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One obvious missing item from SR's current reviews is an evaluation of how much noise a drive makes, and how much it vibrates (which can cause noise from whatever it's bolted to).

With SSDs and other solid state devices, that's obviously irrelevant unless there's some sort of electrical noise (unlikely in a drive, though it crops up in motherboards, PSUs, screens and even mice). But HDDs and enclosures would warrant testing; even passively cooled enclosures could be assessed for how well they muffle / amplify drive noise / vibration, as well as how cool they keep the drive (no point muffling it so much that the drive bakes).

No-one is going to argue that it's worth SR investing the time and money in testing equipment of the sort that Silent PC Review uses, but given that SPCR doesn't review as many drives as SR does, it's not as though we can go to SR for performance data and SPCR for noise data on any given drive. We can't all afford to put all of our data on SSDs, and we can't all hide our hard drives somewhere we can't hear them. Even if SR can't easily produce truly objective data, a paragraph characterising idle noise, seek noise and vibration relative to other drives of the same class would be helpful.

That said, does anyone else have an opinion on the usefulness of basic dBA data acquired from at least a foot away, in a quiet but not silent room, with a reasonably priced (i.e. not incredibly sensitive) meter? Would that be a waste of time and money, or might it produce useful results, with differences between drives greater than the margin of measurement variability?

Or is noise testing dead, now that "green" drives are quiet enough for most users with bulk storage needs, and average SSDs cater for more than just the OS nowadays? Does anyone out there think this? Your opinion only counts if you share it!

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First off - great post Spod, I appreciate it. Acoustics is something we dabbled with at first, but couldn't get comfortable with the procedures we were testing with. In the old days, SR used to work with SPC I understand, to share some drives and data. I don't know all the details and I don't know if it's practical to do that again...it may be.

I am very interested to hear what others think though, especially about "light" acoustic testing.

Also..thoughts on possible variability would be interesting, as we often only see a single drive. For something as important as sound is to some, I'm not convinced a sample size of one is enough.

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Yea the problem we kept on running into on the "cheaper" sound tests was variability. It was hard to get the same result over and over again under the same conditions. As we move into more system reviews the topic will come up again though. It just sucks that to do it right and to get results worth posting you need a lot of cash for testing equipment and the environment.

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In the old days, SR used to work with SPC I understand, to share some drives and data. I don't know all the details and I don't know if it's practical to do that again...it may be.

I don't think that ever got off the ground. I think I was the one that first suggested this to both sites, several years ago! While SPCR has been known to link users back to SR for performance details of drives, and used to just evaluate the noise qualities alone, they've started doing some basic performance testing, and so might not see so much benefit in redirecting readers elsewhere for performance results... you could ask though. They stopped doing it when SR's output dropped to the point where there would be no equivalent review to link to.

The more significant (but potentially troublesome) aspect was the idea of sharing drives, i.e. SPCR could send their review drives to SR for performance testing, and SR could send their drives to SPCR for noise testing. Then each could link the other's review of the same drive. Both would benefit from the extra samples and the respective readerships would benefit from best in class assessment of noise and performance. The challenges are shipping costs, potential for damage during shipping affecting acoustics, returning the drives, respective workloads and synchronising reviews - one could send a drive to the other, only for it to get shelved for months before the complementary review appeared on the other site.

It would take a real will on both sides to make this work, but it's not impossible as long as shipping costs aren't too shocking, packaging is good and the courier is reasonably gentle.

Thing to do would be to agree this on a case by case basis. If you get a drive that might be acoustically interesting, ask SPCR if they'd like to check it out. Likewise, they could send you any drives they think might be interesting from a performance perspective. It doesn't have to be every drive, just the ones you both agree you want to cover.

Also..thoughts on possible variability would be interesting, as we often only see a single drive. For something as important as sound is to some, I'm not convinced a sample size of one is enough.

You can't escape the possibility of sample variance, all you can do is assume your sample is representative. If it doesn't behave as expected (especially if it's much noisier than it should be), you can ask for another sample to compare with - they'd probably rather send you another than get a negative review, if it could just be one bad drive. But most of the time, a sample of one will be enough to characterise a drive. Construction, components used, movement characteristics etc. don't vary that much between drives off the same assembly line, and if you're not making or breaking a drive by a 1 dBA difference, then relative characteristics are fine. 15K SCSI will be noisy, Velociraptors aren't too bad, 2.5" drives are quieter than 3.5", green drives are quieter than 7200 RPM drives... and this is something you can confirm in a descriptive paragraph, without having to quote numbers. You don't need a silent room to judge one drive as noisier than another, but you might need to consider your environment if you want to quantify the difference and remove the variability of human assessment.

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Years ago, I asked an acoustics guru I worked with what would be a practical way to drives for SR, considering budget and resource constraints. At best, you could do a sound pressure measurement with one meter, but even then it's very sensitive to exact placement relative to the test drive. When combined with small sample sizes, he pretty much said not to bother as it would lead to misleading data.

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Years ago, I asked an acoustics guru I worked with what would be a practical way to drives for SR, considering budget and resource constraints. At best, you could do a sound pressure measurement with one meter, but even then it's very sensitive to exact placement relative to the test drive. When combined with small sample sizes, he pretty much said not to bother as it would lead to misleading data.

Yea ain't that the truth. Its all or nothing to get good published results. Now if you have someone trusted, trained, and repeatable... a human could take that role, but it requires trust from the readers. Almost like an ice cream taster whos trusted by everyone for tasty ice cream batches :lol:

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Well I had suggested the same thing a few months ago -- and with the same limitations. Anything SR does for noise measurements wont be upto the caliber of SPCR, but in my opinion - something is better than nothing.

So my suggestion is this:

- get a mic or something to measure the SPL of the drive

- make a bracket/holder/stand that will hold the mic and the HDD (this guarantees the test is done from the same spot and same distance on every drive )

- take THREE measurements:

drive powered off (ambient noise)

drive at idle (before starting the test)

drive doing seeks during testing

No need for anything more sophisticated.

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Realistically, the mic (or meter) would have to be close enough to the drive that drive noise was louder than typical variation in local noise. And you'd have to do each measurement several times and take the quietest in each case, to give it the best chance vs. traffic, planes and other unwanted noises.

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