Fan Roundup #5: Attack of the 120 Scythes

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Fan Round-up #5: Attack of the Scythes

May 8, 2008 by Devon Cooke & Lawrence Lee

Editor's Note — May 10, 2008

Since the posting of this article, it has come to our attention that there is the possibility of data corruption having tainted the CFM measurements. We apologize for the possible errors, but note that the noise level and quality information — the real keys to selecting and using fans in a quiet PC — are not affected. We will update you on this matter as soon as possible.

After developing a more consistent fan testing methodology and arduously re-testing all the previous fans in our database, it is time to finally take a look at some new 120mm fans. It has been nearly a year since our last fan round-up, and the number of untested fans in our lab has accumulated to the extent where they can no longer be ignored. Our previous round-ups revealed some great fans by Nexus, Noctua, and Scythe. Today, we focus solely on Scythe fans, as their product line is quite varied and frankly, because they are the most popular among SPCR readers.

Our main goals are to determine how much air each fan moves, the noise it generates while doing so, and the nature of its acoustics. Through our analysis, we will try to determine which of Scythe's fans has the best airflow-to-noise ratio when undervolted to near inaudibility, i.e. the most efficient quiet fans. Scythe is one of those few manufacturers that seems dedicated to making fans with good acoustics, so we expect to see some quality fans emerge.

Although we do a complete set of objective measurements for both airflow and noise, we always base our final recommendations on how a fan sounds subjectively. Typically, there is not enough variance in the objective measurements alone to make clear distinctions. We've always said what really counts is what we hear.

For users who are interested, a technical discussion of fan technologies can be found in our article, Anatomy of A Silent Fan. Users who want to know exactly how the fans were tested should refer to our Fan Test Methology. The rest of you: Read on and pay attention! We hope you find our work useful.


Each fan in this roundup has its own data table

and write-up that summarizes what we learned about it. Use these to find specific information about the fan you're looking for. In addition, every fan is recorded according to our standard Audio Recording techniques. These recordings can be used to make A/B comparisons between fans to help illustrate the differences between them. Recordings are comprised of alternating ambient noise and the fan running at various speeds recorded at a distance of one meter.

As always, we recommend that you listen and compare the recordings in a specific way. The green box below describes how we make our recordings and what you're supposed to do with them.

At the end of the roundup is a conclusion that summarizes the best and the worst that we found. This is where to look if you just want to cut to the chase and find out which fan we liked best.


This recording was made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system, 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.

The one meter recording is intended to give you an idea of how the subject of this review sound 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. For best results, set your volume control so that the ambient noise is just barely audible. 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!

More details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio Recording Methods Revised.


The following fans were included in the roundup:

The Conclusion can be found on page 6.

We would like to thank Scythe as well as Vancouver computer retailers Anitec, and NCIX for supplying the many Scythe fan samples.

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