Sound Design for the Automotive World

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Synthesizers

While I haven’t programmed a synth patch in years, designing for the external world is something I’ve always been interested in. I started my journey of sound design on the venerable Commodore 64 and its mighty SID Chip. The MOS Technology 6581/8580  Sound Interface Device chip, better known as SID, was a 3-OP chip designed by Bob Yannes, co-founder of Ensoniq, and thrown into ‘80s era computers. It was my starting point with computer-controlled synthesizers, and it wasn’t my last.

The ‘90s were an amazing time for sound design. The internet was in its infancy with silly websites popping up to help trade tricks and tips around the idea of collective noise-making. And then sampling took over for a decade as the dominant sound design tool.

For those that missed the first time around, Nissan has brought in gaming designers for their new cars to move away from the jarring noises that engineers placed in them to something that is pleasant and comforting. (link)

Car warning sounds urging drivers to buckle up or turn off the headlights can be quite unpleasant to listen to. So Nissan teamed up with sound designers at Bandai Namco, the gaming company known for Pac-Man and Tekken, to replace those warning noises with something more musical.

That said, this isn’t the first or last time auto manufacturers have tried to make their engines to be more pleasant sounding. In 1994, Harley Davidson trademarked the sound of middle-aged men broken down on the highway.