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I utilized my other system, Sigma One, as a platform for acoustics testing. The reason for this is that the noise floor of the two drives is much lower than that of Alpha Three, whose three Diamond MAX Plus 9 drives and Cheetah 15K.3 easily drown out the two quiet contenders. Sigma One's virtually silent operation proved perfect for testing acoustics.
Just to confirm that both drives are operating as defined in Part 1 of this test, I took screenshots of the info panel from Intel's Application Accelerator drivers on both drives:
Both drives were tested in the wide open, and again, as in the performance portion of the test, they were placed on top of a pair of Seagate SeaShells and then rested on a bare wooden floor...
The idle acoustics portion of the test was done by turning on Sigma One without either drive plugged in, and then simply taking a free Molex connector and powering each drive up individually and carefully listening to acoustic performance. I wrote down detail, subjective notes on what I heard, both directly facing the drive, and also with my head turned so that my ear faced the drive directly...
Samsung SpinPoint P-Series SP1614N
The Samsung's idle sound is best described as a wind-like sound, not unlike that produced by an EXTREMELY smooth, medium-speed 92mm fan. There is only the absolute slightest whine, which is of an EXTREMELY high, high frequency, as if Samsung tuned it right out of the human hearing range. That whine isn't even audible when you face the drive directly; only if you turn your head so your ear faces right at it.
Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 ST3160023A
The Seagate exhibited less windy hiss, but more metallic whine. The sound was less smooth and consistent than the Samsung's, and also more resonant. It appears as though the chassis of the Barracuda is not as critically dampened as that of the SpinPoint. Facing the drive directly also reveals a mid-high frequency internalized hum that's harder to pick up when you turn away from it.
I give this one to Samsung. The overall volume level of the SpinPoint's idle sound is noticeably lower than that of the Seagate's, and that's not counting the characteristics of the noise. The type of sound emitted by the Samsung is also less obtrusive than that of the Seagate, as is the fact that the Samsung's sound is more consistent, whereas the Seagate's sound was lumpier.
A Note on Vibration
This is not exactly scientific, but...
while I was performing the idle acoustics tests, I had to hold the drives as I plugged and unplugged the power to the drives. Naturally, I could not help but feel the vibrations of the drives with my hands. My impression is that the heavier Samsung drive emitted much softer, weaker vibrations than the Seagate did.
Samsung SpinPoint SP1614N
To be fully honest, with the drive suspended on top of that Seashell, it was extremely difficult for my ears to pick up the seek noises of this drive. I was shocked, since when I first got the drive and set AAM to low noise, it wasn't this quiet. It appears that a, "break-in," effect has taken place and the seek noise has been further reduced. However, if I moved my ear within several inches of the drive, I am able to pick up the seeks as an extremely faint, mid-frequency chatter.
Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 ST3160023A
The Seagate's seeks came through clear and obvious in the open air. The noise is best described as a mid-high frequency, highly rapid combination of clicks and clattering. I liken the sound of it to that of rapidly moving water in a tube with a whole lot of air bubbles in the line, if anyone here knows what I mean (fish tank owners, unite!).
The Samsung is the hands-down winner, here. It's a no-contest, as the seeks of the Seagate were clearly audible anywhere in the room during the test, whereas the Samsung required diving under the table right up to the drive just to get a hint of the noise. It really makes you wonder whether the people over at StorageReview are in anyway correct about Seagate locking the ST3160023A in to low-noise. If it was true, then I'd expect much lower noise than this!
I really did not expect this contest to be so clear-cut. The Samsung SP1614N clearly beats the Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 (ST3160023A) in both performance and acoustics. It is a far quieter drive, and faster, too! (Editor's Note: As both the Seagate Barracuda IV and V appear to be discontinued, the Samsung SP series are the current 3.5" quiet hard drive champs.)
A 40G version of the 7200.7 ( ST340014A) that I used to own seemed far superior to this 160G 7200.7 when it comes to seeks. The seeks of my 40G 7200.7 were virtually inaudible; in fact, I recall writing in the forums that my SP1614N's seeks were louder than that of the ST340014A's. Whether AAM was somehow engaged on that drive I can't say at this point. The drive is no longer in my possession.
Please keep in mind that variations in manufacturing will and do occur.
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Samsung hard drives available at Silicon Acoustics and EndPCNoise in the US, and at FrontierPC in Canada.
EndPCNoise also handles Seagate hard drives.
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