∞ Hands On: OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 external RAID

I’ve been testing Other World Computing’s (OWC) Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 RAID system for the past few weeks and have been very impressed. OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 external RAIDInstead of running through all of the speed tests and explanations of what a RAID is (you can find that info all over the Web), I’m going to give you a real-world example of using the unit and how it held up during my tests. Ultimately, I think that will be more useful for you to determine if the system is right for you.

I tested the Elite as my dedicated Pro Tools hard drive. I have been a guitar player for 20 years, and like many other musicians, made the move to the digital realm years ago.

As with many creative professionals, one of the biggest problems I have is with hard drive space. Each one of my Pro Tools projects grows to between 10GB and 20GB each — that’s a lot of space.

But I didn’t want the Elite simply as a storage unit — any drive would work for that. I wanted Pro Tools to work with it live. In other words, I wanted to read and write to the drive as I changed the project.

Pro Tools users are well aware that Digidesign does not support internal or external RAID drives for use with Pro Tools. However, the Elite worked out of the box with no problems. That was absolutely huge for me.

OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 external RAID

Digidesign recommends using an alternate drive than the one Pro Tools is installed on, but not a RAID. Obviously, having the hard drive space a RAID provides is crucial for recording multiple music projects.

The next step was to see if the system could actually keep up with live recording. In reality, if the Elite couldn’t keep up with live recording, I might as well just move on and use it for storage.

I started off just recording one track of guitar with no plug-ins — admittedly, a pretty simple test, but it worked just fine. Typically, I usually record a couple of guitar tracks — either from mics or digitally — at the same time.

The last song I worked on had over 60 tracks that were used at different times during the project. Most of the tracks were recorded audio (guitars, drums, french horns, violins, etc.) that were recorded directly to the drive.

But that’s not all. I also have many gigabytes of drum data from Toontrack’s drum kits stored on the drive. So, not only is Pro Tools reading and recording audio from the drive at the same time, it is also regularly reading files for the drum kits as well.

After a few small tests, I let loose and used the Elite for everything. It stood up to everything I threw at it and continues to.

I have used OWC products for years because I trust the company, service and products. The Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 RAID proves that I made the right choice.

  • kevin

    are you using it with a firewire 800 port?

    also what raid level did you use? 0 or 5? 5 is safer for data, but 0 is fastest.

    • Jim Dalrymple

      I am using FireWire 800 and RAID 5.

  • Can it work in a non-RAID config (mounting 4 individual drives)?

  • laurent

    My Qx2 can't be seen by my eSata card, 2nd one i bought from OWC. Anybody had this problem ? please email me laurent at 3mille com

  • Misha: No…the Qx2 can not see 4 individual drives…only non Raid mode is SPAN…which sees all four drives as one volume.

    laurent: We are contacting you directly for sake of timeliness and privacy of your personal information…there is a list of recommended eSATA cards that we have tested and qualified for use with the Qx2 on each product page. Looking into whether or not the card you are buying from us is on that list. Will post back here conclusion of this issue to help others.

    • Disappointed in OWC

      Looks like OWC Grant was yanking our chain about posting “back here conclusion of this issue to help others.” Anyone interested in a Qx2 might want to check out the reviews for it on Amazon; enough to curl your hair.

      • Rwolf2000

        Recently switched to MAC after 15 years being Windows fan. Already got stuff from OWC twice for my Mac Pro 2.26 8 core. Each time spoke with tech once on the chat once over the phone. Each time 100% satisfaction, those guys rock. OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2 is really good and very reliable, I have spent 2 weeks researching most reliable product, and there is nothing better for MAC in that price range. I can’t wait for SATA 6 and USB 3 implementation. OWC will refund your money if you are not satisfied, they are really good.

  • Misha

    I am having a good experience with Sabio's DM4. Similar specs to the Qx2 and a lot cheaper ($260 at Fry's). It also has a clean case design that some might find more attractive.

  • Andrew

    can this unit be used as an external bootable (Mac OS X 10.6) drive?

  • Very helpful review. Thanks, Mr. D.

  • sam

    Hi, my Qx2 installed 2 x 1.5TB HD and work fine b4. However, the rebuilding light plus the A drive light are blinking 2days ago. My question is, does it rebuilding in process? How many time you should take? coz i leave it running individually 2 days already.

    Thanks your time 🙂

  • Jlara

    We have 3 of these drives and we have had nothing but heartache from them in the year that we have used them. Each one has crashed multiple times losing our video that we produce. They have been sent in several times and we have about a 50% recovery ratio. AVOID these drives if you are producing video using Final Cut Pro. Apparently, these drives don’t play nice with what we are doing. They should, but they suck…BAD!

  • K-scope

    Can you explain Jlara.. what failed? Was is hard drive failure of the enclosure itself? What type of RAID were you running? You’re the first I’ve read about this failing with FCP and want to know specifics.

    • janthenat

       I’m familiar with JLara’s issues… I’m one of the techs that has been working with these drives.  2 out of 3 of these enclosures have had their controller board replaced as result of problems we’ve experienced.  The 3rd has not yet had that procedure performed because the symptoms have not yet required it, according to OWC.  We’ve had one drive go bad (not enclosure) which was replaced by the manufacturer.  One or more of these regularly goes into “rebuilding” mode because of some problem with the consistency of the RAID data.  We have had multiple instances where the raid volume will not mount properly and so we perform data recovery and reformat the raid and copy the data back.  This is very time consuming on a 2TB raid, as you can imagine.

      Very unreliable from our perspective.  When there have been problems with the enclosures, OWC has RMA’d them as needed. Regular problems with data integrity are nearly impossible to work around, and have made these things almost unusable.

      • Archduke Griffith

        I have already had two failures of this product.

        Problem: it does not mount on the machine via FW800 or USB 3

        One enclosure failed not long after purchase. We sent it back to the manufacturer and they said it was fine and returned it.

        Being cautions and having lost all our data, we replaced all the drives with new drives. To make matters worse, we decided to purchase another duplicate array and double our trouble.


        Just a short while ago we had another failure.

        Symptom: Drive will not mount on machine.

        We have not yet contacted the manufacturer. Our last experience went something like, “Gee we can’t find anything wrong here. Sorry about your data.”

        I seem to be experiencing the same problem someone else had. I am using FCP7 with this drive.

        At the time it failed, I was in After Effects converting a file and had FCP open. At some point everything seized up. My entire machine went into a deep think and again I expect I have lost all my data.

        Sure I have other back ups of everything, but this is a major set back.

        Jim Dalrymple, Please update this review so others won’t make the mistake of purchasing this product.

        I would suggest using the words – Mercury Elite Pro does not mount – in the title; as that is what this supposedly redundant storage really does.

        LASTLY: As I searched for this problem on my drive, I began to find similar problems in other products by this company.

        • DPrty

          I just bought one from goodwill for $7 dollars. There is writing on the box that say’s the drive’s wouldn’t mount. Let’s see if this product is broken or still usable. My guess is that this will be a terrible product like most things in an aluminum frame that usually include a fruit logo. I will post back.