Emar Vegt composes the click of a BMW’s door and tunes its engine as if it were a song

Wired, March 2013

Not everybody wonders what a BMW sounds like. But it’s a question that occupies Emar Vegt, an aural designer at the company’s head office in Munich, where he designs the sounds that each of the models makes — from the roar of the engine to the click of the indicators. “Sound is an enormous part of branding,” says Vegt, 28. “A Mini, for example, is playful and joyful and the sound of the car has to reflect that, so we modulate the exhaust to give a sporty, impulsive sound. By contrast, a 7 Series has to be very quiet. The driver wants to be in his own zone, so there is lots of damping and insulation.”

Vegt trained in industrial design but is also a musician and he sees each of the models as an instrument. “The source of the sound initially is the explosions in the cylinders, but there are also sounds caused by the gears and differential, and the tyres on the road, and air passing over the mirrors. All of this we can influence.” Vegt works with a car’s designers, adjusting the shape and length of the exhaust, adding baffles or cavities in the bodywork and adjusting how the door sounds in a showroom. “The sound of the door closing is a remarkable aspect of the buying decision,” he says. “It gives people reassurance if the door feels solid and safe.” Inside the car are other considerations. “Warning sounds need a particular aesthetic,” he says. The noise that tells the driver to put on their seat belt can’t be too pleasant as “people will listen to it like a symphony.” But neither can they be too annoying — people find ways of shutting them off. And electric cars are a challenge. “Sounds tells people that a car is there, which is really important for blind people.”