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Air vs Water Cooling (Noise Only)

lawlz

Member
Sep 12, 2007
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0
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Hey all, I am planning my next build and let me start off my stating from the get-go that I do not OC any of my components and if I decided to, it would be in very small amounts. I haven't built a rig since AGP video cards were still being sold and at the time, fans were LOUD, rocket-ship loud. I don't know how much fan technology has progressed since then but I just can't stand to have another build like that.

In terms of air vs water cooling, would it be possible to achieve the same level of quietness in a full air system vs. a water cooled build? If so, what would I need to achieve it? Which fans, which parts, etc.?

Thanks in advance!
 

lehtv

Elite Member
Dec 8, 2010
11,900
73
91
If noise is the only consideration, obviously you can get the same level of quietness with air cooling as with liquid. Noise = fan speed and design, that's it. For a near-inaudible system you're generally looking at 500-1000RPM fans, depending on fan construction (bearing, blade design), size (120mm vs 140mm) and exactly how quiet you want the build to be. And you'll need a CPU cooler with a sufficiently heavy heat sink and a low RPM fan.

With air cooling, temperatures will be higher, but since you don't overclock, this is a non-issue.
 
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Ketchup

Elite Member
Sep 1, 2002
14,485
217
106
The rig in my sig is tied with an old Compaq for the quietest PC I have ever owner. I have the fans on the Cooler Master at their lowest setting, and can still overclock. When you go water, the hardest part IMO is getting a silent pump.

Probably the loudest part for me right now are the hard drives. If you want something dead silent, build you PC with an SSD.

Oh, and don't forget about your video card. Mine is pretty quiet, but I don't know that it's the quietest.
 
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BrightCandle

Diamond Member
Mar 15, 2007
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If you don't buy the top end parts with your new machine it will be quite a bit quieter than your prior system because the power consumption has dropped a reasonable amount on todays machines. We also have bigger cases with larger fans and heatsinks that give more air flow for less RPMs, overall reducing the noise.

You could get a prebuilt water cooler for the CPU, but its not really worth it for quietness. First off they don't tend to win awards for quiet. Secondly they don't cool the noise producing monster in the case which is the GPU.

So lets say you do want a high end machine (3770, GTX 680) then to quiet both down you need a custom water loop. A custom loop allows you to choose how many fans you spread the cooling over, as a general rule a thick 120mm radiator slot will cool around 130W of power to 10C delta with an 800rpm fan, which is near on silent. So you would need 3 such slots to cool a top GPU and CPU, 2x120mm would do the job as well since you aren't overclocking. Combine that with a pump, tubing, barbs, block for CPU, block for GPU, reservoir and you'll notice one noise sticks out - the Hard disk. That rotation is seriously loud once you remove the big noise makers so you'll want to go full on SSD. Then the PSU becomes a concern and the easiest way to fix that is oversize it a little bit and buy a good quality one (efficient) so it rarely if ever spins the fan up below minimum. That would be quiet, but it'll cost you around £300 in all for the cooling and you'll need to choose your case so the radiators and pump etc will fit.

I do this and run 6x 120mm thick radiators for a grand total cooling capability well above 700Watts. I overclock my components to within an inch of their top capability and I manage to do so with fans running around 800 RPM. Its very quiet, but there is still a small amount of fan noise if you pay attention in a quiet house. Its not a problem amount of noise.
 
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Eureka

Diamond Member
Sep 6, 2005
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Actually, I would recommend you try and visit a friend with a gaming PC see how loud a modern system is.

I actually still have an AGP system and it is roaring loud compared to my new builds, and mainly that is because of the older 80-92mm fans and the older x850xt blower.

What exactly are you looking to do on this machine? If you want a decent gaming rig, I would do this:

Get an Asrock/Gigabyte/similar board with voltage control, as the fan headers can now control 3-pin fans (which is a requirement for silence).
Get a quiet case, such as the R4, P280, 550D or similar "silence" oriented case.
Run high quailty fans. You don't need to go for "silent" fans, my Scythes and Yate Loons are pretty quiet at low speeds. My Cooler Masters on the other hand all have bearing noises.
Never use reference coolers on anything. Use an aftermarket Tower CPU cooler with a good fan, and buy a video card with a good quiet cooler. I found that the Zotac GTX 660 with the "dual-silencer" fan is whisper quiet, even when we had the case open on a table. I was shocked at how quiet it ran.

You might be surprised how quiet things are now. Bigger, better fans on everything with lower TDPs mean that everything runs much quieter.
 

zod96

Platinum Member
May 28, 2007
2,793
6
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I am a silence freak myself :) I went from a dead silent Air cooling rig to a somewhat silent water cooling Corsair H60 setup. If pure silence is your goal and I mean dead silent you will get closer to that with Air cooling for sure. My H60 water cooling setup is quiet but its not dead quiet, you can hear it a bit. I went this route for looks mostly. Its a much cleaner look than air cooling. And my hearing is not what it used to be so for me the water cooling worked out well....
 

tweakboy

Diamond Member
Jan 3, 2010
9,518
2
81
www.hammiestudios.com
The temp in your room is crucial. It should be 70F for best liquid cooling. Because the water is going to be as cool as the room is or as hot as the room is. Those fans don't come into effect if your room is hot 80F. The water will be hot no matter how fast fans are spinning and how many you have. Now you put them to low noise like 15db to 20db for all your fans,, so slow them down,,,,, so the noise doesnt bother you. gl
 

lehtv

Elite Member
Dec 8, 2010
11,900
73
91
I am a silence freak myself :) I went from a dead silent Air cooling rig to a somewhat silent water cooling Corsair H60 setup. If pure silence is your goal and I mean dead silent you will get closer to that with Air cooling for sure. My H60 water cooling setup is quiet but its not dead quiet, you can hear it a bit.
That's not a fault of water cooling, it's just that the fan Corsair ships with its Hydro series are pretty loud at full speed. There are similarly loud aircooling HSFs. Replace the fan with something quiet and voilà
 

tracerbullet

Golden Member
Feb 22, 2001
1,659
17
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That's not a fault of water cooling, it's just that the fan Corsair ships with its Hydro series are pretty loud at full speed. There are similarly loud aircooling HSFs. Replace the fan with something quiet and voilà
Even going to a pair of Noctua's at ~ 800 (silent) RPM, I can still hear the pump in my H100i. Hate to disagree with you, and that fan may be the biggest part of the noise, but I doubt it's all of it. My pump's noise isn't obnoxious, isn't loud, and doesn't bother me, but it definitely will keep the overall PC from ever being "silent".
 

zod96

Platinum Member
May 28, 2007
2,793
6
81
I already did replace the corsair fan :) That was the first thing I did. I am using a Scythe Sflex at 800 rpm. And yeah the pump from the radiator is pretty much all I hear if I put my ear to my case.
 

2is

Diamond Member
Apr 8, 2012
4,289
127
106
That's not a fault of water cooling, it's just that the fan Corsair ships with its Hydro series are pretty loud at full speed. There are similarly loud aircooling HSFs. Replace the fan with something quiet and voilà
You can replace fans in an air cooling setup with equally quiet fans and still have a quieter setup because there isn't a pump running. Yes, the water setup would cool better, buf if silence is your primary concern, Air will be quieter. Simple physics.
 

dma0991

Platinum Member
Mar 17, 2011
2,723
1
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I would say watercooling is the best when it comes to noise, provided that it is a full custom watercooling setup that includes the CPU and GPU. GPU noise is harder to control, even with aftermarket heatsinks.
 

Ketchup

Elite Member
Sep 1, 2002
14,485
217
106
GPU noise is harder to control, even with aftermarket heatsinks.
Kind of. Can't really control fan speed at boot, but when running Windows you have options. But yeah, aftermarket with custom fan setup is the way to go. Very happy with the quietness of my Gigabyte, but even then I would use the software to make it quieter, if I was going for silence. Still one of my quietest cards ever.
 

Bill Brasky

Diamond Member
May 18, 2006
4,345
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Even going to a pair of Noctua's at ~ 800 (silent) RPM, I can still hear the pump in my H100i. Hate to disagree with you, and that fan may be the biggest part of the noise, but I doubt it's all of it. My pump's noise isn't obnoxious, isn't loud, and doesn't bother me, but it definitely will keep the overall PC from ever being "silent".
If you'd like to not hear your pump, hook the molex connector that powers the pump to a manual fan controller and turn it down to 80% power. It made a huge difference on mine.
 

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