Goldberg7eRube Goldberg was a famous cartoonist known for his “inventions” that depicted bizarrely-connected machines doing complex and needless tasks to create simple results.

This past weekend I think I bonded with the man.

For an upcoming project involving an international car maker we were asked to record and/or create the sound of what it might be like to be strapped onto a sports car at 80 mph. My response was, “Easy, let’s just mix the sound of high wind with someone screaming and gasping from a heart attack”

– I got blank stares.

Truth is, with race cars, this “lashed to the beast” sound is not impossible to achieve. Those machines are loud and have little or no sound insulation inside the cockpit. So all one needs to do is place a microphone somewhere inside the car away from the wind. A good mic, shock mount, and a possum and your in good shape. The mic never needs to meet the great outdoors.

However, the constant sound of a standard production car from outside at close perspective is difficult to achieve. Wind, vibration, tire noise and traffic sounds all get in the way. And, if you’re really pushing to get the right sound, sirens might get in the mix.


Saturday, (the only temperate day we’ve had in Minnesota this Spring), I set out to see what could be achieved. First off, I knew that standard studio mics would not work because they were too large to fit in the places that I thought best for this; under the hood and above the exhaust of my 2003 Subaru WRX. Secondly, the microphones needed to survive high sound pressure levels and sound clean. A nice pair of Shure Microflex 185 Lavaliere’s proved a logical choice.

Soon, I learned, I really needed to control the elements. My recordings stunk.

Foam did nothing for vibration.

Pop filters were useless on wind.

Obscenities only fixed the gaze of my neighbors.

Beer, however, opened my thought processes.

Enter Rube Goldberg…
WRX5ASunday, I sawed off the bottom of a pill bottle, drilled a pair of small holes through its body, then strung a rubber band through the opposing holes. I suspended the lavaliere between the leaves of the rubber band and pulled on them like a tourniquet – Eureka!, an instant shock mount that would fit near the engine. And, for the exhaust, a contraption that could hang perpendicularly inside a Rycote Windjammer on the bumper. Problem solved!


From Saturday’s recordings, what I thought had been vibration coming from the engine compartment turned out to be… wind. Back to the drawing board. Or, in this case, my sock drawer. I cut out the toe section of an old pair of black socks, turned it inside out, and then taped it over the head of the pill bottle going in the engine.


What followed was a five minute tear around Lake Nokomis where the sound was thick, sweet, strong and had me buzzing; Turkish coffee with 227 horses and all wheel drive.

Was this an idiotic way to spend a weekend? I’ll happily call myself , “A Rube”

Here’s my WRXcellent adventure…