PLEASE HELP me put finish touch to near-silent audio PC!!!

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sas
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PLEASE HELP me put finish touch to near-silent audio PC!!!

Post by sas » Sat Aug 27, 2005 5:40 am

Hi everyone,
I'm putting together a quiet audio pc/htpc. It will be for the living room, not inside a cabinet, so noise is a big issue. It will be 90% used for music playback linked to a hi-fi system, a bit of living room internet surfing, and maybe occasionally for DVD playback, but that's not a priority. After ALOT of searching these forums, here's where I am so far:

1. Silverstone LC13 case (change fans and add Zalman fanmates)
2. Seasonic S12-330 PSU (I think 330w is enough)
3. Matrox G550 card (don't need 3D, this is passive and cool and good quality for 2D)
4. Chaintech AV710 soundcard, with flashed Bios to get pure digital (ASIO) optical output to my DAC.
5. Samsung 2.5" notebook HDD for boot/system files.
6. Seagate 300GB for my 1000+ CD's encoded as APE lossless files.
7. DVD burner - to be decided last of all.

Comments?

All that is remaining is the mobo and CPU. I need something EASY to undervolt and underclock in the BIOS, so, if possible, I could perhaps even run it with a passive heatsink. I was thinking the most cost effective and future-proof platform is Athlon 64.

So, I desperately recommendations for a good quality mobo, CPU and heatsink combination that will finish this project off??
Budget is around $150 or so for the CPU: (Athlon 64 3000+ Venice?)
$100 or so for the mobo (underclockable/undervoltable)
$ 50 or do for the heatsink (scythe ninja?)

In addition, any suggestions on case damping, HDD enclosures etc...

thanks in advance for any help. My main problem is that I will visit the US later this year to pick the stuff up, and I cannot afford to get it all, put it all together and find it noisy :oops:. I live in a place where PC supplies are very sparse....

sas

mattthemuppet
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Post by mattthemuppet » Sat Aug 27, 2005 6:10 am

I'm no expert on these matters, but...

for the mobo - check out the undervoltable MB list in the recommended section, that'll give you a shortlist of boards to research further. I've got an excel file with MBs crossreferenced to that list by their ability to change fan speed (ie by using Speedfan or similar utility). This IMO gives you more flexibility than just setting the fans at one voltage with a fanmate.

CPU - thought of Pentium Ms? Except for the blinding price one of those would be ideal for you.

HDD - if you're using a big HDD for storage only, what about getting one that slows down when not seeking (Hitachi Deskstar 250 I think? it's in the reviews section)

if you have a really low noise system to start with, damping materials won't make all that much of a difference, unless the HDD is hard mounted (search for HDD and suspension for some ideas).

I really like my NEC 3450A DVD burner, though others (Plextor? there's a thread on silent storage to this effect) are more tweakable for silence, though of course this costs more!

then of course you get into the dynamic clocking utilities like CrystalCPUID, C'n'Q (ifyou don't go the Pentium M route that is).

about all I can offer at the mo'!

matt

sas
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Post by sas » Sat Aug 27, 2005 6:22 am

matt thanks for the very quick reply.

- for the CPU/Mobo, I kind of ruled out Pentium M because of the price, although that may change in the coming months. The prices on the Athlon 64's seem good, and I'm curious to know if undervolting them is really possibel to get them passively cooled.
What I really want to do is get a simple mobo/cpu combo, go straight into the BIOS and undervolt and underclock. If this is possible with Athlon 64, Pentium M would be a bit overkill price-wise.
- for the HDD, I'm using Seagate as storage for my music and have been happy with the noise level. However in a few months when I will buy, if Samsung have a 300GB Spinpoint model out I'd probably go for that.
- thanks for the DVD recommendation, will check it out.

Keep the suggestions coming if you can!

thanks a trillion, sas

mattthemuppet
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Post by mattthemuppet » Sat Aug 27, 2005 6:29 am

no worries, having a lazy Saturday :)

even undervolting/ underclocking an Athlon64 (eg a 3500+) will not get you down to the kind of heat output of a Pentium M - from what I've heard, even heavily undervolted/ underclocked A64s are still boarderline passive, unless you have an enormous HS (like the Ninja) with a case fan close by. On the other hand, the choice of MBs with PM is seriously limited. Might be worth looking at AMD Turions - frostedflakes on here has had a play with a couple and would know more about them than me - basically low voltage A64s AFAIK.

thing with noise producers, is that once you quiet one thing, you start hearing another :D I used to think my 7200.7 was silent, now I have my CPU undervolted and fans turned to minimum I can hear the bloody thing!

vertigo
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Post by vertigo » Sat Aug 27, 2005 7:14 am

If you want an A64 AGP board, I would suggest the Asus A8V Deluxe. It is underclockable/undervoltable in the bios, has a cool running Via chipset with passive sink. I have one myself and I am very happy with it.

Inevitably the noisiest thing for you will be the 3.5" drive. If you are flashing the sound card to get better conversations I would say you are a rather discerning listener. You almost certainly won't be happy with a 3.5" drive (because I am not too happy with it and you are surely more discerning).

What I would do is load media across a network and have a 2.5" drive in that PC. If you have a PC now then put the big drives in that machine and run a network. If you just have the two PC's you don't even need a switch, so it won't be too expensive.

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Post by frostedflakes » Sat Aug 27, 2005 10:28 am

I'd suggest a Sempron64. The 2600+ is only $63 on NewEgg, and should have more than enough power for what you intend to do with it.

For the board, you may want to consider the Jetway A200GDMS. It uses onboard X300 and Azalia audio, which are supposed to be very good for integrated solutions. There's a huge thread about Jetway's S754 and S939 RS480 motherboards on Anandtech.

http://forums.anandtech.com/messageview ... erthread=y

If you decide to stick with the Matrox and Chaintech sound card, I'd look into a quality board based on the Via K8T800 chipset, such as the ASUS K8V-X.
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sas
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Post by sas » Sat Aug 27, 2005 10:45 am

thanks again for the help everyone!

Matt - I will research the turions, but as you said, Pentium M would be ideal and I'll check for prices.

Vertigo - You're right about the drive. In fact at the moment my solution involves a mapped network drive with all the audio files on. I may stick with that set-up and just put the 300 gb drive in the server in the cupboard. Will check out the Asus A8V.

Frostedflakes: thanks for the tip. I hadn't thought of a Sempron, but will. Are they also underclockable / undervoltable / Cool'n'quiet compatible like the Athlon XP's?

Sorry for being a pain with these questions, it's just that last year I got a Shuttle SN41G2, put my Athlon 1800+ in it and the thing is HOT and NOISY, so I' going to move that computer to the kids' room for them to play with and start from scratch for the audio PC. Cannot bear to get it wrong again!

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Post by frostedflakes » Sat Aug 27, 2005 10:58 am

The Semprons are just as undervoltable as Athlon64s. Just make sure you get a 90nm Sempron, as there are probably some 130nm Semprons still floating around.

I know CnQ was only available on the 1.8GHz+ Semprons. However, I thought I remember reading that all the Sempron64s support CnQ, but I am not 100% sure on this.
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mattthemuppet
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Post by mattthemuppet » Sun Aug 28, 2005 1:56 am

as far as I know, Semprons are basically slightly less fancy Athlons (less cache usually) and are just as undervoltable. Really worth finding one (if you're getting a 754/939 socket one) that allows C'n'Q - then you can dynamically underclock/ undervolt them without giving up on the top end performance when you need it.

sas
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Post by sas » Sun Aug 28, 2005 3:26 am

Thanks everyone for all your advice.
I've been doing tonnes more searching, and have to conclude that for the cost of an Athlon 64+full ATX mobo+Matrox+Scythe+full ATX HTPC case+full ATX quiet power supply, there is not really a huge price difference between going for a Pentium M + integrated Aopen mobo + mini-atx case+PSU

So Ive come up with the following components (basically a copy of the review set-up for the Pentium M) and forum bits...

- Silverstone LC11 case
- 2x stock fans swapped with Panaflo low RPM fans + Zalman fanmates
- Aopen i855 mobo
- Pentium M 735 dothan - undervolted to 1.1v
- Zalman CNPS7000 heatsink/fan + fanmate
- Kingston Value Ram 2x512mb
- Samsung 2.5" 40GB HDD for system files - suspended
- Seagate 3.5" 300GB HDD for music files -- will move it to server if too noisy in the case
- BenQ 1640 DVD burner
- Chaintech AV-710 soundcard using asio4all to get bit perfect optical to DAC
- Microsoft Wireless keyboard/mouse
- 17" BenQ or Samsung or LG LCD monitor

the total cost is $1,300 at Newegg, about the same cost as a decent Pentium M laptop (albeit with less ram, smaller screen, no 300GB HDD and no dual layer DVD burner). According to my calcs, the cost is also just about $200 or so more than a simliar configuration but with a Via Epia 13000 mobo/cpu or with an Athlon 64.

That said, I'm still not ruling out the Semprons/Athlons -- mainly because of the 64 bit capability which may be worth going for given that MS should have a new 64bit windows out in 2006. AMD Turions w/ micro-atx mobos may also be there in the coming couple of months.
My purchase will not be until around november, and imagine prices will change, but now I'm over the moon I have a basic spec to work from.

Let me take this opportunity to thank you all for your replies, and I'll keep you posted...

all best!

mattthemuppet
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Post by mattthemuppet » Sun Aug 28, 2005 1:18 pm

no worries! spending other peoples money is way more guilt free (and easier) than spending your own :)

I'd really give Ralf Hutter a PM for advice on PM systems - he's the resident expert on them and an all round nice chap. He'll certainly be more capable of picking holes in your plans than I am :P

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Post by sthayashi » Sun Aug 28, 2005 1:37 pm

He does read these forums, and although I can't speak for him, I can guess what he might say, since I'm going to say it myself: It looks fine by me.

I've got a very similar build planned and it looks remarkably like what you've listed above.

The only other thing that I could suggest and this borders on diminishing returns, IMHO, is using Nexus instead of Panaflo, and leaving the Zalman unplugged entirely.
[size=75][url=http://www.twolf1300.net/sthayashi/SPCR/systems.html]My Power Rig, Storage Rig, HTPC and Main Rig[/url][/size]

sas
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Post by sas » Sun Aug 28, 2005 9:50 pm

matt & sthayashi
thanks for the good advice -- will check out the Nexus fans and keep checking here in the meantime. The only thing I've added to the list in the meantime is a passive Chaintech AGP card with DVI/D-sub/S-video out -- this as DirectX9 compatibility and would leave the door open to an OS upgrade from XP to Vista.
Now, that Ralf chap wouldn't happen to be Ralf "Computer Love" Hutter, would it???!!! :shock:

regmentor
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Post by regmentor » Mon Aug 29, 2005 2:53 am

is that seagate drive is SATA it will be noisy, I asked seagate if they will offer a utility to put take them off performance mode like the ide drives and had a dissapointing answer
DiscSupport@seagate.com said:

If the drive is running in NCQ mode (Native Command Queuing) the drive will automatically go into "performance mode" which is a tad bit noisier than the non-NCQ mode. Try disabling the NCQ mode of the drive to see if the noise is quieter.


All of our new Serial ATA (SATA) drives are optimized for performance, we do not have a utility that can slow them down.

Mankey
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Post by Mankey » Mon Aug 29, 2005 12:53 pm

I really think you should go with one of those VIA EPIA boards/cpus. Not much processing power, but they are VERY VERY cheap, and consume very little power. ~10 watts if i recall. They have graphics and network inttegrated. They also have a PCI slot, so you can add a high quality soundcard. You can even use a brick style psu to avoid a PSU fan. I use one as a file server in my house, and it works totally fine. It is even able to play back high bitrate DIVX with no real problems, so DVD would be no problem at all.

Check it out, you can make your whole system for a fraction of the proposed one above.

sas
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Post by sas » Mon Aug 29, 2005 9:33 pm

Mankey wrote:I really think you should go with one of those VIA EPIA boards/cpus. Not much processing power, but they are VERY VERY cheap, and consume very little power. ~10 watts if i recall. They have graphics and network inttegrated. They also have a PCI slot, so you can add a high quality soundcard. You can even use a brick style psu to avoid a PSU fan. I use one as a file server in my house, and it works totally fine. It is even able to play back high bitrate DIVX with no real problems, so DVD would be no problem at all.

Check it out, you can make your whole system for a fraction of the proposed one above.
Thanks Mankey,
Indeed I've looked seriously at the VIA - but their latest 1.3 ghz mobo/cpu combo (the SP13000) is $260. To get it near passive, it appears the stock heatsink/fan needs to be changed, just like with the Pentium M. For 'just' $150 more I have a Pentium M motherboard/CPU and MUCH more power -- useful for encoding/decoding and multitasking etc. My thinking at the moment is that the price difference is probably worth it.
At the moment I'm using an Athlon XP 1800+ (1.5ghz) in my annoyingly noisy shuttle-based HTPC -- fine for every music playback task but painfully solw for encoding and mass tagging. Having the extra speed from the Pentium M would be a boost.
You're right about the PSU brick advantage though, although the Silverstone case for the Pentium M tested here seemed to do OK.
regards

derekva
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Actually, if you are simply going digital-out...

Post by derekva » Wed Aug 31, 2005 3:06 pm

If you are strictly passing digital (e.g. using S/P-DIF or Optical output) to an external D/A converter, then there is no reason to install an expensive sound card. It'll just be a really pricy pass-through.

Just my $0.02.

-Derek
Mankey wrote:I really think you should go with one of those VIA EPIA boards/cpus. Not much processing power, but they are VERY VERY cheap, and consume very little power. ~10 watts if i recall. They have graphics and network inttegrated. They also have a PCI slot, so you can add a high quality soundcard. You can even use a brick style psu to avoid a PSU fan. I use one as a file server in my house, and it works totally fine. It is even able to play back high bitrate DIVX with no real problems, so DVD would be no problem at all.

Check it out, you can make your whole system for a fraction of the proposed one above.

sas
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Re: Actually, if you are simply going digital-out...

Post by sas » Wed Aug 31, 2005 10:25 pm

derekva wrote:If you are strictly passing digital (e.g. using S/P-DIF or Optical output) to an external D/A converter, then there is no reason to install an expensive sound card. It'll just be a really pricy pass-through.
Just my $0.02.
-Derek
Derek,
I agree, though some will argue that some Spdif's are superior than others. I'll probably just use a Chaintech AV710 soundcard - dirt cheap and capable of producing pure digital (toslink) out using ASIO - and better quality than the onboard spdif's that most mobos have (IMO noisier and do needless automatic upsampling from 44.1 to 48khz).
But be warned that some people will spend up to $1000 to get a jitter-free spdif out (see www.empiricalaudio.com under 'computer audio'), and argue nothing else will do.
My view is the $30 Chaintech is fine for my purposes (tho I may get a $75 M-Audio Transit USB to get the SPDIF conversion process out of the PC just to be safe) -- and while I accept that beyond these there could be improvements, these improvements are subject to some serious price/performance diminishing returns -- especially with a good, jitter-immune DAC like the Benchmark DAC1.
sas

sas
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Post by sas » Wed Aug 31, 2005 10:30 pm

regmentor wrote:is that seagate drive is SATA it will be noisy, I asked seagate if they will offer a utility to put take them off performance mode like the ide drives and had a dissapointing answer
DiscSupport@seagate.com said:

If the drive is running in NCQ mode (Native Command Queuing) the drive will automatically go into "performance mode" which is a tad bit noisier than the non-NCQ mode. Try disabling the NCQ mode of the drive to see if the noise is quieter.


All of our new Serial ATA (SATA) drives are optimized for performance, we do not have a utility that can slow them down.

Hi regmentor,
I was looking at the Seagate IDE rather than SATA (don't need the extra speed for audio playback). However, hopefully Samsung spinpoints (IDE) will hit the 300GB mark soon and I'll get one of those instead. 250GB is just a bit on the small side for me at the moment.
Many thanks for the heads up tho -- something very interesting that I haven't heard of before.
sas

msmrodan
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Post by msmrodan » Wed Aug 31, 2005 11:01 pm

But be warned that some people will spend up to $1000 to get a jitter-free spdif out
Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for audiophile grade gear, but as my understanding goes jitter is something that occurs in the actual conversion process and not at the SPDIF source. And whats that thing with galvanic isolation???

Not to mention the fact that the device you linked to looks like a 7th grade kids science project. Selling that for 1000$ is dubious at best. For a moment I thought you meant Empirical Labs , makers of the excellent Distressor compressor line (now THATS a real high end audio manufacturer).

In short you're much better off getting an external DA converter like the Benchmark DAC-1 (850$), which is amazing. FWIW I can't discern any difference whatsoever in the signal when I connect it to my Echo Audio MIAs (pro level soundcard) SPDIF out or to the onboard ASUS SPDIF.

Regarding the comp, why not go for an AMD barton mobile? They're dirt cheap and you can undervolt them to something like 30 watts or less..

Cheers,

msm
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sas
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Post by sas » Thu Sep 01, 2005 1:17 am

msmrodan wrote: Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for audiophile grade gear, but as my understanding goes jitter is something that occurs in the actual conversion process and not at the SPDIF source. And whats that thing with galvanic isolation???
from what I've read jitter can be introduced anywhere in the spdif chain -- conversion to the spdif standard, cabling etc. However some people will argue that "bits are bits" and so on. I don't claim to know enough about it, and don't have $1000 to experiment with, so I'll stick with a chaintech AV710 for $24 and a $30 glass toslink cable.
msmrodan wrote: Not to mention the fact that the device you linked to looks like a 7th grade kids science project. Selling that for 1000$ is dubious at best.
I've never heard it, and probably never will. But I'm too meek to say its all rubbish, but my guess is that there are some serious diminishing returns involved....

msmrodan wrote: In short you're much better off getting an external DA converter like the Benchmark DAC-1 (850$), which is amazing. FWIW I can't discern any difference whatsoever in the signal when I connect it to my Echo Audio MIAs (pro level soundcard) SPDIF out or to the onboard ASUS SPDIF.
The DAC1 is probably what I'll get -- seems the ticket given that you get a headphone amp, digital preamp and DAC all in one. Encouraging to hear you like yours. I only listen to digital, so plan to use it as a preamp using the balanced connections to my monoblocks. How is yours set up?
Regarding the mobo spdif out -- the two mobos I have at the moment (ASUS coax + Shuttle optical) are inferior to my M-Audio USB Sonica optical out (my DAC is a Marantz) now I'm not talking audiophile esoteric differences here, just plain and simple pops and ticks! Can't seem to work out why.
msmrodan wrote: Regarding the comp, why not go for an AMD barton mobile? They're dirt cheap and you can undervolt them to something like 30 watts or less..
Thanks for the suggestion -- I'll look into it, but finding the right mobo seems a bit complicated. So far I'm kind of thinking between mobile Athlon 64 and Pentium M...

cheers and all best, sas

msmrodan
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Post by msmrodan » Thu Sep 01, 2005 2:48 am

The DAC1 is probably what I'll get -- seems the ticket given that you get a headphone amp, digital preamp and DAC all in one. Encouraging to hear you like yours. I only listen to digital, so plan to use it as a preamp using the balanced connections to my monoblocks. How is yours set up?
Yes it is lovely, although I use it primarily for mixing and producing over music listening.
The sound quality is very 'smooth and silky' (for lack of a better description) over standard consumer DAC's which can sound harsh and fatiguing over time.
I'm also hooked up balanced to a pair of Yamaha MSP5 powered monitors, with the coaxial SPDIF from my MIA.
from what I've read jitter can be introduced anywhere in the spdif chain -- conversion to the spdif standard, cabling etc. However some people will argue that "bits are bits" and so on. I don't claim to know enough about it, and don't have $1000 to experiment with, so I'll stick with a chaintech AV710 for $24 and a $30 glass toslink cable.
I've never heard it, and probably never will. But I'm too meek to say its all rubbish, but my guess is that there are some serious diminishing returns involved....
I think the Chaintech will be completely fine. All I meant was that for my 1000$ I would at least expect to get a shielded, sturdy metal box with Class A style mounting techniques inside. That said I would be interested in hearing a sound argument (not meaning you here :) ) as to why the current onboard SPDIF solutions introduce any kind of distortion (remember there is error correction built in), but then again we live in the age of the 500$ AC cable, so who am I to say? (sigh)

Thanks for the suggestion -- I'll look into it, but finding the right mobo seems a bit complicated. So far I'm kind of thinking between mobile Athlon 64 and Pentium M...
I'm using an ABIT NF7-S (which cost me around 80$ a year ago, should be cheaper by now - as a bonus it comes with built in optical TosLink) with the Mobile 2500.
Using watercooling I got it up to 2550Mhz - Equivalent to a modern P4 running at 3.8 Ghz, but now I'm just running it stock with a zalman 6000 and a 120mm fan at 1200 rpm...very quiet indeed
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ronrem
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Post by ronrem » Sat Sep 03, 2005 6:01 pm

the ECS KV2 Extreme at $92 Newegg,is a socket 939 board,Via chipset.does use AGP vid cards. The ECS Extreme mobos have a special pci slot for soundcards for minimal interferance+noise. The KN-1 Extreme is the NF4 PCI-express version.

It's hard to top the A64 Venice 3000 for price+cool/quiet running. It's more power than a livingroom box usually needs until you start doing video capture

my vid card is a
powercolor Radeon R92DV-C3L,a basic passive Radeon with Vivo,and not expensive

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