Western Digital's single-platter 320GB Caviar SE16 WD3200AAKS

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AUDIO RECORDINGS

Audio recordings were made of the drives and are presented here in MP3 format. The recordings below contains 5 seconds of ambient noise, and 10 seconds of idle noise followed by 10 seconds of seek noise with AAM enabled and 10 seconds without.

Keep in mind that the recordings paint only part of the acoustic picture; vibration noise is not recorded, and drives often sound different depending on the angle from which they are heard.

Note: These recordings are only of the second, superior sample.

  • Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD3200AAKS-00B3A0Idle: 21 / Seek: 22 dBA@1mOne MeterThis recording dispense with the AAM seek; the difference in between normal and AAM seek is too small to hear clearly.
  • Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD3200AAKS-00B3A0 "finger touch"Idle: 21 / finger touch: 20 dBA@1mOne MeterThis recording starts with 5s of idle, then a finger is lightly pressed against the top of the drive for 5s; both repeat once.

Reference Comparatives:

  • Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST31000340ASIdle: 23~24 / Seek: 24~25 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • Western Digital Caviar Green Power WD7500AACSIdle: 19~20 / AAM: 19~20 / Seek: 21 dBA@1m One Meter
  • Hitachi Global Storage Deskstar 7K1000 HDS721010KLA330Idle: 24 / AAM: 24 / Seek: 26~27 dBA@1m — One Meter
  • Samsung T Series HD400LJIdle: 20 / AAM: 21 Seek: 22-23 dBA@1m One Meter
  • Samsung P80 SP0802N (Nidec)Idle: 21 / AAM: 23-24 Seek: 25-26 dBA@1m One Meter
  • Seagate Barracuda IV ST340016A Idle: 20 / AAM: 23 Seek: 25-26 dBA@1m One Meter
HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Most recordings are made from a distance of one meter. The 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!

Occasionally, we may include an extra recording from a distance of one foot. This recording is designed to bring out the fine details of the noise — typically when the source is so quiet that it is very close to ambient when heard from one meter. Use this recording with caution! Although more detailed, it does 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.



CONCLUSIONS

The second sample Western Digital's SE16 Caviar WD3200AAKS-00B3A0 is pretty much what we hoped it would be: A hard drive quiet enough for silent PC enthusiasts. Its single platter design and optimization for low noise seem to have worked, at least in the production version that is shipping today.

The samples that came directly from WD gave us cause to pause. In contrast to the second sample from Anitec, these samples are only decently quiet. You can get quieter. If there's any doubt about whether you're getting the quieter production version, just check the ribs on the underside of the drive and compare it against the photo on the previous page.

For the silent fanatics, however, almost anything can almost always be made quieter, even the superior second sample. In this case, a bit of damping to keep the top cover from vibrating could be worthwhile. It's possible that this would also work with any HDD... but the effect will only be useful or audible if the drive is already pretty quiet to start with.

For most users, either version of the 320GB WD Caviar SE16 is very quiet, quiet enough not to be an obvious noise source even in a PC with quiet components. It has extremely very low power consumption in normal use, and low enough vibration, so that even ordinary screw (rather than mechanically decoupled) mounting would probably be acceptable in a sturdy case. And the price is attractive, competitive with similar capacity drives from other drive makers. There's very little for the average PC user to be dissatisfied about.

Our final words are simple: The second sample of the WD Caviar SE16 single-platter 320GB drive deserves SPCR's recommendation. It is one of just a handful 7200 RPM desktop drives at the cutting edge of quiet. The first one is pretty quiet, too, though not quite at the same level, and has the same performance... but we hope it hasn't made it to the wild.

Many thanks to Western Digital and Anitec Computers for the review samples.

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If you own or use one or more of these drives, please respond to our
WD Caviar SE16 single-platter 320GB hard drive users poll

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
SPCR's Hard Drive Testing Methodology
SPCR's Recommended Hard Drives
WD Caviar SE16 500GB: Big Low-Noise Champ?
WD Green Power: A New Benchmark in HDD Acoustics & Power
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10: Desktop Drives go Perpendicular
Seagate 7200.9 Single-Platter 160 GB Hard Drive

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