In order to test the full capabilities of the noise elimination products, I first built a PC system from a standard set of components that could then each be swapped out with equivalent quieter or silent models and assessed. As you can imagine, the choice of components was almost endless but after much deliberation, I eventually settled on the following system as my test-bed.
You may be wondering why I chose to assemble these components into a PC case that has been designed with noise control in mind, rather than opting for a normal case to start with and then replacing it with the AcoustiCase C6607 at a later stage. Well, even though the C6607 is particularly well suited for building near silent PC systems, it can effectively be used like any other normal PC case if you choose not to make use of its â€˜quietâ€™ features (for a full review of the AcoustiCase C6607 click here).
The first thing that struck me about the C6607 was its standard of construction. The steel panels are notably thicker and more rigid than those on your average midi tower case. These are designed to reduce unwanted mechanical resonance issues that are caused by vibrations from the case fans and the storage drives, etc. At Â£99.88 including VAT from QuietPC, the C6607 also comes supplied with a pre-cut Acoustic Materials Kit to absorb unwanted internally generated noise. More on this kit later though.
Fitting each of the components into the bare case was pretty straightforward thanks to its well thought out design. First to go in was the 300 watt power supply. This PSU is a standard looking unit that features a single rear-blowing fan. Next was the MSI optical drive, which was slotted straight into the top 5.25in bay and only needed to be screwed in from one side.
Although the removable 3.5in drive cage in the C6607 features a set of small rubber mounts that are designed to isolate the vibrations of the hard disk(s) from the rest of the case, I didnâ€™t want to take advantage of any quiet features just yet so I installed the Maxtor drive in one of the un-isolated 3.5in FD bays above.
Like many other Athlon based motherboards, the Leadtek Winfast K7NCR18G-Pro features a tiny fan on the northbridge chipset to assist with cooling. After installing the board onto the chassis, along with the Athlon CPU and Akasa heatsink and fan, I then push-fitted the two 120mm Akasa fans straight onto the plastic brackets inside the case. One mounted in the front to suck air in at the bottom and the other mounted just below the PSU, blowing out at the rear.
I should point out here that the C6607 case isnâ€™t designed to accommodate 80mm fans. This is presumably because the larger 120mm fans donâ€™t need to spin as fast to generate the same airflow and so create less noise. We also understand that future versions of the C6607 case will have the option of soft fan mounts to help minimise the effect of vibration generating excess noise.
Last to go in was the MSI graphics card, which is based on nVidiaâ€™s Geforce FX 5600 Ultra chipset and features a GPU fan as found on most medium and high performance graphics cards these days. To ensure the airflow in the case was unrestricted as far as possible, all loose cables and power leads were bundled together and tucked into the spare drive bays. The last thing left to do was to verify that all was well in the BIOS before installing the OS. We were now ready to go.
As soon as it was powered up for testing, the noise from the PC literally filled our near-silent test room. The two 1700rpm case fans completely dominated the sound of all the other (less-noisy) components inside the case. The sound from these fans can best be described as a loud and fairly objectionable humming noise, which was highly tonal in nature.
At a distance of 1m from each side of the case the measured SPLs were between 48 and 49dB(A), which suggests that the noise from our PC isnâ€™t that directional in nature. Subjectively though, this level of noise certainly seemed loud enough to interfere with watching a DVD movie or listening to music, even from 2-3m away.
In view of these initial observations and results, it seemed that the first logical step towards reaching the goal of a near-silent PC was to treat the most dominant noise sources first.