A Good Fan is Hard to Find

Not every piece of gear needs to relate directly to the signal chain. There are all kinds of objects that will make a big difference for the quality of a show. A comfortable, non-squeaky chair. A soft coaster so you don't make a loud "CLUNK" when you put your drink down. Or, a fan.

I live in Cincinnati. I like this city for several reasons, but the weather is not one of them. One could accurately say that it's pleasant here for a total of one month out of the year: two weeks in spring, and two weeks in fall. Other than that, we get the worst of each season. Our coldest winters will involve weeks at a time of ~15 degree weather, and in summer the temperature always hovers around 90 degrees.

It's those summers that kill. Sitting in a closed room with still air and the sun pounding through the window, you start to work up a sweat. It gets hard to concentrate sometimes. You can't really dress for that, unless you strip bare... which I prefer not to do.

Even if you're lucky enough to have central air conditioning, it's likely that the blower's cycling will be picked up in your recording. Window unit air conditioners are just plain noisy. In either case, the best you can do is blast the air until it's time to record and how that it stays chilly for the duration of your session.

Obviously fans are out of the question. They oscillate and rattle and they get of balance and start creaking. Or do they?

Earlier this year, the heat was out of control, so I endeavored to find the best possible fan for my needs. My search ended up being very short, because The Wirecutter exists. This site provides a very valuable service: they ask "what's the best X?", and then they rigorously test examples of X until they find the best X. They also have a sister site called The Sweet Home that helps you shop for home goods. I love these sites and I wholeheartedly recommend their reviews.

The Wirecutter's choice for the best fan is the Vornado 660 Whole Room Air Circulator. Their review goes into much more detail than I can, but I will explain exactly why it's perfect for me, and why I don't regret a single penny of the staggering $100 price tag.

First, foremost, and above all else, it's quiet. I've tried to get a recording of what it sounds like, and you can't do it. By the time you get the microphone close enough to it, you're hearing the "whoosh" of the passing air instead of the mechanics of the fan itself. It sounds like a ghost sighing. This means I can run it constantly while I'm recording and it will never show up on my track. That's a huge deal. This is, of course, on the fan's lowest setting, but even there, it...

It moves a ton of air. This is also key. There's something about the design of the blades that means it doesn't have to spin very fast in order to circulate the air around you (which is how fans work). The Vornado 660 on its lowest setting cools me off more effectively than my old fan running at its highest (an loudest!) setting. This is surprising, since...

It's very, very small. The diameter of the unit is around 13". By comparison, it has roughly the same footprint as a banker's box. This means it will work in a variety of rooms, big and small.

If this sounds like a sales pitch, I assure you that I am not accepting money from the Vornado corporation. I just happen to think this fan was one of my best buying decisions in a long time. $99 is a lot of money for a fan, but amortized over hundreds of hours of recording and editing, it's more than paid for itself in terms of quality of life. The side perk is that I run my AC less, so my power bills wind up being lower too.

I realize it's absurd that I'm writing this in the dead of winter. Instead of admitting that this is poor timing, look at it this way: I'm giving you plenty of time to save up for this baby before the heat rolls in this summer.