Audio Recording Methods Revised

Reference|Recommended | The Silent Front
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Quite apart from the advantages and disadvantages associated with our new methodology is a specific drawback related to changing our methodology. Recordings made with the new system are not comparable to older recordings, making it difficult to compare old and new products.

Re-recording all of our samples is out of the question — many of our recordings are of products we no longer have access to, and recording the ones we do have would take days.

Instead, we have re-recorded a selection of the products that we consider best in their class. These are reference products that set the standard for low noise, ones that we come back to time and time again. Hopefully, these new recordings should help bridge the gap between old and new.

Old Recordings
New Recordings
Nexus Real Silent 80mm
Nexus Real Silent 92mm
Nexus Real Silent 120mm
Old Recording
New Recordings
Seasonic S12-430 (Rev. 3)
Seasonic S12-500 (Rev. A2)
Antec Neo HE 430 (Rev. A4)
Old Recording
New Recordings
Seagate Barracuda IV ST340016A
Samsung Spinpoint P80 SP0802N (Nidec)
Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000KS
Western Digital Raptor 74GB WD740GD
Samsung Spinpoint MP0402H
Seagate Momentus 5400.3 ST9160821A
Western Digital Scorpio WD1200BEVS

In addition to the new reference recordings, the How to Listen & Compare box that we include wherever there are recordings has also been updated to reflect the new methodology.


These recordings were made with a high resolution studio quality digital recording system. The hard drive was placed on soft foam to isolate the airborne noise that it produces; recordings do not take into account the vibration noise that hard drives produce. The microphone was centered 3" above the top face of the hard drive. The ambient noise during most recordings is 18 dBA or lower.

To set the volume to a realistic level (similar to the original), try playing the Nexus 92 fan reference recording and setting the volume so that it is barely audible. Then don't reset the volume and play the other sound files. Of course, tone controls or other effects should all be turned off or set to neutral. For full details on how to calibrate your sound system to get the most valid listening comparison, please see the yellow text box entitled Listen to the Fans on page four of the article SPCR's Test / Sound Lab: A Short Tour.

These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system and are intended to represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review. Two recordings of each noise level were made, one from a distance of one meter, and another from one foot away.

The one meter recording is intended to give you an idea of how the subject of this review sound in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. For best results, set your volume control so that the ambient noise is just barely audible. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The one foot recording is designed to bring out the fine details of the noise. Use this recording with caution! Although more detailed, it may not represent how the subject sounds in actual use. It is best to listen to this recording after you have listened to the one meter recording.

More details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio Recording Methods Revised.

We've worked hard to make sure that our new recordings sound as close to the actual products as possible. Not surprisingly, we think our recording system is the cat's pajamas... but if you disagree, feel free to take an active role on SPCR and tell us about it in our forums! We'd love to hear your comments and suggestions. After all, we wouldn't have made the change in the first place if it weren't for several vocal forum members!

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