Fan Roundup #7: Antec, be quiet!, Corsair, GELID, Noiseblocker, SilverStone

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MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 5 second segments of room ambiance, then the fan at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again.

  • Antec TwoCool 120
    — 550 RPM (11 dBA@1m)
    — 700 RPM (12 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (14~15 dBA@1m)
    — 1,100 RPM (17 dBA@1m)
  • bequiet! Silent Wings 2
    — 550 RPM (11 dBA@1m)
    — 700 RPM (11 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (11~12 dBA@1m)
    — 1,100 RPM (13~14 dBA@1m)
    — 1,400 RPM (17~18 dBA@1m)
  • Corsair Air AF120 Performance Edition
    — 550 RPM (11~12 dBA@1m)
    — 700 RPM (12 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (14~15 dBA@1m)
    — 1,100 RPM (18 dBA@1m)
    — 1,500 RPM (26 dBA@1m)
    — 1,600 RPM (28 dBA@1m)
  • Corsair Air SP120 Quiet Edition
    — 550 RPM (11 dBA@1m)
    — 700 RPM (11~12 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (12~13 dBA@1m)
    — 1,100 RPM (14 dBA@1m)
    — 1,400 RPM (19~20 dBA@1m)
  • GELID Wing 12
    — 900 RPM (14 dBA@1m)
    — 1,100 RPM (17 dBA@1m)
    — 1,500 RPM (26 dBA@1m)
  • Noiseblocker NB-eLoop B12-PS
    — 550 RPM (11 dBA@1m)
    — 700 RPM (12 dBA@1m)
    — 900 RPM (14 dBA@1m)
    — 1,100 RPM (18 dBA@1m)
    — 1,400 RPM (21~22 dBA@1m)

COMPARISONS & FINAL THOUGHTS

To compare the test results collected, the following table has been assembled indicating the temperature rise each fan produced at noise levels of 22 dBA@1m and below. The fans have been arranged roughly from best to worst from top to bottom.

120 mm Fan Comparison: Thermal Rise (°C)
SPL (dBA @1m)
22
21
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
Noiseblocker B12-2
           
20
20
   
23
28
Scythe Gentle Typhoon 120-12
                   
24
27
Noiseblocker M12-S1
                   
25
29
Corsair AF120 Quiet
         
20
   
23
 
26
30
Corsair AF120 Performance
       
20
   
23
   
26
 
Scythe Gentle Typhoon 120-14
   
19
     
22
   
24
27
 
Nexus
       
22
     
24
 
26
33
Noiseblocker B12-PS
19
     
21
     
24
 
28
30
Corsair SP120 Quiet
   
21
         
22
24
29
32
bequiet! Silent Wings 2
       
22
     
25
 
27
34
Noiseblocker M12-S2
23
               
25
29
33
Antec TrueQuiet 120
 
23
 
24
       
26
 
29
34
Noiseblocker M12-P
         
22
   
25
 
31
 
GELID Wing 12
         
22
   
26
     
Antec TrueQuiet 120 Pro
 
23
 
24
       
27
 
30
35
Antec TwoCool 120
         
22
 
26
   
31
34
SilverStone AP123
   
24
       
27
   
31
 
Green box indicates a win, blue box indicates second place.

Much to our dismay, the fans that sounded the best didn't provide the best cooling performance.

The SilverStone AP123, one of the nicest sounding fans we've had the pleasure of listening to, tragically placed dead last, though you could interchange any of the bottom five as they are separated by a just degree or two at most. It is quite possible that the air flow straightener integral to the AP123 is responsible for some of the poor cooling performance; we were tempted to cut away the flow straightener but decided to wait for SilverStone to offer a version without it.

The GELID Wing 12 is also generally pleasing to the ear but it doesn't fare much better than the SilverStone. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend either to those keen on silence as long as they keep in mind the possible thermal sacrifice.

Our third favorite sounding model, the bequiet! Silent Wings 2, thankfully manages to hold its own, offering a strong balance of cooling proficiency and acoustic quality.

The Antec TwoCool 120 is a bit of a letdown after our experience with its cousins, the TrueQuiet and TrueQuiet Pro. The TrueQuiets are easily the best-sounding fans Antec has ever produced, making their relatively poor performance easily forgivable. The TwoCool fails to surpass them in either regard, and really only delivers competitive efficiency at full speed. This lack of versatility relegates it to a unitasker role with limited appeal.

The Corsair AF120 impressed us with its cooling capabilities, the Quiet Edition more so, as it also has the best acoustics of all the Corsair fans we sampled. That's not really saying much though as the entire AF120 and SP120 series have a rougher, more tonal character than many of the competing models. The SP120 Quiet Edition is a middle-of-the-road performer though we weren't expecting much from it, seeing as it's a specialized product designed for cooling radiators.

The clear standout of the fans tested today was the Noiseblocker NB-eLoop B12-2, which went toe-to-toe with the winner from our last roundup, the Scythe Gentle Typhoon 120-12. Still, we prefer the sound quality of the Gentle Typhoon and Noiseblocker M12 as they have more innocuous, broadband profiles. The B12-2 is an extremely effective fan for cooling but its acoustics are only average.

Oddly, though it has the same structure and design, the B12-PS (PWM version) lagged behind the B12-2 in cooling by several degrees and the noise it produced was a maddening assault on our ears; avoid at all costs.

Great thanks to Thermalright for sponsoring the CPU thermal simulator and the heatsink and fan samples.
Thanks also to the fan sample suppliers: Antec, bequiet!, Corsair, GELID Solutions, Noiseblocker, and SilverStone.

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

Fan Roundup #6: Scythe, Noiseblocker, Antec, Nexus, Thermalright
Fan Roundup #5: Attack of the 120 Scythes
Fan Test System, SPCR 2010
Fan Test Methodology V.3
Anatomy of the Silent Fan
SPCR's Recommended Fans

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Discuss this article in the SPCR Forums.



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