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Does anyone here have strategies, or more specifically successes, in limiting machine noise (computers and hard drives) in your home studio? There are people who build their own acoustic isolation boxes, others who go all solid state with hard drives, others who pay US$2000+ for commercial sound-dampening rack units, others who pay more to put machines in closets or in other rooms...it seems like there are many variations, and tradeoffs, between cost, and heat management, and convenience.

What have you found to be successful, or good values in terms of price:performance?

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@NoiseJockey, excellent and always pertinent question! –  Jay Jennings Dec 17 '10 at 3:45
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5 Answers 5

I'd suggest putting it in another room and getting yourself some usb/firewire repeaters and a usb/firewire hub or two. Repeaters are usually under $100. I don't know the specs on what cable length DVI can support, but a repeater for that shouldn't be too expensive either. With the hubs you can can set up a litle terminal system and have all your interface stuff (monitor, keyboard, mouse, audio I/O, external drives, etc.) in the room with you, but you can put the computer somewhere else. All you need to do is run the cable. ;)

Check out the Geffen site, you can plug in how far you want to run stuff (and what you want to run), and they'll tell you what products (their own, of course) you'll need and how much they cost. It'd be a good place to start for anyone who's interested in going this route. I wouldn't necessarily recommend the Geffen products, they've just got a reasonably useful tool on their page.

Here's the link: http://www.gefen.com/kvm/wizard.jsp

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Excellent idea. You can get HDMI/DVI over CAT5 for $250 from SIIG that works very well. They also have some very nice KVM extenders over CAT5. –  VCProd Dec 17 '10 at 18:42
    
@VCProd - yeah, I didn't bother mentioning the CAT5 extenders, because I figure people probably would be planning those length runs in their home, but who knows. I guess better for people to know about them than not...thanks for mentioning them. –  Shaun Farley Dec 17 '10 at 18:51
    
@Shaun with HDMI/DVI, it's going to be more stable to use CAT5 to run distances of more than 20 feet, and probably cheaper than buying those long cables! –  VCProd Dec 20 '10 at 16:31
    
@VCProd - good info to have, thanks. for the record, we've got Geffen CAT5 extenders at work. usually they're ok, but every once in a while they wig out, and I have to climb around behind my console to reseat connections. Anyone looking for CAT5 extenders, I'd suggest you avoid Geffen's models. –  Shaun Farley Dec 20 '10 at 18:05
    
Your total budget for moving gear into another room will always be less expensive than buying "silent" fans, cards, drives etc. In my experience DVI and HDMI cables work flawlessly @ 10m/33ft. Same goes with active USB repeaters @ 15ft. The geffen stuff is overrated and too expensive for home setups. CAT5 to DVI/USB isn't necessary for runs under 30 feet or so. I've also seen the cheaper geffen CAT5 to DVI extenders perform poorly / intermittently. –  studio13 Aug 1 '11 at 1:26
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In my last apartment, I drilled a hole in the wall to a built-in closet in the kitchen and put my computer there. With extension cables for everything (including the on-off button), I had a completely silent room where the ground noise from the speakers was the most apparent noise source.

In my new apartment, I don't have that possibility so I'm struggling with machine noise as well. Piece by piece I am replacing the loudest components in my computer with more silent ones. So far, I've replaced the processor cooler (Scythe Mugen Rev B, about $40), case fans (Nexus 800rpm or Scythe SL 800rpm, or Noctua 800 rpm, $7 each), computer case (Antec P183 which has triple layer walls and silicon mounting thingies for the hard drives, $140) and I replaced an old Maxtor hard drive with a newer, bigger one that happened to be much quieter too (Samsung Spinpoint F3). And an ssd for the operating system is on its way.

Antec P183 case

I would say the current configuration makes a third of the noise of my old setup. If after a while it's still too noisy for my taste, next steps would be a quiet aftermarket cooler for my graphics card (a passively cooled card would be better, but right now I want to keep this one), and then perhaps one of those "bitumen mat" absorber kits that cost about $20.

My last resort would be to go to ikea, buy a cupboard just big enough for the computer to fit and stuff it with mineral wool - leaving some strategic holes and open space inside for air circulation.

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If you can run fanless heatsinks, that helps suppress the noise level the machine makes if it must stay local - I run a fat Thermaltake on my Q6600 and it runs like a champ. I also snagged an Asus fanless nVidia 5800GT card. So the system has fans, just less of them, especially the smaller and nosier ones of the CPU and GPU. I actually had to do a little research into MacPros architecture to learn about the fanless implementations.

Of course, I agree with others that the box should be moved elsewhere and Geffen boxes are great. Although, if it has to stay local, this is a small-cost solution. Although it does require some computer tinkering if you've already got a built machine you're working with ;)

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I have gone the "keep the computer quiet" route myself, as it is not practical for me to put the computer in another room. Further, there are times when it is essential to have access to the computer (unplugging and replugging stuff, trouble-shooting, etc.), and then having it right next to me helps a lot.

If you are getting a new machine, buying from a vendor who offers computers optimized for audio applications makes sense. Such machines will usually be configured to run quietly from the get-go (damped case, quiet fans, etc.). Sweetwater Sound is a good source for quiet PCs, and they offer excellent support for what they sell as well.

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I place noisy equipment in closed drawers at home and then strategically place absorbent materials around the kit so that you they enough air to keep cool. With regards to the computer I use a laptop to reduce fan noise.

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