I have decided to answer two questions that have been up in the air in a concrete manner, once and for all! These two questions are:
1) Are the Panaflos from China really
lesser quality than the Panaflos from Japan?
2) How similar is the Globe 120 thermal fan to the AcoustiProducts AcoustiFan AF120CT?
Without further ado, allow me present the cast of this story, in my classic style:
AcoustiProducts AcoustiFan AF92CT:
Panasonic 92mm Panaflo M1B, made in Japan:
Panasonic 92mm Panaflo L1A, made in China:
Panasonic 80mm Panaflo L1A, made in China:
AcoustiProducts AcoustiFan AF120CT:
Globe 120 thermal fan:
I meant to shoot all of them to scale (never moved the camera once or adjusted the zoom), but unfortunately the images shot right on the wooden floor are all to one scale, while the images on top of the white box are all to a different scale (but otherwise are to scale with each other), so it makes it easier to compare...
Are the China-fabbed Panaflos truly inferior to the Japan-fabbed pieces?
And to you, the reader, I present the following evidence...
I used Sigma One as a testing platform, by running a 3-pin power connector out, then hooking up a Zalman FanMate to it; all fans were tested through the FanMate. Testing process was quite simple; fans were tested while held in my hand, at the minimum voltage for the FanMate (5.5volts), at the maximum voltage (11.5volts) and at a, "special," voltage; this voltage was necessary due to the fact that AcoustiFans cannot start at 5.5volts!
Lingo Alert: From here on out, the 92mm M1B from Japan will be referred to as the, "Japanaflo," while the 80mm L1A and 92mm L1A from China will be referred to as, "Chinaflo80," and, "Chinaflo92," respectively.
Temperature Regulation: All thermal control fans had the thermistor firmly planted in the palm of your tester's hot hands during the test, to ensure a relatively consistent heat level.
5.5volts behavior: Japanaflo, Chinaflo92 and Chinaflo80 all start just fine, while AF92CT cannot start; however, once spun up by hand, it will (just barely) remain spinning at 5.5volts.
5.5volts acoustics: First off, none of the fans made any noticeable wind noise at this voltage. AF92CT barely maintains its own spin, moves almost no air and makes virtually zero motor noise (of course, being almost completely useless, this is expected). Japanaflo moves a quite useful amount of air (considering it's not windy enough to make air noise), while making only a very low frequency whir noise when held flat, and producing only a slight bearing chatter sound when held vertical. The chatter is audible only within about 15"; the whir is audible for up to four feet. Chinaflo92 emits little to no whir at this low voltage, but the chatter is clear and obvious; chatter character does not change with fan orientation, and is clearly audible anywhere in the room at the hour of testing (2:30am). Chinaflo80 emits a similar chatter sound as Chinaflo92, but is much lower in volume; in fact, the chatter from Chinaflo 80 at this voltage is inaudible outside 18"; as is the fan itself.
AF92CT Start Voltage (approx. 45 degree twist of control knob on FanMate): None of the four fans yet make wind noise; the AF92CT now produces a very, very faint motor hiss, which is not audible outside if approximately 15", and does not change in character whether fan is held flat, or vertically. Japanaflo continues to emit zero chatter when held flat, but the whir is now slightly higher in pitch; the chatter is still audible when held vertically and up to a range of 24"; whir audibility is still the same four feet. Chinaflo92 turns in the same results as at 5.5volts, as does Chinaflo80.
11.5volts acoustics: AF92CT now produces a minor leading edge wind cutting sound that is audible at most eight feet away (rather like a jet engine at low rpm), and a very faint hum is audible when held flat, of up to a range of about 18". Japanaflo's chatter is now only apparent when held vertically (strangely); and is just barely audible at the other end of the room, but is mostly drowned out by the general sound produced by its blades beating air into submission; there is also a hum-like tone coming from it that is more audible when held flat, and up to a range of about two feet. At this voltage, the motor chatter of Chinaflo92 is at epic proportions, and is clearly audible in any portion of this testing area, along with a mid-low frequency hum; the farther from the fan you travel, the more the chatter overcomes the hum. Chinaflo80's chatter is not as loud as Chinaflo92's, but it can still be heard faintly even at the opposite end of the room (some 12' away), and within 6' there is an audible low-rpm jet noise, as well.
Are AF120CT and Globe 120 the same fan, or not?
There are several pieces of proof, and they all add up...
Firstly, if you look at the images above, of the shape of the blades and the designed of central fan hub, they're virtually identical. That, however, is nothing compared to the labels on both fans. Look at the similarities in the labels!!!
They're the same model number! They use the same amount of current! The labeling is virtually identical in the lower half. None of this is as important, however, as the actual test...
5.5volts behavior: Both fans refuse to start at this voltage; however, AF120CT makes a small attempt by sort of rotating for itself about 30 degrees or so.
Distance rotated to start AF120CT: Approximately 30 degrees on the FanMate dial.
Distance rotated to start Globe 120: SAME!!!
Acoustics at Start Voltage: Globe 120 produces an extremely minor chatter when held vertically that almost disappears when held flat, that can only be heard within 15", and there is a minor propeller noise that is audible within 9". AF120CT is almost identical, except the propeller noise is slightly lower in frequency, and the chatter is almost completely gone when held flat, even smoother than Globe 120. The difference is so close, it can only be attributed to differing density of black vs. clear plastic, and general manufacturing inconsistency, but they are obviously the same exact design.
Acoustics at 11.5volts: Globe 120's is virtually eliminated, and the fan basically puts out an airplane propeller noise; plenty of air is moving, for sure. As for the AF120CT, I'll be damned if it doesn't sound precisely the same; the chatter is gone, and it sounds like a small prop. plane.
Beyond those pieces of evidence, allow me to present just a couple more tidbits: the thermistor on both fans is gren, has a 1/2" long piece of black heatshrink wrap covering the bare lead portion that goes into the extension wire, which, for both fans, is white, with one line marked by a dashed grey line. AF120CT, however, is more well-hung in the thermistor department by a good 5". The power/signal cable is also identical between both fans, a helical twist of one red, one black and one white wire, even identical in length (although my Globe 120's was twisted more tightly and cleanly/neatly than my AF120CT's).
They're simply too similar to not be the very same fan, only with aesthetic changes made to the AF120CT.
Going back to the issue of the Panaflos...
Just with this small sample of fans I have here, there is no longer a hint of doubt in mind that the Japan made Panaflos are superior. The motor chatter exhibited by my China-made Panaflos cannot be ignored; they are virtually the same in frequency and signature, only different in volume and audible range (between the 80mm and the 92mm pieces). While my Japan-made Panaflo also exhibits a chatter, it is much more minor (than that of the China-made Panaflos), and of a different frequency range. Moreover, the fact that a Japan-made 92mm M1B is outperforming a China-made 92mm L1A and 80mm L1A, acoustically, is proof enough; if of equal quality, the L1As should always outquiet the M1Bs, because they are slower fans, in general. Physical differences are also noticeable; the fan hub on the Japanaflo is smooth, while the hub on the Chinaflos are textured, and there are other subtle nuances that are different between the China and Japan pieces, in the molding of the frames etc....
My Japan 92mm M1B was purchased at Jab-Tech,
while my China 80mm and 92mm L1As were bought from Performance-PCs.
I will be making a phone call, tomorrow, to speak to someone at Performance-PCs, hopefully Hank Baron, about my situation, and to inform him of this issue, so that at least he can hopefully do something for me (at least maybe take these fans back), and perhaps better yet, try to take some sort of action to deal with Panasonic, or his own distributor, with this issue. If only the 80mm and 92mm L1As were available from Jab-Tech, perhaps I could get Japan-made pieces from them (or are they completely out of production?!?
EDIT: BTW, My Panaflos are all custom sleeved and 3-pin tailed. The Japanaflo has blue sleeving, while the Chinaflo92 has green and Chinaflo80 has red. In the end, however, the different colors proved useless, as I could hear the difference as clear as day vs. night, anyway.