Sunday, October 2, 2011

Adding eSATA capability to the Roland VS-2400CD digital recorder. Part 1, redux

[Note: this is an update to a previously posted article. My former mod didn't complete successfully due to the unavailability of an UltraDMA-compatible male-to-male IDE cable. I started over with different parts and was finally able to complete the mod].

I have been the happy owner of a Roland VS-2400CD digital recorder studio since 2003. It is an all-in-one digital audio workstation. It has served me very well, with its 8 built-in mic preamps, 24 bit / 96 khZ DACs, hard drive, motorized faders, keyboard / mouse / VGA connections, you name it, it has got it.

Except for one glaring omission : any kind of computer connection. The Roland VS-2400CD has no USB port, not even USB 1.0 . There is an R-BUS connection. This is a proprietary Roland interface, which can only export 8 tracks at a time rather than the VS-2400CD 24 tracks and 384 V-tracks, and it can do so at no more than 1x speed, and it depends on having an R-BUS interface card in the computer. The Roland RPC-1 PCI card was discontinued a long time ago. I bought one used on ebay, and the driver was a disaster under Windows 7 64-bit - it killed all power management - I could no longer put the cmoputer to sleep. So I resold the card. Also, PCI slots are disappearing in newer computers, in favor of PCI-express. There is a V-Fire Firewire R-BUS interface. Unfortunately, it doesn't support Windows 64-bit, which I currently use. And the product has been "end of-lifed". My computer didn't come with a Firewire interface also. Many don't, though this can usually be remedied via an add-on card. I do have a PCI add-on card that provides Firewire, among other things. Unlike its big brother, the VS-2480, the VS-2400 does not have a SCSI interface, which rules out connecting SCSI hard disks - also rare beasts nowadays.

In fact, the only reliable way to export data to the computer until now has been to burn projects or tracks as WAV files to CD-R or CD-RW media. This is an excruciatingly slow process, as the VS-2400CD only burns at 4x speed, regardless of the media, and even if you install a faster CD burner in the machine, which I have previously tried.

I finally had enough with the VS-2400CD and started looking for a better solution to the PC data exchange problem. I'm happy to report that I was able to resolve the issue. The goal of this modification is to add a very fast eSATA port to the VS-2400CD so that modern external SATA hard drives can be connected, as well as potentially SATA card readers or SATA SSDs.

I bought many adapters, and spent much of the last month testing. There are the parts I recommend :

  1. A Kingwin SATA to IDE converter, model ADP-06, which costs about $10 online. I actually found this at Micro Center on closeout for $6.99 . This adapter comes with the Molex power adapter you need to power it directly from the VS-2400CD power supply. It also has a male 40-pin IDE connector, the same one found on the back of an IDE hard drive, so you can use the same IDE cable to connect it to the VS-2400CD motherboard. And finally, it supports UltraDMA speeds, which is required to work with the VS-2400CD.
  2. A BYTECC SATA male to SATA male adapter, model SATA-180MM, which costs about $4. This is a very rare adapter. Even in Silicon Valley, I couldn't find it locally anywhere. I had to order it from Newegg.
  3. A Kingwin eSATA PCI bracket , which costs $5 . I had one of these one lying around, it came with an eSATA enclosure. Mine was single port. This item is not common at retail stores. If you are in the SF Bay Area, Central Computers carries an eSATA bracket. It doesn't matter how many ports the bracket has, as only one will be used, and will be unscrewed from the bracket.
  4. A Thermalake BlacX ST0005U eSATA dock for 2.5/3.5 SATA drives, which costs $32. It comes with the eSATA cable you will need. It has no fan, which is very nice when recording. It has a cover door, so 2.5" drives aren't loose. The drive is still exposed, however, so this is not ideal for gigs. Finally, the dock supports both eSATA and USB 2.0. Most computers don't come with eSATA ports, but have USB 2.0 ports, which comes in handy for transferring the data to your computer. You could probably use any good eSATA+USB enclosure instead as long as it only supports one SATA drive, has only one eSATA port, and has no other gizmos like built-in card readers. I also looked for 2.5 eSATA enclosures, but couldn't find any that had a power supply for the drive. If you are really strapped for cash, it should be noted that there are less expensive eSATA/USB enclosures, in the $20 range, from Kingwin and Unitek, but they aren't as nice as the Thermalake.
  5. A SATA hard drive, either 2.5" or 3.5". The ideal capacity is 120GB, as that is the maximum the VS-2400CD will recognize. I tried a Western Digital Scorpio Blue 2.5" 120 GB SATA hard drive and it worked fine. I also verified that other hard drives are recognized. Seagate 3.5" 1.5 TB and 2 TB SATA drives also work, but only the first 120 GB of them can be used, so it is a waste. The actual hard drive I ended up using is a Western Digital WD1600 160GB SATA hard drive, which I got for $15 off Craigslist. Low capacity hard drives are hard to come by as new these days, so craigslist is probably your best bet. You can find some new laptop drives in the 100-200 GB range, but they don't come cheap due to their small size.
Thus, the total cost of the modification not including the SATA hard drive is $51.

You will need the following tools and other supplies :
  1. A Philips screwdriver.
  2. A smaller cross screwdriver.
  3. A drill.
  4. A metal drill bit.
  5. Superglue.
Here are the full steps for this modification :
  1. Open the VS-2400CD case and set it in the upright position
  2. Disconnect the IDE cable from the the built-in IDE hard drive
  3. Disconnect the Molex power cable from the built-in IDE hard drive
  4. Connect the available end of the IDE cable to the male IDE connector on the SATA bridge
  5. Connect the Molex power supply cable to the power connector SATA bridge
  6. Carefully "cicumsize" one end of the SATA male-male adapter. This means removing the plastic around the connector, so that you will be able to plug it into the SATA bridge. You can use small scissors such as nail scissors. The pieces of plastic will snap right off. You will also need to very slightly cut the plastic on the SATA female connector on the bridge. You will notice that this connection is loose. This is normal and we will resolve this later.
  7. Plug the SATA female cable from the eSATA bracket into the virgin end of the SATA male to male connector.
  8. Plug the eSATA dock into the eSATA bracket using the provided eSATA cable.
  9. Insert the SATA hard drive into the hard drive dock.
  10. Turn on the dock.
  11. Turn on the VS-2400CD.
  12. If you did everything correctly, it will complain about "Not any formatted drives". Use the function keys to let it format it.
  13. Restart the VS-2400CD after the format is complete.
  14. Verify that the VS-2400CD is working properly with the new hard drive. You are half-way done !
  15. Turn off both the VS-2400CD and the SATA dock.
  16. Disconnect the SATA male to male adapter from the bridge.
  17. Apply a very small amount of superglue to the side of the SATA female connector on the bridge. Make sure not to touch the contacts.
  18. Plug the SATA male to male adapter back into the bridge and wait a little bit. There should now be a tight fit.
  19. Disconnect the eSATA bracket from both the bridge and the dock.
  20. Using the small screwdriver, unscrew the eSATA connector from the bracket.
  21. Using a pencil, mark a hole the size of the eSATA connector in the front of the VS-2400CD case, next to the CD burner,
  22. Using a drill and a metal drill bit, carefully cut this hole.
  23. Using the small screwdriver, screw the eSATA connector to the hole in the VS-2400CD case.
  24. Plug the SATA cable back into the glued adapter on the bridge.
  25. Plug the SATA dock in the new eSATA connector in the VS-2400CD.
  26. Turn on both the dock and the VS-2400CD, in that order.
  27. Verify that everything still works and that the VS-2400CD boots up correctly, and sees the SATA drive.
  28. Unscrew and remove the drive tray that's holding the IDE hard drive.
  29. Close the VS-2400CD. You are now done !
You will notice that the VS-2400CD will no longer have a built-in hard drive. This means you will have to use an external drive through an eSATA dock or enclosure from now on. The VS-2400CD will no longer be fully self-contained. You will have to carry your eSATA dock and SATA drive with you. I think these should fit in the official Roland VS-2400CD case.

Here is a picture of what it looks like :



In a future blog post, I will explain how to take full advantage of this hardware modification, and transfer your VS-2400CD projects to your PC .

25 comments:

  1. Re:
    http://blog.madbrain.com/2011/10/adding-esata-capability-to-roland-vs.html

    Hi,

    My name is Felix and I live in Los Angeles. I bought my VS2400 in 2005 not knowing the burden of backing up with CD's + other issues along the way... I was impressed and inspired to keep using the vs2400 after reading about your mod.

    I am not technical enough to attempt your mod but was wondering if you are able for pay to do it. First of all we'd need to figure out the location issue. Just let me know if it is doable and how much you think it'll be? Of course this is depending on how much - but I am motivated...

    Thanks and let me know...

    Email felixbada@hotmail.com or call (747)444-8849

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great blog man, I might try this one out. I actually just finished fixing this rpc-1 problem, seems to work ok without windows not shutting down or messing up on sleep screen. This is my first time working with it, I'm going to check the sound or if there are any problems with it. But I'm really interested on trying what you did, good way to expand memory anyways right? haha.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey dude, I did this and it works wonders, but now I'm stuck at trying to open file in windows 7 64bit. What are you using? You could email me christiam.palma@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sorry guys, I wasn't getting any comment notification.

    I have a made a new blog post on the software subject .

    http://blog.madbrain.com/2012/04/using-modified-roland-vs-2400cd.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've carried out this mod to my vs2400 following your guidelines and it works great! with a magenetic hard drive.
      I also tried it with an SSD drive but it kept freezing at random moments but particularly when it came to saving a project. I wondered if you might have any light to shed on the reasons for this problem?

      Delete
    2. Oh, I also forgot to say a big Thank You! for posting this blog. I find it very kind of you to go to the trouble of writing these blogs.

      Thank you.

      Delete
    3. Tricky,

      Yes, I have seen freezes with my SSD as well. This mostly happens when I'm recording 8 channels at 96 kHz / M24, ie. the highest possible throughput. If I use 8 channels at 96 kHz / MTP it does not happen. Reverting to a hard drive is more reliable, but of course you will get hard drive noise.

      Thanks for the kind comments, I'm glad this blog is helpful.

      Delete
  5. Hallo,
    Kann ich meine Roland VS 2480 HD eine interne DVD Einbauen
    Bitte Schreiben
    senolt1963@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well, the link above, I guess to the new blog, does not work.

    As for windows 7, very few people are getting VS related software to work in win7. Check out VSPlanet for more on this subject...
    http://www.vsplanet.com/ubbthreads/ubbthreads.php?ubb=cfrm
    Frank.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AND nor does mine, LOL. Can't even copy and paste them from this blog.

      Delete
  7. Let's try this again :
    Second part of my blog about this mod.

    Frank, if you use HTML syntax (A HREF=) it should work.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I tried the Sata adapter on the VS2480 and it did not work, still looking for one that will work on this model.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry it did not work for you. Did you try the specific model of SATA adapter in my link above ?

      Delete
  9. SO Julien > Can you get this to work ? Tried it once , not successful >> http://www.virtualscsi.com/virdis.htm

    ReplyDelete
  10. This one works now with PCi > the ethernet version is near http://www.virtualscsi.com/virdis.htm


    Think I will try to load it once again ....

    ReplyDelete
  11. cjogo, virtualscsi is only good for the VS-2480 . The VS-2400 does not have a SCSI port. This is why I did this eSATA modification on my 2400 in the first place. Otherwise, CDs were the only way to export the data to the PC.

    I don't have a VS-2480 so I have not tried the eSATA modification with it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But how do you import the file back into the recorder if you have no cd drive?

      Delete
    2. But how do you import the file back into the recorder if you have no cd drive?

      Delete
  12. Thanks Julien -- was just hoping to "hire" someone to install the software .. I tried once and it just wasn't 100% installed >

    thanks

    ReplyDelete
  13. Can't help you with the VirtualSCSI. If you want to try for the eSATA mod I may be able to help you if you come to east San Jose.
    You would need to have the parts. Though I could try some of the parts I have in my VS-2400 that work also.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I have the Song Vault system now :: with IDE HD caddies ... but really just want to be able to archive & recall the songs through a PC folder > no DOS limitations on titling > partitioning > mainly drag and drop at will /// very slow & difficult with the present proprietary //

    thanks

    ReplyDelete
  15. Julien,

    Just performed the mod. I had the idea to add sata capability to the vs-2400 and decided to do a google search to see if anyone else had already done it. Found your site and have to say you probably saved me hours of trial and error/returning parts! Thank you so much for posting this. It works great!

    -Ben

    ReplyDelete
  16. I just made the TEMP mod, I get a "No Drives Recognized" message. DOES the drive need to be IBM partitioned/formatted? I bought them used and WIPED CLEAN, so they are not IBM partitioned or formatted (FAT 32???). Thanx, Rick

    ReplyDelete
  17. I followed your suggested build list and procedure and it worked like a champ. I like the idea of using the mobile dock, it works great and I can move the files to my laptop with esata connector. I used a 3.5 drive and a 2.5 drive and they both worked like a champ. I tried a 2.5 ssd and it recorded a single track fine but when I added 2 more tracks it froze on playback of the 3 tracks and would never unfreeze. I rebooted and all was lost.
    So i don't recomend using an ssd - I'm going to try a compact flash card, its what I use in my vs-880ex and it works fine in that.

    I can get toshiba 2.5 125mb sata drives on amazon for 25$ and when they are full I can put them in a floor safe as archives after I copy the data to my laptop. 25$ for a backup is reasonable and gives me peace of mind.

    Just wanted to report my results. Great project and I want to thank you for sharing your knowledge and ideas. thank you very much for this project.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Anonymous, I'm glad it helped. I agree that HD gives better results than SSD.
    I tried but had no luck with a compact flash to IDE adapter.
    I no longer have a VS-2400CD myself, FYI.

    ReplyDelete