Hack BMW's Active Sound Design System to Sound like an M4 or Rolls-Royce Ghost

January 22, 2015
By Alexander Kalogianni - Digital Trends

The growing trend of pumping phony engine notes through a car’s stereo system is a much maligned feature that automakers have been using to satisfy the driver’s desire for that raw, audible experience without compromising the comfort sound baffling and insulation brings to the cabin. The intent is at leas noble, as far as recognizing enthusiasts want that sound, its just the execution that falls a little flat. Still, one driver made the best of his BMW’s Active Sound Design, thinking if his car is going to deliver a fake engine noise, why not upgrade it to an M4?

In the video, the driver demonstrates how his BMW m135i can sound just like the Bavarian automaker’s M4 sports car, at least on the inside. According to posters on a German forum, if the car is equipped with a Harman Kardon or Bang & Olufsen system, anyone with a savvy knowledge of coding can swap out the sound files in the BMW’s ECU.

Ok, so it’s not exactly easy, but relatively speaking, anyone who knows what they’re doing can have the sound of a Rolls-Royce V12 coursing through the interior of a 1 Series if they wanted.

If anything, it demonstrates the silliness of the Active Sound Design gimmick. Enthusiasts enjoy that guttural, mechanical sound of an engine for several reasons, not the least of which is that satisfying recognition that all these components are at work, creating very real and distinct sounds as they churn, and resonate and so on.

The fact that it’s a digital sound file also rubs people the wrong way. Ford’s Focus ST got a lot of stick for a “fake” engine noise, but that was in reality real engine noise piped into the cabin via a corrugated tube with a diaphragm in it, and I think many naysayers to the current trend would be far happier to at least have that.

If automakers insist on continuing with this trend, then they should go all the way and have fun with it, instead of trying to pass it off as “engine sound enhancement.” Instead of being disingenuous, they should do what Renault does in the Clio, which has a menu of fake engine sounds ranging from a motorcycle to a sci-fi concept car that sounds like the Jetsons family vehicle.

If anyone wants to give it a go, this thread at 2Addicts will point you in the right direction.