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July 31, 2012 / Randy Coppinger

“Sonar” Ringtone

On previous mobile phones there was a “sonar” sound effect that I used for email notification. I couldn’t find anything similar on my new phone, so I decided to make my own. It’s an old Hollywood sound design trick to add reverb to a tone burst for sonar (real sonar isn’t audible). It was satisfying from a Do It Yourself perspective and quick fun. Here’s the rundown.

In ProTools I created four audio tracks and two aux channels. The first aux was for my tone generator, set to 1k Hz. I recorded that to the first track and edited it down to 5 frames (166ms at 29.97fps). I trimmed back to the nearest zero crossings at each end, then did a single cycle fade in/out. I assigned the output to buss 12 to feed the next, adjacent audio track. I used buss 11 to send to the other aux channel.

That other aux channel ran the AIR reverb plugin with an 1176 compressor after it, just to punch it up and raise the volume on the reverb tail. That output went to buss 12 too, mixing my dry 1k tone burst with its reverb. [Mix window screen shot]

After “printing” the bussed mix I copied to the next adjacent track and hit it with the Audio Suite plugin Maxim. Then I added a fade at the end.

I copied that limited file with the fade to the last audio track, highlighted and hit Shift-Option-3 (Consolidate Clip). Finally I did a quick rename and exported (Shift-Command-K, “Export Clips As Files…”). I made a 24bit, 48k sound file – the native format of my session. Then I made a 16bit, 44k version. Finally I used Snapper with the LAME encoder to create an MP3 from the 16bit WAV file.

Here’s the end result. Feel free to download this MP3 for your phone.

If you want to check out the ProTools 10 session used to create the sound effect download here.

Have you created sound for your phone? Let us hear it, won’t you?


Leave a Comment
  1. Jon Tidey (@theaudiogeek) / Jul 31 2012 10:22 am

    I made an alert tone with iTonemaker – Morse Edition. It turns words into morse code. Pretty fun.

    Here’s the tone

    Here’s the app

    • Randy Coppinger / Jul 31 2012 10:54 am

      That’ll differentiate from stock sounds. Have you checked it for accuracy? 😉

  2. Phil / Sep 17 2013 5:50 am

    Thanks! I used the old BlackBerry sonar tone on my previous phone, and was looking for it again when I came across yours. Much higher quality and less abrasive a sound, nice work.

  3. Aner Andros / Nov 23 2013 10:20 am


    thanks for sharing this 🙂

    I’d like to make my own iOS7 “tone whole set” and this may help me start. I just can’t find any info on every sound the set needs and their specs. Can you help on this?


    • Randy Coppinger / Nov 27 2013 10:32 am

      I am not familiar with the tone whole set, sorry.

      • Aner Andros / Nov 27 2013 10:36 am

        I just meant all the sounds that constitute a set of tones (e.g.: mail, twitter, ringtone, sms, and all).

        Do you please know where to find info about them? length and all?

        Thank You

    • Randy Coppinger / Nov 27 2013 10:42 am

      I am sorry Aner, I do not know.


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