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Let's face it. When it comes to hi-tech sound design, nothing beats interesting servo motor sounds. I hear the same servo sounds from cd libraries used all the time and have been on the search recently for some new organic material to record.

There are some old standards: car electric windows and seats, cordless drills, genie lifts on trucks, camera motors etc.. I recently got some interesting material from an electric cappuccino frother, hand crank flashlight, and a super old Epson inkjet printer.

Care to share any unique or interesting sources of servos (small or large) you've come across recently? Thanks in advance.

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Thanks for the answers ya'll! I especially like the cardboard bailer idea. –  Justin Pearson Dec 22 '10 at 0:54
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6 Answers

What about little RC cars? Or little mini-helicoptors you can buy from Brookstone (hear them here) Small drills? Get into a dentist office and record all of his cool drills and such (bring your mic next time you visit). Any digital printing facility. What about electric toothbrushes? Some chiropractor's equipment has a great motor sound to it (his table you lay on goes up and down). X-ray machines sometimes have great motor sounds.

I recently recorded an inflatable camping mattress's motor it uses to blow it up.

I also recorded my plate reverb's mechanism is uses to lengthen the decay time - makes a cool motor noise.

I also had a hard drive die on me and it made some great sounds.

Sun roof motors.

I recorded a building's wheelchair lift and it sounded awesome.

Don't forget you can record bigger motors and pitch them up real high and they sound like tiny small mechanisms and vice versca...

Colin Hart released a power tools library recently...

Lots of good servo stuff on a modern ship.

Garage door openers..

Older tape recorders, old film playback equipment, line conditioner equipment, air compressor motors, small vacuum cleaners, older computers...

I remember as a kid, after I broke my arm the doctor took the cast off with some piece of equipment - sounded interesting.

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Some servo ideas:

  • HP-brand all-in-one printers
  • The wheel motors of Roombas
  • The Small Motors SFX collection by Rabbit Ears Audio
  • The arms of garbage trucks
  • The motors of tape ejection mechanisms in video cameras
  • The zoom motors in on-camera flashguns
  • Almost any small motor, from immersion blenders to handheld drills
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Blu-ray and DVD players have some nice clean whirs and clicks.

+1 on the Brookstone helos -- they have a nifty dual-pitch whine.

Tiny battery-operated clippers (the sort for nose/ear hair, not head shavers or pet grooming clippers -- those tend to hum uninterestingly).

A number of modern vacuum cleaners have a terrific whine startup/wind-down.

Motorized coin-sorting banks.

The T-Touch series of Tissot watches has a cool, almost insectile hiss-buzz when the hands are moving as it changes modes.

Your local supermarket (also drugstore, BevMo, or just about any place that sells packaged goods) will have a cardboard baler somewhere in the back for bundling cardboard to recycle. I've gotten some great (bigger) servo/press sounds from various models of these.

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I love this site

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Try going to a scrap yard, they have fabulous machinery that uses different sizes of motors. The really cool thing is that they are often happy to put the motors under different levels of stress, so that you can achieve a wide variety of sounds.

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my favorites are cameras and tape decks because they have complex movements. I've never had much luck with the bigger more straightforward servos.

RC cars need more investigating in my world though...

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