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Silent But Deadly

OK. This cockamamy idea will probably get me branded as a physics phool and an airflow airhead. OR -- I'm giving away a money-making idea for free.

Here it is:

Count Rumford Meets Steve Jobs

You know how we would all love to string a mike boom over the keyboards and in front of the monitor -- kinda like a giant gearshift, and drag down a vocal mike and hit the red button -- but WE CAN'T because the darned Mac/PC under the table is droning so loud, your vocals sound like you recorded them in a laundromat?

You know how the current solutions are cumbersome and expensive, involving soundproof computer closets, etc, etc?

You know how only the star-crossed iCube was a virtually silent Mac, but stunk for several reasons, i.e., no PCI slots, yada yada? (Stay with me here.)

Well, the other day I was reminded of Count Rumford, the guy who, oh, 200+ years ago (!) figured out the way to build a fireplace and chimney system that would deliver more heat to the living space, yet draw the smoke and combustion by-products out of the house more efficiently. Also, I was musing on the convection currents employed in the iCube -- and then...

Eureka? Not sure, but --> what if I removed the fan from the Mac case and used it's housing to trace and cut a 1/8" aluminum flange, attached a length of 4" aluminum dryer vent pipe to the flange, bent the vent pipe to the vertical, and attaching the whole unit to the Mac, began wrapping 120v electrical heat tape (or some other safe source of heat) around the vent pipe until the volume of warmed air exiting the pipe (from the convection created) equalled the volume of the original noisy fan ?

It would look like a demented barber pole, and introduce a new heat source into the room, but shouldn't it produce an equally-cooled and virtually silent Mac? Remember -- the air coming out of the case is already warm, we only need to add enough heat to boost the convection.

Am I nuts? Guys?

:cool: RW :cool:


knightfly Fri, 09/13/2002 - 14:00

You could also put the upper end of the exhaust thru the roof, put the heating coils up there, and control the heat coils from the PC/Mac inside temperature - more heat in 'puter, more heat on coils - plus, you could save power by painting the stack elm green so it absorbed more solar radiation, wouldn't need the coils as much. Now, if you cut a hole in the floor and run duct to the 'puter air inlet from that (sealed) you would be getting cooler air into the box in the first place (provided you live in a house with a perimeter foundation)

Hey, Opus, I like this guy - let's keep him around, OK? ... Steve

anonymous Sat, 09/14/2002 - 14:41


Spoken like a true Rumford Ranger --

Modern adaptations of his fireplace use piped in combustion air to keep from losing the air you've already heated. In my part of the country, though, the air on my studio floor is cooler than the air outside through probably 9 months of the year. But your suggestion brings up another good point: the cooler the intake air, the less of it we have to move, hence the less energy we need to spend in our convection engine. And your clever thermo-control concept would be cheap and easy, and an extra margin of safety for the Mac.

Definitely more to chew on.

I have my doubts, however, about going outside with my "chimney". Though it IS an energy plus, it also starts my cash register clanging again. Maintaining my noise isolation gets called into question too. Actually, my very first weird idea on this deal was to put the fan outside on the end of a duct. Maybe that's not so weird after all, but again, the money piles up.

There are other nagging questions too, any of which has some potential of becoming a fatal flaw:

• What if sufficient convection produces airflow noise of its own from the cool air whistling IN to the Mac? This could already be there, "included" in the noise of the fan.

• Hard drives clacking. Masked now, sore thumb later?


I wonder if Rumford had a family that has a website....

:cool: RW :cool:

SonOfSmawg Sun, 09/15/2002 - 10:19

I've been toying with an idea for my peecee which involves a piece of PVC pipe running through the length of the case. You cover one end and have a piece of flexible tubing on the other. In the summer, you place the end of the tube over an AC vent, and in the winter you run it through an outside wall and put a fan on the end. You drill holes in the PVC in the puter to direct the cool air where you want it, and leave or put holes in the case to allow for circulation, no fans needed. All you would need is passive heatsinks on your cards, memory, and mobo chips, and a Vantec flower H/S on your CPU. The only flaw that I've thought-of is that there are some times here in Pahrump when it's not hot enough to run the AC but perhaps not cool enough outside to provide adequate cooling. I'm not sure that the one fan on the end of the tube, when outside, would be adequate when it's, say , 70 to 80 degrees outside.
Some of you may be interested in the cooling method that I'm currently using for my PC. My case has the old U-shaped metal cover that covers the sides and top of the puter. The temp goes up 15 degrees when I put the cover on. I was going to install case fans. Instead, I bought a $6 cleanable HVAC fiber filter from Ace Hardware, cut it to the size of the U-shaped cover, & attatched velcro to the case and filter, front and back. It looks funky, but I have no case fans drawing power off of my P/S or creating noise, I can barely hear my CPU fan (which is pretty noisy), and my temp only goes up 3 degrees with my "custom case cover" on! I'm now tempted to buy a Vantec flower heatsink, modify it to fit in this little case, and see if it can provide enough cooling to give me a completely fan-free system. With the low heat associated with P4 CPUs, this method might be a possibility, too ... ??? This could very well be a very inexpensive, simple fan-free solution for DAWs ... if you can overlook the 3/4" thick bright blue fiber where your case cover(s) used to be.

anonymous Sun, 09/15/2002 - 12:45

Now you see? And they say it's the keyboard guys who have all the brains.

My mac clone also has a u-shaped cover -- and...

Hey. Wait a minute.

What about that $99 Sanyo Cube fridge over in the corner? No noise! Couple of cable holes 'n some leftover silicone "Mac-quarium" sealant..... easy access to the drives, etc...

If I can make a Mac into a fish tank, why not make a cube fridge into a computer case????

:cool: RW :cool:

SonOfSmawg Sun, 09/15/2002 - 13:43

A couple of flaws there...
1) Refrigerators DO make noise.
2) Every time the fridge starts up, you're going to get a power glitch, which could possibly cause you some recording nightmares.
I like Zalman's passive approach to CPU cooling, and I think there's a lot more room for further imrovements and innovation there. The problem they're having right now is cooling efficiency versus weight. Their most efficient heatsinks weigh a ton! Also, their (standalone) flower heatsinks are great for CPUs which don't generate too much heat, but for big Athlons, they're not up to the task.
Now the only fan left to eliminate is the power supply fan(s). I don't know squat about what's in a power supply ... so what's in there that needs to be cooled, and how could it be passively cooled?

anonymous Mon, 09/16/2002 - 14:15

Sorry, Smawg,

When I said "no noise", I should have been more illuminative. This fridge is one of those NASA-derived "Absorption-Cooled" models with no fan, motor, compressor or freon. It's operation is absolutely silent.

I don't know what NASA's goal was -- usually it's energy-related -- but whatever they were after, this sucker also makes NO noise.

I was only guessing at the $89 price though -- it was a birthday gift from my daugher so I wouldn't have to schlep from my 2-car studio to the kitchen for a Diet Pepsi. I frowned when I opened it, fearing noise and she told me she had thought of that too and wouldn't have bought it; then she ran into this one.

Actually, the ones I have just finished scoping out on the web that are the same overall dimensions as mine are more like $300 !
Gotta love that kid of mine....

I have punched up a NEW TRACK on this: I will now try to find out how this absorption cooling thing works....

Necessity is getting pregnanter and pregnanter.

:cool: RW :cool:

anonymous Tue, 10/22/2002 - 16:30

Absorption cooling:

Mix helium and ammonia gases and heat -- gases alternately combine and separate and absorb energy from their containment in the process, removing energy in the FORM of heat, leaving the containment COLD.

No compressor, motor or noise.

Available component absorption cooler capable of producing the requisite cooling power, combined with a soundproof, insulated "fridge" containing a hot Mac or PC would cost more than the Mac or PC in many cases. Also, and this could be the killer -- without an extensive evaporative system to remove condensation (like a frost-free fridge), the resultant moisture in humid conditions could wreak havoc....

Am now on the trail of a soundproof box with baffled silent fans and a nice glass door -- should be able to build it fairly cheap...

anonymous Thu, 10/31/2002 - 12:15

Similar, yes -- but most available heat pipe technologies require assisted airflow, e.g., fans, bringing us back to the noise we started with -- and they are not cheap. The DIY heatpipe guy you linked has my respect and his project looks like it has promise, but I'm not in his tinkering league. I do better with wood and foam than I ever could with copper and aluminum and refrigerant. My test gear consists of two ears and the palm of my hand to tell me if my idea is quiet and cool enough.

I was also trying to find something relatively cheap -- but frankly, a cardboard box lined with styrofoam and crammed with cooler-cubes wasn't exactly what I had in mind. Maybe if I was on the street and running a home recording studio out of my shopping cart..... nah.

At present, I think the baffled, Pabst-fan-cooled, Sonex-lined cabinet with a nice thick glass door is the best compromise between esthetics and economy.

I'm going to build a prototype before I say any more. Putting up or shutting up, as it were...

SonOfSmawg Sun, 11/03/2002 - 08:14

I took apart a 250w Sparkle power supply yesterday. My goal is to figure out how to ditch the fan. Any suggestions? I'll even put the power supply outside of the puter case if necessity requires it. I have several different initial ideas, but I don't want to spend a fortune on this, and I want to keep it as simple as possible.
I'll be building a new Athlon XP2000+ based puter in a couple of weeks (not overclocked), and I want it completely fan-free. I'm hoping that a Zalman flower CPU heatsink will be adequate without a fan, and I'll be using Zalman heatsinks for the graphics card and the chipset. I'll again be using the Ace Hardware HVAC fiber filter to replace the metal sides of the case. So, provided that the Zalman products can keep my temps down low enough with the open airflow provided by the fiber filter sides, the only fan left to dismiss is the power supply fan.
Please give me any reasonable, cost-effective, relatively simple, do-able ideas that you may have to help me get rid of the power supply fan. This is the final step of the totally fan-free DAW computer. The only puter sounds left will be the CDRW and the harddrives ... but I have plans to quiet and passively cool those, too!

SonOfSmawg Sun, 11/03/2002 - 11:12

Mixing water and electricity just doesn't work for me. One leak and *POW*. I'm going for the K.I.S.S. approach (keep it simple, stupid). I don't want the "cure" to be worse than the "disease" LOL. There's more than one way to skin a cat, and I'm about down to the tail. Hmmm ... can I think of any more cliches?
Oh, yeah ... as to the water cooling thing ... I'm not about to switch boats mid-stream! LMAO
Seriously ... making a computer fan-free can be done relatively easily and inexpensively. I'm absolutely CONVINCED of it. I've seen some of the posts here, and a lot of people are thinking creatively in the right direction, but simplicity must be the key. No electricity, no water, no fancy gasses, no refrigerators, and no knocking holes through walls. My logic is that copper, aluminum, and airflow are the probable ingredients, it's just a matter of finding the right recipe. I AM going to make this happen, one way or the other.
So if anyone has any brainstorms that they can contribute, please do so by all means. There WILL be a truly SILENT DAW puter born here on RO, available for ALL to be able to build. The more input I can get, the better it will be and the faster it will be in your studio!
I'd especially like to hear from OPUS! I know you're a P4 man, but I've been having GREAT success building kick-ass Athlons. The last few that I've built, for other people, not DAWs, have been rock solid. No problems.
Also, since this is my attempt at a totally fan-free machine ... if can be done on an Athlon, it can definately be done on a cooler P4.
I'm waiting for the ASUS nForce2 motherboard to hit the shelves. We both know about the limitation of a decent Athlon/DAW chipset, and again I gotta figure this is the best shot. Yeah, yeah, I know ... new board, bugs, drivers, problems ... but that's what you're there for! LOL!
Actually, my logic is that there are plenty of AMD guys (like myself) who frequent RO who will be interested to know how a nForce2 board fairs, especially in a fan-free environment. The rest of the parts are gonna cost me some bucks, and I can't afford to buy Nuendo at the same time, so I'm going to convert Digi001 over to peecee. At least that way I can report how it performs (compared to my Mac G4-400).

SonOfSmawg Sun, 11/03/2002 - 12:07

Yeah, I understand where you're coming from. All kinds of super-cooling stuff has been around for years. And you're right ... most of that shit is EXPENSIVE.
The main difference is that I'm not trying to super-cool anything. I'm just going to build a fan-free computer that is cooled adequately. Without overclocking, this really won't be too hard to achieve. I think the main hurdle is that most typical puter geeks have the mindset of pushing everything to the limit (including me). Obviously, that mindset won't work here. In this case, if you want more performance out of your computer, then you'll have to install a higher-rated CPU and more RAM. Overclocking will throw it all out of whack.
This whole SILENT DAW idea has been around RO for a long time, so it's obvious that there are a lot of people here who are more concerned with silence than squeezing every ounce they can out of their machine. Well, computing power technology is now to the point where you really don't NEED to squeeze your puter for all it's worth, so I'm focusing on the "silent" part.
Again, anyone with any ideas on keeping the power supply cool enough to ditch the fan ... please speak up! So far, my thinking is that I'll probably have to have the power supply outside the case, on the top, in a finned aluminum or copper enclosure, which will serve as both it's chassis and heatsink. Kinda expensive and impractical, and will take a lot of work ... so please help me think of other solutions.

SonOfSmawg Mon, 11/04/2002 - 22:30

I thought of that Cedar, and it could probably be made to work, but the cost of custom-machining a piece of copper or aluminum to suit the task would be UNGODLY expensive.
There's a relatively easy and inexpensive way to do this, but most guys wouldn't want to do it...
Take the power supply out of the case, to be set on top of the tower. Extend/replace the leads which connect to your components so that they'll reach when the supply is on top of the puter case. Remove the circuitry from the p/s case. Remove the fan, and cut a whole where the fan was. On the other side of the case, cut a hole the same size as the fan hole that you just cut on the other side (where the vent holes are). Connect PVC pipe or flexible tubing to each hole. Once you put the components back in the p/s case, you have a sealed box with a tube coming out of the front, and a tube coming out of the back.
Now, here's the part I don't like ... you need to run the tubes either outside, or into another room of your studio or house (knock a hole in a wall). You then put a fan on each end of the tube, one blowing in, one sucking out. Since the fans are either in another room or outside, and since the p/s box and the tubes are a sealed system, you won't hear the fans.
There are two things that I don't like about this idea ... knocking a hole in a wall, and having to use fans on the ends of the tubes. As I posted before, I really want to have this thing totally passive (no fans or electricity), and I don't want anyone to have to knock a hole in a wall. This just doesn't meet the criteria of what will be acceptable, to me, as something that's viable for everyone ... but it does show that it CAN be done, very cheaply.
As I said before, "There's more than one way to skin a cat". Well, I've thought of ONE way to do it, but there are definately many other, better ways that it can be done, too.

Opus2000 Tue, 11/05/2002 - 16:26

I never ventured in this area of noise reduction systems on a PC or a case designed to reduce noise etc etc etc
Talked with a CAD designer here at Apogee and asked him what would he do to lesten the noise........vents! Simple as that!
I'll poke and prod him some more on some ideas but to be honest...this one is over my head...I work on the machines as they are! Mine are quiet enough where I don't really notice them. Try to get quieter fans...

[[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.quietpcu…"]Quiet [/]="http://www.quietpcu…"]Quiet [/]

SonOfSmawg Mon, 11/11/2002 - 09:24

Well, the ASUS A7N8X nForce2 board is available now, but I'm having second thoughts about it. New design, first board, first BIOS, and it's taken a LONG time for it to hit the shelves. I have the feeling that people who snatch the board up right now will most likely be public beta testers, and I really don't want to go through that.
Instead, I'm taking a closer look at the ASUS A7M266-D dual processor board. It would give me more power, be very stable (AMD north AND south bridges), and it has a great proven track record. My overall cost would be a little more, but I think it would be a wiser investment. Before I make a final decision, I'm going to read up on it some more.
This doesn't change the whole "fanless" thing. I need to contact ASUS about the A7N266-D to see if Zalman flower heatsinks will be a space problem.

Opus2000 Mon, 11/11/2002 - 11:36

having built two of those machines with the Zalman heatsinks it's not a problem..what you will need to do is mount the fans on top of them via the PCI bracket screws.
Just make sure you update the BIOS on that dualie board. Also make sure the processors show up as MP Capable! Had a weird one with the last install with that issue.

SonOfSmawg Thu, 11/14/2002 - 10:19

Well, the jury is still out on what I'm going to do. I've posted some questions over on the ASUS BB to clarify some things for me.
I read a post somewhere which said that you can use the XP CPUs on this board instead of paying the higher cost of the MP CPUs, but I didn't bookmark it and now I can't find it. Duhhh. So if anyone knows about that, please fill me in.
You have to be very particular when configuring an AMD system, so I'm not going to make my final decisions until I'm satisfied that I have enough information to make an educated decision rather than an uneducated guess. I have the cash in hand to do this, but it's very limited, as I said before, so I must make sure that it is spent wisely. I'm sure that many of you can relate to that.

themidiroom Mon, 11/18/2002 - 11:59

Hmmm interesting ideas. I am fortunate to have other places to put the PC. My dual Athlon is loud, but very well cooled. Eventually, I will have to move it again. This time, it's going under a flight of stairs in a well isolated space. I will install a medium sized exhaust fan to vent to the outside. For the air inlet, I will design a filter box to quiet any noise that might escape. The only issue is putting together extensions for usb and firewire to make the 25-30 foot trip from computer to studio.

Kurt Foster Sun, 12/08/2002 - 16:33

You posted a while ago:

I'm taking a closer look at the ASUS A7M266-D dual processor board. It would give me more power, be very stable (AMD north AND south bridges), and it has a great proven track record ........ I read a post somewhere which said that you can use the XP CPUs on this board instead of paying the higher cost of the MP CPUs

I am running this board with the AMD 1800+ 1.53 MHz chips and I can say it kicks ass! 16 tracks in Cubase VST 5.1 with comps eqs verbs etc. @ 10% cpu use......I'm sorry I didn't notice the post sooner so I could have added my 2 cents sooner. ......... Fats
It's my opinion, I'll play with it if I want too!

anonymous Sun, 12/08/2002 - 21:14

First, seeing as how I started this thread to discuss various novel (or crackpot) ways to quiet and cool a Macintosh, I feel I have the standing to thank Elias, whoever he is and whatever he is selling, for stopping by to put up a link that somebody might be interested in.

Second, I must admit that I am puzzled by some people's ability to come around and tout his or her latest flamethrower PC, whizbang boomclutch, EQ, preamp, microphone or MP3 and not get accused of spamming but if you don't happen to be a moderator and you do it, you get whizzed on.

I thought Spamhunting was the province of and this was a free discussion forum.

Elias' link post was brief, polite and COMPLETELY on point in this thread. The fact that his box is too expensive and easily replicated is beside the point.

Third, I'd like to thank the PC crowd for taking the time to abandon their own zone and come over into the Mac forum to regale us with their superior wisdom, intellect and hardware. I'm absolutely in awe of you guys.

In awe.


:eek: RW :eek:

Opus2000 Mon, 12/09/2002 - 18:54

Well, the fact that he has two posts and both of them are in the exact same type of similar threads and both are very advertisement oriented posts.
Here at RO we do sponsor but don't want just spam in one person's threads. They need to actually post something and be a part of the scene rather than a walking bilboard :D
Hope that helps clear up why I posted that.

anonymous Tue, 12/10/2002 - 08:22


First clarification. Believe it or not the posting of Philly Flex just before mine was not my doing. Must have been divine intervention that he/she happened to post moments before me. I was quite surprised as well.

Second, appologies for coming across as an advertisement. Just wanted to add my ideas to the pot. And it just so happens that my design works, and I have been making sales. It is true that an individual with cabinetry skills and a little understanding of thermodynamics can make one of these. But be prepaired to invest many, many hours in the shop designing, prototyping, and testing the ventilation system. I'll give you guys a little hint. The ventilation methodology is where you need to primarily be focussing your attention. If your design doesn't move enough air (heat pipes, whatever), believe me, your computer will shut down. And the air has to get out without letting pc noise out.

best of luck to all, and again everyone has awesome ideas.