Author: Karsten Hein
Category: High Fidelity
When outside temperatures are rising during the summer months, many audiophiles are beginning to dread the increase in noise floor that results from various methods of keeping cool indoors. For many of us, our listening hours fall into the evenings, a time when the streets and buildings are still hot from the day. This is when the electrical noise on power grid and the physical noise from outside slowly subside, normally giving way to endless hours of listening pleasure. However, this pleasure is relatively short lived, when the listening room becomes too hot for comfort.
In very few cases, the ideal listening room will be located in the basement of your own house, on which high outside temperatures have little effect. Basements tend to have low ceilings and concrete walls that will pound back bass frequencies in an unbecoming way. No, most proper listening rooms will rather be situated above ground with wooden or masonry walls. And in such an environment, temperatures can become quite high, especially in an apartment or under the roof of a building. While perhaps also not ideal in terms of bass performance, a listening room under the roof can be advantageous to sound, because of the relative absence of parallel walls.
To make matter worse, many audiophiles will be running HiFi gear that produces more heat than regular consumer products. Tube gear, for instance, radiates far more heat than solid state devices. But even when operating solid state equipment, audiophile amps tend to be oversized MOSFET beasts running in class A, rather than being more power efficient class B or D designs. Actually, audiophile gear often only sounds at its best, once it has reached full operating temperature. And, in many cases, this means you could literally fry an egg on them.
The most economic and ecologically friendly way to cool down a room is to simply open the windows, but in many urban locations, this will raise the noise floor in an unpredictable way, bringing in sounds from cars, planes, trains, and from people walking by. In rural areas, the noise might come from the wind in the trees, from birds, etc. but also from the local traffic. I think most audiophiles will agree that a closed window is an effective way to drown out sound coming from outside and will be preferred.
If the windows cannot be left open, cooling must ultimately come from some apparatus that is placed or installed in the room. Some buildings have air conditioning installed into the walls, and, in most cases, this will be the best option to address cooling, because this method also extracts excess moisture, a fact that makes any temperature more bearable. However, air conditioning is also the most expensive solution and, from an environmental perspective, not without concern. A simple cooling fan would present a cheaper and more sensible choice, when no air conditioning has yet been installed.
If you have ever listened to music in a room where a cooling fan with open propeller is running, you will already know that this will quickly make chop suey of our musical experience. There are few audiophiles able to tolerate the presence of a running fan in the room, perhaps with the exception of an ultra-slow and silent ceiling fan. No, there must be a better solution to keep the listening room cool in summer, one that does not interfere with the music so much. At least this is what I was thinking, when I set out to purchase a cooling device that would not spoil the fun of listening.
At the time of writing this, air movers without open blades have not yet been popular for a long time, and yet, they help to solve the problem of rotating blades interfering with our music. While they are mostly referred to as bladeless fans, this definition is not strictly accurate. Their rotors are rather smaller and encapsulated by the housing, with the air being moved through one or more ducts for speed and direction. Rather than producing a frequency of air-compression and expansion, the resulting air flow is seamless and calm. This non-pulsating quality is preferable in audiophile settings, even if the fan itself should have a similar dB-noise rating as a fan with exposed blades.
The model shown here stands representative of a whole range of bladeless fans from various manufacturers. It was bought at the German DIY store and REWE subsidiary ‘Toom Baumarkt’ and offers a host of features that make it a decent companion for extended music listening sessions. There are 9 air speeds to choose from, ranging from relatively silent to more noisy in operation. The good news is that levels 3-5 will offer sufficient airflow for most applications, while still being reasonably silent. All levels offer decent reach into the room, so that the fan does not need to be positioned close to the listening position. Although the fan does not cast its breeze all too broadly, the angle should still be wide enough for an individual listening spot and can be increased by engaging the 90 degrees rotation function.
The tower fan comes with a remote control that can be fixed to the shaft via magnet, e.g. for storing or for strictly local operation. The remote turns the fan on and off, sets the air speed via plus and minus keys, engages the rotation and sleep function. It can also set a sleep-timer and has a button to jump to maximum airflow and back to the previous setting. With all these functions available from a seated position, wind speed and noise can be adjusted to suit the listening moment. Rock & Pop music will probably be more forgiving of noise than classical or Jazz music that are often more nuanced with lots of quiet passages. The fan’s hight is just under one meter and therefore very convenient for a seated position. The air is conveniently drawn up from the colder floor and then ejected into the room. The tower fan is Smart Life compatible and works with Alexa. This means it can be integrated with other Smart Life machines in the households and operated from the smartphone. Have a look online. Similar products are available from other brands and stores.