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 Post subject: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2015 6:49 pm 
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http://www.silentpcreview.com/Fractal_Design_Define_S


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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2015 1:20 pm 
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Nice review, thanks. I was a little surprised to see SPCR choosing the windowed version instead of the nicely damped solid side panel though. I wonder if that was part of the problem with the hard drive vibration issue? That window looks like a great design for a case vibration amplifier, especially since you mentioned it was mounted a bit loosely. Has anyone done a direct comparison between say an R5 with and without the window? I wonder how much difference it really makes. Another reason to go all-SSD. I'm so tired of all the various hard drive noise hassles over the years, and so happy to finally be able to stuff them all in a NAS or server in another room. Begone.

The good but unexciting air cooling performance doesn't surprise me in the stock configuration. I know you need to review the case as it comes, but the stock setup is kind of weak for air cooling. The case, and esp. the front are so open that it's basically just hanging that front fan in mid air a ways away from the mobo and kind of hoping some of the air feels like going towards the CPU/GPU. There's no air flow control or direction at all, and I'd expect a lot of what the front fan pulls in just oozes back out above and below it, or out the unused bottom vent, without doing any good. The rear fan probably ends up doing almost all the cooling.

Despite all the emphasis on flexible water cooling, I think this could be a killer air cooling case too with a few adjustments. I'd fill the front with 3 fans at very low RPMs, to give a uniform right to left flow without just losing it back out the front again, and tape off the unused vent and holes in the bottom to avoid pointless losses there. Probably weather strip the power supply too, for the same reason. Then all the air from the front fans would end up going out the back, directed right where it needs to be in a nice wind tunnel effect. The slot covers are slotted to vent the GPU area heat, but I'd take one or two of them off to send more flow past the card. I think it'd be great. That huge surface area front filter and free flowing intake should give nice low restriction filtered positive pressure, and good flow even with the fans slow enough to be totally inaudible.


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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2015 8:38 pm 
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Timely review Lawrence, thanks for keeping up the good job (but too bad Mike didn't lend you the january EK loop...).

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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2015 9:07 am 
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It is the lack of any 5.25" optical drive bays that nixes this case for me. Otherwise, I would use it in my next system.

I also would be concerned (a bit) for the temperatures of the 3.5" hard drives.

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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2015 11:48 am 
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Personally, I prefer this to the R5. My only use for a case this size these days is as a gaming ring, so 3 fans in front at min speed + only SSDs would be the way to go. Or only exhaust fans at min, no fans in front. If needed, a single big hdd on rubber on the bottom panel rigged up DIY style would be the way to go. Optical? What's that? lol! External optical dives are a dime a dozen.

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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2015 12:12 pm 
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Nice to see no 5.25" bays, as they are obsolete...

I think cases could be made shorter this way. Maybe compensate in other ways something like the PC-O8 - http://www.lian-li.com/en/dt_portfolio/pc-o8/

http://www.techpowerup.com/210610/lian- ... it-15.html


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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2015 12:41 pm 
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Tzeb wrote:
Maybe compensate in other ways something like the PC-O8 - http://www.lian-li.com/en/dt_portfolio/pc-o8/

Maybe something smaller than the "fridge-like" O8: it's two midtowers placed side by side. :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2015 1:28 pm 
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A shorter mATX variant would be interesting.


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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2015 11:15 pm 
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MikeC wrote:
Personally, I prefer this to the R5. My only use for a case this size these days is as a gaming ring, so 3 fans in front at min speed + only SSDs would be the way to go. Or only exhaust fans at min, no fans in front. If needed, a single big hdd on rubber on the bottom panel rigged up DIY style would be the way to go. Optical? What's that? lol! External optical dives are a dime a dozen.
100% agree. Everybody seems to be removing the drive-cages from the R-Series anyway. Now they just need to shorten the case, add another 2 cm in width for HDD mounting behind the Mobo-tray.


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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2015 12:42 am 
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MikeC wrote:
Personally, I prefer this to the R5.

Personally I'd rather the Node 804 to both (though I never used it, so I don't know how it "sounds").


Cistron wrote:
Now they just need to shorten the case, add another 2 cm in width for HDD mounting behind the Mobo-tray.

Retooling... that's not what Fractal will ever do...

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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2015 4:36 am 
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I still have to have an optical drive - they are not obsolete, just yet. I think it is a bit of a kludge to have a large case - only to need an external optical drive.

I suppose an SSD that is big enough to run ALL your programs, and a spinning drive for bulk storage; that only spins up once in a while, is probably fine. I have lots of photos and sound files that require a lot of space, that there is no way to afford enough SSD space to store. A stock vibration dampened 3.5" bay on the bottom of the case would be greatly appreciated.

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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2015 6:14 am 
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I would loved to have seen a direct A-B comparison of this case vs the R5 Gaming build to find out if/how much the changes benefitted thermal/noise performance. I still rip CDs, and my Windows install is still on a disc, so there's the occasional need for an ODD. If there's not a big thermal benefit to the ODD removal, I'd rather store the ODD inside the case than need an external drive to occasionally plug in.

An S version of the Define Mini could be interesting.

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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2015 8:51 am 
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CA_Steve wrote:
I would loved to have seen a direct A-B comparison of this case vs the R5 Gaming build to find out if/how much the changes benefitted thermal/noise performance.

It will be risible, if any.

The purpose of the S is to improve radiators support in the most economical way they find, just to jump on the AIOs bandwagon with their most successful product, and the ODD bay has little or nothing to do with that: as a matter of fact, the Define is clearly not optimally suited at supporting WC, their Node 804 seems much more versed, supporting four big radiators despite its Slot-In ODD bay.

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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2015 8:21 am 
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Thanks for a nice and thorough review!

I´m totally with rhuebner here: With all those fan mounts, and no HDD bays, there must be a way to get a really optimized airflow through this case. rhuebners idea is good. And then some stripes of anti-vibration asphalt mats here and there, and it could be close to silent.


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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2015 10:37 am 
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rhuebner wrote:
I was a little surprised to see SPCR choosing the windowed version instead of the nicely damped solid side panel though. I wonder if that was part of the problem with the hard drive vibration issue? That window looks like a great design for a case vibration amplifier, especially since you mentioned it was mounted a bit loosely.


I would totally prefer the non-window version, but that's what Fractal sent us. That being said, I pressed down on the window and various other points around the case during testing to see if there was anything structural that could be done but it was constant.


CA_Steve wrote:
I would loved to have seen a direct A-B comparison of this case vs the R5 Gaming build to find out if/how much the changes benefitted thermal/noise performance. I still rip CDs, and my Windows install is still on a disc, so there's the occasional need for an ODD. If there's not a big thermal benefit to the ODD removal, I'd rather store the ODD inside the case than need an external drive to occasionally plug in.


I can't imagine there is much a difference at all as the cases are so similar. The test results for the Define S should be identical to an R5 with its main drive cage removed.


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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2015 2:09 pm 
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Lawrence Lee wrote:
CA_Steve wrote:
I would loved to have seen a direct A-B comparison of this case vs the R5 Gaming build to find out if/how much the changes benefitted thermal/noise performance. I still rip CDs, and my Windows install is still on a disc, so there's the occasional need for an ODD. If there's not a big thermal benefit to the ODD removal, I'd rather store the ODD inside the case than need an external drive to occasionally plug in.


I can't imagine there is much a difference at all as the cases are so similar. The test results for the Define S should be identical to an R5 with its main drive cage removed.

I think the question is if the Define S was to have all 3 front fans populated as intakes, how much would it benefit over the SPCR R5 gaming build with 2 intake fans?


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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2015 7:39 pm 
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Lawrence Lee wrote:
I can't imagine there is much a difference at all as the cases are so similar. The test results for the Define S should be identical to an R5 with its main drive cage removed.


They are similar but there could be unexpected results here and it's hard to imagine both cases being identical - unless R5 main drive cage adds turbulence noise.

1. The "S" case does not have the front panel padded with sound dampening material. It is concievable noise from the "S" case would increase more rapidly with the increase of front intake fans.
2. The windowed "S" case also does not have one side panel sound-dampened (obviously).

So some of the interesting questions (and my points of concern) would be:
a) is there sound dampening material on the side panel of non-windowed version of "S"? (I found a review of windowless variant on German Tomshardware and it does appear to have soundproofing material there)
b) how much does front side dampening influence the noise characteristics of the case as the front intake fan count is increased? (Why did FD remove the dampening material in the first place? It seems there is ample room and airflow shouldn't be affected)
c) is there any information/research on how much these dampening materials really help with the noise (in general and/or in this particular case)?

Considering a) and b), I think it would be interesting to have the R5 pitted against S.
Considering c), perhaps that would be an interesting (side)topic to explore within a separate article. I remember using pyramidal acoustic foam on my P183 to great effect (mainly, to block the top vent and to insulate the rest of available interior area is much as possible). There were also alternate soundproofing solutions such as Dynamat. It would be interesting to pit these against each other in realistic and in outlandish scenarios (e.g. quad-SLI with dual CPU) and then see how much do these materials really improve the noise signature.

All that being said, for strictly desktop/workstation purposes, I also like this case better to R5. In such a use case, the front bays are really just a hindrance. Ideally you'll have an SSD and everything else stored on NAS or at least a JBOD "array". Perhaps the only thing missing here is a fan controller slot, though with BIOS/software controls today, I'd say any decent motherboard should suffice after a bit of experimentation and setup.

For the most of us here, I think non-windowed "S" version is more desirable than R5 - unless the small differences between them turn out to have big impact on noise.


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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2015 9:23 pm 
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Quote:
Why did FD remove the dampening material in the first place?


****In clinical trials, dampening a computer case, that was built with properly selected parts inside, did not achieve significantly better results than a placebo. :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2015 1:21 pm 
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xan_user wrote:
Quote:
Why did FD remove the dampening material in the first place?


****In clinical trials, dampening a computer case, that was built with properly selected parts inside, did not achieve significantly better results than a placebo. :wink:


Fair enough - I've just read through the Antec P100 review and saw the Editor's Note on Page 3.

My biggest gripe with Define S is the omission of an embedded fan controller - the stock case fans are not PWMs, so how are we supposed to adjust the fan speed?
Well, since there are no front bays (which is one of the reasons I like the case so much):
- we could install separate fan controllers [e.g Zalman's Fanmate is too expensive, at least in Canada]
- install/mod the existing fans with a low voltage mod [completely inconvenient]
- buy new PWM fans [this is just crazy].

If they made a version of this case with a simple fan controller embedded in the control panel as in Thermaltake Suppressor F51, Define S would be home run....


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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2015 3:15 pm 
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Dxun wrote:
My biggest gripe with Define S is the omission of an embedded fan controller - the stock case fans are not PWMs, so how are we supposed to adjust the fan speed?
...................................
If they made a version of this case with a simple fan controller embedded in the control panel as in Thermaltake Suppressor F51, Define S would be home run....

Where have you been the last few years? Are you not aware that virtually every ATX board comes with at least 3-4 fan control headers and sometimes as many as 6? And both BIOS and OS utility fan controllers are far better than they've ever been, mostly obviating the need for a hardware control. A fan control is not a requirement for a SPCR case recommendation. Probably never really has been and definitely is not now, though offering one that works well doesn't hurt the cause.

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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2015 4:59 pm 
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MikeC wrote:
Dxun wrote:
My biggest gripe with Define S is the omission of an embedded fan controller - the stock case fans are not PWMs, so how are we supposed to adjust the fan speed?
...................................
If they made a version of this case with a simple fan controller embedded in the control panel as in Thermaltake Suppressor F51, Define S would be home run....

Where have you been the last few years? Are you not aware that virtually every ATX board comes with at least 3-4 fan control headers and sometimes as many as 6? And both BIOS and OS utility fan controllers are far better than they've ever been, mostly obviating the need for a hardware control. A fan control is not a requirement for a SPCR case recommendation. Probably never really has been and definitely is not now, though offering one that works well doesn't hurt the cause.


Well, I built my last system somewhere around 2008 (around the excellent P183), so things have probably changed.

I am, of course, aware there are fan control headers on the motherboard but I was convinced only 4-pinned fans could be speed controlled by the motherboard (as the 3-pin connector lacks the PWM signal feedback). I've now realized that the motherboard can control the 3-pins as well, as the third pin carries pulse train signal generated by fan motor and motherboard controls the speed by adjusting the VDC+ line. I did not know that, thanks. So what you're saying is that you can now control the 3-pin case fans as well with motherboard software (e.g. Asus Fan Xpert)? If that is the case then external (case) hardware control is a fringe benefit at best.

Regarding the case dampening - was your remark in the Antec P100 referring to these bitumen-based sheets glued to side panels or to sound proofing in general? As I said, back in the day, I used these and was quite pleased with the result. In your experience, are the (top-of-the-line) cases in general today that well constructed that these materials buy you nothing?


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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2015 6:27 pm 
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Dxun wrote:
Regarding the case dampening - was your remark in the Antec P100 referring to these bitumen-based sheets glued to side panels or to sound proofing in general? As I said, back in the day, I used these and was quite pleased with the result. In your experience, are the (top-of-the-line) cases in general today that well constructed that these materials buy you nothing?

I much prefer the word damping for this context -- dampening is closer in meaning to "making wet" with water, imo, while damping is almost always correct when applied to sound control. After all these years, Larry still makes this mistake. OK, that bit of semantics aside...

Some manufacturers claim to have compared the effect of bitumen-soaked lined panels to bare panels and found a difference. This may well be so... but what kind of difference? They haven't given me the raw data.

My own experience and experimentation is...

1) most foam up to an inch thick applied to a steel or aluminum panel of less than 1mm thickness has no effect on the main acoustic output frequency range of a computer -- fans and HDDs generally have maximum output between 100 and maybe 3000Hz, and little on either side of that. (Other than the 90Hz tone of a 5400rpm drive). The foam has almost no effect at all below 500Hz, a tiny bit more at 1000Hz and it gets slightly better as frequency rises. But a 3-5 dB cut at 10kHz is virtually useless today. If there is some electronic whine up there, it's going to be a narrow peak that cuts right through whatever effect the foam has. And to top it all off, no one uses dense 1" thick foam. Most are light & under 1cm; 0.5 cm is fairly typical. That foam should be saved for a better use instead of wasted on case panels. It is PURELY FOR MARKETING... and unfortunately, SPCR's mere existence may have created the perceived need for such.

2) Heavier panel linings like thinnish sheets of plastic (polycarbonate or whateveyou) increase the vibration resistance of the panel, thereby increasing resistance to being vibrated by HDDs and fans (which means less of the lower frequency haze that is added by case panels when excited by enough HDD or fan vibrations.) Generally, the greater the mass, the better. It also increases the noise blocking quality of the panel, which means sounds is better contained within -- though the same amount of sound comes out of the vents, and if this represents a high proportion of the overall perceived noise, the improved noise blocking of the panels will have minimal effect.

This topic is complex enough to have been the subject of entire scientific treatises, or doctorate papers, I am sure, but the above in a nutshell is my take on computer case panel damping. You just cant apply enough of the really effective stuff in a case to make a difference. Improving the sound blocking qualities of panels, making sturdy well supported structures, using baffles to avoid direct line-of-hearing to the user, keeping vents nice & open for good airflow, and most importantly, using components that create less noise in the first place -- these are the approaches that result in the best quiet cases & systems.

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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2015 7:33 pm 
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You probably missed my question in previous post - was I correct in assuming the 3-pin non-PWM fans are now fully controllable with modern motherboards?

Thanks for the semantic heads-up - I must say I was always slightly uncomfortable using "dampening" in this context (something felt wrong) but always discounted the feeling.

I see your points - regarding the foam, so you're saying my good experiences with pyramidal sound foam are really just placebo from pluggin the hole on P183 topside? So I am better off just buying cheap mouse pads and cutting them in order to plug any direct line-of-hearing case openings? That may very well be and looking at the facts you present, I can certainly see why.

You mention you couldn't apply enough of the really effective stuff in the case - I know this may be an outlandish idea but did you ever consider constructing a "porous absorber bass-trap case", say, using steel exterior frame (for mass and sturdiness) and using isolation panels with material like fiberglass or mineral-wool with porous coverings? It is just a thought experiment - do you think it would be possible to build a case using such materials that would be effective at blocking LF noise (spiking around 200 Hz) and still maintaining a modicum of acceptable size? Or simply using the skeleton of an existing case and substituting the panels with fiberglass/mineral-wool insulation boards?


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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2015 7:57 pm 
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Dxun wrote:
You probably missed my question in previous post - was I correct in assuming the 3-pin non-PWM fans are now fully controllable with modern motherboards?

yes

Dxun wrote:
Thanks for the semantic heads-up - I must say I was always slightly uncomfortable using "dampening" in this context (something felt wrong) but always discounted the feeling.

8)

Dxun wrote:
I see your points - regarding the foam, so you're saying my good experiences with pyramidal sound foam are really just placebo from pluggin the hole on P183 topside? So I am better off just buying cheap mouse pads and cutting them in order to plug any direct line-of-hearing case openings? That may very well be and looking at the facts you present, I can certainly see why.

I actually would not put damping of that kind on the panels. Like I said, it is useless. If I thought they needed it, I'd cut 1/4" thick MDF board and glue it to the large panels. Or thicker, if it would fit. Better yet, old fashioned particle board, which is heavier than MDF. Doesn't have to go to the edges of the panel, only cover about 3/4" of the main area.

Dxun wrote:
You mention you couldn't apply enough of the really effective stuff in the case - I know this may be an outlandish idea but did you ever consider constructing a "porous absorber bass-trap case", say, using steel exterior frame (for mass and sturdiness) and using isolation panels with material like fiberglass or mineral-wool with porous coverings? It is just a thought experiment - do you think it would be possible to build a case using such materials that would be effective at blocking LF noise (spiking around 200 Hz) and still maintaining a modicum of acceptable size? Or simply using the skeleton of an existing case and substituting the panels with fiberglass/mineral-wool insulation boards?

Short answer: No to all the questions in this paragraph. But I did do something similar to the thing you describe in the first question. After I made a PC as quiet as I could, and it still didn;t seem quiet enough for me, I built a steel frame in which to put the whole PC, then put walls of 1" thick MDF on the steel frame. Top portion was a tunnel lined with heavy foam for exhaust toward the back, bottom portion was a tunnel lined with heavy foam for intake from the back. Additional fans for in/out, but super low speed, selected by ear, and tweaked to the nth degree. It was maybe 32" tall. Weighed well over 100 lbs with the PC in it (I'm guessing 125 lbs) The end result was virtual silence..... but not quite.

The only remaining sound was a tiny hum, probably from the 7200rpm drive(s) I had suspended in there. I doubt the hum was higher than maybe 12-14 dBA@1m. At first, I thought this was total success, but over time, I realized that hum was more annoying than the noise I had before the ridiculous box. It was a tonal noise, much like CFL light buzz, but at 120Hz, and I could not block it out of my mind. after a few weeks, I ended up turning up the in/out fans so I could hear a broadband woosh. Lived with that for a while -- it was much easier to tune out even though now the noise level was probably 18~20 dBA. A few weeks after that, I dismantled the brute box and repurposed the parts for speaker boxes and stands. :lol:

To block low frequency noise, you need concrete -- 3-4" thick will do for noise that comes from a PC. Of course, 125 lbs will seem light compared to that box. :mrgreen:

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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2015 8:03 pm 
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Dxun wrote:
You probably missed my question in previous post - was I correct in assuming the 3-pin non-PWM fans are now fully controllable with modern motherboards?


Let me help you right there...

Yes, some modern motherboars can control 3-pin non-PWM fans connected to 4-pin PWM headers. Read the z97 pro review - http://www.silentpcreview.com/ASUS_Z97-PRO
The motherboard knows what type of fan is connected to each header. As you see on page 3 of the review, one can chose PWM or DC mode.

I have the z97-a and it's the best mobo i ever had as far as fan control goes. I ONLY care about speedfan support and never use fan expert. 5 out of the six headers are controllable with speedfan!


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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2015 2:17 am 
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Excellent.


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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2015 4:58 am 
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Tzeb wrote:
some modern motherboars can control 3-pin non-PWM fans connected to 4-pin PWM headers. Read the z97 pro review - http://www.silentpcreview.com/ASUS_Z97-PRO
The motherboard knows what type of fan is connected to each header. As you see on page 3 of the review, one can chose PWM or DC mode.
Does this mean a 4-pin header can control a 3-pin fan as if it had PWM? i.e. can I set the 3-pin fan to ramp up and down if it reaches certain temperature levels that I set?


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 Post subject: Re: Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2015 7:18 am 
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yakuman wrote:
Tzeb wrote:
some modern motherboars can control 3-pin non-PWM fans connected to 4-pin PWM headers. Read the z97 pro review - http://www.silentpcreview.com/ASUS_Z97-PRO
The motherboard knows what type of fan is connected to each header. As you see on page 3 of the review, one can chose PWM or DC mode.
Does this mean a 4-pin header can control a 3-pin fan as if it had PWM? i.e. can I set the 3-pin fan to ramp up and down if it reaches certain temperature levels that I set?


Exactly. Modern asus motherboards can control 3 or 4 pin fans connected to a 4 pin header. It knows what type of fan each header has and adjusts to PWM or DC mode. One can override that in case of 4-pin fans. Let's say you have a 4-pin pwm fan that won't go lower than 1000 RPM in pwm. If you switch to DC mode you can go even slower.


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