Silverstone Lascala 10 Case and Noise

The Silverstone Lascala 10 is a great-looking case that matches nicely in our A/V rack. The hidden DVD drive goes a long way towards achieving this match, but the brushed aluminum look really completes it.

Despite all the reviews I read of the case, though, I was most disappointed with how loud the case is (or, more appropriately, the fans). Quite simply, it's unacceptable for a home theater. All the reviews simply say the case is a little loud. AnandTech's review provides a real measurement (51 dB at 12 inches), though it's difficult to really know how loud that is while sitting in the living room watching TV.

First off, I wanted to make sure it really was the fans making all of the noise. I went over the case and tightened all the screws, wiggled everything around, and otherwise gave it a close inspection to find anything else that could be making noise. (A loose screw rattling could make a lot of noise.) Everything looked good; I couldn't find any cause other than the fans.

As a side note, the Silverstone Lascala 10's quality is quite high, as evidenced by my inspection: corners fit tightly, metal edges were not sharp, and it was generally easy to work in with the little hardware I had to install. Indeed, this case has space for several more hard drives and is actually much bigger than I needed. When I bought the case, I saw the dimensions but didn't measure or check to see what sort of room I had available: the case is about the same size as our Sony DB930 receiver, though a little deeper. Very hefty, but they look nice together.

Just Too Loud

With all three case fans running (plus the CPU and power supply fans) the computer is simply loud--far too loud for a home theater. Comparatively, it's louder than any other computer I've used in recent past. If you're listening to TV or a movie at a comfortable level, you'll be struggling to hear it over the case. It's simply unacceptable. With all three case fans running, though, the computer stays cool, not getting above 80 degrees farenheit after 2 days of heavy MythTV use (both tuners recording, watching a recording, and commercial flagging simultaneously going).

Since the computer stays so cool, I decided to unplug the front 95mm case fan. This fan is powered by a normal 12V connection to the power supply. The noise level went down substantially. It's now roughtly-the-same to slightly-louder-than your average computer. After 2 more days of heavy use, the temperature didn't get above 82 degrees. This is probably marginally acceptable for an HTPC: noticeable, but not really objectionable. When the TV and receiver are off, though, it's definitely the loudest source of ambient noise in our apartment.

With the front fan unplugged and the case top off, it's not difficult to recognize that the retail-packaged AMD Sempron heatsink/fan combo is pretty loud. It's tough to tell whether that fan or the two rear case fans are louder.

I decided to unplug one of the rear case fans to see what that did. The motherboard I chose--an Asus K8U-X--has only one fan header, so I unplugged the fan that is connected to the power supply. Again, this noticeably lowered the noise, becoming a fairly quiet computer. For a HTPC, it's not bad, but I'd like something quieter. Temperature went to 84 degrees during heavy use, and with only the rear case fan running it's very obvious that the CPU fan is now the biggest problem.

The Thermaltake TR2 W0070 power supply was a good choice. Its fans are definitely the quietest in the case and are barely audible. Voltages are stable and it has no problem powering our system, though the components I selected are hardly enough to tax it; highly recommended.

A Quieter System

The stock rear 60 mm fans are rated at 25 dB. A Vantec SF6025L 60 mm fan is rated at 20 dB (a significant difference). In practice, however, I think the Vantec fans are more objectionable, emitting a fairly high-pitched whine that is more noticeable (to me, at least) than the low whir of the case-supplied fans. I'm currently using only one of the Silverstone-supplied 60 mm fans.

The stock front 95 mm fan is rated at 21 dB. I was dumb, and for whatever reason, bought an 80 mm CoolerMaster SAF-S84-E1 fan that is rated at only 15.75 dB. I had to use some foam packing peanuts to fit it into the 95 mm fan cage, but it fits, is nearly inaudible, and does a great job.

I can't find any specifics on just how loud the CPU fan is, but it's certainly too loud. A ThermalTake CL-P0296 92mm heatsink/fan is rated at 18 dB. It makes a small but noticeable difference.

All of this adds up to a worthwhile difference. The computer is still the loudest ambient noise device, but it's very quiet and easy to forget about. The case temperature stays at about 77-81 degrees farenheit.

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I'm struggling with LC10's loudness with my new HTPC setup. I've tried my best with Speedfan software etc, but after reading your article here, I decided to unplug some of the case fans (maybe the two rear ones.) I just can't believe, how a HTPC case can be that loud in the first place!

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