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State-of-the-art active cooled quiet PC by Phil Rees

enhanced quiet pc case systemDescribed below, our ePC6070 enclosure includes extra metalwork and case modifications, plus strategic acoustic damping, to produce a superbly quiet PC system unit. All the fans in the case are replaced with ultra-quiet models. This can be combined with a custom-mounted advanced "Silent Tower" CPU cooler, also with replacement ultra-quiet fans. All the fans can be controlled by an optimised version of our exclusive central airflow control system. The hard drives are installed in special acoustic mounts and a very quiet power supply unit is employed.


music PC box reviewIndependent product review by Sound on Sound, the world's best music recording magazine.

In Sound On Sound magazine, January 2005, Martin Walker says of this system: "When I first switched on this machine I wasn't even sure it was working, and only by placing my ear on its case could I hear any noise at all". He also remarks that: "It contains the most advanced cooling system I've reviewed to date, and Phil Rees has included some very clever engineering twists of his own".

In Computer Music magazine, July 2005, the reviewer says: "Switching on this PC is a treat. It's not so much what you get as what you don't. We've reviewed some very quiet PCs in cm, but this one re-writes the rules. There are six fans in total, and the only way you'll hear any noise is if you place your ear next to the rear case fan. Superb." He goes on to say: "...you only start to feel really impressed when you open up the case and check out the myriad acoustic tweaks and treatments that lie within."

We prefer systems based on Intel chipsets and processors, because they usually have the best electronic compatibility with demanding audio hardware. Therefore, we build systems which are astonishingly quiet, even though they use the latest power-hungry Intel parts.

Martin Walker's SOS review has this summary: "If you want to buy an Intel Prescott-based PC that's quieter than a Northwood, look no further. This Philip Rees PC is a luxury system from start to finish, featuring some of the best components available, and with lavish care and attention to detail throughout, though this luxury does of course increase the final price."

Computer article:to configure one of these acclaimed state-of-the-art advanced quiet PCs

Contents:other articles - technical writings by Philip Rees

silent pc doorquiet pc case gasketted doorThe Lian-Li PC6070 closely resembles the well-regarded PC-6X series, but it has a detachable hinged extruded aluminium door panel with a rubber gasket. Two front-mounted USB 2.0 ports are still included. There is no top fan on the PC6070.

Because of the door, the PC6070 has its air inlet on its underside at the front. To accommodate this arrangement, the case is raised on four weird plastic feet. The air inlet is provided with a dust filter, accessed by removing two thumbscrews.

In order to make the case even quieter, as supplied by Lian-Li, both the side panels and the top are fitted with sound damping foam material on the inside surfaces.


ePC6070 airflow diagramIn our modified ePC6070 case, the metalwork of the already excellent PC6070 case has been enhanced to strategically direct the airflow, so that the cooling of the system is commendably efficient. The acoustic damping has been augmented, to make the system even quieter.

The outlet fan and the two fans on the CPU cooler work in tandem quietly, to provide excellent airflow across the top of the main motherboard cavity. An air duct is provided to aid good operation of the power supply.

Our exclusive central airflow control system makes sure that the fans work together efficiently, while not running faster and noisier than necessary.


Case fans, CPU fans and fan controllerZalman quiet fanThe three 80mm Lian-Li case fans have been replaced by Zalman ZM-F1 units. The CPU cooler has been fitted with two 92mm Zalman ZM-F2 fans. These fans are quiet, efficient and offer a good speed range.

The outlet fan is installed with SilenX silicone composite fan vibration isolation mounts.

central airflow control card The SilenX PSU is left to take care of its own fan speed. All of the other five fans are controlled by the central airflow control system fan speed controller, designed and built in-house. The configuration and set-up of this module is the result of a good deal of experimentation. Although my module can support up to four temperature sensors, I have elected to use a simple configuration with a single thermistor, bonded to the base of the CPU cooler with Electrolube TBS. I have found this configuration to be more than adequate. For the current J-suffix LGA 775 P4 processors, we set the central airflow control system to hold the CPU temperature to about 60°C.


low noise fansinlet fan baffle components inlet fan baffles installed quiet front fans and silicone gasket mounts

The purpose of the inlet fans is to maintain a positive air pressure inside the case, and to provide cool air to replace the warm air expelled by the outlet fan. There should be a pressure differential across these fans. It is therefore advantageous that these fans be gasketted and provided with decent baffles. These fans are installed with Acousti AFG80C Anti-vibration Silicone Fan Gaskets, which provide some acoustic isolation and seal the gap, preventing feedback airflow. Aluminium parts have been made to improve the baffle around these fans and create a well-isolated low pressure chamber in front of the fans (between the chassis and the front panel), which will draw cool ambient air in through the filter on the bottom of the PC6070 case.

One of the baffle parts is removable to allow installation of the front-panel USB port cable. The other baffle part fits into a neoprene foam gasket bonded to the PC6070 front panel. Additionally, the apertures in the front of the PC6070 chassis have been substantially filled, to minimise unnecessary air loss to the front of the case.


zalman heatpipe hdd coolershard drive bay with zalman heatpipe mountsNowadays, hard drives dissipate quite a lot of power, so cooling is definitely an issue. The inner hard disk drive rack in these Lian-Li cases is very well located, in the direct path of the cool air from the inlet fans. The hard drives stay wonderfully cool – I like this a lot, as excessive temperatures can easily cause modern high-density hard drives to malfunction.

We modify the Lian-li HDD rack so that it can take two drives in Zalman ZM-2HC2 silent hard drive caddies, which offer decent heatpipe cooling and acoustic isolation via rubber AV mounts.


quiet power supplySilenX PSUSilenX say that their "power supplies are simply the quietest active cooled power supplies on the planet! With a true <14 dBA noise level from 1m, it will blow away any other so-called "silent" power supply on the market today."

I have used one of their excellent 520W units, and I choose an active PFC (power factor correction) version to eliminate input choke noise.


silent pc case modsmetalwork for duct at top of caseSplendid as the SilenX PSU surely is, it has one issue: because it has such low airflow, it does not want to be mounted in a location which collects hot air.

To make sure that the SilenX only has to take care of cooling itself, I have designed some simple aluminium sheet metalwork which creates a duct for the PSU to draw cooler air from lower in the enclosure, nearer to the inlet fans. This separates the PSU from the warm air generated by the CPU, motherboard, etcetera. This is especially advantageous as (unlike the PC60, from which its design is derived) the PC6070 case has no outlet fan in the top panel.

Computer Music magazine described this arrangement as "Brilliant!"


vga heatpipe coolergraphics card with large passive heatsinkAs the performance of graphics cards progresses it is less easy to find models without fans – that is, with passive heatsinks. In some cases, cards with fans can be modified by replacing the noisy active heatsink with a large passive model, such as the Zalman ZM80C-HP. This device incorporates a heatpipe.

As graphics performance is very unimportant in a music PC, and we want to keep overall power consumption down, I prefer to choose a model with a simple passive heatsink.


asus coolstack featureasus p5gd2 motherboard Stack Cool featureMany of the current Asus motherboards incorporate the Stack Cool feature. This is a patented technology that utilizes a second PCB stacked underneath the motherboard to dissipate heat generated by MOSFETs, chokes, and large capacitors. Asus claim that this effectively reduces component temperature by 10C without adding a fan. I think that sounds a tad optimistic, but it can't be a bad thing!

motherboard tray modificationsTo encourage the circulation of air against the back of the motherboard, we make sets of extra holes (at the top and bottom) in the motherboard tray. This manufacturing process (and attaching the CPU cooler directly to the tray, see below) is made easier because the PC6070 case has a removable motherboard tray. My intention is that this simple modification should extract extra benefit from the Stack Cool and the CPU cooler mounting; it also exploits the potential for heat dissipation via the right-hand side of the enclosure.


thermaltake heatsinkthermaltake silent tower quiet cpu cooler in situWe are impressed by the performance of the Thermaltake CL-P0025 Silent Tower CPU cooler, which we have used in this system. It employs heatpipe technology, to quickly move the heat away from the processor. Thermaltake have endeavoured to minimise the weight by using aluminum fins. Even so, it is a big beast.

The Thermaltake fan suffered from some bearing noise. We have replaced it with a pair of Zalman ZM-F2 quiet fans (not shown in this illustration), which are also a better match for the drivers of my fan speed controller card.

thermaltake cooler mounted onto motherboard trayWe found that the manufacturer's mounting scheme for the Thermaltake cooler warped the motherboard to an extent that we did not like. We were also concerned at the potential for transmitting transit shock to the motherboard. To get round this, we have mounted the cooler directly to the motherboard tray via metal spacers, with the screws attached through the Thermaltake plate. Happily, this also provides an extra low-thermal-resistance path from the CPU to the case metalwork. The motherboard is also held properly flat by an insulating spacer beneath the centre of the processor socket. This scheme protects the motherboard, and supports the cooler very firmly.


metalwork supports heavy heatsinkscpu cooler and graphics card heatsink support bracketAnother case modification is the transit bracket, which can be removed (using thumbscrews), but should be re-installed for shipping. The massive Thermaltake CPU cooler is attached to this bracket via a foam mounting (which should subdue the acoustic coupling of the cooler fans). The purpose of the bracket is to steady the CPU cooler, and reduce the risk of transit damage.

If necessary, a graphics card passive heatsink can also be screwed to this bracket. This saves the graphics card from having to bear the full weight of a large heatsink, and so avoids potential transit damage to the graphics card. In fact, the bracket design is derived from one we have previously used to protect modified graphics cards.

Please note: we no longer drill a row of small holes in the top of the case.

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