) Sample Mode Loops. All Pads in Toggle Mode. All Loops Recorded in Real-time. Some loops played Forward — Some in Reverse. Some Forward Loop —Some Bi-directional)
    Brand Size Card Specs Num. of Playable Loops Num. of Loops @ Failure # Reboots FX? CPU %
    CPU %
    Audio Processor
    Thread % Avg
    PNY 64GB Turbo. U3. XC1 13 14 0 NO 62% 97% 85% Audio dropout at failure. 14 pads in Clip mode
    SP 128GB U3. A1. V30. XC1 15 16 0 NO 65% 93% 84-94% Audio dropout at failure
    Sandisk 128GB C10. A1. V10. XC1 15 16 0 NO 65% 89% 92% Audio failure after 30-60 sec. After stopping playback, CPU: 7%. PCM: 255-800%
    Kingston (blackbox stock) 8GB C4. HC 10 11 2 NO 66% 80% 83-97% Reboot while recording loop #11. 8 pads in Clip mode (PCM overload)
    San Disk Ultra 512GB U1. C10. A1. XC1. 13 14 0 NO 77% 93% 93% Audio dropout at failure. 13 pads in Sample mode. 12 pads in Clip mode
    Samsung EVO Select 128GB U3. XC1 14 15 0 NO 80% 98% 93% Audio dropout at failure. 13 pads in Clip mode
    Select Plus
    (stock card for mk2 and micro)
    16GB HC1, U1, V10, A1 16 none 0 No N/A N/A N/A No Audio dropout. No Failure. 16 Clips performed as expected.
    I have attached a spreadsheet I found that lists specs for many microSD cards. This is provided as-is and can be found at:
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Thank you very much for providing this info! I could even see a (perhaps less detailed) section like this living in the manual.


    • #3
      What's is the maximum size card that Blackbox can handle safely?


      • #4
        Not entirely sure....but I do know a 1TB card (A rated), formatted with SD Card Formatter works well!


        • #5
          Thanks Steve. That's enough for me.


          • #6
            Thanks, Steve! That is very valuable info! Glad to see blackbox handling large microSDs :-)

            You state that all your loops were recorded on the blackbox ... that's 24bit 48kHz, isn't it?

            Since the audio processor thread is close to max load @ max number of loops, what penalty would you expect when loading loops with different sampling frequency (e.g. 44.1 kHz if you don't care to convert or 96kHz if you put your studio samples straight into the blackbox)?

            I assume that you use long loops to enforce all loops to be streamed directly from the microSD. Is it correct to assume that shorter samples are cached in RAM and thus are working alongside the maximum number of loops determined here? If so, what is the size limit (roughly) for loops to be streamed from disc vs. loops to be cached?

            Finally, a suggestion: a feature on the blackbox that executes a stress test like would be great ... some process that mimics your workflow e.g. the user selects a loop, blackbox puts it on all pads and starts hiking up pad playback every x seconds until blackbox reaches e.g. 90% resource utilization (or whatever you consider a good safety margin for live performance without dropouts). With such a performance check in batch mode you could test your microSD with your typical loops ???


            • #7
              All loops were recorded to blackbox so I wasn't using any of the stock content. You'd have to ask Aaron for a more precise description, but the blackbox streams everything from disk so it has to do (currently) with how the software caches the audio...And while the system can handle all audio bit depths and sample rates, the higher quality formats will, obviously, put a harder load on the processor.


              • #8
                What card do you recommend? If I read the chart right, looks like the San Disk 128gb was the most stable?


                • #9
                  Originally posted by KnobTwister View Post
                  What card do you recommend? If I read the chart right, looks like the San Disk 128gb was the most stable?
                  That particular card did perform well. What is more important is the card spec. I find that cards with the 'A' designation seem to work best for blackbox because 'A' cards are meant for streaming apps and data from newer devices.


                  • #10
                    Did you do an overwrite format or just regular?


                    • Steve
                      Steve commented
                      Editing a comment

                  • #11
                    Quick update: I got a new Sandisk SD card that's even better than the best one listed above: SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC UHS-I U3 A2 V30 128GB

                    It's more expensive than the U1/A1/V10 version, but it's definitely worth it. The two presets that were failing on me (SL Cinematic Tension and SL Dark Ambient) now play flawlessly with all 16 pads playing simultaneously!

                    I got it on (yep, Canuck here), but I'm sure you can find it elsewhere:


                    • Steve
                      Steve commented
                      Editing a comment
                      thanks for sharing this.

                  • #12
                    I've been having good luck with this one so far.


                    • mchlnrvs
                      mchlnrvs commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I bought this one per your recommendation. thanks! did you format first?

                  • #13
                    fabioneves Is this the card that works well ?


                    Thank you!


                    • #14
                      Originally posted by Fotopaul View Post
                      fabioneves Is this the card that works well ?


                      Thank you!
                      It's not the exact same one but the specs match, I'd go for it!


                      • #15
                        whats the maximum capacity allowed for the sd card please? how do I load pads?