This Disembodied Head Named Sam Is Why Your Porsche Sounds so Good

By 3 Min Read

Do you ever have nightmares about a faceless creature stalking you? Do you happen to own a Porsche built after 2015? If your answer to both is yes, we might have an explanation for you.

Say hello to Porsche’s Sound Acoustic Module, so-named to give it a human name to match its human-like appearance. SAM was created in 2015 to help Porsche evaluate sound within its vehicles, a process that’s become more critical as the electric revolution takes hold. Fine-tuning an exhaust note is one thing, but all kinds of sounds crop up when there isn’t an internal combustion engine emitting a constant thrum in the background.

To that end, Porsche says SAM has all the “acoustically relevant” parts of a head. That doesn’t include eye sockets or a nose, but there are ears. Each has its own microphone and preamp to record noise, giving SAM the ability to hear a range of up to 130 dB. That gives Porsche a second set of human-like ears to evaluate everything from quiet button clicks to raucous flat-six exhaust systems.

“We naturally have a binaural measurement system in our headphones, which we wear as human testers,” said David Sadowski, an acoustic engineer at Porsche. “But Sam allows us to take an additional pair of ears on board for every test and place this pair in another location in the car—for example, on the rear seat.”

SAM is used both in the lab and on the road, traveling approximately 1,200 miles a year. We can imagine some of the hilarious interactions between Porsche engineers and confused travelers resulting from these experiments. Nonetheless, the work is an important part of Porsche’s effort to keep sound a vital component of its driving experience amid the influx of electric vehicles.

“An electric motor naturally emits a quiet hum,” explained Sadowski. “That’s simply the way it is—which is why, for example, the sound of the motor in the electric Taycan is artificially enriched. Our task in acoustic quality assurance is to determine whether the perfect Porsche sound has been created here.”

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