I know what 55% fan sounds like on the AMD reference cooler. To me it is way too loud - and it WILL be too loud to anyone accustomed to a Kepler GTX 780 shroud. Some may find that acceptable, I find the noise at 55% to be obnoxious. That's a pretty freaking terrible compromise for proper performance, it's easily louder than the GTX 480 was at 55% fan speed. And the GTX 480 was also a hot and loud POS.
I found the noise of the GTX 480 to be unacceptable, just as I find the noise/heat of the 290 unacceptable. The problem with the 290X is, you're FORCED to run dust buster fan speeds for proper performance - if you lower it for "quiet" acoustics, bam, you lose 20-25% performance. How can you call this acceptable? FYI, I always ran by 7970s at 40% fan speed or less, and it was quiet even while overclocked.
There are no free passes here. I criticized the GTX 480 for the EXACT same reasons. But, at least the 480 performed consistently. All i'm asking for, is you AMD fans need to petition AMD to update their reference design so that this is a non issue. I mean, why are we talking about this exactly? AMD failed you the consumer for putting a sub par cooler on the 290 series of cards. They could have done better because the Hawaii chip itself is amazing - it is ruined by powertune and poor cooling, however. Get AMD to fix this situation like nvidia fixed the GTX 480 with the 580. AMD can turn this around with an update to their reference design, then we won't need to discuss this crap - like I said , nvidia fixed the problems with the GTX 480 with the excellent and outstanding GTX 580. AMD can easily do the same. Right now, though, the 290/290X are not desirable products at all from my point of view.