The sounds of supercars gain millions of views on YouTube. But they’re often just filmed on an iPhone. That’s the in-built microphone on a £700 phone trying to capture the roar of a £100,000 car. Pretty easy to spot the weakest link in that chain. These recordings aren’t doing the cars justice.
We set out to do better.
We wanted to:
We began by speaking to car enthusiasts, including owners and members of supercar clubs. The idea sparked some excitement. And there was consensus that ? though some TV shows and magazines have taken supercars out for a drive to compare them ? a true comparison of the sounds with any level of accuracy and detail hadn't been done.
The enthusiasts consistently wanted to hear two cars in particular: the Ferrari 458 (v8) and an Aston Martin v8 or v12. We decided to compare a v8, v10 and v12.
The enthusiasts were torn on the third car. When it came to the v10, it was narrowed down to two cars ? the Lamborghini Huracan and the Audi R8, both of which use the same engine. The Audi seemed to generate more excitement, due to its relative-newcomer status to the supercar club.
The final shortlist: a Ferrari v8, an Audi v10, and an Aston v12.
The enthusiasts also didn’t just want to hear the cars dry revving, unlike some YouTube videos. They wanted to hear them in gear ? that’s what these cars were built to do. They wanted to hear them going up through the gears, and also capture some coughs and splutters as they come back down.
To get the best and most accurate recordings we could, we spoke to sound engineers in TV and film. However, even in films that feature cars, the sounds of the cars are often added afterwards from sound libraries.
A normal film crew would also struggle to capture the true sound of the car. There’s so much environmental noise. To get the true sound, you need specialist equipment and recording techniques.
We contacted Sounding Sweet, an independent recording company that specialises in the production of sound for video games. Most importantly, for our purposes, these folks had worked on Forza! So they know a thing or two about recording accurate, exciting car sounds.
Finding car owners who wanted to get involved was the easy part. People are quickly sold on spending a day bombing a car up and down a private airstrip.
But the sound engineers had one further request: they wanted the cars to have modified exhausts to really open up the sound of the engine. So their friends at QuickSilver Exhausts helped us source three cars which met our specifications.
We hired an airstrip for three days, and encouraged the owners of a Ferrari 458 (v8), an Audi R8 (v10) and an Aston Martin Rapide (v12) to come out for a play.
Whereas most of the popular YouTube videos are recorded on one microphone (on a phone), this operation required four microphones in the engine bay, four on the exhaust, and one inside the car.
Miking up each car took a couple of hours. The drivers were given specific instructions so that the drive ? and most importantly, the sounds ? were comparable across all cars. In between the odd wheelspin and doughnut, they mostly did as they were asked.
Despite having to leave the airstrip on several occasions to let planes take off or land, we had all the recordings we needed by sunset on day two.
Then it was back to the studio to get the sound files tidied up, aligned and balanced.
So what do they sound like?
How do these cars compare?
That’s for you to decide…