This thread will serve as my updated 120mm radiator based fan testing work in progress. While fan specs are helpful, like pumps they represent how the fan performs in an artificial open air and unmounted condition without any restriction, mounting vibrations, or undervolting effects. In addition there are many different mathematical methods in which noise levels are calculated (Removal of ambient noise) and measured making the task of comparing fans based on specs alone for a radiator application a best guess. In addition, those testing conditions do not include vibration created noises that exist once a fan is mounted to a radiator. Many fans also exhibit motor ticks or harmonics at some voltage levels other than 12V when using a fan controller. That brings me to the purpose of this test, to test in a more real world like radiator scenario without any adjustments to noise levels and record it for your own review.
This round will focus in testing and comparing 120mm fans on a Swiftech MCR120 radiator using a voltage based fan controller to evaluate a more real world radiator condition on a constant test platform.
First off, a HUGE thanks to the following sponsors. It's been amazing how much support I have received in this so far..a real tribute to the community we have here:
This includes the parts/fans and the sponsors who have donated for this cause as well as some tabular results:
Click to enlarge:
I'll start creating a new post for each new fan including the pictures and the data tables then link them back up in this main post.
MASTER NOISE vs CFM CHART
I'll update this from time to time. Per my reading, it normally takes about 3dbA for most people to perceive a change in noise level...that's about the spread of "Most" of the fans here. But if we're splitting hairs...here is the chart for your viewing pleasure...
Just note this is NOISE LEVEL only. I think this is only half the picture, noise quality is what you get by listening which points out the things like motor tics, and other less that smooth sounds.
ALL FANS ALL LEVELS
NOISE LEVEL BAR CHARTS dbA @ X CFM
NOISE QUALITY (MOTOR TICKS/RESONANCE/SMOOTHNESS)
And last but not least, my completely subjective rating on noise quality. I suggest you listen to the videos to sort this out yourself, I think everyone will have a slightly different opinion on this, but this is what I came up with as a place to start. Noise quality has nothing to do with noise level. I made up my own scoring system by listening for motor type noises and resonance issues. If a fan sounded like very smooth air, it would get high marks. I also marked against resonance issues. If the fan had specific voltage ranges where it resonated, I marked it down. I rated quality in 3 steps and resonance in one field, and averaged them out. I wish there was some sort of scientific way to do this, but this was the best I could do. Again, I suggest rating this with the videos for yourself.
Generally anything with a 7 or better is really good and pretty tight. I just had a slight preference toward fans with slightly lower pitch and or smoother air noises.
Many fans below that were also very good in some areas, but may have had a small motor tick or resonance issue during the test. Resonance is one of those tricky things that may be specific to one test bed. I can only rate what was tested though, it would be impossible to see how the fan behaves in all situations. I'm also typically only testing one sample, and it's very possible the one fan I test was flawed or less that perfect.
Bottom line, there is no replacement for trying out a fan yourself. Before you go buying 20 fans of the same type, I suggest trying out at least one sample for yourself and see how you like it.
AndreaBZ SPREADSHEET LINK
AndreaBZ took the data collected and created an analysis spreadsheet, so anyone that wants to sort the data into different formats can easily do so. To do this, he had to create trendline equations for all the data, so it's going to average out some of the bumps from the actual data points. The great things is you can now sort by CFM or dbA or RPM and click a macro button to automatically sort the results. You can also pick and choose up to 5 fans and compare the charts.
Here is the PM he sent me, thanks for doing this:
Originally Posted by AndreaBZ
DETAILED INDIVIDUAL RESULTS LINKS - INCLUDES NOTES, CHARTS, & VIDEOS
Aero Cool Case Fan
Antec TriCool LED Fan
Arctic Cooling F12
Cooler Master Blade Master PWM
Cooler Master Excalibur
Cooler Master R4 C2R
Coolink SWiF2 1201
Corsair H50 Fan
Delta AFB1212VHE 38mm
Gelid Silent 12
Gentle Typhoon AP-13 Old Batch?
Gentle Typhoon AP-14 New Batch
Gentle Typhoon AP-15 New Batch Sample A & Sample B
Nexus Real Silent D12SL-12
Noise Blocker M12-S3HS
Noise Blocker PL-2
NZXT Case Fan
Panaflo NMB-MAT FBA12G12U Ultra High Speed 38mm Fan
PAPST Type 4112 N/2H
Rosewill Black Case Fan Medium Speed
Sanyo Denki San Ace 25mm 9S1212M401 Medium Speed
Sanyo Denki San Ace 25mm 9S1212H4011 High Speed 2500RPM
Sanyo Denki San Ace 9G1212M101 38mm
Sanyo Denki San Ace 9G1212H101 38mm
Sanyo Denki San Ace 109R1212H1011 38mm
Scythe Slip Stream High Speed
Scythe S-Flex F
Scythe Ultra Kaze 2000
Scythe Ultra Kaze 3000
Scythe Kama-Flex H
Triebwerk TK-122 Mid Speed Fan
Yate Loon D12SL-12D 38mm
Yate Loon D12SL-12 Curved Blade Black From P.T.S
Yate Loon D12SM12 Curved Black from PTS
Yate Loon D12SM-12 From PPCS
Yate Loon D12SM-12 Curved Black From SWC
CONCLUSION SO FAR
I think from a noise level only perspective...most fans (90%) perform pretty much the same per CFM level. Supposedly it takes 3dbA for most humans to barely perceive a noise level change, and that's about the spread I have found for most fans with a few exceptions. I'll list out some of my favorites below:
The Scythe Gentle Typhoon Series - 1000-1800 Medium Speed is dominating in CFM/dbA ratio. At $15-20 it's not the cheapest, but a real amazing fan on a radiator.
The Delta AFB1212VHE - 1800+ High Speed is dominating the 38mm fan category in CFM/dbA ratios. At $17 at SWC, it's not a low cost fan, but very reasonable compared to other industrial grade 38mm fans of similar performance levels. The downside of Deltas is they are high speed fans and generally don't even like turning down to lower speeds (not that I would recommend doing that with a 38mm fan much anyway). They do really well at high speeds 2000+ RPM, but definitely a high minimum noise level.
And some other favorites:
Yate Loon D12SL-12 and D12SM-12 from PTS or SWC are my pick for budget fan. They do pretty much the same as every other fan below 1000RPMs at a fraction of the price of around $6 and do very well at all voltages.
Arctic Cooling F12 is my pick for lower speed PWM and semi budget fan. This fan gives you awesome PWM capabilities, a better bearing, and better looks than yates and can be bought for under $10. This fan also does really well at all voltages.
Scythe Kama Flex H or Zalman ZM-F3 are also pretty good all around fans at good prices.
The TFC Triebwerk TK-122 is one for those that are not happy with the ordinary fan looks. While this fan is not at all a low cost fan, it is very different than most fans and actually performs pretty well at higher speeds and produces a touch more CFM than the GT15 if you're not overly concerned with dBA levels. Just make sure you have all 55mm worth of width available...this fan is a MONSTA!..I like it for it's features and unique looks.
I would still highly recommend visiting and listening carefully to the videos. This is the only way to pick up on the fan characteristics that the noise meter simply misses.
MYTH - You can have it all, High Speed 38mm fans and smooth low speed using a fan controller--WRONG!!
I'm calling BS on this, I have yet to find a good strong 38mm fan that works acceptably good at low speeds. I've even made the mistake of trying medium speed panaflos back in my earlier days. I figured, what the heck, I may need a little more fan power, so I'll just plan on turning them down a bit with my fan controller. Well, after forking over the $$ for 6 new panaflo medium speed fans, I was sorely dissapointed when I undervolted. Sure they have great power, but they were also very ticky at low volts. This problem seems to be common to pretty much all 38mm thickness fans with the large fan hub and also to some extent with most higher speed 25mm fans. You simply can not have it all.
You can have a kick ass high speed fans with really crappy low speed sound quality or you can have a kick ass low speed fans with really good low speed sound quality, you simply can not have both.
Here is one of my first watercooling setups many years ago, and this was before doing any sort of fan testing. I took the advise of my fellow forum members and bought 6 medium speed panaflos to replace my yate loon D12SL12s. I've had many people say they can't hear the ticking that I complain about and that's fine, but I sure did. It was enough clicking noise to make me go back to 25mm fans. I'm very much convinced that each fan and each fan motor is ideally ran at or near 12V. There are a few fans that undervolt and operate in all ranges fairly well, but I have yet to find a 38mm fan that does so to a level I would be happy with. My recommendation (and I feel very passionately about this), buy a fan that runs nearly at 12V to a sound level you're willing to put up with at all times.
FAN CONTROLLER + HIGH SPEED FANS = GOOD HIGH SPEED FAN + REALLY CRAPPY LOW SPEED FAN
And a picture of my old system:
If you are picky about noise quality, don't make the same mistake I did. High speed fans have no business running at 1000RPMs. That's not all that unlike trying to mow a putting green with a brush hog...