Meet the offendor. in this picture above is hands down the loudest pc you will have ever had the pleasure of tossing out the window. using an amazing decibel meter app on my iphone, i discovered that the offendor was pumping out a compression level of nearly 75 decibels. to give you an idea of where that is on the loudness scale, 75 db is somewhere between a vacuum cleaner and a phone ringing. i don’t mean that nice little jingle you have on your cell, either. i’m talking about that wildly inappropriate punch to the ear that annoying friend of yours is using on their nokia.
this is how we’re going to fix it. well, its half of the fix, but we’ll get to the other half in a minute. this is the acoustipack multi-layered sound damping material i ordered from acousticpc.com. i orderd two kits, but you’ll most likely only need one. they’ll run you about $50 per kit, so you may want to take your measurements before hand. they advertise it with all kinds of crazy sound absorption specs that i really don’t understand, but one thing is clear. it will not only quiet that box of yours, it will also add to the dead weight of your box. i didn’t do a before and after weighing, but i assure you it was noticeably heavier afterward.
above is the other half of the solution. this monstrocity is a cooler master v8 cpu cooler. this monster sports a heat piped set of four heatsinks, two on each side of a super quiet 12 cm fan. it comes with a controller knob that goes in an empty slot on the back that allows you to adjust the speed of the fan, and plugs into the cpu fan header on your motherboard.
before we can do anything, we’re going to need to empty the case. everything needs to come out. lets start with the cover. immediately after removing it, we can see most of the problem. the stock intel socket 775 cooler is the loudest piece of shit you could ever strap on to a dual core. the first thing you should do when you buy a boxed intel processor is open the box, throw away this piece of shit, and install the quieter more efficient cpu cooler you bought to use instead. i’m incapable of throwing anything away, so i have a few of these stashed in a drawer for never.
in my situation, i need the box to be quiet because i use it for audio recording. multi-track audio recording and mixing is pretty demanding on the hardware, so i have a pair of 500 gig drives set up in a striped raid array. for the layman, that means i have about a terabyte of stupid fast disk storage. what this also means is that it is very important that these drives get plugged back in exactly where they were. not doing so can potentially be disastrous. your computer could actually explode into a flaming mass of death dealing cataclysm. not really, but you could lose data. I used some painters tape and a sharpie to mark my drives. the raid controller card already has labels on its ports, so all we have to do is make them match up.
removing the motherboard is pretty easy. just unplug everything on it, unscrew it from the chassis, and lift it out. gently. once we get the mother board out, we’ll be needing to remove that stupid fucking loud ass intel cooler. its a real piece of shit, man. i was tempted to toss it out into my driveway and roll over it a few times with my car, but i recently got a brand new set of rims with some expensive tires. i don’t want to mess them up. toss it in the drawer with the other ones instead. by drawer i mean garbage can, and by toss i mean light on fire.
while we’ve got the motherboard out and the offendor’s noise generator removed, set ablaze, and tossed in the dumpster, lets go ahead and get the v8 on there. first we need to put on the brackets that let us mount it to the socket 775 board we have. this is easily done with a few screws and a philips screwdriver.
another bracket needs to go on the back of the motherboard. this lets the heat sink bolt on to the motherboard without causing the board to warp. this is far superior to intel’s method of using kmart quality clips that just stab into the holes on the board and cause it bend up gradually around the cpu socket. the v8 comes with all kinds of instructions and everything you need to install it, including some nice thermal compound you can finger paint on your cpu with. i generally like to smear a smiley face across the top of the cpu. it makes me think that my cpu is happy and doesn’t hate me for the fact that i’m going to make it work like a dog. since the v8 is so damned big, its a little awkward to get installed. in the above scene i’m actually teetering the board on the v8 to gently tighten the nuts from the bottom.
this should give you an idea of scale. the v8 as damned huge and will barely fit in the case. it will fit though, don’t worry. my case is only a mid tower atx (medium sized case), but i had room to put the cover on and screw everything shut nice and tight.
unlike some heat sink and fan combinations, this one sits well above the little components surrounding the processor. a lot of times the heat sink won’t sit right on a particular board because of the placement of other components on the board. as you can see, this isn’t a problem here. i even have plenty of room for the heat piped chipset cooler on my board.
another significantly less annoying source of noise is this 400 watt power supply. i’ve discovered over the course of my computer upgrading and repairing career that a lot of the noise in the power supply can be eliminated just by cleaning it.
if you want to listen to the power supply fan, all you have to do is make sure its plugged in, has the rear switch in the on position, then short the black and green wires in the motherboard connector. it should immediately spin up, because it thinks that the motherboard has told it to do so. i use the little nose-picker-screw-grabber-thingamabobber that comes in every generic computer tool kit to do this.
i’m an ex-smoker, as you have probably picked up already by my quirky abrasive writing style. this particular power supply has been around a lot longer than i have been not smoking, so its got that lovely smoker dust-n-gunk all in the fan. lets take it apart and use our handy shop-vac electronics cleaning attachments to suck out all the funk.
so now we have a nice empty case. clean it. wipe it all out, then check it again. the metal needs to be clean and free of the giant flying insects that somehow magically get in these cases then die in plain view underneath the window for all your friends to see. the next step is to gather our scissors and sound damping materials. we’re going to line the entirety of this case with that wonderful stuff. this part really isn’t difficult. acoustipack made it pretty easy on us by making it a peel back style adhesive that is actually removable, so as long as the metal is clean, you can place it then pull it right back up if its not just right.
my case has three panels that come off, the windowed panel, the front bezel, and a non-windowed panel on the opposite side. the easiest of these to cover with the sound damping material is the non-windowed panel, so we’ll start there.
next we do the windowed panel. this requires a little bit of cutting, but the worst is yet to come. because the window has little bolts that hold the acrylic window in place, some notches were cut to get the material to fit around them. i don’t recommend trying to get this all in one piece unless you plan to make a business of this. take your time and trim to fit. peel the backing and adhere it to the metal only after its cut and fits. the backing allows you to place it without sticking it on the metal permanently, so take advantage of that.
the next hardest bit will probably be the inside top of the chassis. in my case, this area is ribbed into sections, so multiple pieces will need to be used. the last section in this area was a real pain in the ass because of the 5.25″ drive bay rack. you may need to use multiple pieces for this area in your case as well.
it was not my intention to fool around with this shit. i did what i could to apply this material to every available surface. on the inside back of the case, you’ll need to play a little tetris with the pieces you cut. don’t worry, doing a section at a time and using small cuts where you need them won’t take away from the overall effectiveness of this material. as you can see here, i had to get creative while applying around the rear vent and card slots.
the rest of the inside of the chassis is pretty straightforward. the inside bottom may or may not be doable in one piece, and since we already have the non-windowed panel covered, covering the motherboard tray would not only be pointless and redundant, it would also make reinstalling the motherboard a nightmare. don’t bother. the inside of the front bezel is tricky though. as you can see above, i covered the entire thing from top to bottom. special cuts were needed for the dvd-rom drive bay and the screw pegs. i did not peel the backing off for this application. instead i cut this from one piece and made a snug fit so that it would bow inwards maintaining a pocket for the rear exhaust and front intake fans to bring in plenty of air. we’ll need that air coming in even more now because the v8 will be pulling a significant amount of heat off the cpu and smoldering the inside of the case with it.
once all the sound damping material is in place, its time to put everything back into the case. make sure everything gets screwed into place firmly and that all connections are reattached. airflow is important now because the acoustipack is not only a sound damper, but also a very good insulator. if the airflow isn’t good enough, the inside of the case will quickly become a furnace. now is a good time to exercise some good cable management practices. tuck the wires away and use zip ties where you need to. you’d be surprised how much a nasty wad of wires can affect airflow.
slip on the panels and tighten everything down. congratulations. we have successfully muted the offendor.
i took some more decibel readings using the decibel app on my iphone after everything was put back together and working like it should. before turning on the machine, i took a reading of the room. even with my heavy mouth breathing and the screams coming from the basement, i read a modestly quiet room at 38 decibels. now its time to see how we fared. i booted up the computer, let it finish doing all of its windowsy boot stuff, and let it sit idle for a minute, then took another reading. this time it read 42 decibels. it went from a 75 db phone ringing vacuum cleaning turbo prop to an almost dead quiet 42 db. i can hear air moving, but i can’t hear the fans really. at this point i decided to load up my multi-track audio application and load the biggest session i have to give the disk array a workout. for the first time ever i could hear the hard drive heads tapping louder than the cpu fan. in fact, that’s all i could hear. the meter showed 44 db while the drives were screaming, but this is still pleasantly quiet. the whole deal set me back about $130 for this one machine. say what you will, but 130 bucks for an upgrade is common and in this situation the upgrade is a perfectly quiet room.
there is more that can be done, however. they make hard drive mounts that will completely destroy all disk noise, as well as acoustic gel fan mounts for the exhaust and intake fans that will leave no sound but the moving air. maybe at some point i’ll go completely anal and install that stuff too.