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These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.
Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.
The Cooler Master Silencio 550 is imbued with most of the qualities required for a quiet chassis. The panels are solid, preventing noise from leeching out a side vent, the door masks the the hard drive(s) and intake fan noise, and the damping foam helps prevent standing waves. Its appearance is pleasing simple, streamlined, and lacking the odd contours of more fanciful high-end cases. There are a few conveniences though including an SD card slot and a hard drive dock, though the dock could use an eject mechanism. With components that have a modest total power profile, say <200W total, the Silencio 550 can certainly be an exceeding quiet system.
The main problem for cases billed as quiet is they usually can use some additional airflow. In the Silencio, the slit vents on the sides of the front bezel could have been bigger and perhaps should really run all the way up like the Fractal Design Define R3 rather than stopping halfway. Punching a few holes in the floor would help as well and wouldn't add any extra noise, though additional air filters would be required to keep out dust. The stock fans run a bit too slowly, too quiet for their own good as they likely would be drowned out by other components in most system configurations. Their bearings also emit clicking noise audible at close proximity.
Though average in size, the case suffers from clearance issues due to the thick foam padding lining the interior of the side panels. The foam on the right side panel is particularly infuriating as it can have no acoustic benefit behind the motherboard tray and just makes cable management difficult. There's almost an inch of space back there, which is normally plenty, but with the foam you have to be careful about the cumulative thickness of the cables at any given point. The foam on the left side panel is less problematic but limits CPU heatsink clearance; we used a 156 mm tall cooler which fit with no room to spare.
While the Silencio 550 is a decent quiet tower, it doesn't fare that well against the last two noise-conscious cases we've reviewed, the NZXT H2 and Fractal Design Define R3. Both the H2 and Define R3 have better build quality, more features, and a higher level of polish. On the other hand, these competitors also carry much higher price tags. We don't have any information regarding North American pricing, but on one UK shopping site the Silencio is going for ~£65 compared to ~£90 and ~£100 for the H2 and Define R3 respectively. If these prices carry over to North America. the Silencio should retail for US$65~$70, making it the most affordable case that we can describe as quiet with a straight face.
Cooler Master Silencio 550
* Quiet out of the box experience
* Acoustic damping foam
* Extras: SD card slot, hard drive dock most components
* Removable hard drive cage to facilitate long graphics cards
* Looks great
* Could use more airflow
* Fans are clicky and too slow for most users
* Foam creates clearance issues
* Hard drive dock lacks an ejection mechanism
Our thanks to Cooler Master for the Silencio 550 case sample.
Cooler Master Silencio 550 receives the SPCR Recommended Award
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Articles of Related Interest
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In Win BUC ATX Tower Case
Silverstone Fortress FT03 mATX Tower: Redux
Fractal Design Define R3 ATX Tower
NZXT H2 Classic Silent Midtower Chassis
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this article in the SPCR Forums.
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