Unfortunately, my crashing problem came back with a vengeance upon putting my rig into a new case. Based on the fact that I was able to replace the "faulty" memory stick and run the benchmarks without crashing if I set my fan curve to Aggressive in Precision X16, I believe this issue is related to inadequate VRM cooling via the EVGA ACX 2.0 cooler. Due to the lack of a back plate, the Memory Chips appear to get extremely hot. While the cooler succeeds at cooling the GPU with lower fan speeds, it fails to keep the VRMs cool unless the cooler is running at extremely high speeds. Unfortunately, it appears that this issue is inherent with the design, since my RMA did not solve the issue. For now, I will keep my fan curve high (especially since my new Define R5 is amazing at noise isolation!) and hopefully in the future I can find a way to reduce temperatures AND noise. I'm considering using the Kraken G10 and a AIO cooler, but I am uncertain if that would help or hurt my overheating VRMs situation. If anyone has experience with this, please let me know. My other possible solution would be to get a full-cover water block for the card and go ahead and build a custom loop. So I guess for anyone who stumbles across this post, I have two questions remaining:
1. Does anyone know a good place to get an EVGA GTX 970 SC ACX 2.0 Waterblock? The design is different from Nvidia reference so it needs to be tailored to this specific design.
2. Does anyone know if the fan on the Kraken G10 is better than the ACX 2.0 cooler's fans at cooling down VRMs?