MORE PICTURES TO COME!!! I set out to build a PC that could game reasonably, but moreover to build a chassis for high-level audiophile usage, serving as high-end digital transport going in to comprehensive Hifi via USB. I also wanted something relatively compact and attractive and the smallest form i could go down to was Micro-ATX. To do this, i needed a machine that would be 100% silent when required and also be as vibration/resonance free as possible. This required careful component consideration and a couple of trial-and-error modifications. Wherever possible i went fanless to stop vibration and noise and this has worked well. If you're thinking "well you have six case fans?" then please look under the CASE section for more of an explanation on how i have zero vibration there. Generally speaking i did not hold back on costs, but towards the end i made a couple of minor compromises where i deemed acceptable.
Also worth me pointing out that i don't mind the little bit of noise and vibration whilst gaming - i'm concentrating on gaming. I only need these benefits in idle when i am concentrating on the music and want the best performance!
Processor: Intel i5-4670K I already owned this from a couple years ago. Worked great, no need to change, was within the 95w limit for the heatsink and even managed a small 14% overclock.
CPU Heatsink: NoFan CR-95 Black Edition Crucial to the build, this fanless heatsink has worked really well and looks crazy cool. Absolutely central to the silent build, only downsides are that it is quite pricey, blocks the first PCI-E slot (so no SLI), and rules out a couple of case options due to its height. This rig would have been build in a Corsair 240 Air otherwise! It was also a bit of a pig to fit over the Armour Edition mobo i went for and is overall a very tight fit.
Motherboard: Asus Gryphon Z97 Armour Edition I know it isn't the best for value and a tad overkill and gimmicky, but i love the mobo. The Armour looks awesome and thought all the little dust stopped for empty inputs and outputs was a great touch. Obviously designed for slightly perfectionist people, but the features are very good. Mainly bought with the intention of close fan control and temperature monitoring. Good at the latter, but didn't do quite what i needed in the former.
RAM: Kingston HyperX Fury Only really purchased for cool colour scheme, decent spec and fair price. The easiest choice in the build!
SSD: Samsung 840 EVO 500GB Already owned this from awhile back. Partitioned for OS and the other partition for games and core software.
HDD: Western Digital Red 6TB Bulk capacity drive bought for its 'green' factor, keeps fairly cool and generally runs very quietly. This is pretty much the ONLY source of noise when PC is in idle, so choosing the right HDD has been very important. Have been very pleased with it, bought it over the actual 'Green' range drive by WD as its been proven in a few reviews that this drive is actually just as a efficient, if not moreso, with better performance. Originally suspended mid-air with elastic which, quite frankly, works hilariously well. Fitted more securely now with a stabilizer but i may externalise the drive completely at some point in a separate enclosure, since this is the 'noisiest' component of all.
GPU: ASUS Strix 970 Hard to buy a bad GPU really, bought this to match the mobo and overall colour scheme, but most crucially its fans do not spin when not needed, once again vital to the zero noise/vibration design. Has done exactly what i've needed thus far and performed brilliantly.
Case: Fractal Design Arc Mini R2 I originally used a Parvum Systems 2.0 on the basis of its cool design and that the acrylic would be of acoustic benefit, since that material has been used on high-end turntable platters to suppress resonance. However, despite quite wide air vents, the acrylic case contained heat surprisingly badly so did not have good thermal performance at all, meaning the GPU fans would kick in very quickly under load and then run incredibly loudly. I transplanted the system in to this Fractal case which is a beauty, but interestingly it dissipated the heat very well and the GPU has still yet to spin up to a particularly loud level, WITHOUT case fan support! The difference in non-fan supported thermal performance between the two cases is quite remarkable.
PSU: Silverstone 520W Nightjar A very sexy PSU that works great, but again chosen due to its fanless design. Recommended.
Case Fans: Aerocool Dead Silence Okay, in an ideal world i would have gone for the top-end Noiseblocker fans since they look the absolute **** in terms of design and performance with a VERY keen eye on anti-vibration. A bit pricey though, and i liked the Aerocool for its cool looks, white LEDS (i wanted a bit of bling) and its very impressive noise/airflow performance.
Fan Controller: Akasa Trio I originally ran this build with literally no fans but the ones on the GPU. Under load, it turned out this wasn't really doable. Thus, a fan controller was introduced along with case fans (another reason to ditch the Parvum - no 5.25" bay) but it needed to be a controller that could run fans down to zero as they would not be needed during idle. I'm pleased to say this has worked extremely well with a few Y splitters, it matches the case brilliantly and is so easy to kick the uber-quiet fans in to play if it sounds like the GPU is starting to break a small sweat. As mentioned before, this is in fact very rare just based on the thermal upgrade by switching to the Fractal case. It just runs so much cooler in there!!
Audio Card: Sotm tx-USB exp OK, this is where some of you will be aghast. £215 for a card that has one USB 2.0 output?!?!? Yes, i know. This bit is for the audiophile community, who are used to getting ripped off anyway. I went for this as it has the ability to remove the 5v current from the signal path, has an upgrade option for an external battery PSU, and has all its other various 'filters' and things. I also have the partnering Sotm Pre/DAC, so it made sense to pair it. A cheaper alternative is to look at the some of the Gigabyte mobos, since (supposedly) any of them with the DAC-UP feature has the ability in BIOS to disable the 5v power - a nice touch. However, i could only confirm this on one of their mini-ITX boards (too small due to the heatsink) and the useless Gigabyte support could not confirm if the mATX gaming serious boards was capable of the same benefit with DAC-UP. I didn't want to take the risk. And lastly, yes £215 is a bit much on a USB only card, but given that it is feeding in to a Hifi that is cumulatively probably worth around £10,000 at retail, its probably worth it!