Progress in music computing: A quieter case thread

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Tommy P., Jan 11, 2002.

  1. Tommy P.

    Tommy P. Well-Known Member

    I've been experimenting with getting my computer to make less noise. I'll talk about the stuff I've done so far.
    As far as the case mod goes,I took a mid-tower case that was less than 19" high, with side panels that slide off( a 'U' shaped cover was no good). I stripped the plastic front off and removed all the drivebay frames from inside the computer. I wanted this to be rackmounted(thats why less than 19"). So far I've glued rubber matting to the inside and anyplace else that would not interfere with airflow and internal equipment. I attached an aluminum front(with mounts to hang my J-Station )and aluminum 'L' brackets on the sides for rackmounting. All rivets were drilled out and machine screws with rubber grommets were used.
    The big noise reduction came from a different approach to CPU cooling. I took a high performance all copper heatsink, a Thermalright SK-6 and tossed away the high performance noisy damn fan. AMD XP Thunderbird proccesors run cooler than the older ones which ran much hotter. I picked the Athlon XP1600 over a 1900 for less heat(and less money). Using high performance silver based heatsink compound (Artic Silver II) and a slower blower type fan blowing accross and through the copper fins instead of over the top, I was able to get much less fan noise, yet stay within AMD heat specs. I actually saw this done in a one rackspace server, but with many more fans. The one I got was from Radioshack, 12VDC.
    The two hard drives are mounted to the slide off top cover using machine screws and rubber, and the CDRW is the only front accessed drive. No floppy drive.
    The 400 watt power supply has dual ball bearing fans and is very quiet.
    So far the machine has been running rock solid, with a SeaSound Solo handling the sound.
    These are the first steps I have taken, I know there must be better ways.
  2. LittleJames

    LittleJames Member

    Hot Damn Boy. Your tearing it up.
  3. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    If you want to get insane with it, check out for more ideas.

    Hope that helps! :)
  4. SonOfSmawg

    SonOfSmawg Well-Known Member

    There's a CHEAP, easy way to do this. It provides excellent cooling and noise reduction. It aint pretty, but it works REAL well...
    Materials needed...
    *Cardboard box
    *Some 1" styrofoam
    *Blue plastic picnic cooler ice packs
    *Elmers glue
    First, find a cardboard box, preferably made of the thick, heavy cardboard, that is just about 4" taller than your tower and wide and deep enough to allow about 10 inches extra around the sides and back when your tower is set inside it. For a G4, a good-sized box would be about 22" high, 28" wide, and 28" deep. Line the bottom and sides of the box with 1" styrofoam, glueing the styrofoam to the cardboard, and also glue styrofoam on the two top flaps that fold down first, leaving about 1 1/8" on the sides and 1 1/8" from the folding crease so that the flaps fold down flat. So, now, you basically have a picnic cooler glued to the inside of a box.
    You now need to cut two holes in the in the front, the same size as the front of your tower, and one in the middle of the back, a 4" square to accomodate cables.
    Ok, now installation...
    Slide your tower in the box through the hole you cut in the front of the case. This will be easy for a plain, squared-off PC case, but more difficult for an odd shaped case or a G4 case. You may have to do a little extra cutting of the cardboard and foam to get it to fit. You may want to remove the handles from a G4 case. The object is to get a good tight fit around the front of the front bezel of your case. Once done, the front panel of the case should be basically flush with the outside of the box.
    Next, feed all of your cables through the 4" hole in the back of the box and connect them to your tower.
    Now comes the cooling...hehehe. First of all, before you put your ice packs in the freezer, make sure they are dry. When you remove them from the freezer, wipe them off real good with a towel to make sure that no frost or moisture remains on them. For further safety, just in case of the blue plastic case leaking, place the ice packs in good ziplock baggies. Don't skimp and buy the cheap baggies! Put your frozen blue plastic ice packs inside the box along the SIDES of your tower, but not touching it, against the sides of the box . Do not put them along the back of the tower. It's up to you how many ice packs you use, the more the better. Also, you need to have two sets of ice packs, so that one one set is in the freezer while you are using the other. Switch them as necessary.
    Now, close the top of the box and let it sit for about ten minutes before you start the computer.
    Use the puter for a half hour to an hour, then check the inside of the box ... still cold? If not, you need more ice packs in there. The ice packs should keep it cold for three to four hours with the puter running. Obviously, the drawback with this is that you have to rotate ice pack sets every few hours, from the puter box to the freezer, as long as you're running the puter, but it only takes a few minutes.
    So for less than $30 you can super-cool your puter. It keeps your whole case cool, and keeps the air which your fans circulate cool. The styrofoam also deadens the noise to just about zilch, since the only opening in the box is the 4" square in the back. DO NOT seal that hole. You need that hole to accomodate air flow and avoid pressurization which could render your fans less effective.
    THAT'S IT. It's a cheap "fix-it" that I learned from one of my guitar students, and he's had absolute success with it for about a year. The only problem that he's had is that one of the ice packs leaked once, that's why you put them in ziplock baggies...that's important. He caught the leak quickly, so the liquid didn't do any damage, but it's a possibility for a problem.
    Necessity is the mother of invention, and indeed that was the case here. A 16 year old kid who wanted a better puter to play games bought a big bad Athlon CPU and motherboard, stuck it in his mid tower, and found out that it was hotter than hell and sounded like a wind tunnel. He had just shelled out a lot of money (for a kid), and came up with this cheap solution. It looks funky, but it works.
  5. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    Thank you Bob Villa!!!
  6. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    It seems to me that it *should* be easier to just put the computer in another room, and use extension cables. Unfortunately, there are issues relating to doing this, and I'm sure it wouldn't be cheap even if the issues could be addressed. In my case, I would need 2 video, a keyboard, a mouse, *plus* a USB cable for my TASCAM US-428 (I think USB has a finite allowable length...), *plus* I would need to find a way to extend the cable for the Layla interface that I use. This is obviously impractible.

    I saw some sound-proof enclosure boxes in a recording mag, but they are pretty pricy...

    The only other options that I can see are:

    1) to record in another room
    2) sound-proof the computer case and use quieter fans (like what Tommy P. described above).
    3) Build your own sound-proof enclosure like what SOS describes...It just seems like a pain in the butt to have to use the ice packs...I'm sorry, it just seems too funky! :)

    There appears to be a need here to come up with a simple cost-effective enclosure that works for the "average" home studio user without going to the extent (or cost) that the pro boxes go to, yet is a bit more high-tech than a cardboard box with ice packs in it ( offense SOS!).

    I'm going to talk to some engineering friends of mine and see what I can come up with...anyone else got any ideas or want to finance a small start-up company? :)

  7. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    Well...if you look on my website one of the features on the Computing section is coming soon is custom DAW enclosures!! I have a few ideas and would like to sometime soon start it indefinately...if anyone is interested lets start something...I think it would be a hot commodity indeed!!
  8. SonOfSmawg

    SonOfSmawg Well-Known Member

    Yup, I know "the box" is sorta funky, but I think it's pretty amazing that a 16 year old came up with such a cheap, successful solution. Granted, it's ugly and the ice packs are probably a bit of a bother, but ya gotta give the kid credit...the damn thing works!
  9. SINEtist

    SINEtist Guest

    I haven't personally used the stuff for a computer yet, but Dynamat is some pretty amazing stuff for getting rid of vibrations. they even have a little flash movie for this type of application.

    just my 2c
  10. Jon Best

    Jon Best Active Member

    1) Buy $59 dorm-room style refrigerator bigger than your computer tower.

    2) Cut one hole off to the side of the door the same size as your tower's front panel

    3) Cut an additional hole over towards the other side about 4" square (like SOS' student's box, but in the front).

    4) Pull a trash bag (or two) bottom first through the big hole until one of the bottom corners is coming out the little hole. Snip a hole in that bottom corner

    5) Tape the edges of the bag to the edges of the two holes, so you have a big plastic tube starting at one hole and coming out the other.

    6) Stick a bunch of those silicon absorbent packages in the back of the bag.

    7) Pull your computer cables through from the big hole out the little hole, and stick the tower in the big hole as far as you can- flush, if you bought the right refrigerator. Plug in and rock.

    I have no idea if this would work, but it seems workable. You could probably put the whole assembly inside *another* box if you still hear too much noise.

    I think it's still worth trying to get a computer into another room- it doesn't really have to be that far away- if you're near a wall, you could arrange the computer just on the other side of the wall, and you'd probably only need 6 or 8 feet of cable, which should work for anything. If you're on a second floor, and you're above a room where this is feasible, you could create a little built in cabinet downstairs that was right up against the ceiling, and again, you'd only need 6-8' of cable.
  11. Tommy P.

    Tommy P. Well-Known Member

    I believe computers should run as quiet as high-end sound gear, especially when they're being used as high-end sound gear!

    So far the ideas and concepts that we've come up with are very good:

    Lower noise ball bearing fans
    Remote location of main unit
    Box within a cooled box(that 16yr old gets an "A")
    Put it in the fridge(condensation?)

    Heres some more stuff.

    First VIA makes a C3 CPU that fits in a socket370 motherboard, requires no fan, just a passive heatsink. At 800Mhz its about $54, is dog slow(no offence to anyones dog), and its VIA, (they are on my personal blacklist for the damn 686B southbridge and lackluster PCI and subsystem bandwidth in all products except the ENVY24 sound chip and they bought that company).So scratch that for me at the moment.

    Seagate and Maxtor drives both in IDE and SCSI flavors are the quietest around with IDE being quieter than SCSI.

    Water cooling. Anyone here tried it yet? Also Peltier cooling.

    I think a combination of a lot of things will add up to one quieter computer.
  12. Jon Best

    Jon Best Active Member

    This is an interesting point. Computers built to be high end sound gear really aren't the problem- at the high end, we'd all have the state of the art cooling and quieting rigs, and the couple extra grand would just be the price of admission.

    None of us are talking about the 'Vintage Neve mic preamp of computer setups,' exactly- we're all trying to get bang for the buck with comparatively cheap gear. That's what makes it interesting! Anyone can spend a couple grand and get a great sounding mic pre, but it's a different road to buy a Bellari and hack it into quality sound!

    Originally posted by Tommy P.:
    I believe computers should run as quiet as high-end sound gear, especially when they're being used as high-end sound gear!
  13. SINEtist

    SINEtist Guest

    oh boy,

    now I'm all psyched about the ASUS A7M266-D. I've done a bit of reading into this great mobo.

    One interesting thing I found, is that it doesn't come with onboard USB (they had problems with stability) so a 4 port USB 2.0 PCI card is included with the motherboard. I wanted to know if this pci card has support for internal USB. I sent off an email to ASUS on this issue, as I couldn't find this information elswhere. Note USB 2.0 is backwards compatable.

    This may be common knowledge to most of you, but I have read that you can use a single ADM MP processor at a time. This is cool because, now I can go over-budget, without going WAAAAY over-budget - then when the Visa bill gets a little friendlier I can add another MP, heat sink, fan etc.
  14. SINEtist

    SINEtist Guest


    a7m266d post was for a different thread. I'm all cracked out from benchmark reading. sorry, blargh...
  15. drick

    drick Active Member

    Home Page:
    Originally posted by Tommy P.:
    I believe computers should run as quiet as high-end sound gear, especially when they're being used as high-end sound gear!

    You're my man, Tommy! My current PC DAW is a studio-only rig, and lives in my machine room, otherwise known as the closet under the stairs. All it took was some high-quality video, keyboard, and mouse cables.

    But now I'm planning to build a rack-mount rig for location recording. The trouble is, the machine will often be sitting within arm's reach, because I'm crammed into a dressing room or projection booth. This rig must be very quiet! I'm doing classical recording, and I need to hear if a bus goes by during the take or a stage light clicks. Is this at all possible?

    So far, the only rack-mount cases I've seen seem to be designed for server use, and they sound like industrial vacuum cleaners. I'd willingly pay a premium for something better, if I could find it. Large soundproofed racks and whatnot are simply not an option here.

    So far the ideas and concepts that we've come up with are very good:

    Lower noise ball bearing fans
    Remote location of main unit
    Box within a cooled box(that 16yr old gets an "A")
    Put it in the fridge(condensation?)

    You folks have probably seen some of the "quiet" studio racks with special fan plenums. A local room has a ProTools rig installed in one of these, and my opinion is that the rig is
    still too noisy to be in a control room. But I saw an interesting line of racks at AES that use nofans! Instead they use heatpipes connecting to large heatsinks on the back or top of the rack. The size and weight of these means they won't work for me, but perhaps they'd be of interest to some of you. Here's the link: AcoustiLock.

    David L. Rick
    Seventh String Recording
  16. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    I just found a site that offers cables and such for remote operation of a PC or a Mac. For me, I would have to keep my Layla breakout box with the PC (in a closet or another room?), but everything else could be kept in the studio.

    Check 'em out:

  17. I've been using a Koolance watercooled case for about a year now with A7M266, 1.4Ghz and it is very quiet. With the new .13micron CPUs coming out from AMD we should be able to virtually run silent.
    Rumors are that up to 1Ghz they won't even need a fan over the heatsink. VIA and Intel haved released the first ones and AMD should be soon to follow. Would be ideal to be able to run as quiet as those iMacs.
    Allen :)
  18. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    Let me see if I understand this correctly Allen...

    These water-cooled cases don't provide any sound-proofing per se, but rather provide a cool environment for systems that don't use fans? So if I stuck my noisy fan-laden system stuck inside one of these cases, it would still be noisy (but cool!), is that correct???

  19. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    Laden? Are you swearing in here?!! lol
    Give that man a cigar...cooling case plus noisy fan=noisy cool case...lmao!!
    I saw at the Namm show a very cool sound proof box for computers but the friggent thing was huge!! I asked about smaller systems but he said then it would be too expensive at that works by some metal rod technology and fan circulation..the guy pretty much attacked me as I was walking by to show me the product!! lol
    Nice design but way too big for my needs. Unless I had two computers to shove in it side by side..thats how big it was!!!
  20. SonOfSmawg

    SonOfSmawg Well-Known Member

    Here's another kewl cooling system...
    Toms Hardware

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