Coil whine is the undesirable effect of electrical components creating audible noise when operating. Let's look to our friends at Wikipedia for a concise and accurate description of the phenomenon:
Coil noise is, as its name suggests, caused by electromagnetic coils. These coils, which may act as inductors or transformers, have a certain resonant frequency when coupled with the rest of the electric circuit, as well as a resonance at which it will tend to physically vibrate.
As the wire that makes up the coil passes a variable current, a small amount of electrical oscillation occurs, creating a small magnetic field. Normally this magnetic field simply works to establish the inductance of the coil. However, this magnetic field can also cause the coil itself to physically vibrate. As the coil vibrates physically, it moves through a variable magnetic field, and feeds its resonance back into the system. This can produce signal interference in the circuit and an audible hum as the coil vibrates.
Coil noise can happen, for example, when the coil is poorly secured to the circuit board, is poorly damped, or if the resonant frequency of the coil is close to the resonant frequency of the electric circuit. The effect becomes more pronounced as the signal passing through the coil increases in strength, and as it nears the resonant frequency of the coil, or as it nears the resonant frequency of the circuit. Coil noise is also noticed most often when it is in the humanly audible frequency.
Coil noise is also affected by the irregularities of the magnetic material within the coil. The flux density of the inductor is effected by these irregularities, causing small currents in the coil, contaminating the original signal. This particular subset of is sometimes referred to as magnetic fluctuation noise or the Barkhausen effect. Coil noise can also occur in conjunction with the noise produced by magnetostriction.
Gamers that frequently upgrade their graphics cards may have been witness to this problem with a particular install, or you might have been one of the lucky ones to never deal with the issue. If your computer sits under your desk, in a loud room or you only game with headphones, it's also possible that you just never noticed.
Possibly offending inductors?
The reason this comes up to today is that reports are surfacing of GeForce GTX 970 cards from various graphics card vendors exhibiting excessive coil whine or coil noise. These reports are coming in from multiple forum threads around the internet, a collection of YouTube videos of users attempting to capture the issue and even official statements from some of NVIDIA's partners. Now, just because the internet is talking about it doesn't necessarily mean it's a "big deal" relative to the number of products being sold. However, after several Twitter comments and emails requesting we look into the issue, I thought it was pertinent to start asking questions.
As far as I can tell today, GTX 970 cards from multiple vendors including EVGA, MSI and Gigabyte all have users reporting issues and claims of excessive coil noise. For my part here, I have two EVGA GTX 970 cards and an MSI GTX 970, none of which are producing sound at what I would call "excessive" levels. Everyone's opinion of excessive noise is going to vary, but as someone who sits next to a desk-high test bed and hears hundreds of cards a year, I am confident I have a good idea of what to listen for.
We are still gathering data on this potential issue, but a few of the companies mentioned above have issued official or semi-official statements on the problem.
The coil whine issue is not specific to 900 series, but can happen with any high end GPU and that MSI is looking in to ways to minimize the issue. If you still have concern regarding this issue, then please contact our RMA department.
We have been watching the early feedback on GTX 970 and inductor noise very closely, and have actively taken steps to improve this. We urge anyone who has this type of concern to contact our support so we can address it directly.
We’re aware of a small percentage of users reporting excessive “coil whine” noises and are actively looking into the issue.
We are waiting for feedback from other partners to see how they plan to respond.
Since all of the GTX 970 cards currently shipping are non-reference, custom built PCB designs, NVIDIA's input to the problem is one mostly of recommendations. NVIDIA knows that it is their name and brand being associated with any noisy GeForce cards so I would expect a lot of discussions and calls being had behind closed doors to make sure partners are addressing user concerns.
Interestingly, the GeForce GTX 970 was the one card of this Maxwell release where all of NVIDIA's partners chose to go the route of custom designs rather than adopting the NVIDIA reference design. On the GTX 980, however, you'll find a mix of both and I would wager that NVIDIA's reference boards do not exhibit any above average noise levels from coils. (I have actually tested four reference GTX 980s without coil whine coming into play.) Sometimes offering all of these companies the option to be creative and to differentiate can back-fire if the utmost care isn't taken in component selection.
Ironically the fix is simple: a little glue on those vibrating inductor coils and the problem goes away. But most of the components are sealed making the simple fix a non-starter for the end user (and I wouldn't recommend doing that anyway). It does point to a lack of leadership from board manufacturers that are willing to skimp on hardware in such a way to make this a big enough issue that I am sitting here writing about this today.
As an aside, if you hear coil whine when running a game at 500-5000 FPS, I don't think that counts as being a major problem for your gaming. I have seen a video or two running a DX9 render test at over 4500 FPS – pretty much any card built today will make noises you don't expect when hitting that kind of performance level.
As for my non-official discussions on the topics with various parties, everyone continues to reiterate that the problem is not as widespread as the some of the forum threads would have you believe. It's definitely higher than normal, and getting public acknowledgements from EVGA and MSI basically confirms that, but one person told me the complaint and RMA levels are where they were expected to be consider the "massively fast sell out rates" the GTX 970 is experiencing.
Of course, AMD isn't immune to coil whine issues either. If you remember back to the initial launch of the Radeon R9 290X and R9 290, we had similar coil whine issues and experienced those first hand on reference card designs. (You can see a video I recorded of an XFX unit back in November of 2013 here.) You can still find threads on popular forums from that time period discussing the issue and YouTube never seems to forget anything, so there's that. Of course, the fact that previous card launches might have seen issues along the same line doesn't forgive the issue in current or later card releases, but it does put things into context.
So, let's get some user feedback; I want to hear from GTX 970 owners about their experiences to help guide our direction of research going forward.
This summer I am going to
This summer I am going to upgrade my R9 270, And I am going to get a R9 290 or the GTX 970, But it looks like I will get the R9 290 instead, Because every manufacturer of the 970 is apparently using cheap components. And the responses to the coil whine have been BS like this, Do not worry it is normal, Or it is not a big deal. Or they even go as far as claim it is because you need to limit FPS! If a GPU is running solid and normal, You should never have to limit FPS, That is insane! And there is nothing at all normal about electrical components making noises. Nvidia should have recalled the GTX 970 instead of letting this go on as far as it has! And it looks like not one of the board manufactures care either! This should be a huge wake up call for people. We are letting companies get way out of hand, And we are letting them treat us like dirt! When a hardware component gets coil whine (especially a PSU) you are supposed to replace it, before it burns up and causes damage. Because coil whine means something is failing. And this is exactly what will happen to every 970 with coil whine! And you will basically have a expensive paperweight. All I can say is good luck to you. This is a shame! I really wanted to buy a GTX 970 this summer too! I wanted it for it’s performance, and I wanted Nvidia’s reliable drivers. AMD’s drivers are horrible. I had no driver issues at all with my old 650 Ti, But I have had many driver issues with my R9 270. And AMD has had the same driver issues for years, So AMD is just as bad as any other company. But it still looks like I have to buy the R9 290, Because a buggy driver is better than a GPU that is slowly burning up.
for pete’s sake people -.-
for pete’s sake people -.- and I’m talking to you who claim that coil whine is a hardware malfunction . Electrical components DO make noise .In fact you already experience it around u daily and one great example is that of a camera flash that when turned on makes a buzzing until it gets full load.The coil whine in graphics cards is ,according to Wikipedia : “As the wire that makes up the coil passes a variable current, a varying magnetic field exists around the coil. Forces due to this magnetic field can cause vibration of the coil wires or the core of the coil. For some magnetic core materials, a (strong) varying field can cause vibration of the core due to magnetostriction. If the frequency of the current in the coil falls within the audible range, the resulting vibration may produce sounds audible at a distance from the coil, especially if magnified by a mechanical resonance in the components or in the equipment enclosure.” .It’s perfectly normal for a high end gpu that draws lots of power to participate in this phenomenon ,it’s just that usually the vibration occurs in non-audible frequencies for most of them except ,as it seems , for the majority for gtx 970 cards .I my self own a gigabyte gtx 970 g1 gpu and even though its a complete monster under every load ,it produces coil whine in a particular test (ice storm) of 3D mark .Then thing is ,that when fps get really high (~2800 for this test) that’s when usually the whine occurs .One great way is to limit the fps to the standard of ur screen (60 or 120) or to enable v-sync ,although the latter is not recommended .Anything beyond 60 fps is not percievable by the human eye and is just an extravagancy . If u are up for a more permanent solution and u just bought a new card ,one can simply just use a burn-in tool (e.g. furmark) to check whether the whine continues after the industrial glues have fallen in place .Other than that ,letting the gpu ran in circumstances where the whining is most intense has shown to take it away .
If the coil vibrates, the
If the coil vibrates, the manufacturer has to stop/suppress this vibration. A minimum amount of glue on the wire will do that. If the manufacturer does not care, the consumer should not care to buy the product. It’s that simple.
So I guess the consumer should just RMA the card and wait and wait until finally..the replacement card arrives. The new card does the same thing. There was never anything wrong with the first card except the dimestore made inductors. I agree board party houses would rather have good reviews and will help as much as they can however, this becomes difficult when thousands of cards have already.been made. Then they need PC tech sites to minimalize and downplay purchasers legitimate conserns.
This is the most well written
This is the most well written article on coil whine I have read. Can anyone tell me is this coil whine?
The sound increases louder as the power % goes up.
Bought an MSI 970 GTX Golden
Bought an MSI 970 GTX Golden edition 3 days ago and installed it into my new rig… Horrible coil whine running 3D benchmark, specifically Ice Storm scene… I actually thought water was boiling in my kettle next door (kitchen) for my Cup o noodles soup when i started that Benchmark..
I just bought an EVGA gtx 970
I just bought an EVGA gtx 970 sc and while it’s a fantastic card, mine whines like a b****. My older 280x that it replaced whines only when it hits 150+ fps at 99% load but this one does it at low usage. Im a casual gamer and i play with vsync enabled so its weird that its whining like this. Not only does it whine but the crackling noise associated with it is the major annoyance. So anyway, anything above 30% usage and vsync shouldnt do this. Its ubsurd.
My MARS 760 died on me and I
My MARS 760 died on me and I had an in-store warranty from my local computer store. They couldn’t get me another MARS so they gave me an EVGA 970 SC, took it home right away and gave it a whirl. I’ve never heard so much coil whine from a GPU before, I thought a wire had fallen into the fan.
So I called them up and they exchanged it for another one. Same thing. They replaced it again with an ASUS STRIX 970 and SAME THING except this one whined when moving the mouse around on the desktop too. That’s three 970s with a ridiculous amount of electrical noise. I’ll be taking the STRIX back too, hopefully the next one will be good.
Before anyone jumps on the rest of the hardware, ROG Z97 IMPACT.. brand new. The MARS was silent and I borrowed a STRIX 960 just to check, no noise. So it’s the 970s.
I just finished building a
I just finished building a new computer, and one of the components is a Gigabyte G1 GTX 970. A few hours after everything was up and running, I started hearing infrequent, ‘whining’ noises coming from my computer. The occurance does not seem related to heavy load or high frame rate, as it occurs even when idling on the desktop and with Vsync switched on.
Eh yo! Yeh! You know what I
Eh yo! Yeh! You know what I am sayin yo? It’s because I did not sale them yo! Only I can get the good ones since I party with the owner of Nvidia yo! They just sale you all crap because you are not me yo!
I own EVGA gtx 970 with this
I own EVGA gtx 970 with this “strange” coil buzzing at very intensive gaming (Battlefield 3 Max details 1440p) and im glad that you resolved the problem. My coil “whine” starts with single “cracks” and then these cracks happen more and more often. In fat my GFX starts to sound like sawmill. gonna see the coils put some glue
maybe replace these coils with high quality ones (got some electronics engineering skills). I’m just dissapointed that EVGA put low quality elements into their graphisc cards. Also heard that EVGA low-end 970’s have 4+2 phases instead of 6+2(any other manufacturer)
i dont hear any coil whines,
i dont hear any coil whines, all i hear is pc nerds whines in this thread
Instead of using glue on the
Instead of using glue on the coil put some in your ears. Hope this helps.
I hope you never have a
I hope you never have a problem. Then you see a post like yours, not nice.
Board partners knew the coils
Board partners knew the coils produced audible harmonics.
They can`t expect their customers after paying half a G note or more for high framerate cards to accept a framerate cap to quiet poorly insulated inductors. Maybe finally they will address the issue and modify the components. If so, their next card advertised with high framerates could also claim now with “Quiet Coils” along with their pretty fan shrouds.
and which board partner do
and which board partner do you work for?
Sorry for the delay and great to see the old post.
Good to see you still here.
I’m retired..may I ask what you think of the content?
I have loud Coil Whine. I
I have loud Coil Whine. I have replaced one EVGA 970. The Replacement has the same problem. It drives my Dog crazy. It is very loud. I am thinking about contacting EVA Support again. I even replace my Power Supply and still the same problem.
I don’t have a 970, but my
I don’t have a 970, but my recent “EVGA GTX 960 4GB FTW GAMING w/ACX 2.0+” has an annoying coil whine. At first, I thought it was an old CPU cooler and an old fan, but it didn’t get any better after I replaced them.
I have Asus GTX 970 turbo. It
I have Asus GTX 970 turbo. It is fast but its noise drives me crazy even if I set it on Silence mode. I can not focus my mind on anything after I turn on my PC. My goodness. It is a defeat of the fan. The bad air flow design of the fan makes it noisy.