I am currently in the process of imagining and testing sound designs for a robot that is up to bad things, going after people (think Terminator type of hunting, not necessarily fast but obviously unstoppable). The robot does not speak, but I'd like it to have this sound that I'm looking for and that I'd like you guys to help me find.

Think about the time when you rewound audio tapes with your hi-fi tape deck. Once you reached the top of the tape, the mechanism used to go "clac clac clac clac clac" until you released the "<< RWD" button. I imagine it's a safety mechanism that disengages the spinning things to prevent tearing the tape.

Now I'm pretty sure I've already heard a similar sound on bigger machines, that sounded bigger, more like a "tak tak tak tak tak". This is the sound I am looking for, unfortunately I can't seem to think of a device that'd make the noise.

Do you have any clue as to where one can hear a similar sound?

Cheers, J.

9 Answers 9


you can abuse a cheap printer by holding the ink carriage while its starting up and it'll do that. rec at 96k and pitch down to taste.

old metal projectors also have those kinds of noises in them.

  • Surely enough I can find an old printer somewhere! Thanks for the suggestion. Commented May 22, 2011 at 20:41

some High Impact Torque Wrenches have that same sort or fail-safe mechanism and it's much meaner sounding. I'd start searching there. You can likely go to a local auto garage and they'll make a whole bunch of noise for you to record for the cost of a cheap 12 pack of beer.

  • Good idea! I'll investigate! Commented May 22, 2011 at 20:39

Many cordless drills have clutch mechanisms that might give you that repeated sound you are looking for. At lower torque settings you can grab the chuck with your hand and stop it from turning giving you that repeated impact sound. Might be fun to experiment with a low battery as it may give you some frequency variations. As mentioned earlier definitely record at high sf so you can pitch it to your liking.


Wind up walking toys are great, especially when you layer them. You get lovely high harmonics so they cope with being pitch shifted down really well. You can also overwind them in order to generate some extra clicks.



Sounds to me like what you're looking for is actually the tape chassis flapping around inside the door of the player. Grab an old, unwanted cassette and try throwing it around. You'll probably even find a surface in your studio that is plasticky sounding enough.


Why not find a huge wench or ratchet and get the tak tak tak from that? I'd look around at an old shipyard or dock to see what they've got there. Loading docks.

Or ask Tak (member of SSD) hehe.

  • Ha ha "ask Tak" :) Commented May 22, 2011 at 20:15
  • Btw, I could use a wrench for the "impact" but I'd like to find an object that can repeat such a sound automatically in a very mechanical/cyclical way, i.e. something that rotates. Commented May 22, 2011 at 21:08
  • @Justin Oh, what I'm talking about is something like this: hisupplier.com/… I saw one of these types of things at the Staples Center when I did sound on a show there. They made an awesome big mechanical clicking noise that is rhythmic which is right up your alley.
    – Utopia
    Commented May 22, 2011 at 23:11

I don't know if this is too late but is this sort of sound your looking for? (I'll make it downloadable if you want it)


  • Spot on :) What prop did you use? Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 22:07
  • @Justin - It's a ratchet. Commented Jun 12, 2011 at 1:33
  • @Stephen - I know, I wouldn't have said anything if it wasn't obviously a ratchet. I love the sounds ratchets make. I was thinking of this exact the same thing when I suggested High Impact Torque Wrenches, but thought he needed something more robotic and piston-y since he said "mechanical". Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 14:17
  • @Syndicate wow you put a lot of thought into that I just read "Tak Tak" and I thought "Hey I just recorded some Tak Tak sounds" lol. Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 12:33

You can get a more abrasive, motorized version of the "clac clac clac" with a toy remote-controlled car. Hold the wheel to prevent it from turning and it often makes a buzzing (potentially warranty voiding) "rrac rrac rrac" sound. It may not be quite what you're looking for, but it's another variation. Good luck!

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(source: remotecontrolvehiclesonline.com)


There have been some great ideas already but I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents. Something I thought about but haven't tried myself is to use the old baseball card in bicycle spokes technique. Replace the baseball card with any other object in order to get the tone that you want and you can "pitch shift" with the placement of object on the spokes. Maybe something like hard plastic will work well.

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