What sounds sound like no other sound?
August 18, 2011 3:09 PM   Subscribe

A coworker bouncing a ping pong ball on his desk today made me think, "There is nothing else that sound could ever be confused for." Are there any other sounds that are unmistakeable for anything else?
posted by aquanet to Grab Bag (36 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
A zipper unzipping.
posted by elizardbits at 3:12 PM on August 18, 2011

The opening of a pop-top can.
Rain hitting a tin roof.
posted by troublewithwolves at 3:13 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would say the sound of cockerel "cock a doodle dooing" is unmistakable.
posted by Paul Breeze at 3:13 PM on August 18, 2011

Really loud bass music is always just really loud bass music.
posted by millipede at 3:19 PM on August 18, 2011

posted by Lou Stuells at 3:20 PM on August 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: The ticking/tinking of a bicycle freewheel.
The chortle of a cold Subaru engine in low gear.
A dripping sink.
Dog Day cicadas.
A Champagne Cork popping.
Chainlink fence rattling.
Dot matrix printers.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 3:21 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

There's a ton of sounds that fit this description. A car starting. A toilet flushing. A person typing. A modem. Popcorn popping. Scissors cutting. Sharpening a knife.
posted by aubilenon at 3:21 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

A wooden baseball bat on a baseball.
posted by pmed at 3:29 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

The dial of a rotary telephone.
The scrrratttchiing noise of a needle swiped across a record.
The scrape of a snow shovel against pavement.
The screeching of vehicle tires when the brakes are stomped upon suddenly.
posted by Oriole Adams at 3:35 PM on August 18, 2011

I would have said Velcro, but I've listened to The Guns Of Brixton for decades now and only recently learned that the sound behind the opening bassline was made my the velcro on their fatigues.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:37 PM on August 18, 2011

An aluminum baseball bat is even more unmistakeable.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:38 PM on August 18, 2011

I'm guessing that a Foley artist would disagree with a lot of the answers given here. It would be interesting to have a Foley artist answer this question, although I don't know if there are any MeFite Foley artists.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:39 PM on August 18, 2011 [8 favorites]

A kookaburra's laugh
posted by trialex at 3:44 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

THX sounds, "Deep Note" (yes, you really do know what this is! Listen)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind 5 sounds.

One I recognize:

The sound of a Mac powering up.
posted by misha at 3:50 PM on August 18, 2011

Oh, the Tarzan yell!
posted by misha at 3:52 PM on August 18, 2011

I don't think we're talking about inimitable sounds, DevilsAdvocate, just ones that are highly distinct or evocative. A Foley artist could recreate them, but the signal is the unique quality of the noise.
An aside: the imitability of some of these noises is undisputed, as my bird makes the zipper zipping up noise as I'm getting ready to leave the house and he also has a convincing water drip.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 3:56 PM on August 18, 2011

a ping pong ball is pretty close to a dull clave (click play on the little flash thing).
posted by rhizome at 4:01 PM on August 18, 2011

A chainsaw (this one if the infamous Gears of War one)

Annoying mosquito

Scooby doo's laugh

Roadrunner meep-meep

pacman dying, pacman wakka wakka

posted by misha at 4:07 PM on August 18, 2011

The cat scraping its paw across the miniblinds at 5:00 a.m. when it wants you to get up and feed it.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:16 PM on August 18, 2011

The clink-clink of a box of nitrous oxide cylinders, and the crack-hiss noise when you open one. Someone should use that sound as a ringtone; it'd be funny watching heads swivel around.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:49 PM on August 18, 2011

A taxi receipt printing (sounds a lot like the smoke monster from Lost).
posted by valeries at 4:50 PM on August 18, 2011

I was gonna say a baby crying, but then I remembered that yowly cats can sometimes sound a lot like a baby crying (which is really creepy).
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:06 PM on August 18, 2011

Curtains opening/closing?
posted by en forme de poire at 5:19 PM on August 18, 2011

Racking a 12-gauge shotgun.
posted by sacre_bleu at 5:39 PM on August 18, 2011

Or, what jamaro said.
posted by sacre_bleu at 5:40 PM on August 18, 2011

A bullet whizzing overhead

A solid punch to the face

A beeping heart monitor

A fart

A bullwhip

A hand-saw

A falling tree

A sword unsheathed

A cowbell

A waterfall


TV static

Ocean waves

Rain on a roof

Trees rustled by the wind
posted by troll at 6:01 PM on August 18, 2011

An ice cream truck.

Even if the song is new to you, even if you can barely hear it and you're trying to get the whole world to hold its breath for -one second- on that steamingly hot day so you can try to tell how far away "that song" is, you know, somewhere deep in your mind, it's an ice cream truck.
posted by DisreputableDog at 6:04 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

A Volkwagen air-cooled engine in an old Beetle/Super Beetle, or the pancake variation in a Type III or Kombi van. It sounds like no other engine on earth. Dakka dakka dakka dakka dak.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:20 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is a serious answer and not an attempted wisecrack. I am a professional musician and Listener to Things and I am here to report that the answer to your question is "All sounds. " Even the line in Sneakers is bogus: ducks don't sound like a cocktail party, they sound like a bunch of ducks.
posted by range at 6:37 PM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Do you mean short, percussive sounds? Sounds that could be any solid object striking another, but those objects can be distinguished without being seen - like a pingpong ball on a table? Because otherwise it's a bloody long list.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:00 PM on August 18, 2011

Two people have mentioned a shotgun being racked, but no one has mentioned the actual report. That's not a sound you're likely to miss.

A turkey gobbling.

Air being let out of a tire.

A belch.
posted by Gilbert at 8:44 PM on August 18, 2011

Nails on a chalkboard
posted by SisterHavana at 9:11 PM on August 18, 2011

Harley Davidson established some sort of legal precedent by trying to trademark the sound of their engine.

The classic BMW motorcycle sounds different.

The v-12 Merlin engine sounds different from the Pratt and Whitney radial engine, and both of them sound different from jet engines.

Machine guns.

posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:32 PM on August 18, 2011

The whining of a needy dog.
A cat purr.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:08 AM on August 19, 2011

The Tardis.
posted by Windigo at 1:23 PM on August 19, 2011

R2D2's bloops and beeps?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:08 PM on August 19, 2011

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