Introduction: DIY Audio Interface Cooler

This instructable is a simple hack to build an audio interface cooler.

The backstory:
I have a Presonus Firebox. Recently it stopped communicating with Ableton Live, crashing the program several times. I spent some time troubleshooting software problems unsuccessfully. It was confusing because I could play audio through windows drivers but not through ASIO drivers while it was hot. (FFADO Linux Drivers didn't work in Ubuntu either).

Eventually I guessed correctly that it must be overheating, so I unplugged it and put it on a household fan to make it cool down. When I plugged it back in, everything worked.

Originally I was thinking it would be cool to put a little muffin fan inside the box. There’s room in the box for a little fan but I didn’t want to break it by trying to solder a fan to one of the power sources inside the box, and there weren't any holes for air. Creating air flow would also have brought more dust inside the box (which would not be good). Using the separate fan allows the heat sinks to do their job without the risk of damaging my only high quality means of recording.

Step 1: Get the Parts

1 quiet 120mm computer fan (other sizes probably would work fine too)
1 low voltage power adapter (my fan is rated for 7.5V - 12V but I’m using a 5V adapter that tested at 6V)
4 same size golf tees (these are about the same diameter as the screw holes in the fan)
A small piece of packing tape (about an inch)
A little bit of double stick tape or some pressure sensitive adhesive (like sticky-tack)
22 gage wire (like what you would use on a breadboard), 1 red wire 2-3 inches and 1 black wire 2-3 inches

Step 2: Get the Fan Running

Be careful when working with electricity. Don't plug in the adapter yet.

1. The red wire of your fan must connect to the positive lead of your power adapter. Use the red 22 gage wire for positive.

There should be a diagram on the power adapter that looks soft of like this: (-) -- C -- (+) it means that positive is on the inside of the adapter plug and negative is on the outside.

Sometimes adapters have and opposite polarity that would look like this: (+) -- C -- (-) which means positive on the outside and negative on the inside.

My power adapter had a very small inner pin hole so I was able to just push the 22 gage wire into it to get good electrical contact. If your adapter's hole is bigger , then you can coil the wire around a pin or a nail with a small diameter to get better contact with the inside pin hole.

2. Attach the black wire to the negative lead of the power adapter. A neat way to do this is to coil the wire around the outer contact of the plug use the packing tape to secure it. This method is solid enough to switch out power adapters to try them out.

3. Computer fans have a three pin terminal that is perfect for plugging 22 gage wire into, they should be color coded to match your 22 gage wire. Match colors and plug them in!

4. Now plug in your adapter and let it spin. (Mine requires a push to get it started)

5. Unplug the adapter to prepare for the next step

Step 3: Add the Golf Tees for Airflow

The golf tees are merely a way of giving the fan room to push air around. Whatever way you can figure out will be just as effective.

1. Decide which direction you want the air to flow. My air is being pushed down around the heat sinks on my audio interface.

2. If you're going to do it my way, point the tips of the golf tees in the opposite direction to airflow and shove them in gently (it's hard to screw this part up, get it? ... yeah me neither)

3. Optionally apply your restickable adhesive of choice to the platform of each golf tee (I used double stick tape).

4. Position your fan atop your audio interface. Presto!

Step 4: Provide Power When It's Needed

If you have the option, run the interface on adapter power (not the computer) and plug the adapter for the fan into the same power strip so they can be switched on together when you're ready to use them.

Step 5: Optional Decoration

Paint a spiral on it with white out as I did or print out the spirals and try out different styles by taping them on. (right click + view image, then print)

This is also good because you can see it spinning without having to check for airflow with your fingers.
(I used Inkscape to make the svg spirals)

Comments

author
apseubert (author)2011-07-26

That's cool that it keeps your gear running(no pun intended) but doesn't that create a lot of external noise while you're trying to record?

author
bob.the.devil (author)apseubert2012-08-13

a computer fan will generate next to no noise if you are powering it with 5volts (they are built for 12 so it is like giving a flashlight half the batteries it should have, it will just run weaker) it will make way less noise than even the quietest computer (unless you liquid cool and have your fans and pump in another room) on that same note i would suggest powering it with 12v and putting a dimmer inline (aka pc fan controller, can get them cheep almost anywhere) that way if the need ever arises you can kick it up.

author
a splosion (author)bob.the.devil2012-08-14

So it's possible that the fan creates magnetic noise. I'm not sure how loud it is, but I usually turn the fan off when I'm recording. It seems like the interface is well shielded against that sort of noise, but I guess the input/output cables are not shielded, necessarily. This calls for an experiment.

author
bob.the.devil (author)a splosion2012-08-14

that is a good thought. and if it does i would *think* the noise would be constant so maybe just maybe you could get a recording of it and out it 180o out of phase and cancel it out. just a thought. would work in theory but in practice i wouldn't think so... but worth a try. (and if not just get some shielded cable and/or stick to xlr for the main input. i can't imagine it would have any impact whatsoever on high quality xlr. good cable is EVERYTHING (well that and all the other important stuff, for example, everything else).


author
a splosion (author)apseubert2011-07-26

It makes less noise than my computer tower. I can barely hear it with my ear right next to it. Additional noise was a concern of mine, and of course there's a reason that the box has passive cooling in the first place, but it hasn't been a problem.

It's easy to be obsessed with tracking down and quieting noise, but it's probably better to be obsessed with writing good lyrics and good music. I decided to allocate my time and energy appropriately, focusing on the things that make a good song. I like going back and listening to Coldplay's Parachutes or Jack Johnson's first album because you can hear how high the noise is. But they're still great albums because the good songwriting and good music heavily beats out any noise problems.