Audi's E-Tron GT engineers synthesize soul for a more emotional EV

Can 'artificial' sound still feel organic? Audi thinks so

Audi has once again teased the upcoming E-Tron GT with a tech talk focused on concocting the new electric car's unique thrum. Autoblog sat in on a remote session with Audi's engineers, who explained just how they went about doing it. 

Sound has become a complex, multi-layered component of vehicle design. While a good exhaust tone has always been as much a science as it is an art, today's complex powertrains demand a lot of the engineers tasked with both eliminating unwanted noise and augmenting — or even creating — pleasant tones. 

That task becomes even more daunting for those working on an all-electric car, which is inherently quiet. In fact, without help, an electric car would probably produce no pleasant sounds at all, but rather be a victim to intrusive ones, such as wind or tire noise. This is not so much a problem when sitting idle, but underway, this can prove challenging. 

Audi's engineers wanted to create a sound for the E-Tron GT that felt both organic and futuristic. The hope was that the final product would suit the E-Tron GT's mission of being a high-performance electric ambassador for the Audi brand without overshooting too much, in Audi's words. 

"In principle, the sound of a car has much in common with music,” said Audi's Rudolf Halbmeir. "To find the basis for the sound of the E-Tron GT, I tried all sorts of instruments – from the violin to the electric guitar all the way to the didgeridoo, a wind instrument from Australia. But none of them were really suitable. Then I came across a piece of plastic pipe lying in the garden, it was 3 meters (9.8 ft) long and had a cross-section of 80 millimeters (3.1 in). I attached a fan at one end and listened to the sound coming out the other end. It was a very specific, deep growl – and I knew straight away that I had discovered the foundation of the sound."

That was just the beginning. The final tone comprises 32 individual sound elements that come together to form a distinct, vaguely sci-fi tone that befits a sporty EV. Audi's team worked separately from (though concurrently with, the engineers said) Porsche's Taycan engineers, and while both teams utilized similar processes, the end results have nothing in common. 

For more on what went into developing the Audi E-Tron GT's telltale sound, check out the full video up top, which features detailed commentary from Audi's Stephan Gsell. 

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