State of PWM vs. Voltage Control debate for Lowest Noise

Control: management of fans, temp/rpm monitoring via soft/hardware

Moderators: NeilBlanchard, Ralf Hutter, sthayashi, Lawrence Lee

Post Reply
Notwist
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Feb 27, 2017 3:05 pm

State of PWM vs. Voltage Control debate for Lowest Noise

Post by Notwist » Mon Feb 27, 2017 3:16 pm

Good evening,

I rely heavily on SPCR to help guide purchases since I'm a silence freak. This place is awesome.

I'm build a new Mini ITX and am using a board that supports PWM everywhere (Asus Impact VIII): CPU, Chassis, and even for more PWM connectors on the included Fan Extension Card.

The case I'm using comes with a fan controller with 6 3-pin connectors, which can connect to the motherboard's chassis fan header via a 4 pin cable.

So in short: I'm at no shortage for PWM connectors. That being said, should I just get myself PWM versions of fans? I was eyeing the SilentWing 3's, but they offer PWM and DC versions of each variant and I wasn't sure if there would be any noise difference between those two connections.

Also: I know this topic has been discussed elsewhere, but nothing recently, and I see many companies focusing their efforts more on PWM, that the whole PWM clicking issue is a thing of the past for these newer fans, etc. etc.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated, and thanks again for all the help!

Abula
Posts: 3568
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 12:22 pm
Location: Guatemala

Re: State of PWM vs. Voltage Control debate for Lowest Noise

Post by Abula » Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:19 pm

Welcome to SPCR Notwist
State of PWM vs. Voltage Control debate for Lowest Noise
You probably know this, but im going to still bring it up, neither is quieter than the other, its just the way you control the rpms of the fan, either increasing/decreasing voltage or sending a signal (PWM) to regulate the rpms of the fan. The main difference is that the PWM fans are design to always operate at 12V, although some can operate at lower voltage its not recommended.
I'm build a new Mini ITX and am using a board that supports PWM everywhere (Asus Impact VIII): CPU, Chassis, and even for more PWM connectors on the included Fan Extension Card.

The case I'm using comes with a fan controller with 6 3-pin connectors, which can connect to the motherboard's chassis fan header via a 4 pin cable.
In the past it was hard to quiet a PC, not only the components were not efficient, but quietness was the least priority on most manufacturers, they simply produce things that could deliver what they promise at the cost they were willing to do it. Today, we have much more capable components and efficient, a lot also worry about noise, and there are much more offerings, that building a quiet PC is relatively easy. In the past we have very few fan options, specially that allow undervolting to the point they were inaudible, today even the same fan is develop in multiple rpms versions. In the past, we were more worried about taking control and lower the noise as much as possible, and the lack of bios and software at the beginning made many of us go into routes like an external fan controller and steady rpms, today we can achieve quieter setups, making this dynamic, bios and software allows us to setup fan loads depending on conditions, so to answer your question, you can do it either way, but you own a really good motherboard in terms of fan control, specially that it allows any fan on any header, so at the end you can go with whatever combination you like, its more a matter of finding what works out for you in terms of noise and performance.
So in short: I'm at no shortage for PWM connectors. That being said, should I just get myself PWM versions of fans?
The headers on your motherboard are switchable, pwm or voltage controlled, by changing Q-Fan, so in essence you don't need to peruse either, you have open whatever fan you want to test in whatever header you want, you just need to set up the bios properly.
I was eyeing the SilentWing 3's, but they offer PWM and DC versions of each variant and I wasn't sure if there would be any noise difference between those two connections.
Here more important than brand or if its PWM or DC, its how they work or what they deliver. For instance, how low can the fan reach on PWM and DC, how its their sonic signature (tonality), how many fans do you need your setup to keep it in the temperatures you wish and at the noise you are willing to take.
Also: I know this topic has been discussed elsewhere, but nothing recently, and I see many companies focusing their efforts more on PWM, that the whole PWM clicking issue is a thing of the past for these newer fans, etc. etc.
I heard pwm fans click and voltage fans click, i don't think its dependent on if its 4pin pwm or 3pin voltage controlled, i even have heard between samples, some do other don't.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated, and thanks again for all the help!
You have a very good motherboard regarding fan control with FanXpert, so use that, and get whatever fans you want, try to go with what SPCR has reviewed, even if its old reviews, they are still good. Check for brands like Nexus, Noctua, Scythe, Thermalright, Noiseblocker to mention a few (there are others), and look for fans that can operate in the range you are want, the rest is test and setup.

As final comment, under the same circumstance on equal fans, just 4pin vs 3pin, i would favor 4pin mostly because its easier to deal with multiple fans, as a PWM Splitter will allow you to place tons of fans and power them via the PSU, so overall its safer, and for people with very few headers will benefit on this, as long as their mobo can control pwm fans. But there are very good 3pin fans as there are also very good 4pin fans, to me there is no real winner, its just a matter of what you need.
GameMi - Intel i9 9900K + Gigabyte Z390 AM + Asus RTX2080Ti Strix | MiniMi - Intel i7 8700K + ASRock Z370ITX + MSI RTX2080Ti
StreaMi - Intel i9 7940X + AsRock X299 Taichi + Asus GTX1080Ti Strix | WorkMi - AMD 1950X + AsRock X399 Taichi + MSI GTX1080
ServeMi - Intel Xeon E3-1230 + Supermicro X9SCM-F + 144TB | StoreMi - Intel Xeon E3 1240v5 + Supermicro X11SSM-F + 42TB | CamMi - Intel i7 4770K + MSI H81i + Blue Iris

Notwist
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Feb 27, 2017 3:05 pm

Re: State of PWM vs. Voltage Control debate for Lowest Noise

Post by Notwist » Tue Feb 28, 2017 10:17 am

Thank you for the incredibly detailed response.

So I'll definitely be going with all PWM fans then to give me that extra level of control.

As for the brand, I was debating between the Corsair ML series or the SilentWings BeQuiet 3 (2x 120mm for exhaust and heatsink and 2x 140mm intake), here's why:

- Noctua is very popular and I love them, but I have a windowed case, and I want to try to keep some sort of pleasing aesthetic, and I've recognized that there exist other incredible fans that also would look better (Noiseblocker, BeQuiet, Scythe, Phanteks). Additionally, I've already tested the iPPC variants of the Noctua fans, and can confirm they ALL have a clicking noise when running at lower RPMs that is very annoying, and isn't present on their main beige line of products (matched RPMS and everything).

- I remember reading an SPCR review saying to avoid the PWM variants of Noiseblocker due to an annoying noise they make, so NB is out.

- Can't seem to find any 140mm Scythe fans and ideally I would like to have matching 120mm and 140mm fans, so Scythe is out. Phanteks I can't find good reviews of their 120 fans. They are in the running though...

- ...but so are BeQuiet and the new Corsair ML series, which also seem to be well regarded for their noise and performance, both 140mm and 120mm variants.

So that's the quick journey that brought me to this point. =) Still undecided on which brand to go with.

Also, I have to thank SPCR for helping me decide to stick with air. I was beginning to fall for the whole AIO trend, but finally realized after testing an EVGA Hybrid that all of those claims from users about how "their GPU is absolutely silent!" don't mean much because they clearly aren't as picky as I am, lol. The pump noise wasn't terrible, but every now and again the radiator would vibrate the entire chassis and I realized this was all just too much a headache for a realistically minimal performance gain.

Olle P
Posts: 621
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2008 6:03 am
Location: Sweden

Re: State of PWM vs. Voltage Control debate for Lowest Noise

Post by Olle P » Fri Mar 03, 2017 4:13 am

Notwist wrote:... I see many companies focusing their efforts more on PWM, ...
Where do you see this?
When I was searching for new case fans PWM was about 10% of the assortment.

Post Reply