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Thread: Using ORB2.2 Gig drive with VS880-EX

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    A few weeks ago someone recommended using the Castlewood ORB 2.2 Gig external SCSI drive with the Roland VS880-EX for song backup / additional working space. After taking this excellent advice I decided to pass along a few tips on using the ORB drive in the hope of helping others avoid the problems I encountered.

    First of all, let me say that the ORB works like a champ – once you find everything needed to hook it up, which, for me, wasn’t easy. Nevertheless, it is definitely the way to go. It’s like having another hard drive – only with infinite, portable, space. You can work from the ORB just like it is the internal hard drive (it actually is a hard drive). The 1 Gig partitions (drives) are even exactly the same size (540 recording minutes). This allows you to copy all the songs on an entire drive (partition) from the hard drive to the ORB and have the ORB’s drive (partition) look exactly the same as the original drive (partition). More about that later.

    I found an ORB 2.2 Gig external SCSI drive on the net for only $161 – about the cost of a 100 MB or 250 MB Zip drive. The ORB drive comes with one removable 2.2 Gig disk and extra disks are only about $30 a pop: dirt-cheap compared to Zip disks equaling the comparable space. Unfortunately, getting a (usable) product wasn’t quite that easy or cheap. I quickly found the disks are in short supply. The first three or four dealers I checked with had a six-month back order for disks (if it says “call” under “availability”, you better do it). I finally found disks available at Solutions4sure.com and ordered the drive ($179.95) and two extra disks ($29.95 each).

    More problems to overcome: the ORB’s I/O and furnished cable are SCSI 2 (50 pins) and the VS880-EX’s are SCSI 1 (25 pins), so I also ordered an adapter ($10.99). A Roland rep told me that, despite the ORB (supposedly) being internally terminated, I need to use an external terminator plug, so I also ordered one ($51.99). So, even though it originally looked like I could buy a drive for $161 and be up and running, with the extra disks and other junk I was out $308.78.

    All four items were each shipped from different warehouses. The drive arrived in a miraculous two days, but I couldn’t use it yet, as I needed the adapter and terminator, which both arrived on day 8. The disks came on day 5. I needed a 50-pin female / 25 pin male adapter and the one I received was the opposite gender. Not good! More bad news: the terminator had 62 pins. After waiting for over a week, I was still out of business! I called Solutions4sure.com and they agreed to allow me to return the two incorrect items, but they didn’t have what I needed. Wanting to be able to use my new drive as soon as possible, money became no object, and I gave up on the Internet and headed for the local computer mega-store. I couldn’t find a SCSI 2 -> SCSI 1 adapter and had to settle for a $45 SCSI 1 / SCSI 2 cable. The store also didn’t have a 50-pin terminator. So, as the ORB literature stated the drive was internally terminated and did not need to be externally terminated, I decided to ignore Roland’s recommendation and go home and give it a shot without the terminator. This proved to be a poor (but not fatal) decision.

    When I hooked the ORB up to the VS-880-EX everything looked good. The drive was recognized, and it only took about ten seconds to initiate the entire 2.2 Gig disk – as opposed to the ten minutes the manual says it takes to initiate a 100 MB Zip disk. That damn sure looked promising. The ORB operated just like the internal hard drive. The 2.2 Gig disk was divided into three partitions: SC5:0, SC5:1 and SC5:2 – in less than 10 seconds! The first two partitions were 1 Gig each, and the second .2 Gig. The first two were exactly like partitions on the hard drive showing the same 540 minutes of record time (1 Gig) as the hard drive partitions: room enough for 10 – 15 songs. The third showed about 70 minutes (the remaining .2 Gig) just leaving room for one small song. Not bad for a thirty buck disk!

    All three partitions on my internal drive were full (35 songs) and I wanted to copy all the songs to the ORB. It couldn’t be easer. I selected the first song on drive (partition) IDE:0, punched “Song” until “copy” came up, selected ‘Playable”, then “All” and all 9 songs on IDE:0 copied to the ORB’s first partition (SC5:0), showing the exact same 29 minutes of remaining recording time as IDE:0 on the hard drive showed. Talk about backup! IDE:0 and SC5:0 were exact duplicates of each other. It only took about a minute or so per song to copy the data, and the VS880-EX showed the progress by displaying the song number and percent completed (13 or 14 minutes for the entire process). I then copied all 11 songs from IDE:1 to the ORB’s second partition (SC5:1). As the third partition on the ORB disk (SC5:2) had only 70 minutes available, I opted to copy all 15 songs from IDE:2 to the first partition of a second ORB disk, leaving the entire 540 minutes of the second partition (SC5:1) of the second disk available, plus 70 minutes on SC5:2.

    The lack of an external terminator reared its ugly head when I tried to play back the songs copied to the ORB’s disk. At first everything seemed copasetic. The first song I selected played, as it should. However, I soon began to experience lots of glitches and the Roland finally locked up, causing me to kill power and restart. I had never experienced a “lock up” on the VS880-EX before, nor powered it off without a normal shutdown, so I was worried about what was going to happen. No sweat. The Roland powered back up as if it had been shut down correctly (no data loss). After many more lock-ups and restarts, and a lot of very loud, and very blue language emphasizing the use of the “F” word, it became apparent to even the most casual observer that the Roland people knew a hell of a lot more about ORB drives then I do (or evidently the good folks at Castelwood do), and I begrudgingly launched on a quest for a 50 pin terminator, which I eventually found at Fry’s for $29.95.

    Once I plugged in the terminator everything was golden. The ORB drive functioned exactly like the internal hard drive. You can’t tell the difference. As stated above, the partitions are even exactly the same size. I can now either work off the internal drive, or the ORB, plus have the safety of all songs being located in at least two different places as a backup - infinite recording room.

    A few pointers:

    Be sure to set the ORB to SCSI 5.

    Always let the ORB power up (with a disk installed) before powering up the VS880-EX. The 880 will immediately start looking for the “SCSI” drive and if the ORB isn’t spun up, displaying a steady green light, you may have to shut down the Roland and re-start. Waiting the few extra seconds for the ORB to do its thing is well worthwhile.

    You can move between IDE:0, 1,and 2 and SC5:0, 1, and 2 powered up, but to change disks in the ORB, you must power everything down. The Roland needs to start up with the disk you intend to use already in the ORB (and spun up). Everything seems to “tilt” if you try to eject the ORB disk while the VS880-EX powered up. All in all, a small price to pay for infinite space.

    If you shut down the Roland while one of the ORB partitions are selected (in use), the ORB will eject the disk on shut down (as it should). If you have one of the IDEs selected the ORB will not automatically eject the disk on shut down. You may even have to cycle the ORB off and on to get it to eject the disk. If you don’t mind leaving the disk in the ORB, none of this matters anyway. However, the ORB literature says to remove the disk when not in use, and I do it (I leave it in the drive, but in the ejected position).

    If you have selected one of the ORB drive’s (partitions) but don’t access it for awhile (15 minutes, I think) it goes into a “sleep” mode and if you do a “save” you will get an “Error” message telling you the drive isn’t ready. I have found that once the drive spins back up (a few seconds) everything eventually catches up and the “save” is accomplished. Just to play it safe, it may be better to “wake up” the ORB before doing a save. It will “wake up” if you do anything to access it: play a song, hit fast forward or reverse, change a “scene”, etc.

    All in all, despite requiring an extra cable (or cheaper, an adapter – if you can find one) and external terminator, the ORB is definitely the best bang for the buck. Once I plugged in the terminator the ORB never missed a lick and is as reliable and fast as the internal hard drive. It allows me to store an infinite number of songs in a playable condition and keep multiple copies for backup. I could save disk space and “archive” songs to the ORB disks, but they aren’t playable, and as cheap as disks are (if you can find them), it isn’t worth the hassle of restoring, etc. If the supply of disks ever catches up with the demand they will be even cheaper. Some dealers offer a three pack for about $60 (what I paid for 2) – they just don’t have the disks to fill orders yet. Besides, at 2.2 Gigs per disk, you don’t need more than three to more than double the (3 Gig) hard disk’s capacity.

    If you alter a song on the hard drive, you will probably want to copy the updated version to an ORB disk for back up. If you copy the updated version to the same drive (partition) the original version is already copied on, it will not over-write the original, but instead be copied as a new song with a new number and same name. You can then delete the original, un-updated version. Obviously, the same holds true for the reverse procedure, going from ORB to internal drive. I always make damn sure I have good copies of the revised song before deleting the old version. A fail safe method is to copy the revised song to a different disk, or at least different partition then the old version is on. Then, once you are sure the copy is OK, delete the old version of the song.
    I think the Orb drive is definitely superior to all other forms of back up currently available. Of course song data can be backed up on less expensive CDs utilizing the optional Roland VS-CDRII CD burner (about $540), but the songs can only be “archived” and are not saved in a playable condition. This does not allow you additional “working room.” Plus, archived CDR’s can’t be updated, and adding archive data to a CDRW requires totally deleting the original data. None of that is user friendly. Zip drives offer the choice of copying playable or archived songs, but cost ten times as much for comparable disk space: it takes sixty 100 MB disks, or twenty-four 25 MB disks to equal three 2.2 Gig Orb disks, plus as songs tend to run 75 –150 MB, unless you did a lot of mixing and matching of songs, trying to come up with the magic 100 or 250 MB, there would be a lot of left over unusable space on the small Zip disks.

    My next venture is transferring my songs to audio CD. I should have a Marantz CDR 500 in a few days and I’ll report how it works.



    D. Larry Patterson
    D. Larry Patterson

  2. #2
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    Thanks for the info.I've got 2 VS machines now and I've been looking at the posts about the Orb on VS planet and your post here answered almost all my questions.

  3. #3
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    Will the ORB work for the VS1680 ?

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    Thank for your so detail information about ORB drive. The castlewood usually do not mention the number of pin of the terminator, I don't even know there is a 62 pins terminator! Anyway, I think your info will help a lot people.

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    ORB with 1680

    I'm glad my info was useful. As far as I know the ORB will work on all VS machines, the 1680 included. It wouldn't hurt to check with Roland to make sure. They highly recommended the ORB for my VS-880EX and I bet the same is true for the 1680.
    D. Larry Patterson

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    BTW,I saw some of the parts you mentioned,the adapter,in a local Megalomusicmart tonight.I was in a hurry and don't remember the prices,but they were lower I think than what you quoted above.

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