Quiet Liquid Cooled Gaming PC Build Guide

Do-It-Yourself Systems | Silent PC Build Guides
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SYSTEM SUMMARY

  • Intel Core i7-4770K processor - 3.5 GHz (3.9 GHz with Turbo Boost), 84W TDP
  • ASUS Z97-PRO motherboard - Intel Z97 chipset, ATX
  • VisionTek CryoVenom R9 290 Limited Edition Graphics Card
  • Kingston HyperX Genesis memory - 2x4GB, DDR3-1600, C10
  • Crucial MX100 512GB SSD - 2.5" SATA
  • Phanteks Enthoo Luxe case
  • Corsair HX850i 80 Plus Platinum modular cable power supply
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate operating system, 64-bit
  • VisionTek EK- Supremacy CPU heatblock
  • VisionTek EK Coolstream PE 360 Triple radiator with 3x Gelid 120x25mm fans
  • XSPC Dual 5.25" Bay Reservoir V2 with Swiftech MCP655 PWM pump

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Media Player Classic - Home Cinema to play H.264/VC-1 video.
  • TMPGEnc Xpress video encoder for stress testing.
  • Resident Evil 6 standalone benchmark for stress testing.
  • Prime95 processor stress software.
  • FurMark openGL GPU stress software.
  • CPU-Z to monitor CPU frequency and voltage.
  • GPU-Z to monitor GPU temperature, load level, and fan speed.
  • AIDA64 to monitor system temperatures and fan speeds.
  • ASUS Fan Xpert 3 to monitor system temperatures and monitor/change fan speeds.
  • Extech AC Power Analyzer 380803 AC power meter, used to measure system power consumption.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer: SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital audio interfaces.
  • Anechoic chamber with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower

BASELINE NOISE

The three fan models and the pump were analyzed after the system was assembled, plugging in their leads to our Asus P8Z77-V Pro fan testing platform and using FanXpert 2 or SpeedFan. So the fans and the pump were measured installed as shown in the photos on previous pages.



The Phanteks 200 x 25 mm front intake is a 3-pin voltage speed controlled fan with a narrow operating range of just 380~760 RPM.



The two 140 x 25 mm Phanteks fans supplied with the case are also 3-pin voltage control fans, but with a wider range of 430~1230 RPM.



The VisionTek/EK/Gelid 120 x 25mm fans that came with the radiator has the widest speed range here, 530~1600 RPM. It too is a 3-pin voltage control fan.

The fans were measured for noise at various speeds. Most important is the speeds at which each of these fans becomes quiet enough, remembering that there are three of the 120mm fans, which generally means about a 4~5 [email protected] increase over just one fan. Those 120mm fans are also on the radiator, whose airflow impedance will cause some additional noise from turbulence, especially as RPM is increased.

%
RPM vs SPL - Noise Makers in WC Gaming PC #1
200mm fan
140mm fan
120mm fan
Pump
RPM
SPL
RPM
SPL
RPM
SPL
RPM
SPL
100
760
33
1200
29
1580
30
4800
26
80
660
29
1060
25
1380
25
3900
24
70
590
26
950
23
950
23
-
-
60
520
22
840
19
840
20
3000
22
50
440
18
720
16
720
16
40
390
16
600
14
600
14
2000
17
35
340
15
500
13
500
13
1000
16
30
-
-
440
13
440
12
% = setting of fan speed in SpeedFan
SPL = Sound Pressure Level in [email protected]

In the table, I highlighted the most pertinent fan speeds and SPL. It is somewhere in this range that the fans and pump will need to be set in order for the system to be near 20 [email protected] total SPL. Interestingly, suspended in the closed case, the pump is audibly and measurably quieter than when sitting atop soft foam on the test bench. Obviously, the case is blocking some of the airborne noise; it sounds less tonal, with fewer high frequency components.

CONFIGURATION OF FANS

There is no question that the top fans on the radiator will be used for exhaust. Blowing the radiator heat down into the case would be silly. So what about the front and back panel fans? Since the radiator is where most of the heat in the system will end up, the main task of any fans not directly on the radiator should to ensure as much cooler air to the radiator as possible.

A front case fan is almost always configured as an intake, as it is here. Unfortunately, this 200mm fan isn't particularly quiet at any speed above ~500 RPM. Our sample has a chuggy, clickety sound through most of its speed range reminiscent of some antiquated industrial machine, and a major droning whoosh at full speed, even though it spins at only 760 RPM. At <500 RPM, it's decently quiet, but the airflow is very modest. This fan was plugged into a motherboard header that AIDA64 identified as Chassis #4.

The back panel fan is usually used for exhaust, but since there are three 120mm fans blowing air out on top, it is probably better as an intake. The front fan isn't going to be drawing in that much air, so a little help from the back would be a good thing. This Phanteks 140x25 fan is also not not that quiet, unfortunately, with a decidedly whiny quality at speeds above ~900 RPM. It's not until below 800 RPM that the sound gets innocuous. This fan was plugged into the motherboard header that AIDA64 identified as Chassis #2.

The 120mm Gelid fans on the radiator are no champs, either. They have a distinct midrange tonality at higher speeds. Like the Phanteks 140mm, it's only below 800 Hz that they sound OK. These three fans were plugged into the fan hub in the Enthoo Luxe case, and the hub was plugged into the motherboard header that AIDA64 identified as Chassis #3.

Yup, these fans are going to be a major challenge to keep quiet enough for a system I'd be happy with. But feeling the pressure of time, I preferred to try my luck with them and swap them out only if absoluetly necessary.

SpeedFan was used to set all the fan and pump speeds, and Asus FanXpert was uninstalled entirely to avoid any possibility of conflict between the two programs. For details on how to set up SpeedFan properly, please see Larry Lee's SpeedFan: A Guide to Universal Motherboard Fan Control.



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