• ioSafe SoloPRO External Hard Drive Review

    Data protection isn't a glamorous topic. Maybe if a few storage manufacturers milled their hard drive enclosures from a solid block of aluminum and used linear power supplies computer audiophiles would pay more attention. I'll admit I'm a sucker for great craftsmanship and build quality and would certainly consider such an overbuilt device. The ioSafe SoloPRO external hard drive isn't pretty but its built like a tank to mitigate the risk of data loss and withstand perils such as fires and floods. In addition ioSafe's included Data Recovery Service addresses human perils such as accidental data deletion and malicious data destruction. This combination of physically protective hardware and data recovery services is a great way to mitigate the risk of losing one's music collection and prevent wasting countless weeks curating an entire music library for the second time.

    Time is Money

    When it comes to music libraries the most costly item isn't the music, it's the time spent ripping CDs and curating one's library. Purchasing a product that can save time when disaster strikes or when idiocy strikes is money well spent. A complete solution to reduce risk of loss to the lowest levels can cost several hundred thousand dollars and create more noise than any audiophile cares to hear. A more practical solution involves compromises for ease of use, cost, and protection from the most common perils. Depending on one's location fire or flood, or the flood created by the fire department, may be commonplace. Here in Minneapolis wild fires and floods are much less of a problem as they are in Malibu or New Orleans. That said, coming home to a wet basement after a rainstorm happens to most people at least once. Human perils such as accidental or irresponsible deletion are very common and happen in every location around the world including NASA where the original Apollo 11 Moon landing tapes were overwritten due to a tape shortage (Link ). Protecting against the common perils is one step but a good data protection solution must be easy to use and cost effective. Data protection that requires manual intervention is much less effective and bound to go unused. For example a solution that requires copying files from one hard drive to another and placing the second drive off site. This manual solution will protect against fire and flood but will likely be out of date long before the hard drive succumbs to high water. Again, the right solution is all about compromises and dependent on the needs of each user.

    A quick note about data protection versus data backup. The two terms are not synonymous. Backup is a second copy of one's music library. A redundant array of disks or bomb proof enclosure isn't backup unless it contains a second copy of the library. Data protection comes in many forms such as fire proofing, water proofing, and RAID. An ideal solution would use both backup and several forms of protection. A main library and a backup copy both existing on a peril-proof RAID array would be nice.

    ioSafe SoloPRO Hardware

    The ioSafe SoloPRO drive that I've been using over the last couple months contained a single 1 terabyte drive. ioSafe currently offers up to 4 terabytes on the SoloPRO drive single drive units. On the outside the SoloPRO isn't the best nor is it the worst looking drive I've had in house. The enclosure is fairly large at 5.0"W x 7.1"H x 11.0"L and weighing 15 lbs. The solid all metal housing along with fire and water proofing materials add much heft compared to a traditional external drive. ioSafe considers the spinning fan a quiet forced air cooling system. I'll give them the forced air part but the SoloPRO is not quiet compared to any other single drive disk enclosure I've used. Granted the SoloPRO offers much more than traditional drives but nonetheless it isn't quiet. I advise computer audiophiles against placing a SoloPRO near the listening area.

    The SoloPRO supports both USB 2.0 and eSATA interfaces. ioSafe offers USB three on its single interface units. I prefer eSATA over USB 2.0 or 3.0 because I often use USB DACs and eSATA's 3 Gbit/s is much faster than USB 2.0's 480 Mbit/s. One disadvantage to eSATA is a short maximum cable length of two meters .

    The SoloPRO enclosure itself protects data from fire, water, and physical theft. Protection from theft is via an industry standard cable lock frequently referred to as a Kensington lock. The fact that this drive is 15 lbs. is also a theft deterrent to many criminals (only a guess). The SoloPRO is protected from fire by ioSafe's DataCast Technology which will save the drive from data loss at temperatures 1550°F for 30 minutes (ASTM E119 ). At first blush I thought 30 minutes is a short period of time. However, it's very possible that temperatures of 1550°F usually subside in less than 30 minutes for a small area containing a hard drive. Once the flammable materials or accelerant have burned up the fire will move on. ioSafe uses its HydroSafe Technology to protect the enclosed data from water. The SoloPRO can be completely submerged in ten feet of water for three days without losing a single bit of one's music collection.

    The entire time I had the SoloPRO I wanted very much to submerge the unit as a test of ioSafe's marketing claims. But I came to my senses and thought I'd likely have to send the unit in for ioSafe to recover my data as many of the electronics inside the enclosure would likely be compromised. ioSafe doesn't claim a completely working unit that users can fire up right after a fire or flood to recover their own data. A more plausible scenario would be the user sending the SoloPRO in to ioSafe for its team to disassemble the unit and recover the data.

    Click to enlarge

    ioSafe SoloPRO Data Recovery Service

    The second part of this ioSafe combination is its Data Recovery Service. This service is equally as important as its rock solid hardware. Without experienced people extracting the data from a compromised hard drive the enclosure really doesn't matter. Data recovery service is included with every purchase for one year with an option to upgrade to three or five years of protection. The best part about this service is the number perils covered with no questions asked. Each purchase allows one use of the service for reasons including, "accidental damage, human error, disk failure, external enclosure failure, accidental deletion, viruses, power failures, and an intern dump[ing] soda on your drive." If that list isn't inclusive enough ioSafe simply states the service can be used for any reason whatsoever. A service that helps users recover from bone-headed mistakes is priceless. Everyone has deleted the wrong files a time or two or three. A few files here and there can be frustrating but deleting one's entire music directory may be calamitous. There are more than a few posts here on Computer Audiophile in which users plead for assistance because they've lost their music collections.

    Disk failure is another peril that will eventually affect all computer audiophiles. ioSafe's standard 1 year coverage for data recovery could come in handier than users think. Sure all hard drives are covered by the manufacturer's warranty for at least one year and up to five for enterprise drives. But, sending a broken drive in for replacement is really a nonstarter. None of the original data will be recovered by the manufacturer. Plus, it's often easier to purchase a replacement drive and move on with the recovery as drive prices have come back down since the 2011 flooding in Thailand. When an ioSafe covered drive failed the company will send an advanced replacement to speed up recovery followed by the recovered data as soon as possible. Or, the user can simply wait for the data recovery and receive replacement hardware preloaded with the recovered data.

    Note: More frugal computer audiophiles can use a tool like Restoration to attempt to recover deleted files. This tool doesn't require installation, which is critical so as not to overwrite files, and can even be run from a USB stick. The tool lists all files available for recovery and allows simple restoration of the files. Not all files are recoverable but it's a free tool that may save the day in a pinch.


    Data protection is all about mitigating risk. There's no way to eliminate all risk even for users with unlimited budgets. Computer audiophiles must decide what perils are most likely to cause loss of their music collections. Fire, flood, drive failure, user error, or anything else imaginable are covered by the ioSafe Data Recovery Service included with every SoloPRO external drive. Nearly all external drives are bought and sold like commodities today. Most of them use the same internal parts and hard drives from a small number of manufacturers. Discerning users such as computer audiophiles often want more than a run of the mill product. ioSafe offers much more, including an option for Solid Sate Drives, in both hardware and services than 99% of the drives available. I suppose that makes the ioSafe SoloPRO a "one percent'er". When it comes to protecting my music collection I'm completely happy to have a drive that's a cut above the rest.

    Product Information

    • Product - ioSafe SoloPRO External eSATA/USB 2.0 Hard Drive
    • Price - $349+
    • Product Page - Link
    • Product Specs - Link
    • User Guide - Link (PDF)

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. xyz's Avatar
      xyz -
      Does anyone know what brand of hard drive they put inside the enclosure?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      I'm guessing ioSafe uses a few different brands to diversify in the event of a bad batch of drives from a single manufacturer. Just a guess though. I would open the unit here but there is no way to reseal the drive outside of the factory.
    1. earflappin's Avatar
      earflappin -
      Chris, when is your next substantive DAC review coming?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Writing the last couple paragraphs as we speak. Will send the draft to the manufacturer in the UK late tonight. Hope to receive a response on Monday and publish the review on Tuesday at the latest.