Managing the acoustics of a terabyte

Earlier this month, we lauded Hitachi’s Deskstar 7K1000 terabyte hard drive for its industry-leading capacity. We weren’t as impressed with the drive’s noise levels, though. Under a seek load, the 7K1000 tipped our digital sound level meter at over 57 decibels, putting it at the loud end of 7,200-RPM drives on the market.

The drive we used for testing was a standard retail model, and by default, those drives come with Hitachi’s Automatic Acoustic Management (AAM) disabled. Some of you suggested we test with AAM enabled, and we have.

Acoustic management is handled through a bootable feature tool disc that allows users to select a seek mode setting between arbitrary values of 128 and 254 in 1 unit increments. Hitachi defines values between 128 and 191 as falling under a quiet seek mode, with values between 192 and 254 considered normal seek mode. Interestingly, the tool’s “recommended” AAM level is its quietest seek mode, which sits at the opposite end of the spectrum from the default “normal” level.

Going for broke, we set our 7K1000 to its recommended AAM setting and fired up our trusty sound level meter.

With AAM enabled, the 7K1000’s noise levels drop to just 53.5 decibels under a seek load—nearly four decibels quieter than the drive’s default configuration. A four-decibel difference is easy to hear with the naked ear, so why doesn’t Hitachi enable acoustic management by default? In a word, performance.

Even Hitachi’s AAM adjustment tool warns that setting quieter seek modes will decrease performance. But by how much? Quite a lot, at least in HD Tach’s random access time test. AAM costs more than five milliseconds here, and while that might not sound like much, the resultant seek times are 40% slower than the Deskstar’s default config.

Fortunately, AAM doesn’t degrade performance across the board. HD Tach’s read and write speed tests are unaffected, for example, and transfer rates in FC-Test are only marginally slower with acoustic management enabled. WorldBench is no slower with AAM enabled, either, and the performance hit in our iPEAK multitasking tests is negligible.

Seek performance matters more in some applications than in others, though, as evidenced by our IOMeter test results.

Transaction rates are generally slower with AAM enabled, although the severity and consistency of the performance hit varies depending on the test pattern.

In the end, then, Hitachi’s Automatic Acoustic Managment does in fact lower the 7K1000’s seek noise levels to more reasonable—even impressive—territory. However, keep in mind that relative silence does penalize seek performance.

Comments closed
    • a_non_moose
    • 12 years ago

    Heh, never really paid attention until I did an extraction and par verification on the same drive (was 300G Maxtor, now 500G Seagate).

    The drive was sorta humming and singing even with rubber grommets for noise reduction. Heads musta been flying. This Mrrrr-rurr-RRRRR, and repeat, until one ended and got quiet again.

    Imagine a 1TB gets the same way a cheetah and one of those 500G drives does…ok until they start cranking (Saving large Tiffs in Photoshop was alway acoustically pleasing, if loud).

    • dmjifn
    • 12 years ago

    Man, what happened to the CPU decoder ring? 🙁

    • Shinare
    • 12 years ago

    I would like to see what the differences are between the 1TB Deskstar and the 1TB UltraStar.

    • Disco
    • 12 years ago

    I love this sort of short but informative investigation. Keep up the great articles!

    • flip-mode
    • 12 years ago

    Woah, just noticed this article. It never appeared at the top of the page for me. The Intel VPro story and the Where’d the Blue News Go story have been the only two things to appear there for the last day or two. Kinda makes it seem like there’s nothing new going on when those same things keep appearing.

      • flip-mode
      • 12 years ago

      Uh oh, wait, it just showed up at the top now. Maybe I just need to be more patient.

        • eitje
        • 12 years ago

        i think it’s randomized.

          • flip-mode
          • 12 years ago

          Yeah, I think so too, but I was randomly getting the same two stories for a while there, LOLs.

            • Damage
            • 12 years ago

            Chalk it up to an editorial learning curve. 😉 We’ll get the new stuff posted in the feature box immediately in the future.

            • Ragnar Dan
            • 12 years ago

            Explicitly pointing out the author’s email is an excellent thing. I consider newspapers which don’t include email addresses craven, so, even though one could always click on the author’s linked name in the articles, highlighting it at the end is a great feature. Thank you.

            • Damage
            • 12 years ago

            Done it for years!

            • Ragnar Dan
            • 12 years ago

            Well then I guess I hadn’t noticed… if you mean at the end of a review or whatnot as I meant with a tag. I’ll grant that I can be unobservant about things many a time, but that’s odd if it’s been there and I haven’t noticed.

            I /[

            • Ragnar Dan
            • 12 years ago

            Now that I look around some more, it seems my original notion is somewhat off. It’s not the missing link to the article so much as the article itself being missing. If you just click on the article link, you get the whole article but no comments. But just clicking on the comment link from the front page only gives you the intro to the article, and the comments. I’m bleary-eyed, but I think I’m right about this.

            • Damage
            • 12 years ago

            Well, the article links to the comments, and the comments post links to the article. That second link wasn’t obvious before, but: click the thumbnail picture at the top right to go to the article. Always works. I’ve added a link to the summary text. Again, we’re just learning how to use the new tools.

    • GreatGooglyMoogly
    • 12 years ago

    In my experience, there’s no audible difference between 128 and 191 in the AAM settings, so there is no point whatsoever in going below 191, since that only hurts performance. That Hitachi recommends a setting of 128 is pretty crappy.

    • provoko
    • 12 years ago

    WD’s new Intellispeed is looking real good.

    • albundy
    • 12 years ago

    7200.10 noisy? don’t think so, compared to my previous SCSI implementation. If you viddy card takes up two slots, hdd noise is the least of your problems.

      • Captain Ned
      • 12 years ago

      An Antec P182 takes care of the double-slot vid card noise. More on topic, I’d be more than willing to sacrifice some HD performance for noise reduction. I don’t game enough to worry about level load times.

      • stdPikachu
      • 12 years ago

      I have three 7200.10’s, one first batch and the rest are from later batches. The one from the first batch is very noisy and slower than the other two. There are definitely some very noisy 7200.10’s doing the rounds.

        • Jigar
        • 12 years ago

        Exactly my thoughts .. My 80 GB Backup 7200.10 is making a lot of noise against my 500 GB 7200.10. Don’t have any idea why is it doing so. 😕

      • Kaleid
      • 12 years ago

      A 320GB 7200.10 is quite a lot more noisy than a Samsung t166 500GB…

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This