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Merlin SM8 Build

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Hey there,

New member on this forum and I wanted the input of Merlin SM8 owners for a new build I'm planning.

I'm thinking about getting an SM8 Merlin, in quick-ship format, being offered by Titan RIG over at Amazon.com. It has the standard ventilated top with a 120.4 rad/fan mount (non drop-in), a 120.4 floor, motherboard-side XL Window, solid Flex Blay cover plates, USB/Audio front panel and in black powder coat.

Here's my planned build:
  • Intel Core i7-7700K (will be overclocked)
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance (2x8GB) sticks, 2666Mhz
  • Asus ROG Maximus IX Formula motherboard
  • EVGA GTX 1080 Superclocked (it's a reference design-Founder's Edition; currently runs a stable 2.1Ghz core and +500 on the memory)
  • Two Hitachi DeskStar 2TB hard drives (7K3000 models, have been very realiable)
  • One Samsung 840 Evo 256GB drive

My current setup is housed inside a Fractal Design Define S, but with an i5-6600K (overclocked to 4.5Ghz using 1.278 volts) on an Asus Z170-A motherboard. This setup is watercooled with the following components:

  • One EK 360 PE radiator on the roof
  • One EK 240 PE radiator at the front
  • EK Supremacy EVO CPU block (clear plexi top, bare copper plate cold plate)
  • EK FC1080 full water block for the EVGA GTX 1080 (clear plexi top, bare copper cold plate)
  • EK XRES 140 Revo D5 PWM pump/res combo
  • Primochill Advanced LRT 12/13mm soft tubing and appropriate EK fittings (90°, 45°x2 rotaries, standards, etc)
  • EK Vardar F3 (max 1850RPM) 120mm fans (five fans total)
  • One Noctua NF-A14 PWM 140mm fan as back exhaust

For the new build I'm planning on moving to Hardware Labs Black Ice Nemesis 480 GTX for the top of the Merlin, and a 360 GTX for the front, while keeping all existing fittings/pump-res combo/water blocks/fans (while adding more for the 480) from the current build.

The thing is, how quite can I expect this new build to be inside a Merlin that doesn't have sound dampening material and so many openings? I have the Define S build set up to speed up to fans up to 1200RPM under typical gaming load, which keeps the overclocked i5-6600K between 48 to 55 degrees Celsius (depending on the game) and the overclocked GTX 1080 between 42 to 50 degrees Celsius (again, depending on the game).

At those speeds, the case remains fairly quite under load, though I wish I would have added a rubber gasket between the Vardar fans and the radiators; they do transmit quite a bit of noise.

This new setup I'm contemplating (I'd need to order a 120.3 Flex Bay rad/fan mount for the front) seems overkill for a single CPU/single GPU/motherboard VRM cooling setup (I think), but I'm eyeing the build towards future expansion by adding a second GPU. Using my current hardware setup, my guess is I could keep the Vardars between 800 to 1000RPM and maintain the same or slightly higher temps as with the Define S loop, but I'm still not sure if noise would be bothersome with the Merlin.

The case would sit half a foot away from me, on my left side and on the floor under a glass L-Shaped desk; the case top would have about two feet of clearance from the bottom of the glass desk, unlimited space to the sides and about one foot of clearance from the case's back to the wall.

The only review I've found that included sound testing was from Tom's Hardware back in 2014: that was an air-cooled build with less fans and it topped out at 44.9 decibels. All videos I've seen thus far are build logs that don't feature anecdotal (or scientific) sound levels from camera microphones or SPL meters.

So, to any Merlin SM8 owners with similar or identical builds to what I'm planning, what are your sound levels like? Also, I don't use headphones while gaming, as I use a Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 speaker setup, so that's the importance of having as quiet a system as possible.

Thanks in advance for your input!
post #2 of 4
I have an S8 with broadly similar hardware as you (see my sig, recently updated and still with older GPU) and I can suggest that the hard drives will almost certainly be the loudest part of your system. I just recently disconnected my Caviar Green 1Tb and clearly noticed the difference. I have twin 360x60mm in the roof and no other rads.

I don't know if you intend to use the Formula to control the pumps and fans but an Aquaero 6 PRO would be a fine choice.

All my fans are 120mm. I have two intakes and one exhaust on the "Case" channel, 6 in "Push" and 6 in "Pull". One digital sensor measures air ambient temp and the other is in the dual-D5 EK pump block measuring water temp (though the Formula has its own sensor you can use for that). The fan speeds are based off the delta between air and water. The two D5 pumps are manual control only and are at speed 2 out of 5.

I have the Case and Push channels coming on at 40% (delta = 0C) and ramping to 100% (delta = 15C). Pull is off until the system is hot (delta = 9C) then ramps to 100% (delta = 15C). The end result is that when just browsing, the case and push fans are quiet at about 40% speed and the pull fans are off. Only when gaming and the water temp rises do the push fans speed up and the pull fans start. It very rarely raises the water 12C above ambient. The 780ti was kept at 42C in both Heaven and Valley testing.

If you are still shopping for the components, see if you can actually pick up some DDR4 3000MHz or even 3200MHz as it should be only a little more expensive than the 2666. My IX Formula is perfectly happy with the XMP profile for 3000MHz and the CPU at 5.0GHz and 1.30V.

As for the amount of radiator space, unless you live somewhere with a high ambient temperature, a 360 and a 240 is adequate to start with. Going to a 480+360 would be fabulous.
post #3 of 4
I have STH10, SMH10 and SM8 and each serves different purpose for me, if you balanced all you components in SM8 it can look astonishing and be very quiet sleepsmiley02.gif

if you are used to silence, you can also make any of the CL case silent using your existing parts or choosing appropriate components, especially fans and radiators.

My SM8 and STH10 are based on Hardware labs radiators and 24x Gelid 120 low RPM fans I chose this specific rads and fans for a reason, they are optimized for silent operation, yet in that combination my temps are super duper low.

Most, if not all Fractal Design cases are pretty much without any good ventilation, if I'm not wrong they all have dampening pads on the inside, they all have been made with silence in mind.

I'm silence freak, my system literally has to be almost dead quiet and believe me when I tell you, it is.

In water-cooling systems there are some components that can be louder than anything else...HDD's, Fans and pumps but you can optimize each of this parts so they will run as quiet as can be, it all depends on your patience, time you can spent to optimize them.

Nemesis are super good at handling low RPM fans, not only that you can make your fans to spin as low as possible, but you can also slow your pump(s) speed to a minimum to make them inaudible, yet keeping decent flow rate.

If I say you can make SM8 to be as quiet as your FD case I will probably over exaggerate, but keep in mind you get a lot of benefits of having more vents so rest of your components like you mobo, capacitors and other parts will finally breath, yes, even water-cooled systems need some air and once you get any of CL cases you will not look at any other cases brands the same way again.

Honestly, you can make your SM8 very, very quiet. I have some older HP systems, they have no vents and they are quiet don't get me wrong, yet I can hear some of them louder than my STH10 and SM8.
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the detailed response!

Out of everything I wrote in the original post, I forgot to mention that I went for a 360+240 on the Define S because of high ambient temps. I live in Puerto Rico, an island on the Caribbean (United States territory), and ambient temperatures here are high pretty much during 10 of the 12 months. During the day (depending on time of day) ambient temp ranges from 78 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit. When you take into account high ambient temps, the fact the room the computer is in is not climate-controlled and that I don't run the fans all that high, that's why my temps are a bit higher than similar setups.

I looked into the Aquaero system, but I try to keep my rigs as simple as possible. I almost always use Asus motherboards, so I install AI Suite and let it find a baseline overclock using the 5-Way Optimization. Using that baseline I stress test to find a stable overclock, and once that is done I uninstall AI Suite, punch in my manual values in the BIOS and then install SpeedFan to create custom fan profiles. SpeedFan lets me set the GPU temp as a control point, as well as the CPU temp. SpeedFan gives me most of the control I need, but I'll keep researching the Aquaero. I do use the headers on the Z170-A to control all the fans and the pump.

Btw, you mentioned you are running a Maximux IX Formula: Asus states GPU temps can be used as a control point within AI Suite, but their literature specifically mentions "with Asus graphics cards". Can you still use the GPU temp data point in AI Suite with non-Asus graphics cards? Also, I didn't know the Formula had an integrated temp sensor on the VMR block; I know the Maximus IX Extreme monoblock has integrated temp/flow sensors, but that mobo alone is almost $650! Looks really nice though!

Adding the motherboard VRMs into the loop will increase temps, that's why I decided to go with a 480+360 setup. Also, the 7700K will be dumping more heat than my current 6600K. If I'm able to keep the GTX 1080 between 44 to 50 degrees, and the CPU between 55 and 65 (both under load) while keeping the fans (also forgot to mention I'll be running a push setup for now), between 900 to 1000RPMs, I'll consider that a success. Based on what you wrote, quietness can be achieved with these cases, so I'm taking the plunge. Also, I know the 140 res will look downright puny in there, so I'm thinking about upping the cylinder to 200 and adding an X3 multi-port top to make the tubing runs easier.

As for switching to 3000 or 3200Mhz memory, I'd really love to, bumping it to 32GB in the process. But adding the Formula, 7700K, SM8 case, the GTX rads, a 120.3 Flex-Bay rad/fan mount, two extra Vardar fans, rubber gaskets to minimize vibration between fans/rads, an additional EKoolant concentrate bottle and a few more fittings will take me a bit beyond $2,000. I'll definitely think about it down the line, but I'm thinking this rig can take me to the end of the year or a bit beyond, depending on what Nvidia/AMD are cooking for the next round of GPUs.

Once again, thank you for replying! I'll be sure to post pictures of the new build as soon as I get everything in.


Damn, that's a lot a systems! smile.gif

This will be my first CaseLabs build; before the Define S I used a Define XL R2. The XL R2 kept great temperatures for being so heavily dampened, but once I decided to give watercooling a shot, it couldn't house what I wanted without some mayor modding. I still have it in the garage, really don't want to let it go! biggrin.gif

Based on your input and DanielCoffey's I put in the orders for all the necessary parts. I'll experiment with the new setup to find a good balance between noise and cooling, but if you guys can do it, I think I'll find a happy medium.

Thanks for the reply!!
Edited by heavy4848 - 4/3/17 at 2:09pm
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