Stephen

Aircraft Addons : A320neo/A330-243 Sound Packs by Blue Sky Star Simulations

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Aircraft Addons : A320neo/A330-243 Sound Packs by Blue Sky Star Simulations
 
Realism in sound is mostly taken for granted in simulation. It is mostly accepted that if you buy a high end aircraft then the sounds should be perfect and are of a very high quality. In most cases they are, or at least the quality is usually very good. But how good is very good?
 
If you look through an expensive aircraft's sound library they are usually extensive, but getting extremely high quality sounds are a nightmare for developers and even then they don't live up to expectations, worse they can be downright awful no matter how carefully or how well they are created and mixed to perfection. But like the every other area that has progressed though unattainable high quality barriers in X-Plane over the last few years, sound has never really been front and center of major feature lists, but also they were mostly until now average in use.
 
The breakthough is using third party developers who create (from real world sound) very high quality sound sets, in other words they specialise in just sound. So they have the time and the equipment to create sound packs that are levels above and far more comprehensive than any one aircraft developer can do alone.
 
There has always been small specalised producers selling addon's for X-Plane, that is nothing new. But in the last year 2015 in X-Plane there has been the shift to a more commercial approach in the addon specialist being a designer house of their own quality and are heavily branded as a creator of certain products unlike the past hobbyist approach of filling in a gap in the market. In other words they are the new big boys in the game and they mean business.
 
The developer has two choices with quality sound, buy them outright on a license (very expensive, which will be added on to the cost of the aircraft) or collaborate with the specialised outfit and then allow them to sell the sound packages as a separate addon to the OE (Original Equipment) aircraft.
 
The first approach has been there for a while in simulation, but with the rise of specialised outfits the game is changing towards now the addon market that has been a much bigger factor in FS (Flight Simulator) than X-Plane. In fact now the addon to OE developers has broken big time in X-Plane in SimCoders developing addons for Carenado aircraft in the form of REP (Reality Expansion Packages) and here with sound Blue Sky Star Simulations with sound packages for JARDesign aircraft and coming soon for JRollons CRJ200 aircraft. No doubt this will be a developing story and it will be interesting to see where it goes. But the early signs are very significant and very good, and with the collaboration of the actual aircraft developers in hand with the specialised house (in this case sound) the amalgamation of both products are as we will see here is seamless and enhance each others products in operation. That means the results are a win-win for both parties.
 
The hard thing with sound is that you have no really good base to compare them with except your own ears and your memory. In most cases what you remember may sound like that particular aircraft, but your memory is going to be fickle with you, it sounds right so it should be right. I had two test cases this year that showed me both ends of the equation...   bad and good sound.
 
Strangely enough it was the JARDesign A320neo that was the bad case. I flew my Tasman Sea route from YBBN (Brisbane) to NZWN (Wellington) When I left YBBN I thought the A320neo's sound was quite good, but by the time I was ready to drop down to land at NZWN I was completely over the buzz saw sounds that made up the sound package of the aircraft, add in a headache and I was not wanting to do that anytime again soon no matter how good the aircraft is. I realised the sounds are to a point average and there was a (significant) difference.
 
I will make the point that after doing reviews for four or more years for X-Plane you see there is always an area that a developer can be weak. That is not their fault, it is just a human being thing of which I would be a hopeless long distance runner, it is just not in my physical or mental makeup. In developers cases if they are smart (which most are) they will add to their team other developers that are strong in the areas that they are not. But if they are control freaks (which many are) then it can come at a cost to their products in the areas that they cannot address.
 
The good was the FlightFactor Boeing 767-300. This aircraft opened my ears to really good sound on an aircraft (FlightFactor were always good on sound) but here with the B763 they did something that now and even with that huge feature list on the aircraft is still that the one thing that stands overwhelmingly out and every time I use or if I come across the machine is that sound. It sounds like the Boeing 767, the real one, the one I have flown on many, many times. Sound is not a hearing thing it is a gut feeling thing and when the sounds are really good then you know it and revel in their feedback to recreate the total full environment of being (usually in the rear seats) of that aircraft. It is the whole experience factor and only then do you totally realise how important really good high quality sound is...  The FlightFactor Boeing 767 had me crying while flying as I sobbed and wallowed in my memories of "It is just so like the real 767" and it is.
 
JARDesign Airbus A320neo
 
The JARDesign Airbus A320neo (which it isn't as it is the A320ceo (Current Engine Option)) comes with the CFM56 engines. There is one thing about the A320 Series, aurally it is very distinctive aircraft, certainly from the passenger seat.
 
Ansett Australia had some of the earliest A320-211 build aircraft from Serial 022 - 030 (6,821 sold as Nov 15). As an aircraft tragic I was on one from OOL (Coolangatta/Gold Coast) to MEL (Melbourne) within weeks of the aircraft being in service. Used to flying on Boeing 737-377's it was like getting on board another planet. But the biggest change in the cabin was the way the A320 sounded. We are used to A320's today, but in 1991 it was very different in that yes the engine start up and when running the sounds were slightly modernly efficiently different, but it was noises coming through the floor that made the machine really unusual (It is the PTU which stands for Power Transfer Unit known as the "barking dog"). At the time it was the future, which is now. But back then 25 years ago it was a wide eyed experience.
 
You can sit me now blindfolded in an A320 and start it up and I will tell you what version it is, so you can see why the original sounds just didn't cut it.
 
Blue Sky Star Simulations have created a sound expansion pack for the CFM56-5 series engines and a optional extra pack to cover the IAE V2500 (sadly only the CFM engine is modeled). You also have to have the main CFM sound pack to add the extra IAE package.
 
To expect just a new engine sound experience is totally understating the sound package you get here, as actually the engines are really a small proportion of the total package... In fact you get possibly everything you hear on a real A320 aircraft. First to note that the sounds are not just placed on or in the aircraft, but are significantly placed at their correct points on the aircraft in full 3-D surround sound. Which means as you move around the aircraft outside or inside you move within and out again of the range of the noise or sound.
 
56932e6fbb7aa_a320neo_Ground1.thumb.jpg.56932e7700717_a320neo_Ground2.thumb.jpg.
 
56932e7ac5deb_a320neo_Ground3.thumb.jpg.56932e8036327_a320neo_Ground4.thumb.jpg.
 
Covered items are all real hydraulic logic, you will hear all the hydraulic pumps when activated, real life conditioning systems inside and outside, and turn them on or off for the full cabin and cockpit areas. Notably the conditioning pack sounds are different inside and from the outside as the avionics air coming out from avionics bay, and inside you have logic to blower override changes.
 
I will note that if you have the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) running which its sounds are extensively covered here from startup to running. You will know when you board the A320 via the rear stairs of the aircraft they are very noisy buggers. Those sounds can of course override the fainter external sounds of the aircraft, they are still there though if you position yourself into the right places during the walkaround and are quite distant when nose on the aircraft.
 
All switches, buttons, selectors, handles, levers are carefully mapped and all sound like in real thing as you press them, but some buttons are a very loud audible click (notably the APU switches) which I don't doubt are realistic, but they sound like someone is banging hard on the underside of the cockpit floor from inside the front gear compartment, you jump at every switch press so are they just a little too loud?
 
In the cockpit environment you get a lot of sounds, small ones and constant ones in context of the aircraft sitting on the ground. Like all sounds Blue Sky Star has recorded (or someone with access to the aircraft) the real audio of the real moment of the activity or function of what the sound is to represent, all together they blend together of course to be really just background noise unless you do a certain function to activate an item. The sound is mixed and highly polished to be almost perfect and that is what these sound packages represent. Ambient ramp sound and internal aircraft people noise is very realistic, even if you do have to put on your headset to get through the checklist load.
 
The base pack is for the CFM56 engines but the references here are for the IAE engines as well. In engine sounds JARDesign have adjusted the A320neo's logic to match the new engine sounds.
 
5693322beba1b_a320neo_CFM1.thumb.jpg.2bc569332325dee7_a320neo_CFM2.thumb.jpg.50e
 
The full engine start sequence is covered including the different N1 (Fan) and N2 (Compressor) sounds. N2 compressor sounds come in the start sequence actually first. vibration is created by high and low sounds and when fully running you have a full 360º sound variation of front, mid, back and inside sounds. The PTU sounds are all too familiar on start up as the system pressurizes the hydraulic system of the none starting engine as it cycles on and off, on and off, on and off, due to pressure fluctuations, even when both engines are running the PTU will still make noises until the system pressures stabilise, the PTU self tests on startup as well.
 
Engine start up sounds actually can be heard better inside (different in the cockpit, but perfect in the cabin) than outside until you switch down the GPU/APU noise generators. Sitting in the passenger cabin you are overwhelmed by the realistic and perfect A320 environment.
 
Flap extension is good and different from your perspective position on the aircraft, and when you set the seatbelt signs you get an announcement. That familiar A320 low level whine is perfect from the cabin and in taxi you get a perfect reproduction of the A320 sound volumes and movement. Sound is very different in the cockpit and you feel more isolated, but hear more background aircraft system noises.
 
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Sound volumes are adjusted via the MCDU interface. Blue Sky Star give you full sound preferences with the package, but like me you will find your own self balance that suits your own requirements.
 
Taxi movement thuds (concrete joins) are excellent as many developers tend to over-emphasise these noises, and your actions in the cockpit are are well replicated with small details like the clicks with throttle movement as an example.
 
56935cde53242_a320neo_Taxi1.thumb.jpg.905693450131949_a320neo_Taxi2.thumb.jpg.a5
 
You give the A320 50% N1 power to get the engines spooled up and than full FLEX or TO/GA detent to commence the takeoff roll. The sound of engine changes are far more finer (more pronounced sound changes are noticeable on landing), and runway position callouts with V speeds are excellent. There is a certain more quality and fullness to the sound which is noticeable and the building wind noise is more bufferer. This is because you have to change (if you want too) the core "wind.wav" file in the X-Plane/resources/sounds/weather folder. I don't like changing core root files (messy when updating X-Plane), but here it is a significant change for the better, the "wind.wav" file is provided in the package.
 
Wind noises calm more when the undercarriage is retracted, so it shows that the lowered gear is creating turbulence sounds, yes the noises are usually sometimes present on landing (FlightFactor are again the master of such sounds) but it is again a significant aspect of your aural spectrum that creates the full simulation realism factor.
 
BSSS climb and cruise sounds are excellent, certainly as good as FlightFactor's sounds that reduced me to tears, and even then a smidge better in the cockpit/cabin sounds that are perfect as they are slight changing all the time slightly in tune just as really aircraft does, it is subtle but clever and of course if get up in the aircraft to walk around the sounds move as you do and change as you
 
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The Route today for both the A320 and the following A330 aircraft is the same KRSW (Southwest Florida) to KDFW (Dallas) and both in Delta colours.
 
After takeoff and climb to cruise, sound is really a background noise, a good one mind you but still a background noise, the good test on sound is in the landing, reduction of thrust, wind changes and speed, change of flap and the undercarriage sounds.
 
569441a0de4a2_a320neo_InFlight5.thumb.jp569441a7accc1_a320neo_InFlight6.thumb.jp
 
You always know the point of TOD (Top of Descent) as the engine sounds change and the speed starts to wind down. So the subtle changes are the most profound ones, the difference in landing is there is no sound, by the point that engines are at a lower throttle position and the wind noise is dying (or slowing) down and that highlights everything else in the aircraft. So by the time you get to the approach phase the speed is low and every change like the lowering of the flaps, power changes (which are extremely fine and good here) and actions in the cockpit are pronounced and highlighted more so than at any other segment of the flight. Gear noises, speed brake noises, flap noises, ultimate real wind sound, touchdown sounds, vibrations are all very well done to perfection as are the landing callouts. The reverse thrust is highlighted because it is not a reverser higher engine sound but that hard air rumble sound (not to be confused with ground rumble) that you realise on how real this simulation of sound really is. A final finale is the CFM engine spooling down that goes on for ages.... glorious!
 
569441aaa4d7e_a320neo_InFlight7.thumb.jp569441ad41126_a320neo_InFlight8.thumb.jp
 
Installation
 
Installing the Blue Sky Star Simulation package is really easy.
 
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In the JARDesign plugins folder there is the "sound3d-1" folder which is replaced by three sound (3d) folders 1-2-3 that come in the package. To highlight the detail of sound you get, just one folder (cockpit) has 86 wav sound files, and there are 45 wav sound files for the engines alone and the default JAR engines sounds are only covered with just 11 wav sound files. That is a big difference in sounds.
 
The IAE engine optional pack is harder to install. You have to replace 43 engine sound files in the engines folder but remember to keep the older CFM files in case you want to change engines or do what I did and create a separate IAE_Engine folder and CFM_Engine folder and swap them over as you need them.
 
There is an mp4. install video supplied with the package. Another Blue Sky Star video below highlights the A320 aircraft sounds
 

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JARDesign A330-243

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In this case the A330-243 sound package is not a complete mirror of the A320neo, as it is not quite as expansive but still very comprehensive. Biggest difference is that you have three engine options in the default Trent 700 (main pack) and two extra optional packs for the:

Pratt & Whitney 4000 Series

General Electric CF6 Series

Installation

56944f27ced61_A330instal.thumb.jpg.6fcd2

Installing is a little trickier as well. In this instance you add the files in to the 330_JARDesign/plugins/sound3d as a "Custom" folder and you have the option of adding in the optional GPWS sounds as "sound2d". The process of changing over the optional engine sounds are the same as the A320 packages. There is an "install" video included.

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But as the KRSW to KDFW flight proved the Trent sounds were excellent, detailed and a huge advance on the default sound files. Certainly I would like the GE CF6 option to be more of just a RR engine sounding like a GE engine and would I pay more for that option, the answer is yes. Hopefully that option will come in time.

A final note on this A330 package is that an new sound package is coming from Blue Sky Star Simulations and I would expect it to match the extensive systems of the A320 version, it will be probably priced accordingly as well, but that would still be good value.

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Summary
 
First I will admit I was sceptical that purchasing an extra sound package and certainly one priced at nearly US$20 would make that much difference. But these packages have been a real change in my thinking in how they fit into the full X-Plane landscape.
 
They prove that even the top aircraft developers can not deliver this sort sonic level of detailed sound (except maybe FlightFactor, but then again they do have a dedicated sound engineer on their team). So only a specialised house that is dedicated to truly innovated sound can deliver performances of this level. It is also a huge factor in how an optional 3rd party can totally enhance and even change the basic aircraft performance in a significant way.
The way these packages change the already excellent A320 Series from JARDesign is so significant that it creates a very much more user experience. Blue Sky Star Simulations has here totally changed the landscape in good quality sound, and the optional packages are a very worthy investment and that is because Blue Sky Star Simulations just do good sound, source and mix the sound at a level that is far beyond the usual high quality sound files you find in your aircraft.
 
It is with these sounds in the end just another extension of the simulation experience, the full package. But until you have heard really good sound then you realise how much more a deeper level detail you can have in a different dimension for other than just the obvious aircraft features and good aircraft modeling.
 
No doubt in the future more specialised brand developers will bring more excellent options and detail to the X-Plane simulator, if they are as good as Blue Sky Star Simulations are in sound, then the simulator experience is going to get even more exciting but more importantly even more realistic to the real aircraft we use and fly.
 

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X-Plane Store logo sm.jpg

 

Yes! the Blue Sky Star Simulation Sound Packages by Real Pilots is available from the new X-Plane.Org Store here :

Airbus A320neo

a320bss_sm.jpg.c238fd32f091461be2175e32e   JARDesign A320 CFM Main Sound Expansion Pack

Price is US$19.99 (JARDesign Airbus A320neo US$59.95 is Required to use this sound pack)

 

5694736c01192_a320bssIAE_sm.jpg.72a14d87  JARDesign A320 IAE Sound Expansion Pack  

Price is US$7.99 (JARDesign Airbus A320neo and CFM main Sound Expansion Pack is Required to use this sound pack)

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Airbus A330-243

56947585e9ae5_a330mainpack(trent700)_sm.  JARDesign A330 Main Custom Soundpack (Trent700)

Price is US$9.99 (JARDesign Airbus A330neo US$60.95 is Required to use this sound pack)

 

5694758757457_a330extension(pw4000)_sm.j   JARDesign A330 Pratt & Whitney 4000 Series Soundpack Expansion  

Price is US$7.99 (JARDesign Airbus A330 is Required to use this sound pack)

 

56947588689a2_a330extension(GE)_sm.jpg.c   JARDesign A330 GE Soundpack Expansion

Price is US$6.99 (JARDesign Airbus A330 is Required to use this sound pack)

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Blue Sky Star Developer Site : Blue Sky Star Company
 
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Review by Stephen Dutton

12th January 2016

Copyright©2016: X-Plane Reviews

Review System Specifications:

Computer System:  - 2.66 Ghz Intel Core i5 iMac 27”- 9 Gb 1067 Mhz DDR3 - ATI Radeon HD 6970M 2048 mb- Seagate 512gb SSD 

Software:   - Mac OS Yosemite 10.10.4 - X-Plane 10 Global ver 10.42 (final)

Addons - Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle : Sound - Bose  Soundlink Mini : Headshake

Scenery or Aircraft

- KRSW - South West Florida Intl by Aerosoft  (KRSW - SouthWest Florida Intl - X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$24.95

- KDFW - Dallas Fort Worth by Brian Godwin (KDFW-Dallas/Ft. Worth X-Plane.Org) - Free

 

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I've always thought the sounds were a bit bland in an otherwise excellent airliner. I'll have to pick this up!

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11 hours ago, IamNabil said:

I've always thought the sounds were a bit bland in an otherwise excellent airliner. I'll have to pick this up!

I thought the original sounds were average, but this sound package is totally overwhelming and well worth the extra purchase if you like the aircraft. SD

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Do these packs only include the sounds or do they also have the appropriate engine objects? If not is there a way to get them?

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27 minutes ago, Guest Tristan said:

Do these packs only include the sounds or do they also have the appropriate engine objects? If not is there a way to get them?

 

The packs are created for a specific engine already on the aircraft, if the the developer adds in a new engine variant then BSS will usually add a new sound pack for that engine into the package or create a new one, but the engine has to come with the aircraft from the developer. SD

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8 minutes ago, Stephen said:

 

The packs are created for a specific engine already on the aircraft, if the the developer adds in a new engine variant then BSS will usually add a new sound pack for that engine into the package or create a new one, but the engine has to come with the aircraft from the developer. SD

In  that case how can I change the RR Engines of the jardesign A330 into PW engines?

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