Respected manufacturers of silence-focused PC cases like be quiet! and Fractal Design use a number of tricks to keep noise levels down. These often include specially designed fans, thick pads of noise-damping foam, sealed front panels, and elaborately baffled vents. We tend to prefer high airflow to silence when given a choice, and it usually is presented that way: as a choice. The reality is that it doesn’t have to be a choice, and that an airflow-oriented case can, with minor work, achieve equivalent noise levels to a silence-focused case (while offering better thermals).
Our testing tends to reinforce that idea of a choice: our baseline results are measured with the case fans at maximum speed and therefore maximum noise, making cases like the SilverStone RL06 sound like jet engines. The baseline torture tests are good for consistency, showcasing maximum performance, and for highlighting the performance differences between cases, but they don’t represent how most users run their PCs for 24/7 usage. Instead, most users would likely turn down the fans to an acceptable noise level--maybe even the same level as intentionally quiet cases like the Silent Base 601.
Our thesis for this benchmark paper proposes that fans can be turned down sufficiently to equate noise levels of a silence-focused case, but while still achieving superior thermal performance. The candidates chosen as a case study were the Silverstone Redline 06 and the be quiet! Silent Base 601. The RL06 is one of the best-ventilated and noisiest cases we’ve tested in the past couple of years, while the SB601 is silence-focused with restricted airflow.
One variable that we aren’t equipped to measure is the type of noise. Volume is one thing, but the frequency and subjective annoying-ness matter too. For the most part, noise damping foam addresses concerns of high-frequency whines and shorter wavelengths, while thicker paneling addresses low-frequency hums and longer wavelengths. For today’s testing, we are entirely focusing on noise level at 20” and testing thermals at normalized volumes.
The SilverStone Kublai 07 (a.k.a. the SST-KL07B, in keeping with SilverStone’s difficult-to-Google naming conventions), is a relatively inexpensive competitor in the silent mid-tower category typically occupied by Fractal and Be Quiet! Cases.
Today, the SilverStone Kublai KL07 is on the bench for review versus the Fractal Define C, Be Quiet! Pure Base 600, NZXT S340 Elite, and several other recent case launches. We’ll be looking at noise and thermals primarily, with some additional focus on ease-of-installation and build quality.
This content is basically just a video, since we can't very well convey noise through words. Except maybe by YELLING with CAPS. We produced a similar type of video for the RX 480, basically comparing fan noise levels by recording them (using the same level of input each time on an X/Y H6N mic), then playing them back. Fans were tested at idle, 50%, and 100% for this comparison. The GTX 1060, RX 480, GTX 1070, and MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X are included in this video.
Anyone who's already seen our exhaustive RX 480 review & benchmark is likely aware of our new noise testing and fan speed vs. time/frequency plots. The video was embedded in that review, but it's worth discussing in greater depth.
The test is a mix of subjective and objective noise analysis. The decibel testing was conducted prior to getting on camera, with a different setup than is shown, but we moved the bench for demonstration purposes (into the video set). Our noise testing methodology is detailed further below. As for the subjective testing – that's the new part.
Subjective noise analysis of cards is important, as our raw decibel output values do not tell the full story (and we don't presently have a good, data-hardened way to plot frequency spectrum analysis). Two fans that operate at 50dB may have completely different noises. One fan might be high pitch in nature – or maybe it's got a high pitched whine accompanying the normal low-frequency whirring – while another fan is low pitch. Depending on the user, the lower pitch fan (despite being equally loud in dB output) will likely be more bearable than an incessant whine.
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