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Katana's Mean Machine: Quieter than a Fish Tank

April 1, 2003 by James Van Horn

James, a.k.a. Katana Man in the SPCR Forums, recently assembled a new system with some of the latest and greatest components for silent PC enthusiasts. The foundation was a D8000 mid-tower case from Coolcases, which James modded even more with fan grommets and complete panel damping. The result is a system whose noise level is so low that his "fish tank and flourecent lights are starting to bug" him. (Time for a little aural sensitivity reduction, James -- loud rock n' roll with headphones at full blast for 24 hours is prescribed! :-D) -- Mike Chin, Editor.

Recently, I started researching mid tower cases with 120mm fans in them with
a bit of help from my friends at SPCR Forums.
I found only a handful, and
decided on a D8000 from Coolcases.
Coolcases takes a CompuCase
(which is internally identical to the Antec
), and makes a number of mods to make it more ideal for enthusiasts.
For this project I also used:

>> Fan Isolators from Silicon

>> Fortron/Sparkle FSP350-60PN power supply from XP

>> AcoustiPack Deluxe case damping kit from Quietc

>> Thermalright SLK-900U heatsink and some Panaflo fans from

>> Zalman ZM-MFC1 multi-fan controller

>> Solid State Hard Drive from BIT

>> Zalman ZM80A-HP from Newegg

>> Modder's Mesh from

Being used to the quality of Lian Li cases, I prepared myself for the arrival of this low cost steel case. And as expected, many of the edges were sharp. Without hesitation, I grabbed my dremmel, steel brush bit, and spent and hour smoothing out some of the sharp edges.

I was not especially pleased with the 120mm fan mount design on the back panel. If you don't mind hard mounting two 120mm x 25mm fans directly to the case, then you don't have to worry. (Hard mounting fans directly to the case can transfer vibrations and noise to the case.) But since I was going to be using silicon fan isolators, I immediately removed the plastic fan holders. To my surprise, their proprietary plastic fan mount do not use standard holes. As seen in the next two pictures, you can see where I had to dremmel in between the two holes. This took over 2 hours with all of the cleanup and thorough vacuuming.

Next, I installed the AcoustiPack (reviewed by SPCR) into the case. I was very surprised at the weight of the delux kit, as it comes at nearly 10 lbs! Installation went just about how you'd expect: slow, but enjoyable. It took a couple of hours to install the material. Pretty much the entire exposed interior was covered.

I was excited to install the new Fortron PSU FSP350-60PN. This thing is so quiet, you can just barely hear it. It has a single 120mm fan which starts at 12V for a second, then drops its voltage to somewhere in the 3V-5V range. I thought I might put a Panaflo or Papst in it, but there is no need. It's awesome the way it is. This PSU will go in all of my new cases. :)

The Zalman ZM-MFC1 multifan controller works as you'd expect, but I had to rig up a brace between the 2 mounting rails. This was necessary because the rails would not stay in place and they kept bending the soft aluminum of the Zalman ZM-MFC1. Two spare slot covers, sticky foam tape, and super glue did the trick.

The rubber mounted hard drive cage is a nice touch. I mounted my 2 SCSI hard drives at the top and bottom to maximize air flow from the front 120mm fan. Yes, that bottom drive is a solid state hard drive. No moving parts, no noise, no heat, and .048ms access time! Solid state hard drives are the way of the future. They act just like any other drive. When you power down, the data remains. Bootable, formattable, no drivers needed, etc... Price is still high, but you know how computer prices are, it's only a matter of time. :)

Since the Papst 120mm's are hard to get a hold of right now, I settled on the Panaflo 120mm L1A. The blades are not as balanced as I'd like to see. I will be replacing it with a Papst. I also could NOT fit a 120mm x 38mm fan in front without it touching the drive cage, so that was out of the question. I left the stock case fan in front for now. I have no idea of the specs, but it's a nice low flow fan and worthy of use until the Papst fans arrive.

I'm not sure if these cases come from the factory with an internal PC speaker, but mu Coolcases D8000 certainly didn't. I ordered a very cute half inch PC speaker and stuffed it under the drive cage. In order to keep as much AcoustiPack foam as possible on the side panel, I used the dremmel to cut off most of the finger quick releases for the hard drive and floppy cage.

The case came together nicely, and weighs an absolute ton! Next case project will include casters, whew! The black paint job on this case is beautiful, and seems thick and scratch resistant. The front looks attractive, contains USB and sound ports, and has a fan filter. The bezel mounts are poorly designed and I feel like I'm about to break them every time I remove or secure the bezel. If any manufacturers are reading this... take a tip from Lian Li. Putting a Lian Li bezel on just makes you feel good :)


If you are looking for a quiet case, the Coolcases D8000 is a nice low cost, low noise solution. If are willing to spend some time with a dremmel, you can still improve it further like I did here. The AcoustiPack is amazing. I cannot believe how well it does. Even though it costs even more than the case, I think it's worth it. Likewise, the fan isolators are worth every bit of a buck each! I will never hard mount any case fan again. The Fortron/Sparkle FSP350-60PN is a super quiet PSU and well worth it as well.

My temps are wonderfully low. As I type this, my motherboard temperature is 29C and the Pentum 2.53GHz is running at 37C. The 120mm fans are running around 5 volts, and the noise level is so low that my fish tank and flourecent lights are starting to bug me :)

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