Twenty Thousand Hertz

Twenty Thousand Hertz

www.20k.org
A lovingly crafted podcast that reveals the stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds.


#83 | Historically Speaking
Dec 2 • 30 min
Language is a uniquely human gift. We have shaped it to our individual and cultural needs, and it has shaped us in return. Professor Lera Boroditsky reveals how the sounds we make with our mouths influence what’s going on inside our brains. And podcaster…
#82 | Vroom Vroom
Nov 18 • 30 min
When was the last time you turned off your radio and just listened to your car? What’s really going on under the hood? We chat with our own Nick Spradlin about the simple force at the heart of every gasoline engine and talk with legendary recordist Watson…
#81 I Baby Shark
Nov 4 • 40 min
Baby Shark is a mega viral YouTube video, an unstoppable earworm, a top 40 hit, a Eurodance smash, a decades old campfire song, and the center of an international copyright dispute. In this episode from the podcast Decoder Ring, we explore the strange…
#80 I Virtual Choir
Oct 21 • 29 min
Singing with others is a powerful form of expression. That’s why the composer Eric Whitacre started the Virtual Choir; an experiment that connects singers from every corner of the globe. In this episode, we hear how a choir can unite people from different…
#79 I The Price is Right (Yeah, Yeah!)
Oct 14 • 25 min
As a young composer, Edd Kalehoff was looking for his break. In the early 70s he struck gold, writing the theme song and music cues for The Price Is Right. Twenty Thousand Hertz is produced out of the studios of Defacto Sound, and hosted by Dallas Taylor.…
#78 | The Loudness Wars
Oct 7 • 36 min
In part 2 of the story of mastering, we explore the consequences of the Loudness War and call out some of the worst offenders. We’ll also hear about the artists and mastering engineers who have been fighting back, and learn how modern listening habits…
#77 | The [COMPRESSED] History of Mastering
Sep 23 • 31 min
Join us on a musical journey from the Golden Age of analog mastering to the digital methods of today. We’ll find out why the music industry became obsessed with loudness, and learn how the digital era transformed the way that music sounds. Featuring Greg…
#76 I You’ve Got Mail!
Sep 16 • 23 min
How a simple soundbite on America Online became one of the most recognizable sounds of the internet age, plus the creation of a whole new musical instrument. This episode features Elwood Edwards, the man behind the famous AOL “You’ve Got Mail” soundbite,…
#75 I Speak Easy
Sep 9 • 23 min
We rarely think about the way we speak. For most of us, it just happens. In this episode, we catch up with two professional voice artists and chat about their rituals and techniques that help them communicate. Featuring voice actor Harry Shearer and NPR…
#74 I Hear Here!
Aug 26 • 23 min
Humans have been fascinated with acoustics since our earliest ancestors. From Roman amphitheaters to modern symphony halls, we’ve designed our spaces with sound in mind. But the relationship between acousticians and architects isn’t always smooth sailing.…
#73 I Stradivarius
Aug 12 • 26 min
Stradivarius violins are reputed to have an exquisite sound that cannot be replicated or explained. Why is that? And what, exactly, is a Stradivarius violin anyway? This episode features interviews with The Strad magazine’s managing editor, Christian…
#72 | 808
Jul 29 • 27 min
The 808 is arguably the most iconic drum machine ever made. Even if you’ve never heard of it, you’ve definitely heard it. It’s in dozens of hit songs — from Usher to Marvin Gaye, Talking Heads to The Beastie Boys — and its sounds have quietly cemented…
#71 | Soundmarks®
Jul 15 • 30 min
Companies spend a lot of time and effort perfecting the look of their brands. But now what a brand sounds like matters just as much. We trace the history from songs to jingles to what’s called sonic branding, following the creative process that led to…
#70 | Deaf Gain
Jul 1 • 26 min
The last few decades have seen amazing improvements in cochlear implant technology. Professor Michael Dorman reveals what they really sound like, and how they can help out with more than just our hearing. But should we be advocating cochlear implants at…
#69 | Plants that Sing
Jun 17 • 24 min
Have you ever wondered what your dog or cat would say to you if they could talk? How about your plant? In this episode we explore the world of bioacoustics and cognitive ecology. Featuring MIDI Sprout creator, Joe Patitucci, and ecologist, Monica…
#68 | Sonic Illusions
Jun 3 • 24 min
What we hear is incredibly personal and we all hear things differently. Sometimes our ears can even play tricks on us. Sonic illusions put a spotlight on the unique function of our hearing and how our backgrounds and biology affect how we process sound.…
#67 | Mother of Dragons(ounds)
May 20 • 23 min
Game of Thrones is a global phenomenon that has redefined the fantasy genre. Viewers from around the world gather every week to anxiously watch what will happen next. The actors, writers, directors, and visual artists have all received well-earned…
#66 | Sound Escapes
May 6 • 32 min
Over his long career, Gordon Hempton has mastered the art of truly listening. He’s known as the Sound Tracker. Some people call him an acoustic ecologist. His recordings and books have made him an international expert on the beauty and importance of…
#65 | Voyager Golden Record
Apr 22 • 36 min
In the late ’70s, NASA launched Voyagers 1 & 2 to explore the furthest reaches of our solar system and beyond. But something amazing was included on those space probes… a 90-minute time capsule of sounds, language, and music from Earth called The Golden…
#64 | Birdsong
Apr 8 • 28 min
When was the last time you stopped and really listened to birdsong? Ever wonder what they’re singing about? We chat to Kenn Kaufman and Dr. Irene Pepperberg about the extraordinary complexity to the avian arias, how they’re produced, what they mean, and…
#63 | Phone Tones
Mar 25 • 25 min
We unpack how touch tone dialing changed communication forever. Join us on a deep, quirky dive into telephone history. We’ll also deconstruct these sounds and reveal their hidden brilliance. Featuring author Annabel Dodd and telephone aficionado Jim…
#62 | The Booj
Mar 11 • 26 min
Movie trailers have undergone a huge evolution. They’ve gone from those cheesy voice-of-God narrators in the ‘80s and ‘90s, to boojes and bwaas. Professor James Deaville delivers the history of trailers, and Youtuber Craven Moorhaus offers a hilarious…
#61 | Dining on Decibels
Feb 25 • 25 min
Have you noticed how loud it gets in restaurants these days? Have you found yourselves shouting just to keep a conversation going? Architecture critic Kate Wagner explains how changing design trends have led to dining experiences that aren’t just…
#60 | Do Not Disturb
Feb 11 • 28 min
Alarm sounds have been around almost as long as humans themselves. But as our world has transformed, so have they. Today’s alarms are having an unexpected effect on our minds and bodies, and can even be putting our lives at risk when we’re at our most…
#59 | BLUE! 42!
Jan 28 • 27 min
For decades, NFL strategy slowly evolved from each team running a dozen different plays, to rigid schemes with coaches sending in orders through codewords and secret signals. Then, one piece of audio technology revolutionized the game. Beginning in the…
#58 | Silence
Jan 14 • 25 min
Our world is filled with sound. It exists in even the quietest corners of the planet. But what happens when all that sound is taken away? What is silence? There are very few places on Earth where silence actually exists, but in this episode, Dallas…
What is 20k? (2019 Trailer)
Jan 11 • 2 min
Twenty Thousand Hertz is a lovingly crafted podcast that tells the stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds. Subscribe now.
#57 | Space Remix
Dec 26, 2018 • 22 min
What happens when we leave Earth’s thin blanket of atmosphere, and what do other planets sound like? In this special episode, we have completely remixed one of our favorite shows! It’s been re-written, re-edited, re-narrated, has new music, and even some…
#56 | Boots ‘n Cats
Dec 10, 2018 • 25 min
Beatboxing began as an imitation of a drum machine, but over the decades it has evolved as a means to emulate any number of percussive sounds. Now beatboxing is being studied by scientists who are fascinated by the vocal dexterity of artists. By examining…
#55 | Being George Clooney
Nov 26, 2018 • 33 min
Hollywood films are huge internationally. But how are these films adapted for foreign languages? We delve into the not so talked about process of dubbing. Featuring the world’s most popular voice actors, directors, and producers. Featuring: Andre…
#54 | Xbox Startup Sound
Nov 12, 2018 • 25 min
The Xbox startup sound is an audio logo that’s become synonymous with the game console. But its origins are rooted in solving a logistical problem; how to entertain gamers while they wait for their machines to finish booting up. Featuring Sound Designer…
#53 | Theater for the Mind
Oct 29, 2018 • 33 min
The “golden age of radio drama” may have been a stellar period for storytelling — but the stories weren’t all golden bright. Sci-fi and horror radio dramas explored deep anxieties people felt from the Depression through the Cold War, and set the stage for…
#52 | The Theremin
Oct 15, 2018 • 29 min
If you’ve ever watched an old sci-fi or horror film, you’ve probably heard the hair-tingling, alien sounds of the Theremin. It’s a spooky, strange instrument that’s played without being touched, and has become a staple for classic horror movies. This is…
#51 | Classic Cartoon Sound Effects!
Oct 1, 2018 • 30 min
Cartoon sound effects are some of the most iconic sounds ever made. Even modern cartoons continue to use the same sound effects from decades ago. How were these legendary sounds made and how have they stood the test of time? Featuring Oscar-winning sound…
#50 | Twenty Thousand Hertz
Sep 17, 2018 • 34 min
50 episodes! When we launched this podcast two years ago, we never imagined our passion project would come this far. To mark the occasion, we’re taking a peek behind the scenes of the show. Join the Defacto Sound team as they take you into the…
#49 | Jingles
Sep 4, 2018 • 32 min
Odds are if we asked you sing your favorite advertising jingle from when you were a kid, you’d be able to recall every single lyric. Yet we don’t hear many advertising jingles these days. Why is that? This is the story of the rise, fall, and brain science…
#48 | Sonic Branding
Aug 20, 2018 • 28 min
We are constantly exposed to sonic branding in television, radio, and web commercials. We deconstruct some of the most impactful audio logos in history and explain how the brain interprets them. Featuring Scott Simonelli, CEO of Veritonic and Walter…
#47 | Loop Groups
Aug 6, 2018 • 29 min
Invisible actors create worlds of sound in everything you watch - from Jaws to The Wire. With special guests, Carl Gottlieb, screenwriter and author of “The Jaws Log”; Dann Fink, loop group director and co-owner of Loopers Unlimited; Stuart Stanley, Sound…
#46 | Slot Machines
Jul 23, 2018 • 20 min
What do you hear when you walk into a Casino? It can feel like chaos, but each sound is carefully curated to draw you in and make you stay. One collection of sounds are scientifically and artistically designed to keep the gambler, gambling. Slot machines.…
#45 | Misophonia
Jul 9, 2018 • 20 min
The way our brains process sound affects the way we respond to sound. This episode is about why that happens in those who suffer from misophonia, the hatred of certain sounds. Featuring researcher Dr. Phillip Gander, psychologist Dr. Ali Mattu, and…
#44 | THX Deep Note, Part 2
Jun 25, 2018 • 29 min
Whether you’re 6 years old, or 96 years old, one of the most memorable parts of going to the movies for the last three decades has been the THX “Deep Note” trailer. Unfortunately, they lost the original sound file. What happened? Also, what do sound…
#43 | THX Deep Note, Part 1
Jun 11, 2018 • 27 min
Since 1983 one of the most memorable parts of going to the movies has been the THX certification played during the previews. The accompanying sound logo called “The Deep Note” has fascinated, terrified, and mystified audiences for over three decades. What…
#42 | Amen Break
May 29, 2018 • 25 min
There’s a sample of music that’s been heard in over 2,000 songs. Odds are you’ve heard it many times and didn’t even realize you were listening to the same breakbeat. The amen break might be the most sampled piece of music in history. Where did it come…
#41 | Ultrasonic Tracking
May 14, 2018 • 24 min
Did you know your phone is a really good listener? Apps on your phone might be sending and receiving data over ultrasound. Ultrasonic communication is used for everything from tracking your daily habits to enabling light shows at music festivals. We hear…
#40 | ASMR
Apr 30, 2018 • 25 min
Do certain sounds give you the head tingles? If yes, this episode is full of ear candy for you! In this episode, we learn all about the phenomenon called autonomous sensory meridian response—or ASMR for short. This soothing episode features researchers…
#39 | Live Theater
Apr 16, 2018 • 24 min
Amazing concerts, Broadway musicals, Cirque du Soliel performances, and other live shows live and die on their sound design. This is the story of how sound design for live performances went from zero to speakers in the seats and where the industry might…
#38 | The Music in Speech
Apr 2, 2018 • 19 min
The way you speak has rhythm, timbre, and pitch. It’s more like music than you might think. We chat with The Allusionist host Helen Zaltzman, Martin Zaltz Austwick from Song by Song, Music Psychologist Dr. Ani Patel of Tufts University, and Drum Composer…
#37 | Seizure Sonification
Mar 19, 2018 • 30 min
Brant Guichard has heard “The Music” for as long as he can remember. Brant has a particular type of epilepsy where he hears what are called “musical auras” whenever he has a seizure. Brian Foo, aka the Data Driven DJ, introduces a different musical…
#36 | Hamilton
Mar 5, 2018 • 31 min
Broadway’s award-winning, record-breaking, smash hit, Hamilton, is a musical unlike any other. Get the story from people in the room where it happens of how sound helps tell the musical’s story eight times a week. We talk to Nevin Steinberg, Hamilton’s…
#35 | Emergency Alert System
Feb 19, 2018 • 27 min
When people in Hawaii were falsely alerted of a Ballistic Missile threat, the first thing they heard was the sound of an emergency alert. For decades, this tone has alerted us to local weather emergencies and other important events, but it has never been…
#34 | Muzak
Feb 5, 2018 • 20 min
“Elevator music” was once the sound of restaurants, offices, and elevators in mid-20th century America. But ironically these bland, string-driven instrumental tracks are never heard in elevators anymore. In this episode, we speak with Joseph Lanza, the…
#33 | Six O’Clock Soundtrack
Jan 22, 2018 • 27 min
Ever wonder how the music on your favorite news stations is created? Dive in with news music appreciator + journalist Victor Vlam; Composer Matthew Kajcienski, Composer Irad Eshel, Composer Adarsh Thottetodi, Composer David Lowe, Musicologist James…
#32 | 3149146093
Jan 8, 2018 • 26 min
A mysterious Tweet from one of the most famous people on Earth: A single phone number, zero context. What does it mean? Why was it posted? Would you call it to find out? For commercial director Duncan Wolfe, this hypothetical became a very real social…
#31 | The Gift
Dec 25, 2017 • 22 min
The science behind sound reproduction has been studied for centuries. But what will research uncover in the centuries to come? One man made it his life’s mission to find out, and a gift he made to the world will continue that mission for the foreseeable…
#30 | The Bleeps, the Sweeps, and the Creeps!
Dec 11, 2017 • 26 min
There are sounds we interact with every single day and never give a second thought. Our phones, computers, cars, and other devices are constantly communicating with us through user interface sounds and it’s their job to be heard, but not distracting. In…
#29 | Let It Beep
Nov 27, 2017 • 20 min
For over two decades, every time you turned on a Mac, you were greeted by a familiar sound. It’s appeared as a punchline in The Simpsons, and in movies like WALL•E. It’s a sound some of us tried to hide from our parents as we turned on the computer in the…
#28 | Disney Parks
Nov 13, 2017 • 24 min
Theme parks have a way of transporting us to magical places, and sound is crucial in maintaining the illusion. From the most action-packed attractions to the background music playing between park areas, theme park sound designers have thought of it all.…
#27 | Spooky Sounds
Oct 30, 2017 • 27 min
We uncover how scary sound effects are created in horror films as well as dissect how sound triggers the fear mechanisms in humans. Featuring Formosa Group Senior Sound Editor/Sound Designer Trevor Gates and Dan Blumstein, professor of Ecology and…
#26 | Acoustical Umbilical Cord
Oct 17, 2017 • 24 min
Many animals, humans included, are natural-born criers. It’s the most basic form of communication from right when we come into the world. But us humans are unique: we keep on crying until the day we die. What was born as a survival mechanism, develops a…
#25 | Level Up
Oct 3, 2017 • 24 min
Video games are a growing industry and every play-controlled experience is defined by its harmony of music, sound effects, and voice acting. In this episode, we reveal how these elements of a video game’s soundscape are crafted and come together to tell…
#24 | Watergate
Sep 19, 2017 • 27 min
Watergate might be the most widely-referenced scandal in our nation’s history. The actual word itself has been appropriated in order to name many later scandals. But for a new generation of Americans, the word Watergate might not mean much. What was it?…
#23 | Sonic Seasoning
Sep 5, 2017 • 20 min
Taste is one of our most subjective of the five senses. A flavor that elicits delight in one individual may evoke strong disgust in another. And while we all have a basic understanding of flavor, we rarely think about the other sonic factors that may be…
#22 | Fight or Flight
Aug 22, 2017 • 28 min
Are you afraid to fly? Does even the thought of boarding an airplane make you anxious? You’re not alone. Millions of Americans suffer from clinical aviophobia. While some manage to distract themselves long enough to endure a flight, countless others avoid…
#21 | Sound Firsts
Aug 8, 2017 • 30 min
What is the oldest recorded sound in history? For over 100 years researchers thought they knew until a mind-blowing discovery by historians found something new - and technological advances allowed it to be played back for the first time in history. What…
#20 | Noise Pollution
Jul 25, 2017 • 21 min
Noise pollution is something we’ve all experienced. Road construction, motorcycles, passing aircraft - the list goes on and on. Other than being just plain annoying, what effect does noise pollution have on our lives? In this episode, we take a look at…
#19 | 20,000 dBs Under the Sea
Jul 11, 2017 • 25 min
71% of the Earth is covered by water. And most of us imagine it to be a serene, almost silent world. But why should we have all the fun up here? Discover what sound is like just below the surface and all the way down to the ocean’s depths. And see how…
#18 | Evolution of Accents
Jun 27, 2017 • 27 min
When you describe yourself to others you might mention your height, hairstyle, or maybe your build. But one of the most telling things about you is something you can’t even see, yet it defines you more than you realize. Your accent tells others where…
#17 | Forensic Audio
Jun 13, 2017 • 19 min
You might not realize it, but audio can be just as crucial to solving a case than video or eyewitness testimony. But understanding how to interpret audio evidence, or having the ability to enhance it to a point of intelligibility, requires…
#16 | The Wilhelm Scream
May 30, 2017 • 22 min
When it comes to movie screams, what’s the first one you think of? Is it a scream that evokes a sense of fear, pain, or maybe even… humor? Perhaps you immediately think about a famous “Scream Queen” or a specific scene from a movie. But you may not…
#15 | Voice Acting
May 16, 2017 • 20 min
We hear disembodied voices all the time, in everything from cartoons and anime to commercials and trailers. It seems easy, but it’s actually an intricate craft involving a great amount of training. What does it take to create multiple, unique…
#14 | Hearing Loss
May 2, 2017 • 21 min
Our ears are sensitive, but we often don’t treat them that way. We are born with the ability to hear up to 20,000 Hz. As we age, our hearing range diminishes. On top of that, the more exposure we have to loud sounds, the greater the impact it has on our…
#13 | The Good, the Bad & the Irritating
Apr 18, 2017 • 22 min
Some sounds are like rug burn for your ears, while others are pleasant and soothing. We explore these sounds and get to the bottom of why we might interpret them as “good” or “bad”. Featuring Tommy Edison and David Poeppel. Twenty Thousand Hertz is hosted…
#12 | Foley
Apr 4, 2017 • 18 min
When you listen to a movie, everything the actor touches sounds crisp and clean. However, none of it was recorded on the movie set. Go behind the scenes with some of the unsung heroes of our movie experience. Featuring Fred Newman and Skywalker Sound’s…
#11 | Space
Mar 21, 2017 • 23 min
When we think about sound, our only reference is what it’s like here on Earth. What happens when we leave this thin blanket of atmosphere, and what do other planets sound like? Featuring Dr. Lori Glaze, Dr. Keith Noll, Dr. Scott Guzewich from NASA’s…
#10 | Dolls That Talk… And Some That Listen
Mar 7, 2017 • 19 min
Talking dolls have been around for over a century, but the fascination with making inanimate objects seem human reaches back into our early history. What is it about creating a companion that can interact with us, especially for a child, that fascinates…
#9 | Cars
Feb 21, 2017 • 18 min
Some car sounds are more obvious like the horn or engine… but what about the not-obvious-until-you-point-them-out sounds like the hollow thud of a trunk or the click of a latch? The sounds a car makes are so closely associated with quality, so how,…
#8 | Audio Descriptions
Feb 7, 2017 • 17 min
Did you know there might be a track of audio on your favorite movies and television shows that describe all of the actions on screen? This technology was designed for the visually impaired, but it could be used for the masses. It’s still not as widely…
#7 | Movie Soundtrack
Jan 24, 2017 • 19 min
When you think of a movie soundtrack, you probably think music. And sure, that’s one of the many, many things going on there. What else goes into making a scene sound “natural”? It isn’t what you’d think. Meet a major motion picture sound designer who…
#6 | From Analog to Digital
Jan 10, 2017 • 18 min
Did we lose anything when we transitioned from analog to digital? Learn about the Jedi skills old radio DJs had to have to spin vinyl on the radio, and meet a man who’s found himself trapped in a digital world and learn what he does to escape. Featuring…
#5 | Sound of Extinction
Dec 27, 2016 • 18 min
When was the last time you heard a dial-up modem? A dot matrix printer? A CD dropping into its plastic tray? Did you know it would be the last time? We talk to Rick Adams, a British reporter, about the impact of Big Ben being silenced for repairs next…
#4 | Mystery Hum
Dec 13, 2016 • 14 min
There’s this place right at the border between Detroit, MI, and Windsor, ON where there’s this hum… It rattles dishes, makes people sick, it’s even making people move away. And the government does not want you to know what’s making it. Explore the mystery…
#3 | 8-bit
Nov 29, 2016 • 16 min
Primitive, yet iconic, 8-bit audio defined a generation through video game sounds and music. Discover the history and innovation behind those audio marvels that still fascinate today. Featuring Microsoft Sound Designer, Zachary Quarles, and David Murray,…
#2 | NBC Chimes
Nov 15, 2016 • 16 min
NBC’s three little chimes didn’t just define a television network, they defined a generation. Where did they come from and what is the surprising impact they have had on current and future media? Featuring the last person to play the NBC chimes on the NBC…
#1 | Siri
Oct 31, 2016 • 16 min
When Siri launched in 2011, she permanently changed the way people interacted with their technology. What was it like to be the voice behind that voice? And how did they make that voice come to life? Featuring the original voice of Siri, voice actor Susan…