Quiet Liquid Cooled Gaming PC Build Guide

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Our search for a quiet pump quickly led us to this article on Building a Quiet Water Cooled Gaming PC at Codesociety.com. In it, James (the author) wrote:

"I wanted to get the quietest pump possible, so the top contenders are the various D5 Vario pumps, which are said to be among the quieter pumps available. The top choice was initially the Koolance PMP-450 with the COV-RP450 top based on this Martin’s Liquid Lab Pump Noise Testing. This pump happens to be the same as the Swiftech MCP655, just with a different model name. However, I found that Swiftech also offered a PWM version of this pump, the Swiftech MCP655-PWM-DRIVE. Martin also reviewed this pump, and found that it could be run at even slower speeds to be even quieter than the PMP-450, giving it the noise crown. Thus, I had to choose it."

Martin's review of the MCP655 PWM showed it has a speed range of 800~4800 RPM. Physically, it seems to be a larger pump, with a power rating of 37W, although Martin's highest measured power draw during testing was only 21W (at 12V). Martin went through an impressively comprehensive set of tests at different speeds and conditions, a bit like SPCR's fan/cooler tests where performance is measured at multiple RPM. The resulting data for pressure, flow rate, efficiency, etc are somewhat overwhelming. His acoustic measurement are underwhelming, however, as the lowest SPL mentioned in any of his reviews of fans and pumps is around 32 dBA, with highs up beyond 60 dBA, suggesting a high ambient noise environment, measuring distance closer than 1m, and a sound level meter with 30 dBA minimum sensitivity. Still, the work Martin has done to quantify noise/performance is extensive and impressive. With articles like "Why Static Pressure & Max Flow Specs Are Poor Measures of Fan Performance", we appear to be in general agreement on fundamentals.

It's also notable that Martin enthusiastically espouses pump decoupling:

"Pump decoupling has HUGE benefits, up to 15 dbA lower noise levels than pumps without decoupling... In general, all of these pumps are extremely silent pumps when decoupled. Most general users with fans over 1000 RPM would typically have a hard time hearing these pumps at all in a normal fan noise masking environment. Critical noise folks using ultra slow speed fans should put extra emphasis into pump decoupling methods and undervolting or reducing pump speeds."

This tells us that we are definitely on the right path.

Moving on... Martin pronounced the MCP655 PWM to be an "awesome pump" and the "King of Pump Silence (The most silent pump tested to date)". And how many pumps has Martin tested? It's hard to tell as his site navigation is a bit convoluted, but a safe bet is at least 20. Obviously, Martin is a much better position to judge than we are, and we're not about to examine 20 pumps to verify his findings just for this project.

Swiftech MCP655 PWM

A query to our contacts at Swiftech led us to Frozen CPU, apparently the only retailer to offer the Swiftech MCP655 PWM pump. Frozen CPU generously provded a sample of the pump installed in a XSPC Dual 5.25" Bay Reservoir V2. This reservoir looks like it has higher volume capacity than the EK-SBAY.

The XSPC Dual 5.25" Bay Reservoir V2 looks and feels nicely built, with a brushed anodized aluminum fascia. It also comes with an LED that can be plugged into the back to illuminate the front water level window.

The MCP655 PWM pump is mounted on the back. It has two leads, one for 12V and another for a PWM fan head, like the Laing DDC-3.2 pump.

The XSPC reservoir + MCP655 PWM pump was tested just like the EKWB/Laing DCC 3.2. Unfortunately, we ran into a hiccup. This pump may not have a speed sensor; RPM could not be reported by either SpeedFan or ASUS FanXpert. The speed could be controlled, however, with SpeedFan. Based on Martin's reports, here is an approximation of RPM for SpeedFan PWM % settings for this pump, along with our measured SPL

MCP655 PWM Pump
* [email protected]

There's some very high frequency tonal noise centered around 17 kHz, but at a low enough level that it should be inaudible to most people when the pump is inside the case. Otherwise, tonality is modest with peaks at 700~1000 Hz, 2kHz and 8 kHz, and the overall noise level is quite low, especially at 35% and below.

The results were favorable. The overall sound was somewhat tonal but without the screechy quality that plagued our sample Laing DCC 3.2 PWM pump. The noise range from minimum to maximum was quite small, about 8 dBA, roughly 18~26 [email protected] Vibration is definitely present, worse than any hard drive we've tested recently, but since we don't have to deal with lots of airborne noise, mechanically decoupling the pump should take care of it. The SPL declined fairly linearly with PWM, to around 40~35%. At that point the SPL was 18~19 [email protected], very modest and slowing the pump any further had no effect on noise. All good: We found a pump we can work with. Interestingly, the specified maximum temperature for this pump is also 60°C, although it doesn't specifiy whether this refers to the liquid temperature.

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