80x25mm Fan Round-Up #1

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PANAFLO FBA08A12L

Ambient noise at the time of testing was 18 dBA.

Brand Panaflo Power Rating 0.068A / 0.82W
Manufacturer Panasonic / NMB-MAT Airflow Rating 24 CFM
Model Number FBA08A12L RPM Rating 1,900 RPM
Retail Availability Yes Noise Rating 21 dBA
Bearing Type Hydro Wave Header Type bare wires
Hub Size 1.46" Starting Voltage 4.9V
Frame Size 80 x 80 x 25 mm Number of Samples 18
Voltage
Noise
RPM
CFM
Power
12V
24 dBA@1m
1900 RPM
30 CFM
0.82W
9V
~19 dBA@1m
1400 RPM
21 CFM
0.65W
7V
<18 dBA@1m
1050 RPM
15 CFM
0.55W
5V
<18 dBA@1m
670 RPM
8 CFM
0.37W
@10 CFM (5.2V)
<18 dBA@1m
710 RPM
10 CFM
0.40W

Ah, the infamous Panaflo L1A. We have a soft spot for these fans — for a long time they served as SPCR's de facto reference fan thanks to their reasonably smooth character (in the good samples) and easy availability on the internet. The development of the "Silent Computing" market sector marked the end of the Panaflo's reign — once manufacturers started paying attention to noise, it became much easier to find quiet fans, but, for us, the Panaflo was with us at the very beginning. It's still not a bad choice, especially if you're not willing to pay a premium for retail markup.

Panaflo is dead and gone now — the brand was folded into the conglomerate that is NMB-MAT some time ago — but the longevity of this fan is such that there are still quite a few floating around on the internet. Panasonic made a lot of these fans, and most of the ones that individual users can buy are overstock (or sometimes bad stock) that was originally intended for the OEM market. Panaflo is something of a legend, and there's a lot of interesting and obscure knowledge about it floating around on the net. In fact, Dorothy Bradbury is somewhat of an unofficial expert on these fans. This is a company that sold Panaflo fans exclusively (they now carry only NMB-MAT), and Dorothy Bradbury herself has left a few gems of knowledge floating around on the SPCR forums.

Panaflo fans were manufactured in several different factories, and for a long time the quality control at the Japanese factories seemed to be better than those in other countries, leading to a very specialized demand for "Japanaflo" fans by silencers who snubbed the more widely available Chinese-made models. Perhaps because the fan was so widely known, it eventually developed a reputation for having a large amount of sample variance (in addition to the "country-of-origin" variance observed above). In particular, users who bought the fans in bulk began to notice that the noise quality seemed to vary by box, leading some to theorize that the variation was caused by rough shipping practices, and was not inherent to the fans themselves.

This Panaflo fan uses Hydro Wave bearings: A modified sleeve bearing (similar to FDB bearings) that is not vulnerable to damage when operated in a horizontal orientation. This is what made the Panaflo so attractive when it was first discovered. It has the flexibility (and longevity) of a ball bearing fan, but its noise character is smoother than most ball bearing fans.

There were two popular Panaflo models that SPCR recommended: Low speed and medium speed versions of the same basic fan. Both fans sounded quite similar, and we've stockpiled a large number of each over the years. We tested both models, but we will deal with the low speed version first. We tested a total of 18 samples that we had on hand.

The low speed model was more or less inaudible at 5V and just barely audible at 7V. The noise character was not quite as smooth as the Nexus or Scythe models that we looked at, but it wasn't bad, especially in the better samples. Lesser samples tended to buzz a bit more, and some developed a chuffing sound at low speed. On the whole, the noise character remained a deep throaty growl that "wobbled" a bit, but mostly lacked the sharp clatter that many other fans produce.

Although classed as a low speed fan, the Panaflo has a higher top speed than the other quiet fans that we've recommended. At 9V, it produced about the same noise and airflow as the Nexus does at 12V, although the Nexus sounded a bit smoother. At 12V, a touch of motor whine was clearly audible, but it was still quiet enough that many may find it worth the sacrifice for the ~50% increase in airflow between 9V and 12V.

Noise Recordings

PANAFLO FBA08A12M

Ambient noise at the time of testing was 18 dBA.

Brand Panaflo Power Rating 0.124A / 1.49W
Manufacturer Panasonic / NMB-MAT Airflow Rating 32 CFM
Model Number FBA08A12L RPM Rating 2,450 RPM
Retail Availability Yes Noise Rating 28 dBA
Bearing Type Hydro Wave Header Type bare wires
Hub Size 1.46" Starting Voltage 4.3V
Frame Size 80 x 80 x 25 mm Number of Samples 11
Voltage
Noise
RPM
CFM
Power
12V
31 dBA@1m
2340 RPM
37 CFM
1.28W
9V
23 dBA@1m
1780 RPM
28 CFM
0.97W
7V
~20 dBA@1m
1360 RPM
20 CFM
0.78W
5V
<18 dBA@1m
850 RPM
12 CFM
0.53W
@10 CFM (4.6V)
<18 dBA@1m
750 RPM
10 CFM
0.43W

This is the medium speed version of the low speed Panaflo reviewed above. It needs no further introduction, so comments will be limited to differences between the two fans.

As a general rule, the medium speed models seemed to have more issues with buzzing and chuffing than the low speed models, and it was harder to find a really good sample among the choices we had. That said, we'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between the low and medium speed models if they were running side by side at the same speed. In fact, the sample variance within each speed category was probably larger than the variation we heard jumping from slow to medium.

Most users will find that the choice between low and medium speed will probably be dictated by purpose and availability. Where a large margin of safety is required, the medium speed model is capable of providing quite a respectable amount of airflow if required, but it won't be quiet while doing so. The low speed model is better suited to situations where a finer grain of control is desired or with an automatic fan controller that occasionally pushes the fan to full speed. It reasonably quiet throughout its operating range, while the medium speed version is best kept to 9V and below.

Another thing to consider is that users who want to supply the fan with 5V and leave it are better off choosing the medium speed version. Both versions are effectively inaudible at 5V, but the medium speed provides more airflow and starts more reliably at this voltage.

Noise Recordings

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