Buy the one lined with Dynamat and lambs wool. I am curious as well.
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I use a Lacie (link below). It is fanless, and so pretty quiet, though there's some chatter when I first retrieve music, esp. if it has been idle for a while. It is more attractive than most, if your reason for quiet is that you want to keep it with your kit. Also offered in RAID configurations. John
This Seagate drive was reviewed and recommended as a very quiet drive. I almost bought one, but it requires a USB>Firewire 800 adapter and the adapter has received mixed reviews from owners, so I didn't proceed.
You could try buying you own enclosure and drive of choice. Also, SATA drives have an Acoustic Management option that is usually "performance" mode as shipped, not the quietest that drive can do. I don't know if Windoze (or MAC) gives you the ability to change it or not with "as shipped" software. I've never tried it except on Linux (hdparm) or in a device driver.
I have a LaCie 2Big 1 TB drive that is mirrored (Raid 1) it is very noisy (even though it is air cooled and the fan is only for emergency) but I have it enclosed in a cabinet so the sound is not remarkable (still audible within a foot or two of the cabinet).
It is quite noisy when the discs are being read.
I also have a G-Technology mini drive that is extremely quiet (320 GB). I suggest to investigate G Drives (made by Hitachi) to see what they have in 1TB and up.
From what I've read, there are quiet and noisy external drives manufactured by all the manufacturers mentioned thus far, so I don't think one can make a blanket statement about noisiness of the drives based solely on brand. Size, design and enclosure all make a difference.
I'm hoping for some folks to contribute specific makes and models that are quiet: 1TB (or 2TB), Firewire 800, external drives.
Even with specific models, it's not simple. I vouch for the Lacie linked above, which seems to me quite acceptable in an audio context, but when I was looking, I was struck by how widely customer reviews would vary on the question of noise, *for the same model*. Easy to find the same drive being called "noisy" and "quiet" by different customers. I concluded that there are huge individual differences in customer tolerance and experience, and also probably in the performance of individual units (perhaps due application).
Fortunately, drives are cheap, and it would be easy enough to try a few. Might be a good time to invest in "Amazon Prime," for the shipping!
01-24-11: Larry_sGood point by Larry. Grant, see my post here, and the link provided therein.
If you have any audible noise, especially in an enclosure, from an idle drive, something could be wrong. An idle drive, just spinning, will have some noise but nothing an enclosure won't muffle. Some enclosures have fans which create noise and don't have long life spans.
The noise you hear when I/O is happening is from the heads/actuator moving. This is what the Acoustic Management feature controls - how fast the arm moves, etc. It's a safe setting to change. Some drives that are marketed for DVR use may already have the Acoustic Management set to "quiet".
And, if your drive is mainly for playing back music files, you should not really hear any noise from the drive because most, if not all, of the I/O should be sequential. Keeping drives de-fragged helps.
01-25-11: Larry_sYes, I suspect it's the enclosure that's the issue: aluminum, essentially open at the front, and little if any sound deadening material or soft rubber bushings inside.
It's this DataTale model.
It's the drive supplied by Mach2 Music with their server package.
I've ordered an Oyen MiniPro 2.5" Firewire 800 portable drive.
We'll see how the noise level compares to the DataTale 3.5" FireWire 800/400. The MiniPro spins at 5400rpm versus the 7200rpm of the DataTale. The MiniPro is approved for use with ProTools.
Perhaps what's required for my installation is a sound insulated box or cover that can be placed over the drives. It could be open in back.
Samsung used to be king of the quite HD, now many Western Digital match in terms of dB. Samsung more thud, thud, thud when the drive is seeking, vs. Western Digital kinda sounds like rattling chains when in seek mode. Western Digital drives have improved a lot in terms of quiet. As someone else mentioned, try end pc noise dot com as they're masters of quiet.