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Ralf Heinrichs and his team create the sounds of Ford, from the engine to the glove compartment. How? And what inspired him to create the Ford Vignale sound?

The sound of the engine. When you slam and lock your car door. In a Ford many such sounds are created by Ralf Heinrichs and his team in the Ford Design Centre in Cologne, Germany. Is there a typical Ford Vignale sound? Yes: created by Ralf and his team in an almost obsessive way.

Early obsession

Sounds and the technique of creating them have long been an obsession for Ralf. Aged 11 he started to build his own loudspeakers. Later at university in Bochum he came across ‘technical acoustics’. He specialised in it, almost certainly knowing he’d never get a job in this field. He was wrong. In the mid-1990s Ford put sounds higher up the agenda. It needed Ralf’s skills.

Defining the Ford sound

Ralf tells the story. We started to create sounds. The engine. The door slam. Other elements. Then in 2000 Ford started looking for a so-called brand DNA. I led the acoustic side of that. The big question: how should a Ford sound? When you drive slowly, or fast. In a normal Ford or a sports car. In a diesel or petrol Ford…

Ford Vignale Lifestyle man rolling up his sleeves

How to create it

You need a lot of experience, excellent ears and strong intuition. When you close and lock a car door you want a safe sound. Ralf and his team create that and test it extensively with Ford’s customers. It’s complex. You have the door itself made of metal. Then you have the lock. In the door, you have loudspeakers and cables. When you close the door, there’s lots of vibrating. So you must pay attention to all these elements. What we do – it is a science.

The Ford Vignale sound

Ralf and his team created the special Ford Vignale sound. It took a lot of time, testing and expertise. Ralf: Our aim was to reflect the luxuries of Ford Vignale. We had to bring the sound of the engine down to make it really smooth and to use different technologies to make it really quiet inside. We also used a special sound corrector, which we call Vignalelish. If you drive your Ford Vignale fast, there is a sporty growl: burrrrhhhh. We added a touch of a six-cylinder sound.

What next?

More choice. Ralf shares his vision: In the future, I think our customers will be able to choose their favourite engine sound for their car. A luxury sound, a sporty sound, a smooth sound… Your car. Your sound. Hey, sounds great, doesn’t it?

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