Noctua has released a demonstration video of what it claims is the world's first CPU cooler to feature active noise cancellation, using technology it is developing in partnership with RotoSub.
Dubbed the ANC Project, the partnership between the two companies attempts to bring the same technology found in noise cancelling headphones to a heatsink and fan assembly. In headphones, a microphone picks up external noise, inverts the phase of the waveform and plays it back - resulting in the cancellation of external noise. Technically, not only is the noise still there but there's now equal and opposite new noise - but because the two waveforms are inversions of each other, the ear picks up little more than a slightly hissing silence.
Noctua's idea is to take a variant of this core concept, developed by RotoSub
back in 2011 for use in fans, and integrate it into an upcoming CPU cooler. While not yet ready for release, the company has been showing off prototype models - and has now published a video that shows just what the system can do.
Taking a NH-D14 heatsink, attaching a single NF-A14 140mm fan modified with the FocusedFlow system of the NF-F12 and then integrating the RotoSub Active Noise Cancellation system, the single-fan dual-tower cooler is claimed to offer class-beating cooling performance at significantly reduced noise levels. In the video demonstration, the hum of the fan is clearly as an irritating whine - a whine which almost completely disappears when the noise cancellation system is activated.
The system works, in the absence of handy speakers, by causing tiny vibrations in the blades of the fan using an electromagnetic coil built into the housing and a small magnet at the tip of each blade. An in-built microphone listens to the noise that the fan is making, then adjusts these vibrations to cancel it out - resulting the pretty dramatic noise reduction that is present in the video.
It's a clever concept, but one that Noctua may struggle to sell: for those who want silent cooling, passive cases exist - and low-noise pumps offer quiet water-cooling for those with more powerful components to tame. The CPU fan is often not the loudest component of a system, either, with most high-end graphics cards easily drowning it out when under load.
That said, if Noctua does release the ANC Project cooler as a retail product, there's nothing to stop it offering aftermarket coolers for graphics cards with the same technology embedded - and with RotoSub offering the system to anyone willing to pay for a licence, it could become a standard feature of high-end gear in the future.
If you're not convinced as to the benefits of the system, Noctua's promotional video - followed by a live demonstration of the prototype - is embedded below, and more information is available on the company's website