Melamine Foam Sound Proofing for the Computer Case|
If you have a noisy computer you know how annoying it can
be after just a few minutes. I usually spend my time on the computer with a pair of
headphones on just so I can escape the noise of the three or four cooling fans
rattling around inside my computers' case.
If I had a big enough desk I would have kicked the case
to the back and pilled on a few errant sweaters to deaden the sound, but since I
don't, a good pair of headphones are the next best thing. I suppose even a sound
absorbing panel directly behind the
computer would help absorb some of the noise, but I'd prefer to have everything self-contained.
Obviously this isn't really a solution to the problem of
computer noise, so I began looking into ways of quieting the computer. In a perfect
world, my computer would be absolutely silent, the hard drives, power supply and
videocard already engineered to run silent. Since we are often forced to deal
with reality, the best we can hope for is a very low noise signature.
the task of quieting down my computer there are basically three options. The
first is to replace all the components with lower-end versions that don't need active cooling,
or require as much of it. This isn't going to happen anytime soon, and so the
next best thing would be to replace all my expensive cooling hardware with
other gear, either designed to be much quieter and with the same level of
performance, or which is silent and performs pretty poorly in comparison. This is pretty easy to
do, and could take away much of the noise my computer creates, but I
wanted to try something else first.
Finally, the last option is to insulate the case against noise. Given the small amount of space a computer case offers
users to play around with, this is the most challenging option. If you do your
research and pick the right materials it's an easy way to knock several
decibels off the amount of noise a computer creates without any significant increase in
How to Make a Computer Quieter?
After hunting around for a manufacturer which offered some
kind of sound proofing product for computers the only one I could find was Akasa's
PaxMate. Unfortunately none of the retailers around here carry this product so
I can't tell you how well it works. I stumbled upon a few Japanese companies
which made various type of sound absorbing materials specifically for the
computer, but again, there was no where to buy them.
As the sound eminating from my Antex SX1030B grew more and more
irritating I decided to forgo the store bought stuff and see what the world of
industrial sound absorbing materials could offer.
My only two criteria for sound proofing the Antec case were that the sound absorbing material would have to
be less than 3/4" thick, and not too expensive. With constraints like that,
more than half of the commercially available sound absorbing foams and
pads were out of the question. Many of them were hundreds of dollars a
sheet, and 3"-6" thick for the really good material.
Where can you get the Melamine Foam?
"Melamine Foam Sound Absorbing Ceiling Tile" is the actual name of what we used in this project. Part No. 9216T1 from McMaster-Carr costs $2.57USD for a 1/2" thick, 24" x 24" sheet.
McMaster-Carr are a large
industrial materials supply company. Please be aware that the stated NRC
number as we have come to understand, is for the installed Melamine Foam
and a standard sound tile with plenum behind.
Industrial Melamine foam for a quieter computer?
|A close up shot of the Melamine Foam. Measuring 8.5mm thick, this soft foam is coated on each side with a stiff fiberglass fleece which resists bending. The soft foam can be compressed, and will spring back to shape.
Some 'Melamine Foam Sound Absorbing Ceiling Tiles'
I stumbled upon caught my eye because it had a listed NRC value of 0.95,
(where 1.0 is the most sound absorbing you can get), was just 1/2" thick, and was reasonably priced for a good-sized sheet (see blue
box at right for where to get this material). The trade name of this product
is reportedly 'Whiteline', it's made by Illbruck GmbH.
NRC stands for Noise Reduction Coefficient, and it is a number which ranges from 0.01 to 1.0, representing
the average amount of sound absorbed by a material. Materials are tested in a sound lab at 200Hz, 500Hz, 1000Hz, and 2000Hz for their
sound absorbing properties, and the average of all those results is the
Different materials absorb different frequencies of sounds differently, so the
NRC number offers a common way to draw comparisons.
In any case, the Melamine Foam appeared to be a good sound absorber, and didn't seem to
have too much of a thermal insulating value (last thing I want is to raise the
temperature of the case) so I picked up a couple sheets and went back to the lab
to try it out under real world conditions.
The Melamine Foam we picked up for testing is white in colour,
very light weight, and sandwiched between two very thin sheets of fiberglass fleece facing for stability. The foam itself is spongy and soft,
but somewhat rigid. If you bend the foam too far the fiberglass layer will split and
the melamine foam will shear. The sheets we actually received and used for this project measure 3/8"
thick, despite being called 1/2" on McMaster-Carr's catalogue.
Recently, we received an email from Mike Nixon at www.acousticalsurfaces.com , a
company which specializes in commercial acoustic/vibration/noise soundproofing
services. Mike had some interesting things so say about the NRC rating of the
Melamine Foam we used here as it relates to manufacturer-installed guidelines,
and our modified application.