Active sound design (ASD) is a technology used to alter the acoustic characteristics of a vehicle.
It combines noise-cancellation techniques with acoustic modifications to create new vehicle sounds. For example, in some cars, the ASD system can create fake sounds that mimic growling engine noises.
If your interest in Active Sound Design technology has peaked, then you’ll have fun reading this article.
Here, we discuss the several variations of Active Sound Design and highlight the models using them.
Why Do Cars Use Active Sound Design?
Many automakers have turned to Active Sound Design in response to feedback from buyers.
Some buyers, especially those driving performance models, have preferences for loud, growling engines.
Specifically, they want cars that make gusty engine noises like the V8 muscle cars of old.
However, strict emission laws have made it impossible for automakers to create loud engines.
With ASD, automakers can feed artificial noises into vehicle cabins to create desired sounds, e.g., engine growling. The technology allows them to pass emissions requirements while satisfying buyer needs.
Ford’s brand of Active Sound Design is called “Active Noise Control.” As with most automakers, Ford doesn’t explicitly state that the ANC system generates simulated engine noises.
Instead, it says the ANC technology emits certain sounds to eliminate unwanted noises, much like how noise-canceling headphones work.
The ANC system plays out white noise through the vehicle’s speakers to silence in-cabin noises.
However, the ANC system serves a hidden purpose, which is to enhance engine acoustics. As it tunes out road noise, it produces artificial sounds to increase the aggressiveness of engine notes.
Ford uses the Active Noise Control system mostly on models that have high-performance attributes. This includes the bestselling full-size truck model, the F-150, and the Mustang sports car models.
BMW is more upfront about its use of Active Sound Design and has confirmed ASD in its models.
The company’s Active Sound Design system plays out recorded engine sounds through the car’s speakers during drives.
The sound delivery synchronizes with changes in engine speed, so drivers will hardly notice anything.
The Active Sound Design in BMW models produces a rumbling noise that can make your tame V4 engine sounds like a beastly V6 engine.
Also, by accentuating engine noise, BMW’s ASD helps you know when to change gears.
From what we can tell, BMW uses the ASD system on performance-focused models like the i8 hybrid sports car and the M Series.
Active Sound Design is also present on the BMW X3 M40i, X4 M40i, and X6 50i SUV models.
Volkswagen was among the earliest adopters of Active Sound Design technology, naming its ASD system the “Soundkator.”
The Soundkator is a black disk placed at the windshield base to vibrate the glass and generate artificial noises to enhance the engine sound.
Before using the Soundkator, VW installed resonant pipes in the engine compartment of some vehicles to feed real engine noise into the cabin.
However, it decided using the Soundkator was good enough and has continued to use it on other models.
The first VW model to use the Soundkator to simulate engine noise was the Golf/GTI in 2011. Other VW models that have used the Soundkator since then include the Jetta/GLI and Beetle Turbo models.
VW has also installed the Soundkator technology on models belonging to its subsidiaries. These include:
- Skoda Octavia vRs
- Audi S5, A5, and RS5 coupes
- Audi S4 sedan
- Audi TT and TTS sports cars
- Audi RS5 Sportsback
Some diesel-powered VW models also feature an “exhaust soundkator.” The technology places extra speakers in the vehicle’s exhaust system to create a low-pitched, throaty sound.
The reason is so that the car sounds like a gasoline-powered model instead of a diesel-powered one.
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German automaker Porsche is another car brand that uses Active Sound Design to boost engine noise.
Unlike automakers previously mentioned, Porsche uses a more natural form of ASD to deliver throatier engine noises.
Instead of playing fake sounds, Porsche uses a Sound Symposer system to “amplify” engine noise. The Sound Symposer is made up of a tube housing a valve and diaphragm.
During drives, the valve will open, and the diaphragm will pick up noise and vibration from the engine and channel them into the cabin.
The Sound Symposer system is present on Porsche models, including the 991 sports car and the Panamera sedan.
It only activates when you press the Sport Mode button; this opens the valve and spurs the diaphragm into work.
Among other things, Porsche’s sound design technology enlivens the driving experience, especially for performance enthusiasts. It also helps drivers correct engine speed at different points.
Porsche models using the Sound Symposer include:
- Porsche 911 Boxster/Cayman
- Porsche Cayenne
- Porsche Macan
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Acura, Honda’s subsidiary, has been using Active Sound Design technology in its models for a while now. However, its brand of ASD is a bit more complicated than those in other vehicles.
From our research, the Acura ASD system comprises both Active Noise Cancelation and Active Sound Control systems.
The ANC technology tunes out road-noise, using speakers to create a “reverse audio signal” that cancels out the original road noise.
On its part, the ASC technology modulates the engine’s sound pressure level to enhance your vehicle’s engine note while driving.
The ASC/ANC combo-system works differently in Acura models. In particular models, the system can boost engine noise by up to four decibels.
The Active Sound Control feature is available on the following models:
- Acura MDX
- Acura ILX
- Acura TLX
- Acura RLX
Kia is among carmakers to adopt the use of Active Sound Design technology in its cars. It calls its own variation “Active Sound System.”
First used on the Kia Fastback sedan, the Active Sound System uses smart engineering to tune up the engine noise that filters into the cabin.
The Active Sound System works in tandem with the vehicle’s drive modes. So, drivers can switch through different modes to reduce or increase the engine note’s aggressiveness.
According to Kia, the engine’s turbochargers are pathways for transmitting sound.
More turbochargers in a machine create a consistent flow of sound that results in a powerful growl heard through the exhaust.
Some Kia models like the Stinger GT Federation use K&N cold-air intake and a low-restriction Borla exhaust.
The reason is to allow the Stinger system to breathe freely, increasing the exhaust noise of the car.
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Unlike its parent brand Toyota, Lexus uses Active Sound Design technology to create a pleasant driving experience for its performance vehicles.
For example, the LFA supercar produces a recognizable soundtrack when revved up.
The LFA supercar’s ear-pleasing engine sound is the work of features designed to enhance its acoustics.
There’s the acoustically tuned exhaust intended to emit a sound similar to that of an F1 racecar.
Then you have the sound channels that pipe intake and exhaust noise into the vehicle.
Lexus has put the sound design techniques to use on other models asides from the LFA supercar.
For example, the IS 250 F Sport uses an Intake Sound Creator to create a throatier engine sound.
Similar to the LFA system, the Sound Intake Creator utilizes a damper to amplify natural intake noises and transmit it to the vehicle cabin as a roaring sound.
The Lexus IS 300h uses a more digital form of sound design technology called Active Sound Control.
The ASC system generates sound from an audio feed to complement the engine note.
The ASC plays the audio feed via a loudspeaker placed behind the dashboard. You can choose to lower or increase the audio feed volume by turning the dial on the lower console.