You are here

Tiché PC HDD Vibration Killer

Tiché PC HDD Vibration Killer

February 5, 2012 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Tiché PC HDD Vibration Killer
Manufacturer
ZoranICS
Sample Supplier
Street Price
23 € (including VAT)

We recently received an interesting silencing product for evaluation manufactured by ZoranICS, a small startup company based in Europe, provided by one of their partners, Tiché PC, a Slovak retailer selling PCs, components, and accessories. The HDD Vibration Killer is a simple contraption designed to kill hard drive vibration and thus reduce noise. The PC silencing landscape is fairly mature at this point, with countless numbers of quiet power supplies, extraordinarily efficient third party heatsinks and fans, but when it comes to muffling the whirl of the still ubiquitous 7200 RPM hard drive, few aftermarket products have proven effective without significant cost.

Hard drives have actually become a lot quieter over the years. The problem with most models is not direct acoustic noise, but the drive's vibrations transmitted through and sometimes amplified by the case in which they are used. One solution SPCR popularized is DIY hard drive suspension using an elastic material to decouple drives from the case. The original idea of HDD decoupling suspension stemmed from a German aftermarket product called NoVibes (the subject of one of the first SPCR reviews). The HDD Vibration Killer takes this approach rather than following the Scythe Quiet Drive and other similar products that encapsulate the drive inside a bulky rubber-lined metal enclosure.


Review sample package.

The hardware itself is very simple and familiar if you've encountered metal 3.5" to 5.25" drive bay adapters. Rather than being constructed as one bracket, the aluminum pieces are split in two with a thick piece of rubber (of half synthetic origin according to ZoranICS) acting as a bridge to provide the decoupling effect. It is a clever idea, assuming the rubbery-foamy material is up to the task. One pair of adapters is provided for the single drive model, but they also have three and four drive models using two sets of adapters and metal sheets to join them together; our sample is the three drive version.


Adapters.

A few broad fins have been cut into the adapters making them crude heatsinks. Most cases don't support direct cooling for the 5.25" bays which are also typically higher up in the chassis, subjecting suspended drives to more heat than a typical bottom-mounted drive cage with an intake fan.


Vibration Killer attached to a single drive.

Rather than using adhesive or clips to hold the foam in place, a screw inserted on each side of both pieces of rubber keep them from slipping off. This is undoubtedly more secure but introduces the possibility of the drives stretching the rubber to the point where the holes made by the screws begin to rip. The same thickness of rubber is used on the 4-drive version of the HDD Vibration Killer, so strength shouldn't be an issue for the 3-pack. Even so, we think it would be prudent for the manufacturer to offer replacement rubber parts.


Assembled with three drives.

Assembly is simple. Use the standard hard drive screws provided to attach the drives to the metal plate and adapters. With three drives, the kit takes up just two 5.25" bays. Cooling may be more effective when used with single drives; in the three-drive assembly a large metal sheet is placed between the drives and the individual heatsink-like adapters.



Installed inside a Cooler Master Silencio 450 case. (Note: the third drive in the picture is actually suspended and not touching the bottom).

Cobbling the Vibration Killer together is child's play, but installing it inside a case is much more difficult. The mounting points not fixed, and the weight of three hard drives can be substantial, so it takes considerable effort to line the holes up and keep them in place to install the outer screws. As you can see from the photo, the rubber attached to the bottom drive is stretched/stressed substantially further than the top. If drives are ever replaced it would be prudent to rotate the adapters to improve durability.

TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • CPUBurn
    processor stress software.
  • HD Tune Pro
    HD stressing/diagnostic/benchmark tool for storage devices.
  • SpeedFan
    to monitor system temperatures.
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply, used to regulate
    fan speeds during the test.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer:
    SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital

    audio interfaces.

  • Anechoic chamber
    with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower

Testing Procedures

We assembled the Vibration Killer with three of the louder drives we had on hand and installed it inside a Cooler Master Silencio 450 housing our ATX case IGP testing configuration. This was done immediately following the testing of the Silencio 450 case. The CPU fan was run at 9V and the stock fans at 7V to create a fairly low airflow environment. The CPU was put under half load (two cores running CPUBurn) to create some extra heat, and error scanning tests were run on all three drives simultaneously using HD Tune Once the drive temperatures stabilized (stayed constant for 10~15 minutes), we recorded the results and made noise measurements from one meter's distance from the center of the case's side panel with the case tilted at a 45 degree angle.



Hard drives installed in the "proper" way in the Silencio 450.

The Vibration Killer was compared to the stock mounting system in the Silencio 450. The drives were installed with screws in the upper hard drive chamber which is very secure and sits directly in front of a 120mm intake fan blowing over them. The Silencio 450 has rather loose side panels which can amplify hard drive vibration, but it was modified with some closed-cell foam padding to reduce this effect.

Test Results

System Measurements
HDD Mounting Method
Stock
HDD Vibration Killer
HDD #1 Temp
38°C
48°C
HDD #2 Temp
42°C
51°C
HDD #3 Temp
41°C
49°C
22 dBA
20~21 dBA
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Though the Vibration Killer acts as a makeshift heatsink for the drives, without any direct airflow, drive temperatures went up. Mounted in the stock drive cage, the temperatures settled at about 40°C while the Vibration Killer generated results 8~10°C higher. It's an unavoidable consequence unless modifications are made to ensure airflow through the 5.25" bays. The drives ran fairly toasty, close to the threshold of concern, as manufacturers generally cite 55~60°C for maximum safe operating temperature.

The Vibration Killer produced a measurable 1~2 dB improvement in noise. This might not sound like much but for comparison, disabling the loudest of the three drives, the WD Caviar Black 2TB, resulted in only a 1 dB improvement when mounted in the stock drive cage. In our test, the Vibration Killer essentially made three drives sound quieter than two (but not quite as good as one). When the drives were in the stock drive cage, the case emitted an audible humming noise and noticeable vibrations could be felt on the outside of the chassis — both disappeared when the Vibration Killer was used.





System noise level, with and without the Vibration Killer.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, 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.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The HDD Vibration Killer is one of the rare products that actually lives up to its claims. It doesn't reduce or dampen hard drive vibration — it actually does kill it. In our case, it took three of our louder tested hard drives and eliminated the vibrations they passed into the case using the stock hard drive mounting system. Not only did it reduce the amount of noise generated by our test system, it also improved the quality of the acoustics — the machine sounded noticeably better, smoother and more pleasant. The Cooler Master Silencio 450 we used was modified to reduce its sensitivity to vibration, so a greater improvement would be experienced in a a more vibration-prone case. If you have never experienced the absence of HDD-induced hum in a computer, you'd be surprised what a treat in can be. Even if the measured SPL reduction is small, the subjective result can be dramatic.

While quieter, the drives ran hotter in the 5.25" bays. We saw drive temperatures of about 50°C, an increase of 8~10°C, but it should be noted that our test system was designed specifically to be thermally challenging; Most machines have more cooling than our test configuration. Our only real complaint is that the floppiness of the adapters makes them difficult to install in the tight confines of 5.25" bays. Lining up the holes after one side is screwed is particularly challenging with the hard drives weighing the entire assembly down.

Enclosure devices like the Scythe Quiet Drive may do a better job of quieting the airborne noise of hard drives but the majority of modern drives are pretty quiet to begin with. Vibration, especially during seek, is much less effectively damped by such enclosure devices, which also require a single unit for each drive while the HDD Vibration Killer can handle three or four drives for a similar price, making it an excellent value. Another alternative is to simply string up your own suspension system using a material like elastic cord. It's a more affordable choice but it may require some case modification (drilling holes) and isn't as secure.

The HDD Vibration Killer can currently be ordered in Europe from Tiché PC for € 23.36 (€ 19.47 excluding VAT), but currently isn't available in North America, though this could change as ZoranICS is seeking resellers. (Interested parties please contact them directly.)

Our thanks to ZoranICS and Tiché PC for the HDD Vibration Killer sample.




ZoranICS HDD Vibration Killer is Recommended by SPCR.

* * *

POSTSCRIPT: Assembly Errata

A few hours after the review was posted, we received the following email from ZoranICS:

"Nice review ;) and thank you again.

"One note though... you got the assembly a bit wrong - thus the installation too. You have to slide the upper killer underneath the top drive fastening screws - they fit in the notches that are on the top side of the killer - On the 3pack. Also, the wider rubber should be on the data/power connectors side of the drives, and should not be rotated as the drives don't have their center of mass in the geometrical center.

"I understand, that this is my fault, as the manual was criticized before. I am working on a better one with pictures.

"Please see them attached."



This photo shows the correct way to mount the upper Killer bracket. We mounted it too high, and "backwards".





Note the more even position of the top and bottom "springs" in this correctly mounted HDD Vibration Killer on three drives.

Hence the review comments about the extra tension on the bottom springs were reflective of our error in assembly and mounting. It should have been mentioned in the review — the assembly instructions need major improvement. They were extremely difficult to read and see, printed on a sheet in a tiny font with tiny images, so we simply ignored them and trusted our own instincts.



Articles of Related Interest

Seagate Barracuda 3TB: 1TB Platter Behemoth

WD Scorpio Black 750GB & Scorpio Blue 1TB

Hitachi Deskstar 5K3000 2TB 5940RPM Hard Drive

Icy Dock MB973SP-B SATA Backplane Module

HP Proliant MicroServer

SSD Roundup: Corsair F180 vs. Zalman S Series vs. Kingston SSDNow V+100



* * *

Discuss
this article in the SPCR Forums.

Google

www SPCR