I currently have the Sonata Quiet Case and one 120gxp IBM hard drive and I must say that it's surprisingly quiet. My friends actually have questioned "is your computer even on?" .... very sweet. It's not inaudible in dead silence but when you're actually using it; it's superb.
The Sonata will insulate the noise of the hard drives from you to a degree, but if hard drive noise is an issue I'd recommend getting Maxtor or Seagate hard drives. I've particularly used more Maxtor hard drives over the years, and they've always been incredibly reliable even under heavy abuse--and very quiet. Many people say the bearings on the Seagate drives are quieter than the Maxtors', but the newer Maxtor 7200RPM drives also use fluid bearings that are just about as quiet.
Personally I recently bought two of the Maxtor 300GB 5400RPM drives for bulk storage, and even though they use the older bearings they're inaudible in my fairly quiet system. In fact, the noise from my old 46GB IBM hard drive was so offensive by comparison that I replaced it--it was the loudest thing in my machine.
The Sonata excels best at quieting hard drives that make a lot of seek noise or noise when doing intensive file copying. I can't hear my Barracuda 7200.7 (or the previous Barracuda IV) in my Sonata at all. The only thing I hear is my CPU fan and even then, yeah it's bloddy quiet.
The sonata has a nice drive mounting system with rubber grommets and can dampen hd noise considerably. I hear my cpu fan a bit, but never my hard drive. (WD 7200 120gb)
NOTE - this is kind of a moot point when it comes to cd/dvd drives. Even in my sonata with my nice pioneer 16x slot dvd drive I hear it spinning when I plax divx movies even with the front panel closed. (this isn't my htpc, it wouldnt fit in my cabinet) In my HTPC, everything is pretty quiet in my cheap ass small atx case, but my lite-on 16x dvd-rom drive (which works great and hardly skips) whines like a squeally ***** sometimes when playing divx movies. All I can do is crank the volume and hope I don't notice.
I tend to ramble. The point is.... if you put your movies on cd/dvd, your cd/dvd drive noise is going to be a bigger problem than your hard drive. If your stuff is all on the network or you just play dvd-video (not dvd-data) movies you should be ok with the sonata.
I was going to put a front fan in, but if you have to remove damn near everything to get to the mount, so it's best to do it before you put your stuff in. Also, 120mm panaflo's (panaflo's are the best quiet fans you can get) are kinda pricey.
I use both fans in mine. I added a 120MM Vantec to the front of my case and it did increase noise a smidge (when it's that quiet any addition is noticable) but nothing that annoyed me at all, just a slight increase in noise, but it did drop my cpu temps some 4 or 5 degrees at the same time.
I don't know about removing everything, my system was already built and all I did was remove my hard drive and to improve cooling overall I removed any other HD trays that weren't in use, no point in being there if they aren't helping anything.
It really won't help whining that much, it's the same principle as larger fans. You'll hear the high pitched whine of a small fan more audibly than the lower whoosh of a bigger fan. Now it may help a bit, but it won't be the miracle cure for regular drive whining. I'd look at a different HD if I were you.
I've heard some of the newer Maxtor and WD drives and didn't find them particularly offensive noise wise though I did notice the seek noise more than I would with my Seagate. In that case though the Sonata would help with it's grommets.
The Maxtor drives have a much more pronounced seek noise than the Seagates, in my experience. On the bright side, they make larger drives, they tend to be less expensive, and the grommets on the Sonata excel at dampening seek noise.
The sonata has a bracket that you mount your HD onto which then locks into place in the cage. So you'd need standard 3.5" sized HDs with the correct screw holes on the bottom of the drive. Not sure what the enhancements do to the drive you're talking about.
I've got 4 Maxtor UltraATA133/8mb drives in my Sonata along with 2 of the fans (the one it came with and an Antec silent fan for the intake) and that thing is REALLY quiet.
I just built a server with the Sonnata, intending to use it as a media server. I bought it because of it's cooling, quietness, size, and ability to add many drives to it.
I think there are 3-4 5.25 expansion slots in the top of the case at the top, and you can expect that one of these will be used with a DVD/CD-ROM. In all likelihood, drive enclosures will occupy these 5.25 slots.
So, you're limited in using such devices. Plus, if you purchase them, you're really limiting your use of the case - i.e., lots of expansion for 3.5 devices like harddrives.
I recommend against such enclosures, and focus on buying quiet 3.5 drives, with possibly using fan controllers from Zalman where you can variablly control fan speeds in the unit.
So am i hearing correctly, but the maxtors are about as quiet as the seagates?
The newest 7200RPM Maxtor lines using the fluidic bearings (like Seagate uses) are roughly as quiet; also, the newer 5400RPM drives like the two 300GB Maxtors I bought are, naturally, nearly silent even though they use the older bearings.
It's the Western Digital and IBM drives that, IMHO, are often too loud if you're trying to use them in a very quiet setting--like I said, my 1 IBM hard drive was the single loudest component in my system. I could hear it running distinctively, much louder than my Fortron 550-PFN power supply, Zalman 7000AlCu, two 80mm and single 120mm fans, three Maxtor and one Quantum hard drive, and fan on the GPU. The noise testing on Western Digital and IBM drives compared to Maxtors and Seagates at StorageReview backs this up.
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