First the specs:
Abit KV8Pro motherboard
Athlon64 3000+ (2 GHz) Newcastle CPU
Zalman CNPS-7000B-Cu CPU Cooler
TwinMos 2x512 PC3500 DDR RAM
PowerColor Radeon 9700 nonpro graphics card (BIOS flashed to be Pro but still with nonpro clock speeds)
Thermaltake Fanless Heatpipe graphics cooler
Seasonic Super Silencer 400W PSU with 5V Panaflo M1 mod
Seagate 7200.7 SATA 120Gb disks w/ 8 MB cache x 2
NEC 2510A DVDRW drive
Antec SLK3700AMB case
Nexus 120mm fans (x2)
You can click on the pictures to view the large hires versions. Some of them are REALLY large. For those who want to get all the large pics in one go, here's a 2 MB RAR file
Let's get some establishing shots: An overall view and a closeup of the business area:
I chose the Abit motherboard because it offers excellent cable routing. Unfortunately the BIOS is plagued with that darn uGuru chip and doesn't allow undervolting. There's a lot of free space around the CPU, a passive northbridge, lots of space to the AGP slot, 20-pin power is at the edge and top of the board, the IDE slots are at 90 degrees and not too far down. The 4-pin 12V socket is also close to the parallel port so I can route that cable easily too. It also has 5 fan headers. I don't intend to use that many naturally but so many also means there's a nearby header when you need one.
On the case, I cut out both front and back grills. I'll be needing a front fan as those Seagate drives run really hot. I installed a pair of Nexus fans. The grill cuts were lined with some discarded windshield wiper rubber (if you cut off the wiping edge, the remainder is a very flexible double-U molded rubber). Note that the front fan is mounted on the outside of the case. Reasons are further below.
The Nexus fans were secured with zipties. Zipties allowed me to mount the Nexus (which have closed edges) on the 3700AMB which has nonstandard holes designed for the now-ditched plastic fan holders. As I have the nasty habbit of sticking my fingers on the back fans, I had to install a wire grill at the back. The ziptie goes from the wire grill to the fan and both grill and fan are decoupled from the case thanks to the rubber.
The Seagate harddisks are quietish but are a real offender still. I previously tried various foam decoupling methods with no satisfactory results. Unfortunately I have no access to Sorbothane so I was only left with the option of suspending. Fortunately the AMB has a removable drive cage. Playing around with the drive cage, I realized I could turn it sideways and suspend it. I used some elastic cord (the material used in swimsuits actually - very very cheap), looped them through the grommet holes on the cage and secured the ends with zipties. I used the outermost hdd slots on the cage which left me three hdd mount positions. I used the second and fourth slots so as to have wide air passages to avoid cavitation noise. This mounting method forces the hdd cage to swing forward. I used the wiping edge from the windshield wipers as bumpers against the accidental shake. I had to mount the front Nexus fan outside the case to make way for the cage. The USB cables were rerouted throuhg another opening and the small speaker found a home somewhere a little up.
The PSU is another part that's very difficult to tame. I was planning to go with a fan-modded Fortron or a Tagan. However, Mike literally beat me on the head to get a high-efficiency PSU. He went so far as to mod a Seasonic Super Silencer 400W with a Panaflo M1BX and ship it to me. He says he soldered the M1 to the 5V line on the bottom of the PCB. Just out of curiosity I opened it up and I could have sworn that the PSU was a factory product. I really cannot Mike enough for opening up my eyes to the realities of a high-efficiency PSU. The impact of this PSU on noise and temps is incredible. Even though it has a slower turning fan and is powering a much more powerful computer it exhausts a barely felt slightly warm air as opposed to the strainings and hot exhaust of the TruePower 380S in my other Sonata.
I did of course took steps to insure that the PSU had easy access to fresh air. Because of the door of the Antec and my reluctance to open up new holes, PSU ducting was out of the question. So I cleaned up the internal wiring. All unnecessary wiring is tucked on top, everything else is attached to the support bar. IDE cable is folded away. I did end up with a bit of ugly cable folding on the motherboard end (the cable was 5cm too short) but I haven't had any problems yet.
Finally, I attached some extra tiny heatsinks I had on hand on some of the extrahot components on the motherboard and lined the side panel and the bottom with some melamine. The melamine foam was for trial. I still haven't done a before/after analysis but I don't have any metallic air rushing sound coming from the case. The foam, by the way, came with the fingers and I had to cut most of it off to make it fit. Thus the slightly ghetto look. The dirty areas are the result of 15 days of running with the slot opening I left below the graphics card. Previously, when I had a VGA Silencer running, the foam was pristine white. I really need to think of a way to close that gap.
Now some info about the invisible parts. The CPU fan header is routed under the AGP slot where it attaches to first an inline resistor and then to a fanmate. The fanmate is located outside the case on the back. The fanmate lead then goes back into the case to the appropriate motherboard header. You can make out some of the contraption on the overview picture. This is one reason why I can't just screw in a slot cover, I need some way to route the fanmate cables. This setup gives very low fan speeds. The Abit board has trouble recognising the fan rpm signal at such low speeds but a similar setup I did on my other computer suggests that the fan is turning at 720 rpms on average.
The Nexus fans are quiet but not quiet enough at full speed. I was planning to undervolt just the exhaust fan to have a near neutral case pressure. Unfortunately, it turned out that the front fan sits too close to the filter on the bezel and thus makes a racket. I had to undervolt both. I did this by splicing a 39 Ohm resistor to a bit of molex extension that powers both fans. My calculations say the Nexus fans are 40 Ohm each so this should have the effect of halving their speed. Motherboar Monitor indicates 780 rpms on average.
Now for some temps to arouse your jealousy
The below table shows the high-low recordings of Motherboard Monitor. I didn't compansate for calibration but previous tests say my CPU temps are reported 2-3C too high. I use CrystalCPUID to manage multiplier and core voltage. Core voltage is set for 1.175V (which Abit produces as 1.2V) for full load (2 GHz) and 0.875V (Abit makes this 0.9V) for idle (downclocked to 1100 MHz). I could probably go lower but even though Windows XP runs stable, Windows 64-bit crashes at any lower speeds.
The high temp was recorded during a 90 minute Prime95 run with small in-place FFTs. (I didn't have CPUBurn available at the time) The lows are for 15 minute idle with the CPU downvolted/downclocked to 1100 MHz. All load temps go up by 5V when playing games as the passive graphics card cooler dumps the heat onto the CPU. By the way, FarCry at max settings produces higher temps than 3DMark2005. The current values are for folding.
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+-------------------------------------------------------------------------+ |Total number of readouts: 691 CPU Speed: 2044 MHz | |Running from: 28.11.2004 10:25:42 until: 28.11.2004 12:21:09 | +-----------------------------+----------+----------+----------+----------+ |Sensor | Current | Low | High | Average | +-----------------------------+----------+----------+----------+----------+ |Case | 33° C | 32° C | 33° C | 32° C | |CPU | 44° C | 27° C | 45° C | 43° C | |CPU Core | 1,20 V | 0,90 V | 1,21 V | 1,19 V | |CPU Fan | 240 RPM | 0 RPM | 421 RPM | 192 RPM | |Exhaust Fan | 783 RPM | 722 RPM | 783 RPM | 778 RPM | +-----------------------------+----------+----------+----------+----------+
Noisewise, this setup is very very quiet. I cannot hear it at all during the day even in a quiet ambient. Late at night, I can make out the faint hum of the hard drives. The Panaflo in the PSU is only noticable by a slightly lower noise if stopped. There's no way I can distinguish it above the hdd whine. The nexus fans and the Zalman fan are impossible to hear, my ambient is never low enough.
Thanks for reading this long post. Special thanks go to MikeC, Rusty075, Ralf Hutter, Bluefront and EdwardNg who've contributed knowhow to this setup greatly.
Edits: Corrected idle CPU temp, added HDD temps