Antec Signature S10: A Second Coming?

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System Configuration:

Test system device listing.

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Prime95 processor stress software.
  • FurMark stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
  • Asus GPU Tweak to monitor GPU temperatures and adjust fan speeds.
  • SpeedFan to monitor system temperatures and adjust system fan speeds.
  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system power.
  • 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

Testing Procedures

The system is placed in two states: idle, and load using Prime95 (large FFTs setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL benchmarking and stability testing utility. This puts more demand on the CPU and GPU than any real life application. Throughout testing, system temperatures, noise levels, and power consumption are recorded. During the load test, the system and GPU fans speeds are adjusted to various levels in an attempt to find an optimal balance between cooling and noise while maintaining a GPU temperature of 80°C (assuming an ambient temperature of 22°C).

Baseline Noise

For our baseline noise tests, the system is left idle, the CPU fan is set to its minimum speed under PWM control (400 RPM), and the GPU fans are off by default. The system fans are connected to controllable fan headers and are set to a variety of speeds using SpeedFan. This gives us a good idea of what the stock fans sound like at different speeds with minimal interference from other sources.

With seven stock fans, testing for noise was rather tricky, especially as no fan controller is included. After cursory observation, I found that the fan cooling the hard drive section was considerably louder than all the others. Its top speed is 1300 RPM compared to 1000 RPM for the remaining 120 mm models, while the twin 140 mm fans on the ceiling run at about 650 RPM. As hard drive cooling isn't that important, I decided to run the rogue fan at only 600 RPM throughout testing. Unfortunately our test motherboard only has three fan headers free, so splitters were used to connect the six main fans, and the hard drive fan was slowed using a low voltage adapter from a Noctua heatsink combined with a Zalman Fan Mate, and a 3-pin to molex adapter to get power directly from the power supply.

Fans were tested with three different fan configurations (see fan diagram above): two fans (fans #1~2), four fans (#1~4), and six fans (#1~6). The fans have been paired by importance based on my own past experience. The rear exhaust is #1 being vital for helping the CPU cooler and getting rid of rising hot air coming off the graphics card. The center intake is designated #2 as it feeds fresh cool air to the graphics card. #3 is the top intake which creates a push-pull dynamic with the rear exhaust fan. The rear/top exhaust is #4, taking priority over its neighbor simply because its location is closer to the heatsink. If you choose to leave two fans disabled, they should be #5 and #6.

Baseline Noise Level
(Idle, CPU fan at 400 RPM, HDD fan at 600 RPM, GPU fans off)
Fan Speed Setting
SPL @1m
15 dBA
18 dBA
22 dBA
20 dBA
23~24 dBA
18 dBA
21 dBA
25~26 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front of case.
Noise level with all system fans off: 14~15 [email protected]
Ambient noise level: 10~11 [email protected]

With the hard drive fan dialed back to a low speed, the case is actually fairly quiet despite the number of remaining fans. The stock fans produce 25~26 [email protected] altogether running at full speed which is somewhat loud but it's a low mark for a six fan setup. To put this in perspective, the Antec P100 generated 25 [email protected] with just two stock fans at maximum speed. The four and two fan configurations top out at 23~24 [email protected] and 22 [email protected] respectively. To enjoy quiet operation, all three configurations need to be slowed down somewhat.

The included fans are not great acoustically. The 140 mm models at the top are generally smooth but they emit a dry hum throughout their range. The 120 mm models, especially the higher speed model under the main drive section, have clicky profiles at lower speeds, which is unsurprisingly similar to my experience with the Antec TwoCool 120. At higher speeds, they sound better, as the increased turbulence drowns everything out, and it also helps that they reside inside a thick case to further muffle this defect. The clickiness is only audible when up close and when the other noise-producing components are silent. At close proximity, the vibrations generated by the hard drive can be heard as well but it doesn't appear to shake anything else in the case as most of the pieces are well secured.

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