I was just wondering if anyone had any tips on recording car engines/cars in general?

I'm thinking of hiring a Marantz PMD671 to record with, and as for mics, I was going to hire a few different ones to test, mainly a Neumann RSM 191.

Neumann RSM 191

But I'm not really sure what would be the best choice for cars, especially particularly loud cars such as Lamborghinis. I'm thinking possibly a dynamic mic of some sort as well, but also a DPA 4011-TL condenser. Would these be sensible choices?

DPA 4011-TL
(source: dpamicrophones.com)

Also does anyone have any tips or tricks on mic positioning for cars? I was thinking it might be best to have them up on ramps to minimize any reflections from the tiled workshop floor?


9 Answers 9


Charles Deenan special on recording cars for Need for Speed:


He's also going to be doing a web seminar with Waves in June. I know a few people said it was full, but they will be recorded and made available afterwards. Should be some good stuff in there.

I've done a bit of car recording here and there, but only when I needed a specific sound. One thing to note is that it takes quite a few mics to get the sounds you will need, and it takes a VERY long time to do a full workup of a vehicle, so make sure to plan for that.

As far as Lamborghinis go... they are very loud cars, so make sure to have plenty of dynamics and high spl handling condensers. Also, does this workshop you were talking about have a dyno? Useful for getting rev sounds and all without having to take the cars on the road... (talked about extensively in the article I linked to above)

  • Awesome, thanks for the tips. That Charles Deenan special has some really good stuff. Ill have to double check about the dyno, as far as i can remember they do, but i may be wrong. The DPA 4011 can handle 158dB, so i think ill take that for sure then. And then bring a selection of other mics to try for different interior/exterior sounds. Theres alot more to getting a really good vehicle set than i thought haha, but i think its going to be a fun challenge.
    – deleted
    Commented May 7, 2010 at 21:36

Check out these Rob Nokes videos:






Having given it more thought and research, I think i have decided on a rough plan of action for recording-

Recorder - Marantz PMD671 recording in 96kHz

Mics - Neumann RSM 191, DPA 4011TL, Sure SM58 and possible a either a Rode NTG-1 or NTG-2

As the Marantz only has two channels I'm planning on separating my engine recordings into 4 main categories: Exhaust Pipe Perspective, Engine Perspective, Grill perspective and Interior Perspective. I rang them up and checked they have a dyno, and luckily they do :D The dyno they have also allows me to get under the car and record from below, so i'm hoping that might provide some nice gear changes and other sounds.

I'm planning on using combinations of those mics on each category going through various engine revs/starting sounds/idling etc. Possibly recording stereo versions with RSM 191 and then try various mono combinations.

Then go for everything inside the car that makes a noise, buttons/switches/ac/seat-belts etc.

And then record everything on the outside of the car that makes a noise, doors/windows/windshield wipers. Then also anything i can find around the workshop i can record like tools etc.

I think I'm going to have to draw myself up a master list of everything I want to record to make sure I don't forget anything. There's definitely alot to record, much more than I originally thought!

But does this sound like a good approach to getting a vehicle set together?

I also found some more links, I thought I'd post them here just in case anyone else was after more stuff on recording cars-

They have some good tips, and pictures of their mic setups on the cars.

Loads of other pictures of car recording setups (not that much detail)-


I have very limited experience recording cars specifically, but when you do get access to great cars and a dynamo setup i would NOT just go with one stereo recorder. That sounds like a recipe for missed opportunities imho. I would bring (borrow/rent/ share the recording gig With other recordist)at least a six channel recorder plus a backup. I'd prob go with at least one lav in the engine room, one mic on the exhaust, stereo interior, one exterior and one contact.

This way you get all the recordings at the correct rpm aligned. If on a dynamo I'd use the additional recorder to record a stereo external perspective as well, although this might be of limited use depending on the sound of the room. But when bringing it outside I'd try to have at minimum a m/s setup to record pass by's.

Getting access to great cars and good recording venues is expensive enough that I'd never dare risk a failed recording.



Re-Sounding by Varun Nair: Recording a car!

Hope this helps.


i know the sound designer for transformers used the Neumann 191


Watch this:



I've put a few blog posts up with my truck recording experiences.





and also this one.


The main advice I'd give is to get more channels to record to, as this will cut your time down pretty dramatically.

also, use your best mics on the exhaust and a few feet away if possible.

vehicles are as expressive as animals are, and as such you never really can get complete coverage - especially in the shop. Most vehicles get covered for specific need, even if those needs are deep. You can see my process of assessing what to cover in the blog posts I linked.


Check out these clips. The recordist is a guy called Watson Wu, who is considered kind of a guru of car recording!! Also do a google search for him and you'll get lot's of info.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WjJZNpV0ls http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFgQAiwRqLg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlXrwAZePt4

Good luck

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.