There’s a sound design that I find extremely interesting: Car Sound Design.
It is a branch of sound design of which little is spoken and generally, when we think of sound design we do it within the framework of audiovisual, sound works, video games, audio branding, etc.
Sound Design for vehicles is a very specific branch, which has its years of development and is becoming increasingly important because the user is communicating with the vehicle in various ways and the vehicle in turn responds through sound.
In most cases the work of these designers is very particular. First of all there is no car when you start the project, even many times there is not even a model of it yet!
There is an idea of what you want to sell, that is, a luxury car that has the following characteristics and the idea of how those characteristics sound, which will make that model of car unique.
Projects usually take three to five years to begin seeing some results, which is when you can start recording sounds from the car in progress. Six to seven years until you reach the final stage where the car can be fully tested.
In most cases, designers don’t have any tools other than those developed for previous models, they develop both the software and the audio hardware that will go into the car and all this has to be made to fit into the design.
Why Design the Sound of a Car?
More and more objects interact with us through sound, but the car has always been one of the objects that has most developed our sense of hearing to alert us.
Cars have always made a lot of sounds that say things, or when suddenly they don’t make any noise or make strange sounds, they always alert us to some problem.
I don’t have a car, but I come from a family where vehicles are important things. My father constantly dismantled and reassembled his Jeep. I remember the sounds of the engine, the windshield wiper, or the time we went to a friendly mechanic to listen to the engine with a stethoscope.
The sound of a car engine is perhaps one of the most attractive parts, but there are also other aspects of the car, which when they have sound give it identity.
The automotive industry has strongly emphasized the silent soundscape that one feels when being inside a car, with the exception of the sound of the «engine roar».
But for a few years now that silent soundscape has been populated by specifically designed sounds. Just like the engine, every other part of a modern car has its own carefully designed and adjusted sound. It’s not enough that the vehicle works well, it must sound like it’s working. Sound is part of the user experience, and it’s also a critical part of its interface.
El trabajo de diseño de sonido para un auto tiene distintas etapas. Por un lado un grupo de ingenieros se ocupa de grabar los sonidos “reales” que realiza el coche. Otro grupo los analiza y toma decisiones acerca de qué sonidos se deben cambiar, cuáles se deben silenciar, cuáles se deben realzar, etc.
One team deals exclusively with engine sound and another team with car accessories, windows, opening and closing doors, starting, sliding seats, levers, etc.
Some sounds are completely artificial, for example the click of the light to turn or the sound to recline the seat.
«Imagine a horror movie without sound, it would be boring! It’s the same for a car, you need the right soundtrack to maximise driving pleasure.Rainer Beer Diseñador de Sonido
What is interesting about the development of car sounds is that it not only focuses on sound design, but there is a great need to study the sounds of the vehicle itself and how they affect the user’s perceptions. A very loud car not only makes the driving experience stressful, it can also be a fatal distraction for the driver.
For this purpose, various tests and studies are carried out to find out how users will react.
Interestingly, one of the most analysed factors is the intensity of the various sounds the car makes, from the levers to open the doors to the volume control.
In an environment as small as a car, all sounds matter.
«The first thing the customer does with a car is open the door and that’s his first impression. That sound can sound expensive or cheap.»
Today, specific sounds are designed for almost everything, most objects we interact with respond to us with a sound. Stop thinking about your mobile phone, think about a microwave or washing machine door. There are sounds that we have so incorporated into our daily lives that they tell us very specific things and when we don’t listen to them we may react differently.
For example, as told in this video in which the woman explains that people in front of a particular model of washing machine, almost always forced the door until it broke, because the washing machine did not make enough sound when it was on.
Sound design encompasses a very large universe of possibilities.
Sound design is part of our daily lives.
Auhtor: Sol Rezza
Editor | Corrector: Franco Falistoco