New Electric BMW Gets ‘Soundtrack’ By Hans Zimmer

Composer Hans Zimmer’s latest soundtrack isn’t for a movie – but for your experience driving a car.

BMW has announced a collaboration with composer Hans Zimmer to create the sound of their electrified BMW M cars.

Electric cars are essentially silent, compared to traditional cars, so automakers are turning to composers and sound designers to create both the sound of the car and operating alert sounds. We recently featured an interview with Richard Devine on his work creating the sounds of the Jaguar I-Pace.

Zimmer and Renzo Vitale, Creative Director Sound at the BMW Group worked to create a distinctive driving sound for electric M cars. Driving sounds for electric cars serve a dual purpose: to alert pedestrians, especially the blind, to a car’s approach; and to convey things like power and speed to the driver.

“Every BMW has its own character, which is reflected in the sound it makes,” says Zimmer. “So for the electrically driven BMW M models, we have developed a driving sound which accentuates their emotional driving experience particularly vividly and ensures their performance can be felt with even greater intensity.”

“When you press the pedal of an M car, you suddenly get goosebumps all over your body,” says Vitale. “We translated this feeling into a drive sound that expresses a fusion of superior power and flowing energy.”

Another unique aspect of sound design for electric cars is that manufacturers can allow drivers some control over their car’s sound. With the upcoming BMW i4 M50, the driving sound is dynamic, based on both the driving situation at hand and the driver’s personal preferences. When in Comfort mode, the sound creates a pleasant atmosphere inside the car. In SPORT, the sound delivered is more powerful and dominant. In ECO PRO mode, the acoustic feedback reduced to nothing.

44 thoughts on “New Electric BMW Gets ‘Soundtrack’ By Hans Zimmer

  1. I would prefer if this “added car noise” could be customized by the car’s owner and even be turned off completely but I doubt that will be an option. ?

    1. “Another unique aspect of sound design for electric cars is that manufacturers can allow drivers some control over their car’s sound. With the upcoming BMW i4 M50, the driving sound is dynamic, based on both the driving situation at hand and the driver’s personal preferences. When in Comfort mode, the sound creates a pleasant atmosphere inside the car. In SPORT, the sound delivered is more powerful and dominant. In ECO PRO mode, the acoustic feedback reduced to nothing.”

      I’d love it if this was open hardware, so you could load your own custom sounds, like you can customize the sounds on your phone or computer.

      I wonder if car sounds have to pass some government regulations or something. I can see how it could be annoying or even dangerous if electric cars were too quiet or too loud.

      1. I’d love it if this was open hardware, so you could load your own custom sounds, like you can customize the sounds on your phone or computer.

        That’s a great idea in theory, but can you imagine what some people would do!!!!! It’s bad enough with the kids with their hot hatchbacks with massive exhausts…

      1. I did read it, where did it say that all sounds could be completely turned off? Maybe you need to reread my post?

  2. Whatever! Any warm body with a $10 soft synth should be able to come up with something half-way decent, so I’m sure HZ will deliver…lol. I actually used to think very highly of Hans Zimmer and as a young lad in Germany dreamed about an internship at Media Ventures. But ironically, the very same person who’d inspired me to move to America to try to pursue film scoring, also inspired me to not (…more or less). True story: I had moved from Germany to California and was in L.A. back in ’06 or ’07 at the Skirball Center in LA at a Film Composer conference as a young, bright-eyed composer trying to break into the industry. Hans Zimmer was scheduled that evening to be on stage for an interview and the setting was pretty casual, so when he walked in, I thought me being from Germany, I’d just walk up to him to shake his hand and say “Guten Tag, Herr Zimmer!”. Him and his posse sat at a fairly large table right in front of the stage (I think it was his wife was there with him among some other people). As soon as I approached the table, this HUGE gorilla dude who was sitting at the table with HZ (who must have been his bodyguard) immediately intercepted me like a secret service agent protecting the POTUS would do – basically indicating to me that Mr. Zimmer was off limits for us unknown film composer wanna-be scumbags. WTF…this was the most ridiculous thing, given that on the same day at that conference I had the pleasure to meet and goof around with DEVO frontman turned film composer, Mark Mothersbaugh, Michael Levine, Sharon Farber, and other super-talented film music composers who where all super-kind, humble, approachable and funny. Who the hell does he think he is and what was he so scared of? Too weird… Anyways, after the”HZ bodyguard interception”, and for the rest of the entire evening, his bodyguard kept starring me down and grilling me which made me super uncomfortable (probably thought I was going to attack him or something…hahaha). What a doofus! From that point on, I stopped caring about Zimmer or anything related to him. Way to go, buddy! Sorry for the rant, but when I saw HZ in the headline of this article I couldn’t help but o share my experience with HZ…

  3. Oh Dear not Hanz Zimmer again.
    Doesn’t HZ have the shame the decency to say
    “look here are some non famous even unknown brilliant composers they need the income the exposure.
    I don’t need this. I’ve already made it. I’m mega famous.”

    1. Rumor has it the Z-man doesn’t even write most of the music for scores but farms it out to a stable of sub-famous drones and he just edits their work. This is how Chez Zimmer dominates and nearly monopolizes the film score industry. Disgusting how film studios want his name in the credits.

      1. Your comment is pretty ignorant to make. There’s no ‘rumor’ that Zimmer leads a team. Most film composers that work on major films lead a team. Do you think John Williams writes out the orchestral parts for his scores?

        When other composers contribute significantly to the compositions for a score, they get credited, like Wallfisch on the Blade Runner 2049 score.

  4. This is just silly, as an electric car owner, I’m glad Tesla did not take this idiotic path. I much prefer the electric whine that is naturally produced rather than a synthesised sound. This is marketing at its worst.

    1. > This is just silly, as an electric car owner,
      > I’m glad Tesla did not take this idiotic path.

      as a pedestrian and biker, you need to HEAR the car! otherwise you are dead in a nanosecond. so therefore, kudos to bmw and zimmer.

  5. Doesn’t surprise me as traditional gasoline powered performance cars, especially from BMW have been piping in synthetic engine sounds through their speakers. So many car enthusiast review sites complain about it and people have found ways to disable them. Love me some HZ but I agree with the side against fake sounds

  6. They could have saved a ton of money by instead licensing the Jetson’s car sound from Hannah-Barbera.

  7. So … the sound is a cluster of bams, booms, whooshes and braaams? What a particularly strange video with birds flying, piano hammers etc. all of which has nothing to do with the topic.

    1. I guess the sound is the idiotic whining that sounds like a morphed explosion engine at the end.
      Igitt. BMW was soll der Quatsch?
      Oh we have no imagination so we chose this.
      If it says sounddesign by Hans Zimmer doesn’t make it any better.

      1. And the language that this mr. Vitale uses makes me want to crawl under the seat, superior power (from Germany) aaaaaargh. You know you are working for a German company, right?
        What the hell are these guys thinking?

  8. Forget that give me the tools so I can make my own sounds!
    I want something new and unusual, not a canned stock theory from BLANK, I have nothing good to say!

    The only stock sound I want is when I brake a 808 kick detuned yes BOOOOOM! And sounding track based on how hard I push the brake pedal. Now that will give me real goose bumps.

    Hey BMW release the tools so we can make out own sound.
    My car My sound©

  9. so i live in a rich area and every evening after 5pm a seemling endless parade of subsidised electric cars whir by my home office, most with a different buzzing sound … it’s somehow cool and sounds like the future, but for some of the models i’m pretty sure the sound designers are just taking the piss of everybody involved, like in this video.

    1. Right, lets get something straight you seem to need the education. Electric car companies and their cars are not subsidised! Perhaps you have them confused with oil companies that have had their “exploration” and “refinement” subsidised by tax payers through actual subsidies and tax breaks for decades!

      Tesla paid back its loan grant two years early.
      GM, Ford, and Stellantis received tax credits for embracing the future. A nominal benefit considering the jobs and industry they have created by transitioning to electrification.

      I hope that clears up your…..confusion.

      1. This may come as a shock to you but: there is more than one country. and more electric car manufacturers than those you mention. crazy, i know. there’s for example this place called Europe and countries like France or Japan that make electric cars as well. and i know that those are subsidised because some insufferable electric car owners i know won’t shut up about how it’s my taxes that paid their car…

        i hope this opens up a whole new world for you (btw. those countries also make synthesizers, if ever).

        1. Well, then let me educate you further, as I reside in Norway part of the year and U.K. Furthermore Japan has dragged its feet in electrification, Nissan being the lone manufacturer to have a credible electrification plan. Toyota and by extension its luxury arm, Lexus have only recently committed to electrification. They are not subsidised by the government.

          France has a government tax benefit for manufacturers to produce electrification, that is not a direct subsidy. The French PSA Group and Renault have a robust electrification roadmap, yet again, they are not subsidised.

          Europe, well VW (Audi, Porsche, Skoda, and Seat) will all share a unified electric platform. Subsidised? No!
          BMW, Mercedes, and Volvo which is now owned by the Chinese conglomerate Geely, all have electrification well under way, with BMW lagging sharply behind the competition. Subsidised? No!

          Land Rover and Jaguar will soon have electrified vehicles, with Jaguar to become electric only car maker by 2035. Subsidised? No!

          China, the brands are too numerous to name, from Geely to NIO, yet they have the most complete and aggressive electrification plan of any government working closely in concert with their manufacturers. Subsidised? Yes, through government grants, R&D assistance and partnerships with major Chinese Universities, and “allowances” that will ease certain regulatory restrictions provided they meet certain metrics.

    1. Noise imperialism?? You’re not making sense. In a moment, you’ll be rambling about the virtues of auditory socialism.

  10. This is silly…and so very BMW. Maybe some day we’ll stop being so focused on ourselves and start focusing on doing a better job with our planet and the other people on it. Goodness.

    1. Exactly. I had to stop the video after only a few seconds of that hysteria.

      I think some tone is at least neccesary in the city to alarm close-by cyclists and pedestrians.
      Personally I hope they keep it stylefull/minimal. But i guess they will be like ringtones. Newest coolest wins, the rest must think of upgrading 😀

  11. Once I can program my own sounds in it, I’m going to get a bad name with some neighbors and a very good one with others.

    ZimmerKilled, don’t feel too bad. The pros are often on a dead-run schedule or just having a day where the flu is creeping up on them. Frank Zappa always had one of those major bodyguards after an asshole knocked him off the stage at a show. HZ is pretty genial overall. You shouldn’t appear at trade shows, etc. and not be ready to gab, but some backstories show you why people would be nervous.

    1. S-Trigger Dave, yes, you’re right. I shouldn’t judge. He might have had a similar encounter as Zappa for all I know. It was just a little disappointing to say the least, especially since the whole incident took place maybe 3 feet away from HZ and he saw / looked at me / heard and witnessed the whole interaction when I told his body guard that I’m from Germany and just wanted to say “hi” to Mr. Zimmer. Oh well, bygones. Also, I may have exaggerated a bit when I said that that made me give up on the dream… I think I probably just wasnt’ good enough and/or didn’t perservere long enough. It’s a tough and uber-competitive business for sure.

      1. Not to pile on, but: when I read about HZ’s bodyguard, yeah, it immediately brought FZ’s experience to mind. I dunno if HZ ever had a similar experience, but I can see how just one bad event could sour a person on meeting one’s own fans.

        Sucks that you didn’t get to say hello to him, though. I mean, the guy is at a Film Composer event? He should have had something worked out where he can safely talk to people.

  12. BMW History!

    During World War II, the BMW workforce was made up of slave laborers provided by the Nazis. Some sources put the figures as high as 50,000 forced civilian laborers, prisoners of war and concentration camp workers.

    I am sure it has a built in LRAD Sonic Weapon!

    1. yup and so did siemens, who owned polygram/polydor (aka james brown’s whole catalog), and who through a host of acquisitions and mergers at some point owned many of the soul and funk labels (and song masters) that were popular sampling fodder throughout the 80’s and 90’s, before selling it all to the seagrams family heir in 1998.

  13. There has been sound designers working on car sounds for years. They were refining different car sounds such as the one a door does when you close it. Same for the engine. All of this to reenforce your feelings as an owner. And this is not just in car industry. Sound designers are even involved in the sound your cereals do when you pour milk on them. Now, with electric car, they are simply doing it with synths rather than via mechanical means.
    It was to be expected.

  14. Borderlands sighting at about 21s in! (it’s an awesome iOS sample-playing instrument).

    The video kinda sucked WRT what the heck it’s all about: are they talking about internal sounds or external sounds? Both?

    I looked into this stuff a couple of years ago when I bought a hybrid car – I was hoping I could load my own samples into the AVAS aka “Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System”. It’s not so simple: for one thing, in the USA the NHTSA has weighed in on the matter and produced a spec. Which may be undergoing constant revision (honestly I haven’t looked into it much recently), but it was a non-trivial document and I believe there’s some conflict between the people who wanna go wild with cool custom sounds versus people who think that for the sake of safety, all AVAS sounds should be substantially the same. I had dreams of people selling custom sound packages, being able to load a bunch onto my car and pick and choose between (say) “Cool Futuristic” and “Heavy Metal Grind” etc. But it’s probably not gonna happen (at least not legally)(although I find it tough to believe a cop would ticket you for ‘improper sound’)(it’s more likely something they’d nail you on during a Safety Inspection).

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