Whether you love or hate Auto-Tune, it makes a lot of recording artists sound better than they might otherwise (cue Britney Spears). Along a similar vein, engine sound symposers are helping today’s more efficient and noise-isolated engines sound like the gas guzzling, testosterone-infused motors of yesteryear. There are different methods used by automakers to accomplish this task — here are some examples.
A unique and pleasurable aural experience has been as an important quality to Porsche vehicles as any other design characteristic since the 911 was first introduced. Today’s models, however, are bigger, safer and better built overall, and need a little bit of a helping hand in the sound department. To ensure drivers gets the full effect of rising rpms while sitting behind the wheel, Porsche uses an “acoustic channel,” that essentially amplifies the vibrations coming from the air intake chamber and transmits them to the interior. This function is activated by pressing the sport button on the centre console that opens up a valve inside the channel.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
Many owners of earlier generations of Veedubs fondly recall the small amount of separation between the cockpit and motor, resulting in every gear change and throttle input being highly audible. In an attempt to replicate this, VW introduced “Soundaktor,” or sound actuator, which is a speaker fitted on the firewall in front of the cabin to broadcast whatever is happening in the engine during a drive. This feature debuted on the Mk6 platform and can be found on other Volkswagen offerings including the Jetta GLI and Beetle Turbo.
Called Active Sound Design, BMW’s sound symposer system takes a more a technological approach. On the M5, the stereo and engine management computer are linked so when the large sports sedan accelerates, the speakers play back a simulated engine noise matching the current rpm and speed level. Turning on Sport and Sport+ modes also initiates an increase in sound as you would traditionally expect. BMW has carried Active Sound Design over to other performance-oriented lines like the M3 and M4, causing some dissent among car enthusiasts.
Ford Focus ST
Turbocharging is a modern automotive marvel, allowing big power to be generated from a small package. Depending on how you look at it, the downfall of the efficient turbine-driven setup is a muffled voice from the engine, emitting only a faint whistle rather than a loud growl. This isn’t a problem in the EcoBoost-equipped Focus ST, because Ford engineers have come up with a box that takes desirable sound frequencies straight from the air intake and funnels them into the passenger compartment. A flap inside the box moves under hard acceleration so that sound waves can enter and make their way to people’s ears. At normal cruising speeds, no one is the wiser.
To convey the perfect driving soundtrack, Lexus joined forces with Yamaha — known for producing everything from motorcycles to pianos — to create the 10-cylinder engine for the LFA.
When playing a musical instrument, performers hear the delicate changes in volume, tone, and nuances that they produce themselves. Hearing these subtle changes allows performers to make instant revisions as they play the instrument,” reads a description on the Japanese conglomerate’s website.
“Feedback is equally important when driving an automobile. In this case, feedback refers to how the vehicle responds to the driver’s actions. In a super sports car like the Lexus LFA, providing a high-grade engine sound that changes with even a delicate operation by the driver can contribute directly to the enjoyment of driving.”
No electronic sound processing is used — rather, factors like cylinder firing interval, component thickness and gaps between the engine firewall and cabin were all taken into account during the design.