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Noctua NF-R8 (80mm) and NF-S12 (120mm) Fans



Testing Setup

  • 12V 500mA AC/DC power supply
  • DC in-line socket -to- female Molex adaptor
  • Digital Multimeter
  • iRiver IFP-899 mp3 player with Creative desktop microphone and Koss PortaPro headphones
  • Fans:
    • Noctua 120mm NF-S12-1200
    • Noctua 120mm NF-S12-800
    • Noctua 80mm NF-R8
    • Delta 120mm WFB1212M
    • Panaflo FBA12G12M1A
    • SuperFlower 80mm Tri-Color LED
  • LNA and ULNA in-line fan-speed reduction adaptors

I gathered some spare fans I had laying around for comparison and soldered up an in-line DC socket to a molex connector to provide 12 Vdc from an AC/DC adapter.

In the photo above, you can see the test subjects (fans), a Creative desktop microphone connected to an iRiver IFP-899 MP3 player for recording, and a digital multimeter for measuring voltages.  The prototype circuit on the breadboard is a PWM (pulse width modulation) fan controller that worked briefly until I overloaded it with a Tornado!  So I didn't use it, nor any additional fan controllers apart from the supplied LNA and ULNA in-line speed reduction adapters.

For recording, I kept the microphone 6cm away from the corner and at a slight angle so the fan wasn't blowing directly into the microphone pickup.


It should be made clear here that the noise levels are not weighted, nor were they measured with specialist recording equipment. It is simply to give a relative noise level for the Noctua fans against each other and against other brands of fans.  You can see that Noctua's second 120mm fan and the 80mm fan are the quietest in the group, and Noctua's first 120mm fan is about as quiet as the SuperFlower 80mm LED fan!!

Pure numbers in a graph don't really give a good enough impression of the different sound of each fan, so I've included some MP3s that I recorded for each of the fans in this test.  Note that there is some quick periodic "squeaking" and a clock ticking in the background.  I have no idea what the squeaking noise is, but it was some form of electromagnetic interference being picked up by the microphone.

Noctua 120mm NF-S12-1200 listen
Noctua 120mm NF-S12-800 listen
Noctua 80mm NF-R8 listen
Delta 120mm WFB1212M listen
Panaflo FBA12G12M1A listen
SuperFlower 80mm Tri-Color LED listen

After listening to the Noctua NF-R8 and the SuperFlower Tri-Color LED fan, I think that the Noctua is a much softer and non-intrusive sound.  Subjectively, the Noctua fans were all quieter than I expected and were pretty much inaudible at  a distance of half a meter from my ear.  This distance was the point at which it was hard to tell if I could hear the fan or not.  Promising start then. Next was to see what effect the supplied fan speed reduction adapters have on each of the fans.

ULNA speed reduction
Noctua 120mm NF-S12-1200 with ULNA (4.83 V) listen (I'm saying: "fans on now... now it's off... now it's on... now it's off")
Noctua 120mm NF-S12-800 with ULNA (7.11 V) listen (I'm saying: "okay, giving the fan power now... power off... power on... power off")
Noctua 80mm NF-R8 with ULNA (5.29 V) (so quiet it didn't register over the background noise)
Delta 120mm WFB1212M with ULNA (not enough voltage to spin)

LNA speed reduction
Noctua 120mm NF-S12-1200 with LNA (7.05 V) listen (I'm saying: "okay, this is the Noctua 12-1200 on the red [LNA]... and off")
Noctua 120mm NF-S12-800 with LNA (9.16 V) listen (I'm saying: "right, this is the Noctua 12-800 on the red [LNA]... and off")
Noctua 80mm NF-R8 with LNA (7.49 V) (so quiet it didn't register over the background noise)
Delta 120mm WFB1212M with LNA listen (I'm saying: "okay this now is the Delta on the .. red reduction thing [LNA] I think .. yup .. *chuckle*..")

Again, the ULNA adapter comes with all three fans, but only the 80mm NF-R8 fan comes with the LNA adaptor. I merely used the LNA adapter on the 120mm fans to observe the difference.

I'm not sure why only the 80mm version comes with the two different speed reduction adapters and the 120mm fans only come with the ULNA adapter.  It's incredibly difficult to hear the 120mm fans with the LNA and I think it would be a good idea to include both adapters with each fan so that the user can decide just how quiet they need the fans to be.

I had no way of measuring the airflow, but using the old "fan toward the cheek" test, I was surprised how much air was coming from these inaudible fans!  With the speed reduction adapters installed, I could only hear the fans if I put my ear so close to the fan it was almost skimming the skin of my ears.  That's why you can hear me murmuring when the fan is getting power and then turned off because I wasn't sure if it would even register on the recording.

  1. Introduction
  2. Closer Look
  3. Installation & Specifications
  4. Testing
  5. Conclusion
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