Coil whining is an annoying topic for many gamers and graphics enthusiasts. You spend a lot of money on an arrow-fast graphics card and then it whirs, buzzes and hums out of the system. We have therefore examined, tested and summarized the most common methods against coil whining of the graphics card.
What is coil whine and where does it come from?
Coil whine occurs in numerous electronic components. Sometimes audible, sometimes inaudible, sometimes massively disturbing and is not limited to GPUs. The issue is merely particularly popular and noticeable there. While a squeaking smartphone power supply is at most briefly annoying, a squeaking graphics card ruins gaming sessions.
To put it simply, coil whining occurs when the installed coils start to vibrate due to the currents flowing through them. Depending on the frequency, this can be heard as whirring, buzzing, buzzing or similar nasty noises. The volume ranges from a subliminal sound to a penetrating annoyance that is perceptible in the whole room.
The phenomenon is not new, but due to increasingly quieter systems, it is very noticeable. The times of roaring fan blowers on the graphics card are mostly over and tower coolers cool CPUs almost silently – not to mention water cooling systems. In addition, the demands on the electronic components of modern GPUs are immense. Keyword: high currents and fast switching/load changes. The topic received special attention when the GTX 970 was released and is still important for more current GPUs like the GeForce RTX 3080 and RTX 3090, as well as the Radeon RX 6000.
The crux of the matter is that you can hardly predict how the coils will behave on your desired GPU before you buy. Even within one model, there are fluctuations because the coils are subject to a certain tolerance and the rest of the components in the system also play a role. Experience reports from the big forums can give a rough orientation, but you are only sure when the graphics card is in your own system.
So what should you do if you have a screamer at home? There are several measures and tips that help against coil whining.
Is coil whining harmful or normal?
Coil whine sounds quite dramatic and unhealthy in some cases. However, coil whine is not harmful, but normal. To a certain extent, you will always find a beeping component in the PC.
Therefore, the warranty almost never applies in case of coil whining. Only in extreme cases and with an accommodating dealer/manufacturer can you hope for rectification. It is not a defect and thus not a warranty case.
Fix coil whine
The respective information about the coil whining is very subjective. All fans were deactivated to have a comparable impression.
Test another power supply
Besides the coils themselves, various factors contribute to the issue. One important component can be the power supply. A high-quality and sufficiently dimensioned power supply can slightly, sometimes even significantly, attenuate the buzzing. Especially the ripple value seems to be important here.
We could reproduce this effect on a GTX 1070 and an RX580. However, the beeping GTX 1060 did not show any improvement by swapping the power supply.
|Gainward GTX 1070 Phoenix GS||Sapphire RX580||EVGA GTX 1060|
|be quiet! Straight Power E9 500W||quiet audibleto|
|be quiet Dark Power 11 650W||very quiet audible||quiet audible||disturbing|
|Corsair SF450||quiet audible||disturbing||disturbing|
|Seasonic X-650 KM3||quiet audible||audible||disturbing|
Especially when using an entry-level or mid-range power supply, it might make sense to try a high-quality NT. Of course, it would be ideal if you can borrow it from a friend before ordering something unnecessarily. We can recommend the be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11* or the cheaper be quiet! Straight Power 11*.
Undervolting – miracle cure for coil whining
Reducing the voltage as a quasi-opposite to overclocking can be a wonder weapon against coil noise. Logically, if the coils are loaded less, they have less reason to complain. Besides, there is lower consumption, quieter fans and lower temperatures.
We won’t give concrete values at this point, as this varies from card to card. However, you can see that cards already become quieter with slight undervolting (e.g. -50mV). The 5700 XT proved to be bitchier, and we had to adjust over 100mV for the effect to occur.
1070 Phoenix GS
RX 5700 XT
|Standard||quiet audible||disturbing||clearly audible||disturbing|
|slight UV||soft audible||disturbing||audible||audible|
|moderate UV||inaudible||quiet audible||quiet audible||soft audible|
|strong UV||inaudible||inaudible||quiet audible||quiet audibleto inaudible|
The problem is that undervolting is a bit more complex. There is not THE one value. You have to approach a stable voltage step by step. So adjust, test, adjust etc. If necessary, it can make sense to lower the GPU by a few MHz if you can gain voltage with it. Luck in the chip lottery also plays a role here. It is also important to find the balance between fan noise and coil whine. If the temperature drops so much that the whining rises above the fan, you haven’t won anything – unless you deliberately let the fans spin faster.
There are several options for undervolting. The most popular is probably the MSI afterburner (CTRL+F), or Wattman directly from AMD for corresponding GPUs. The software of the graphics card manufacturers also partly enable undervolting.
Limit and stabilize FPS
Gamers strive for frames, the more the better. Unfortunately, especially high FPS numbers often cause a real screeching. This is especially noticeable in old games.
The coils are driven more often, the graphics card draws more juice from the can to render the frames. While GPUs do have coil noise even at a few FPS, it generally gets louder above ~100 fps.
|Gainward GTX 1070 Phoenix GS||MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT||Sapphire RX580||EVGA GTX 1060|
|60 fps||inaudible||quiet audible||quiet audible||clearly audible|
|120 fps||quiet audible||audibleto|
So it does ears (and power bill) good to reduce the FPS to the screen’s refresh rate. Lucky for those who rely on a 60 Hz screen. But it can also bring advantages for the 120/144 Hz gamers. Fluctuating FPS quite often leads to a fluctuating noise that seems more present than a constant one. In the case of our 1060, you can follow the FPS progression based on the noise, an acoustic roller coaster
To limit the FPS, you can use the VSync option (preferably adaptive) or an FPS limiter if you are not comfortable with VSync. AMD users have it easier here thanks to the driver option, whereas NVidia users have to help themselves with tools. Afterburner, for example, also offers an option via RTSS. Similar to undervolting, the power consumption can be reduced if only as many frames as necessary are calculated. However, this tip reaches its limits when the GPU already reaches its limit below the frame limit or already shows coil whining clearly at 60 fps and less.
Silent case and insulation
If you can’t eliminate the source of the noise, you have to shield it. Therefore, this tip can also be used for coil whistling of other PC hardware. For example, if the mainboard, or the power supply have coil whine.
Even though airflow cases are currently popular and silent cases are known as saunas, open airflow cases don’t stand a chance when it comes to electronic or mechanical noise and silent cases reveal their strengths.
A closed lid and/or a closed front can mitigate a lot of the direct sound. What is noticeable and how depends on the placement (on or under the desk), but also on the type of noise. High noises can be filtered well with thick damping material.
|Gainward GTX 1070 Phoenix GS||EVGA GTX 1060|
|Lid + front open||quiet audible||disturbing|
|Lid open front closed||quiet(r) audible||disturbing|
|Lid + front closed||inaudible||audible|
In compensation, the fans have to run a bit faster to stay at the same temperatures, but their noise is generally more tolerable than the annoying whirring and whirring. Alternatively, one accepts a few degrees more.
Insulate PC housing
Using out-of-fashion dampening mats* or thicker acoustic foam*on the lid, front and side can further reduce high frequencies and coil vibrations. Not necessarily practical in times of glass sides.
You cannot completely silence loud cards with this, but it is much more pleasant. In the case of the GTX 1060, we could play without a headset again.
Burn-in against coil whining – just a myth?
There are numerous reports that a so-called burn-in is supposed to improve or even solve the coil whining. The graphics card is massively loaded over hours, e.g. with Furmark or another benchmark in a continuous loop.
We can NOT confirm this. Although the whining becomes less during the “burn-in”, the effect is not permanent. This is also quite easy to explain: Heated coils tend to whine less than cool coils (that’s why users of a water cooling system have to deal with coil whining twice, so to speak). A short time after the burn-in, the noise is back to normal and you have only helped the power supplier.
We cannot exclude that there can be successes with it. Overall, however, we do not consider this tip to be promising.
Complaint or revocation
Since coil beeping is in the nature of things and not a defect, it is generally not a reason for complaint. Depending on the retailer or manufacturer, too loud coil beeping can be complained about, but this is also dependent on goodwill.
Since coil noise tends to get worse rather than better over time, you should consider returning the card within the cancellation period immediately after purchase. However, this only makes sense if the card is really annoyingly loud, because the next copy could be worse, better or identical. Countless ordering and cherry-picking is also not in the spirit of the FAG, so this should be seen as a last resort.
Coil whine from the motherboard
The mainboard can also cause coil whining in connection with the CPU in the area of the voltage converter. This is also the case with the ASUS ROG Strix Z590-E that we tested.
Experiments with the CPU voltage can also help here. An unattractive, but effective solution can also be to disable the CPU’s power-saving mechanisms. To do so, deactivate the options C1E or EIST in the BIOS/UEFI. However, the idle consumption increases as a result.
Coil whining is and remains an annoying thing that you have to live with – more or less! Because even if it can hardly be completely avoided, one isn’t completely powerless and can at least contain it. With a combination of the presented measures, it is possible to tame a graphics card and the rest of the hardware to such an extent that you can use it in a relaxed way – without involuntary tinnitus simulation. It is promising to attack the problem at the root and to relieve the coils via undervolting and FPS limiting!
Whether and which tips help against coil whining depends on the individual case, but it’s worth trying.
We will gladly accept results and further tips and tricks against coil whining in our forum!