AcoustiProducts Vibration Dampers

Cases|Damping
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August 11, 2005 by Devon Cooke

Products

Anti-Vibration Fan Gaskets (80mm, 92mm, 120mm)
AFG80C, AFG92C, AFG120C

Anti-Vibration Fan Mounts (Retail mount, OEM mount)
AFM02B, AFM03B

AcoustiFeet: Anti-Vibration Soft Silicone Feet
(14 Kg Max. Load, 22 Kg Max. Load)
ACF3007-20B, ACF3007-25B

Manufacturer
AcoustiProducts

Market Price

Anti-Vibration Fan Gasket 80mm, 92mm: US$6; 120mm: US$7
Anti-Vibration Fan Mounts Not yet for sale
AcoustiFeet ~US$7

A large part of silencing a computer is simply finding the quietest components that suit the needs of the user. The parts that produce noise are hard drives, power supplies and fans. Using cool components and removing heat from the system efficiently without high airflow (and concomitant noise) are also important. Once all of these aspects have been looked after, it becomes much more difficult to reduce noise because it is the small details that matter. Improvements are no longer dramatic but incremental.

AcoustiProducts has built its business around taking care of these small details. Most of their products involve sound damping in some way by absorbing, reflecting or redirecting sound and vibration. Although they are best known for their case-damping product, AcoustiPack, they also make a number of other products. Recently, they sent SPCR a number of silicone-based products designed to minimize vibration.

In a system built from low-noise components, vibration can still cause noise. Vibration comes from the same sources as airborne noise: Components with moving parts, such as drives and fans. The basic strategy for reducing vibration-induced noise is to isolate the vibrating component from the case, as it is usually resonating case walls that convert the vibration into audible noise.

Two of samples are fan isolation products that should appeal to those who don't have the inclination to find their own solutions. One is a 2.5mm thick silicone fan gasket, available in the three most common fan sizes: 80mm, 92mm, and 120mm. The other is a set of silicone grommets that take the place of conventional screws. The last product is AcoustiFeet, which is intended to reduce the amount of vibration that is transferred from the system case to its surroundings — a wooden desk or floor, for example.


Clockwise from the top: Fan mounts (retail), fan mounts (OEM), AcoustiFeet (black, translucent), fan gaskets (80mm, 92mm, 120mm)

Determining Product Color

The Fan Gaskets and AcoustiFeet in this review are available in two colors: Black and Clear. This difference is denoted by a letter at the end of the model number — "B" for black and "C" for clear. The difference in color is purely aesthetic. There is no difference in performance between the different colors. Comments about a model number ending in "B" also apply to the same model number ending in "C" and vice versa.

ANTI-VIBRATION FAN GASKETS

Feature
Comment
Ultra-soft (unlike similar products) - Shore A 40 Shore A is a metric for measuring softness. It is quite soft, similar to the hard drive grommets in the Antec P180 case, perhaps akin to the silicone caulking used around bathtubs.
Not just 1mm thick like other fan gaskets - these are 2.5mm thick! The extra thickness is supposed to do a better job of absorbing vibration.
Compatible with virtually all case cooling fans Just make sure you buy the right size.
Supplied with unique screws and soft silicone washers This ensures that the screws don't transmit vibration through the gasket.
Quick and very easy to fit (these gaskets 'hold onto' the fan whilst fitting them due to a small lip in the gasket design) How easy? Keep reading.
Can be used with an external fan grille, for maximum airflow and minimum wind noise Grill sold separately.


The 120mm gasket is too large to hold its shape properly.

AcoustiProducts' fan gaskets come in three sizes and two colors, but they are all essentially the same. The product page for the gaskets does an extensive job of explaining why you should do something as esoteric as soft-mounting your fans. It also touches on some of the technical details, such as the softness and thickness of the silicone. According to the web site, the gaskets are intended to do two things:

  1. "Help to 'seal' the small gap between the fan and the casing/enclosure wall. This improves the efficiency of the fan, by reducing airflow 'feedback' and therefore air pressure losses, and
  2. Help to absorb the vibration that otherwise would be transmitted from the fan into the case chassis and case housing."

No claim is made about the impact of the gasket on noise; the customer must infer on his own that the reason for reducing vibration is to reduce noise. This inference is quite reasonable — soft-mounting a fan is a standard technique to reduce vibration noise. It is worth pointing out, though, that it is one of the last steps of silencing a system; its impact is most noticeable when the loudest sources of noise have already been dealt with.

The retail package contains the gasket itself, four silicone washers, and four extra long screws to compensate for the additional thickness of the washers and the gasket.

Installation is quite simple. First, the gasket is fitted over the fan and a washer is fitted onto each screw. Then, the fan is screwed into place just as an ordinary fan would be. It's important not to tighten the screws too much, as the silicone is most effective at damping vibration when it is not compressed. This process works well for the 80mm and 92mm gaskets, but the 120mm gasket has a tendency to come off the fan during installation — the silicone is too soft to hold its shape properly when it is this big. I found an alternate method of installation worked better: Attaching the gasket to the case with the screws, and then adding the fan separately.

One word of caution: AcoustiProducts recommends that these gaskets should not be used in high-heat applications, such as on heatsink fans. The reason for this is probably the tendency of silicone to become sticky or even melt under heat. The maximum operating temperature — 70°C — reflects this.

ANTI-VIBRATION FAN MOUNTS


Two slightly different versions of the fan mounts are available: On top is the "retail" version, while the bottom is the "OEM" version.

At the time of writing, the anti-vibration fan mounts that we were sent are not listed on AcoustiProducts' web site, and do not appear to be for sale anywhere. The only hint that they exist is an item under the "Latest News" section:

"NEW ultra-soft fan mounts are due for release shortly. An easy to fit, cost effective solution to vibration noise from PC fans - more shortly!"

AcoustiProducts already sells what they call "Anti-vibration gel fan mounts", which are essentially silicone sleeves for fan screws. However, in order to use them properly, the mounting holes on the case must be enlarged, which not everyone is willing to do. The new mounts do not require this modification, as they do not rely on screws at all. Instead, they are designed to take the place of screws.

The new fan mounts are quite similar to another product that is popular in the silencing community: E-A-R Fan Mounts. This product has been available for years as a way to soft-mount fans. Compared to the EAR mounts, the AcoustiProduct mounts are softer and easier to bend. They are made of soft silicone, while the EAR mounts are made of some kind of synthetic rubber compound.

The fan mounts come in two versions, one labeled a retail version and the other OEM. The only difference is in the method of installation. The OEM mounts can be mounted on a fan before it is installed, whereas the retail mounts must be installed on the case before the fan is installed. This makes the OEM version slightly more versatile and easier to install, but it leaves a silicone nub sticking out of the back of the case, which is not as aesthetically pleasing. Installation aside, the two versions should perform identically.

No matter which version is used, installation is a simple matter of pulling the mount through the existing screw hole in the case and then threading it through the corresponding hole in the fan. It takes a little force to pull the mount through, but it comes through with a satisfying "pop" and is completely secure thanks to the wide flange. Even fans with closed-style mounting holes can be used, as the mounts should grip the inside of the mounting holes with friction alone.



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