If it comes, I will build it....

The forum for non-component-related silent pc discussions.

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Joe DeFuria
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If it comes, I will build it....

Post by Joe DeFuria » Thu Feb 05, 2004 7:02 am

Finally, after months and months of agonizing torture, "the rest" of the components for my "high performance, with some attention paid to noise" PC are on order. Here's how things shaped up:

* Case/PSU/Fans: ARM Systems Stealth DIY Foundation Kit. (Black, 400W version) - The case and PSU featured in this review, with the exception of the front-panel I/O. ARM is providing me with a USB/Audio/Firewire panel instead of the standard USB only.

* Motherboard: Asus P4P800 Deluxe. I wanted a 865PE based motherboard, fanless, supporting Firewire plus 2 internal USB headers. You'd be surprised how few I had to choose from. Good thing the Asus is generally a highly rated motherboard. ;) Two other models I was considering (From MSI and AOpen) were tossed out because they had 6 USB ports on the back panel, with only 1 USB internal header. Also, The CPU location on this Asus motherboard looks to match exactly that of the Intel 875 motherboard, which means it should line up perfectly with the Ram Air opening on the case, as the Intel MB is used by ARM Systems stock with this case.

* CPU P4 3.2c (Northwood.) I was waiting to buy all my internal components until after the Prescott was released, so I could evaluate Prescott price / performance. Turns out prescott is entirely uninteresting from a performance / heat perspective, so I was at least able to take advantage of Northwood price drops.

* CPU Cooler: Zalman 7000AlCu. Looks to be a "tight fit" in the Evercase, with my motherboard, but it should fit..perhaps at most with a bent fin or two.

* Memory: 1 GB Mushkin 3500 Level 1, 2-3-3 timings. Will give me a little room to overclock if I want. Didn't want to pay $100 premium for 2-2-2 timings.

* Hard Drives. Samsung Spinpoint 160 GB SATA for data storage / A/V. And....1 WD Raptor 74 GB for app / sytsem drive.

I know....I know....the Raptor. ;)

I was torn between going with a second spinpoint for silence (and cost), or the raptor for performance. I chose performance in this case for a few reasons:

1) "Waiting around" while the hard drive thrashes is my single biggest pet peeve. Of all the components to comprimise performance for silence, the application hard drive is one I'd be willing to comprimise a bit on.

2) I've heard about reasonable success in quieting down the drives a bit with decoupling techniques.

3) The Stealth / Evercase case should be a great foundation for decoupling the drive. There's "space" underneath the main hard drive case suitable for the purpose, and there's already a 120mm intake fan than can be tweaked to hopefully provide a reasonable balance between noise and increased hard drive temps. Also, the Ram Air duct in the case should mean higher hard drive temps should have less of an impact on keeping the CPU cool.

I'm anticipating the standard EAR Grommet mounting system will be fine for the Spinpoint, but I anticipate trying several decoupling techniques with the Raptor to see what works best for me. I'll be sure to report on my findings.

If you're interested, the rest of the PC components (I'm already using these in my current system), and the "quickie reason" why I chose them:

Video: ATI Radeon 9800 non-pro, with VGA Silencer. I'll be playing games, and want more performance than a fanless 9600 can provide.
Keyboard: MS Multimedia Keyboard, (black-OEM.) Want volumn control on the keyboard, and this has a great feel and nice look.
Mouse: Logitech MX700. Wireless, high performance for games. Didn't like the "new" MS wireless mice....the scroll wheel doesn't "click" when scrolled, which is unacceptable to me for gaming purposes.
Monitor: Dell 2001FP. Finally, 1600x1200 flat panel with good response time.
Speakers: Creative Labs iTrigue L3500. Only need 2.1...chosen mostly for aesthetics.
Scanner: HP Scanjet 4670. How GREAT it is to reclaim the desk-space taken up by my old flat-bed!
Printer: HP Photosmart 7960...prints great Black and White photos using a "gray" color cartridge.

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Post by Ralf Hutter » Thu Feb 05, 2004 7:21 am

Looks nice (except, of course I have reservations about the Raptor, but it's a free country, right? :) ). Powerful CPU, great mobo and cooler, wonderful case. Looks like a nice setup. I highly recommend that you run Memtest86 for a while to check your memory stability. Don't be afraid to give your RAM some extra Vdimm to get it to run stable.

One thing I would suggest is that you play with your two HDDs one at a time. They'll each have their own noise signature that will be easier to suss out if only one drive is running.

Joe DeFuria
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Post by Joe DeFuria » Thu Feb 05, 2004 7:38 am

Yeah, I'm expecting some flak over the raptor. ;) Thanks for the Ram tips. BTW...What would you consider "a while" with MemTest? (How many passes?)

I am indeed planning on playing with each drive separately. I'm hoping that the Samsung doesn't have much vibration, so it can be mounted "standard". I'd like the air inlet to be as unobstructed as possible, and I'm almost assuredly going to already have the Raptor down there...either on foam, in a box, or suspended...

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Post by silvervarg » Thu Feb 05, 2004 8:10 am

Looks like a great system with lots of power, but not exactly cheap. Seems to be excelent for gaming.
A few things you might want to consider:
Perhaps ditching the Raptor and get another Samsung (exactly the same as the other drive) and run the two Samsungs in a RAID setup.
If you feel like shipping in more money get a small ATA Flash disc for the OS. This will give you boot speeds that will make the Raptor feel sluggish.

Get a pair of Zalman surround headphones. I haven't tried them, but they are supposed to be great for gaming (hear your enemys behind you etc).

Joe DeFuria
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Post by Joe DeFuria » Thu Feb 05, 2004 9:15 am

silvervarg wrote:Looks like a great system with lots of power, but not exactly cheap.
I've been saving my pennies and resisting "upgrades" of my old machine for quite a while. The biggest expense was of course the monitor...but that's nothing I plan to upgrade for, well, ever? :)

An Intel P4 at 3.0+ Ghz was a must. I could've gone cheaper on the CPU (Like a P4 2.6/2.8) and overclocked to 3+ Ghz...but I prefer non overclocked rigs.
Seems to be excelent for gaming.
One of the primary purposes of the machine...the other is video editing.
Perhaps ditching the Raptor and get another Samsung (exactly the same as the other drive) and run the two Samsungs in a RAID setup.


I did consider that...and I made sure my motherboard supports SATA Raid in case I want to go with this option in the future...but I would need a total 3 drives. I want a separate physical drive in my system for A/V / Data storage. I prefer to keep the system with 2 drives for the moment.

If it turns out that the Raptor is just "unbearable", then I may try that...or just try a single Spinpoint as the app drive and deal with a bit lower performance.
If you feel like shipping in more money get a small ATA Flash disc for the OS. This will give you boot speeds that will make the Raptor feel sluggish.
Boot speed doesn't really concern me much...as the machine is running almost 24/7. It's all the app loading / swap file stuff that gets me(particularly working with photo editing / video editing software).
Get a pair of Zalman surround headphones. I haven't tried them, but they are supposed to be great for gaming (hear your enemys behind you etc).
You read my mind. ;) I have indeed been looking into these, since the mobo supports 6 channel sound. I actually rarely get to use my external speakers when gaming...because it's usually at night when the kiddies are asleep. I'm a big FPS fan though, so surround would definitely help.

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Post by Ralf Hutter » Thu Feb 05, 2004 12:08 pm

Joe DeFuria wrote:BTW...What would you consider "a while" with MemTest? (How many passes?)
I run Memtest86 set to run all eleven tests (not just the seven default tests) with the cache set to always on. I generally run 20+ passes. Depending on the amount and speed of your memory it will take around 12-24 hours or so. Suck it up and do it. Knowing your memory is running stable is a good thing on the 875/865 boards that are so darn picky abot RAM. (Especially with the CH-5 chips on that level I)

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Post by MikeC » Thu Feb 05, 2004 12:34 pm

Joe DeFuria wrote:
Get a pair of Zalman surround headphones. I haven't tried them, but they are supposed to be great for gaming (hear your enemys behind you etc).
You read my mind. ;) I have indeed been looking into these, since the mobo supports 6 channel sound. I actually rarely get to use my external speakers when gaming...because it's usually at night when the kiddies are asleep. I'm a big FPS fan though, so surround would definitely help.
um... don't do it. Mebbe the effects are OK but the basic sound quality is... poor, IMO. Resonant, thick & closed. My 10 year old Grado SR-60s absolutely destroy the Zalmans. In comparison, they are wide open, totally transparent, lively, and live sounding. Any thoughts about however many channels go flying out the window when you listen to these two, with any setting on the Zalman vs the standard 2-ch stereo on the Grado. I mean who cares how many channels -- it just sounds canned and bad in comparison.

I was supposed to write a review of the Z headphones but I don't think they'll really want me to do that. this is probably damage enough from their PR dept PoV. :lol:

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Post by marc999 » Thu Feb 05, 2004 12:41 pm

I say keep the Raptor!! I have one and with the AcoustiPak, I can't hear it (and your case comes with the AcoustiPack, so I woudn't worry about it). I have it mounted at the front of the case with the front closed off and decoupled on foam. Anyway, mine's the old 36 GB model, and from what I've heard the new 74s are quieter due to their FDB. You may have an issue if you had a SUPER quiet system, but your system is not quiet enough to hear it I would imagine. :D

Joe DeFuria
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Post by Joe DeFuria » Thu Feb 05, 2004 12:50 pm

MikeC wrote:I was supposed to write a review of the Z headphones but I don't think they'll really want me to do that. this is probably damage enough from their PR dept PoV. :lol:
Well...damn! :D

Yeah, I'm pretty happy with my Sennheiser HD580s. Not expecting to even want to listen to music with the Zalman's, but I figured it might be good for gaming...but if the sound is THAT bad... :shock:

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Post by MikeC » Thu Feb 05, 2004 1:11 pm

Joe DeFuria wrote:
MikeC wrote:I was supposed to write a review of the Z headphones but I don't think they'll really want me to do that. this is probably damage enough from their PR dept PoV. :lol:
Well...damn! :D

Yeah, I'm pretty happy with my Sennheiser HD580s. Not expecting to even want to listen to music with the Zalman's, but I figured it might be good for gaming...but if the sound is THAT bad... :shock:
To be fair, the Grado SR-60 is outstanding. Cost mr ~$60 over 10 years ago and immediately replaced a $300+ pair of Stax electrostatic headphones I used to think were the cat's meow. Yup, the Grados have been giant-killers for years. I might even put them up against your Sennheiser HD580 -- certainly would not be an unfair contest.

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SR-60s

Post by tay » Thu Feb 05, 2004 1:21 pm

Yeah i love my SR-60s and I just got mine this year, I dont the styling has changed, but I like the retro look (their wood earpiece headsets look $$$ tho). However, I could hear my pc before any mods (12v + 2 more case fans) with the headphones on and nothing playing. Even now I hear it clearly. So if you dont want ambient noise red the SR-60s are a bad bet.

Hows that flat panel for gaming? Dont you get motion blur type effect? None of the pro gamers play on lcd's (AFAIK) because of the slow response times. Tourney organizers are still FORCED to use CRT's even though their sponsors would much prefer peddling the LCDs. Your system looks awesome btw shame there is no green emoticon for envy.

Joe DeFuria
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Re: SR-60s

Post by Joe DeFuria » Thu Feb 05, 2004 1:40 pm

tay wrote:Hows that flat panel for gaming? Dont you get motion blur type effect?
Absolutely no motion blur that I can detect. I'm thoroughly pleased with this monitor. It also scales non-native resolutions very well. Likely because at 1600x1200 it has the same aspect ratio as gaming resolutions. So when if my graphics card is not fast enough to play at 1600x1200 native, The more common flat panel resolution of 1280x1024

I haven't done that much gaming though since I've gotten the monitor a couple weeks ago. I did test it out of course with Unreal Tournament, and jDoom, and a bitof the Far Cry demo...no problems. It's hooked up via DVI to the Radeon.
None of the pro gamers play on lcd's (AFAIK) because of the slow response times.
Yeah, well...they're freaks. :) Pro players also like to run at 640x480 resolution, and turn off ANY performance reducing features to make Qauke3 look worse than Doom....so that they can run at 5000 FPS, without v-sync to the monitor.

Seriously, LCD monitors are really just now getting to the "good enough for more than casual gaming" state though, so there's been good reason for pro players to reject them. I'm not sure they will ever accpet them...not because of ghosting, (which is minimal with the latest montiors IMO) but because flat panel refresh is typically limited to 75Hz which might not suit the "i need to flick my wrist and turn smoothly 180 degrees in 0.02 seconds and see one full frame for every degree I turn" crowd.
Your system looks awesome btw shame there is no green emoticon for envy.
Yeah, well, me and my PIII 700 have been on the wrong side of Envy for too long. :D

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Post by Joe DeFuria » Thu Feb 05, 2004 1:47 pm

MikeC wrote: Yup, the Grados have been giant-killers for years. I might even put them up against your Sennheiser HD580 -- certainly would not be an unfair contest.
Indeed. (Not to get too off topic, but...) I was considering the Grados, but I ultimately chose the Senn not because I thought they sounded notably better, but because (from what I read), they were more comfortable for long periods with a wider range of people. (The Senn's fit over the ear, not on top of it). The headhones are used by both my wife and I for our digital piano, and I wanted to lower the risk of her being "uncomfortable". ;)

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Post by Trip » Thu Feb 05, 2004 4:17 pm

Dude, I'm also green, that is a nice setup, I want to hear updates on your success with that raptor! Also, is your CPU fan the loudest component?

I'm gonna have to order some sorbothane now, I wonder if a hole could be drilled or dug out the middle and a string run through to tie the HDD down on.

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Post by Joe DeFuria » Thu Feb 05, 2004 7:33 pm

I will definitely give updates concerning the Raptor!

I will at least try out 3 different methods of mounting. They should rank from least decoupling and dampening to most (and probably coolest to warmest):

1) Standard mounting using EAR Isolator Grommets.

2) Suspend with cord I' figure I can use the standard hard drive cage and Spinpoint hard drive as the "anchor" to suspend the raptor below it.

3) Some kind of isolation box. Either home-made rubber or something like a smart-drive.

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Post by sthayashi » Thu Feb 05, 2004 7:42 pm

Put me down for jealous as anything of that system. Kinda. From the pictures I've seen, I'm not as impressed with the Evercase in terms of aesthetics. It looks pseudo-retro to me.

Like the others, the raptor doesn't impress me much. But I'm wishin' that I had the cash to toss down for a system like that. My last purchase was the Dell 2001FP, and I'm still paying that off. Glad to hear that it works well for games though. I got the monitor because I was jealous of the 1901FP my fiance (it looks REALLY nice), but I still can't afford a video card that will work for the game I wanna try out (Matrox G400, baby). Well, that and I'd rather save up and get a killer card, than just get a cheap one.
MikeC wrote:I might even put them up against your Sennheiser HD580 -- certainly would not be an unfair contest.
Grado vs. Sennheiser is one of the all-time audiophile debates. The general consensus is that Sennheiser is better for classical and Grado is better for rock. Take that as you will when you consider testing them against each other.

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Post by Trip » Thu Feb 05, 2004 7:56 pm


Joe DeFuria
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Post by Joe DeFuria » Thu Feb 05, 2004 8:09 pm

sthayashi wrote:From the pictures I've seen, I'm not as impressed with the Evercase in terms of aesthetics. It looks pseudo-retro to me.
I hear ya. Off all the things with my new system, the case aesthics is something I'm "ok" with, but not thrilled about. There just wasn't anything else out there that was a better trade-off of form and function for me. Almost anything else that was good form, was crap for function. :evil: Since I've got some high wattage components in there, I really put an emphasis on case air-flow. I am actually hoping that the case looks a little better in person than it does in pictures. ;)

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