During our time with the M5 at last week ‘s press launch, we came away impressed by the soundtrack of the new twin turbo V8 more than we expected. As you can hear above, it ‘s aggressive yet nuanced and always interesting. So it sounds great on the outside (as you can hear above). But of that noise, what really makes it inside the cabin? With all the required sound deadening and cocoon like quality of modern cars, it ‘s getting harder to actually hear the powerplant. And in something like an M5, that ‘s a crucial part of the experience. So BMW has introduced what they ‘re calling Active Sound to bring back some of that aural pleasure inside the cabin. We ‘re going to give you a very detailed view of the new M5 ‘s sound system and are thoughts on how successful it is in the coming days. But first we wanted to re-introduce you to the Active Sound concept from BMW.


Last year we previewed BMW ‘s Active Sound system as a prototype in a 630d and a MINI Clubman. In the 630d the idea was to make it sound like a 650i. It worked… almost flawlessly. In the MINI we sampled what they call the “sound machine”. It ‘s a system that could change (on the fly) the engine note to any one of four settings. The system is tied to the engine speed and accurately reproduces engine notes as they are happening.

BMW isn ‘t the only automaker dabbling in faux engine noise. Audi ‘s new V8 goes from eight cylinders to four under light load. Great for efficiency but no one buying a 100K A8 wants to hear the putter of a four under the hood (even on the highway). So Audi has introduced an Active Sound system of their own that eliminates engine noise when it four cylinder mode and replace it with the purr of all eight cylinders.

So Active Sound is here to stay. In fact in the coming years look for it to show up on a number of BMWs. How does work on the M5? We ‘ll give you our opinion soon. Until then, here ‘s the official information from BMW about the new system.

Official Release: The M5 ‘s Active Sound System

M5 drivers will be given an even more direct reminder of their car’s performance capability by technology that brings the distinctive sound of the high-performance V8 – in all its glory – into the cabin of the new BMW M5. The Active Sound Design technology specially developed for the new BMW M5 takes its cues from the driving situation at any one time to deliver an accurate reproduction of the engine’s sound through the car’s audio system. The system’s digital signal processing exchanges data directly with the engine

management, allowing it to reflect the engine’s revs and torque, and the car’s speed over the road. The result over a smoothly driven journey is a discreet soundtrack in keeping with the harmonious and assured characteristics of the V8 powerplant. A stamp on the accelerator, meanwhile, prompts an immediate audible response to match the instantaneous – and typically M – burst of power from beneath the bonnet.

In generating its signals, Active Sound Design takes its cues from the firing sequence of the eight-cylinder engine and the frequency range of the exhaust system. This gives the driver an extremely accurate impression of current engine load and an even more intense sensation of the V8’s high-performance characteristics. At the same time the Active Sound Design control unit ensures an even spread of sound across all five seats of the new BMW M5, while observing the legal guidelines governing noise emissions inside and outside the car. The characteristics of the sound produced by the technology also adjust to the engine settings selected by the driver. For example, switching to “Sport” or “Sport+” mode sharpens not only the engine’s responsiveness but also the acoustic experience inside the car.