Noren Products AcoustiLock Equipment Enclosure

When Pro Audio Review asked me to review the Noren Products AcoustiLock equipment enclosure I reluctantly agreed.
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Product PointsApplications:

High-end home studios; project studios without a separate machine room

Key Features:

Acoustical isolation; cooling; industry standard rack sizes

Price:

$4,000 including shipping, for the ACL-14-SF-1100 maple model reviewed. The full line of AcoustiLock enclosures ranges from $1,500 to $3,660

Contact:

Noren Products at 650-322-9500, Web Site, www.norenproducts.com When Pro Audio Review asked me to review the Noren Products AcoustiLock equipment enclosure I reluctantly agreed. I become painfully aware of the consequences of my decision a few weeks later when a big 18-wheeler backed down my driveway, and its burly driver knocked on my front door and inquired, "Hey buddy, where's your loading dock?"

Well, two wooden skids, 400 pounds of contents and two installation techs later and the AcoustiLock equipment enclosure was ready for testing

The following equipment came to be housed within the AcoustiLock enclosure: my huge, incredibly noisy Merging Technologies Pyramix PC (in a 28-inch deep server chassis), my Glyph Trip Rack - with its four Seagate Cheetah hard drives - and the Genex GX-A8 and GX-D8 converters I reviewed in last month's PAR. The moment of truth had now arrived. I powered everything up and it sounded like a vacuum cleaner had started; but then I shut the back and front doors and... ABSOLUTE SILENCE! I could not believe it!

Features

So what's in this miracle box, and how does it work? The "front part" is simply a very well-made rack enclosure (it looks like a piece of custom furniture designed for a world-class studio), and comes in single PC, 14 or 24-rack-space heights. It has triple-layer acoustic barrier construction, and I can certainly vouch for its effectiveness. The racking mechanism itself is free-floating and vibration-damped. The double-panel tempered glass front door has an airtight gasket, for which I can also vouch; if you leave it shut for more than a week in a humid climate, you have to work pretty hard to get it unstuck! The compression latches are definitely first class. Heavy-duty casters are standard; my delicate beech floor was not marred in any way.

The rack rails are the heaviest I have ever seen, and various horizontal braces are provided to prop up very deep and heavy gear, like computer servers and Kurzweil modules. Multiple cable channels are also in the package, for neat routing. There's a nifty digital thermometer mounted at the very top left corner inside the front door and - believe it or not - its temperature tracked the ambient temperature of my living room within one or two degrees, and it always read cooler! This is probably evidence that all the heat was vented outside. It accomplished all of this without making any noticeable noise whatsoever!

But so far I am describing a traditional rack, open to the rear. The rear is a little different. Think of a hinged door, about a foot deep, and painted flat black. Yes, it is as "utilitarian ugly" as the front rack part is beautiful. But within it is the secret to dissipating all that heat. Take my Merging computer, for instance. Sitting exposed on a tabletop, the (obviously effective) noisy internal fans produce enough hot air flow to literally bake an egg. Yet, within the AcoustiLock, that same PC's hot air simply disappears.

According to Noren Products' literature, the patented heat pipes are hollow pipes containing a capillary wicking material and a precise amount of some sort of liquid in a partial vacuum. When one side of the pipe heats up (due to my PC's hot air output, for instance), the liquid boils and enters a vapor state. The vapor then moves to the cooler side of the pipe, due to its higher pressure, and condenses - thereby transferring the heat to the cool side.

Summary

Simple. Doors open: extremely noisy. Doors closed: dead quiet.

What more can I say? Although there is competition from other furniture makers, to my knowledge no other currently advertised unit is able to reduce noise to the extent of the "greater than 32 dB" spec listed in Noren Products' literature and, simultaneously, keep the equipment contained within running cooler than if it were unracked and just sitting on a table top! But since there is no such thing as a free lunch, one definitely pays big time for this capability.

In my view Noren Products' only competition is actually from companies such as Gefen, which manufacture extension equipment for computer monitors, keyboards and mice. And, of course, that sort of gear is considerably less expensive than the AcoustiLock enclosures, and for many users, it is the way to go. But if you do not have another room into which you can remote your computer and hard drives, and can afford this large, well-made piece of classy and functional furniture, then the choice is up to you. I am trying to justify it to myself right now!

(A few other companies make acoustic isolation enclosures, e.g. Sterling Modular, Middle Atlantic Products, but none offer active cooling nor specs as high in noise reduction as the AcoustiLock - Ed.)