Close your eyes, and listen. All around us, the sounds of our modern devices buzz, beep, whirr, and whistle, endlessly. The acoustics of technology have been added to the soundtrack of our lives, and for the most part, we don't even take notice. But some companies have elevated their sonic works to an art form, bringing industrial design into the auricular world.
Here are 17 of the most pleasurable tech sounds in the world, ranked objectively, by me. If you disagree, please leave your pleasant and not-at-all-vitriolic comments in the box below!
17. Android's "DROID"
The ubiquitous, kind of iconic (I guess?) "DROID" noise barely squeaks onto this list, because for all intents and purposes, it's pretty annoying. It's like the guy you hang out with who won't stop quoting Borat years later. Still, you can't deny the staying power of a sound that you just want to keep inexplicably saying over and over once you hear it. DROID. DROID. It has its lingering charm. DROID. It's-a very nice!
16. Fasten seatbeat/Cruising altitude Ping
You are cruising through the night sky, leaning back and gazing out into the infinite black, when the modest two-tone beep springs out of the darkness, assuring you that you can take off your seatbelt, stand up, and take a break from the screaming baby next to you who won't stop staring you in the eyes. Free at last, free at last. Or the friendly air pings can signify imminent landing, always good. But it can also be a warning sign of unavoidable turbulence and you know, horrible death—so it can't be that high on the list, after all.
15. VHS tapes rewinding
Ahh, those sweet nostalgic memories of desperately and frantically trying to rewind James and the Giant Peach because Blockbuster is closing in 20 minutes, and you must be kind. Now they're closed forever. And it's probably your fault.
14. Facebook notification sound
This low-toned, two-syllable pop, which in my opinion should be spelled "Ba-Loop," can be a quick signal that your friends are saying hey, or that the cute girl in your bio class wants to be friends. Or it can be a chilling reminder that your parents have full access to a veritable collage of your previous indiscretions, as they are commenting on every one of your spring break photos. Señor Frog's is no place for a mother's eyes. Take the good with the bad, and slot it in at #14.
13. Xbox 360 startup tone
Over the past decade, the Xbox 360's "swoosh and shine" bootup noise was as common to dorm rooms as old Ramen and white guys with dread locks who play Redemption Song on acoustic guitars whenever there are girls around. Good times.
12. Your CD changing inside your 5-disc CD changer
No man should be damned to the confines of one single, solitary CD. Every album has filler (except OK Computer), and you don't have to take it anymore. This amazing leap in audio convenience gave you expanded listening options in ways no pre-iPod setup ever had. No more listening to eight horrible, uninspired Lou Bega songs in a row. Just "Mambo No. 5," and move on to the Fugees.
11. iPhone Marimba ringtone
Iconic, instantly recognizable, and—horribly overplayed. It's well-designed, perfectly timed, and the quintessential ringtone of the smartphone era. But despite its stature in the tech sound world, even thinking of it will probably annoy the hell out of people, and might even stress them out about their General Manager calling them about TPS reports, or something. It falls out of the top ten.
10. Fuzzy vinyl static, before a song
It's a classic, goose bump-inducing moment in recording history, that rightfully deserves a high ranking on this list, despite its relatively basic tech. Feel that white noise fuzz, and imagine Sgt. Pepper coming next.
mmmmmMMMMMMMAAAAAAAHHHHHHAAHAHHHHHHH!!!!!! It's basically a wicked climax for your ears, and would occasionally blow your hair clean back when you were a Milk Dud-clutching kid in your local duplex. It let you know that you were in store for some ass-kicking, nose-bleeding, face-punching surround sound. The best kind of sound. Check out the brand new updated version. And turn it up LOUD.
8. iPhone "glass" text tone
Apple does design better than anyone else in the tech industry, and that compliment extends to sounds as well. Their text tones (for the most part) are succinct and classic, and no sound better exemplifies the iPhone's sleek and sophisticated ethos than the "glass" chime. It just sounds...right.
7. Game Boy startup tone
When you heard that high-pitched, two-tone Mario-esque bleep—you knew it was Pokemon Red time. Adios, Spanish homework. Hola, Charizard.
6. iPhone locking sound
Out of all the bleeps, bloops, chimes, whistles and pops your iPhone produces, no sound is more immediately satisfying than the snap your phone produces when you lock it. Like the crack of a whip, it lets you know all your nudes and sexts are safe and sound beneath the unbreakable lock code, that is almost definitely your birthday.
5. Nokia ringtone
Because everyone had this phone. And because you can still hum these exuberant notes, to this very day. Don't be bashful. Sing aloud.
4. Microsoft Windows 95 startup song
This brief, six-second ode has the haunting beauty any great work of art should possess. It accompanies you on an auditory journey—from the structured, humble depths of the chiming intro, to the sweeping crescendo that pulls you out to the other side. Unfortunately, on that other side of that screen, lay the inevitable dial-up disaster. Zen broken. Ear drums, sad.
3. You've Got Mail!
But after the horrible, dial-up AOL suite mentioned previously, you have the promise of the genial embrace of the "You've Got Mail!" voice, waiting for you in the end. For many of us, it was our first exposure to email, ever. That (maybe a little too) excited voice assured us that we did in fact have mail, and in essence, that someone out there cared about us, or at least wanted us to buy cheap Viagra. It also helped spawn the definitive love story of our time, only enhancing its already formidable legacy.
2. AOL Instant Messenger "Opening door" and "Closing door" tones
If you don’t know what I'm talking about, skip to 00:05 in the video, and also, why didn’t you have a childhood? We could have picked a plethora of AIM sounds to place on this list, but for me, the signature "open and close" door sounds will always hold a special place in our generation's heart. Remember the thrill of hearing the person you like sign online with the squeak of a door hinge? Do you also remember the awful shame that came, when they saw you were online, and immediately signed off—literally slamming the door on your emotions? Man, puberty was intense. And AIM was there the whole time.
1. Mac startup "om"
Were you expecting anything else? The porous, meditative, etherial boot up "Ohhmmmm" sound is the pinnacle all tech noises strive to reach. In the example above, it's slowed down 800%, so you can wrap yourself in all its digital glory (here's the standard version). The chord itself is a C major, developed by Jim Reekes, an Apple engineer who was very unhappy with the initial Mac startup sound (it kind of sucked). The noise is one of the most recognizable tech sounds in the world. And it's as close to auricular technologic perfection as the human race can achieve. So far, at least.