(Image from AWG product manual)
The CFM56 family of engines are some of the most reliable jet engines ever built. Major applications for this turbine engine includes the Airbus family, both the A320 and the A340 airliners, the Boeing 737 family, both the classics (300-500) as well as the next generation 737's (600-900), and the KC-135 Stratotanker (which is essentially a B707 airframe). As of June 2011, 22 208 units were built.
The subject of this review is the CFM56-3 family of turbines, which powered the second generation of B737 aircraft, which are the 737-300 to the 737-500 series of aircraft. This reliable engine serves all over the world, nearly 4 500 units in total.
This combo entered service in 1984 and was so successful; it was only superseded by the 737 NG combo! The engines delivery between 18 500 lbs and 23 500 lbs of thrust per engine.
AWG Simulations recently released their sound set for this incredible piece of modern engineering which promises to amaze you. Does it? Let’s go for a flight!
Installation and documentation
After purchasing the sound set, you can download the file. The file is incredibly small by today’s standards, only 18.3 MB in size! Once you have completed the download simply run the installer.
It will welcome you to the installer and you can click “Next” to continue the installation. This will take you to a window containing the system specifications for this sound package. It is actually quite surprising if you look at the specifications you need! Press “Next” to continue which will take you to the License agreement.
You need to agree with the terms and conditions and click “Next”. You can then select where you want to install the sound set to. You can essentially leave it at the default directory, or you can select your own directory. It is important to know that you do not initially install it to a particular aircraft. It is installed in different folder and once you are done, you have to place the sounds in the aircraft that you desire’s folder. Click “Next” to continue.
You are asked to confirm that installation of the package and then you click Start. Installation takes about 10 seconds at most. When you are done you click “Exit”, and you are done! Well, almost that is... You still have to place the sounds in the aircraft folder of your choice.
Once you click “Exit”, the installer closes and you are presented with a 7 page manual on the sound set, the manual being in .pdf format.
The following items are covered in the manual:-
2. Features; and
You are also given details on how to contact the crew at AWG Simulations should you wish to do so.
Don’t let the fact that the manual is only 7 pages fool you - you get every bit of information you need! By following the manual, you will get the sound set installed and ready to go in no time at all! The manual is extremely user friendly, and very well written.
So, by following the instructions in the manual, I go to the directory where I installed mine. Inside this folder I find the ESC 737 X folder inside of which I find the manual which I am using for the installation, as well as the all important sound folder.
If you have any doubts about this, don’t worry - just follow the instruction and backup the sound set that you are about to replace and you should be fine!
So, I copy and paste the sound set to the aircraft I want it in and bingo, I am done! No tinkering with any configuration files or the like. Now with that out of the way, let us get inside the aircraft and see what it sounds like...
Now, the manual promises the following features of the product, namely:-
1. The sounds are recorded from the real aircraft;
2. Realistic touchdown and gear sounds;
3. Take off and landing rolling sounds;
4. Custom cockpit sounds; and
5. Custom flap lever sounds and sounds for the various switches.
What I did was to go in two directions here - I firstly installed the sounds in my default 737-800 for FSX and also downloaded a freeware B737-400, simply to broaden the spectrum a bit.
Turn up the sound!
Now, the last time I flew on a 737 classic aircraft was in 2000. This was before I fell in love with flight and flight simulation so I was far more concerned with the safety briefing and the anxious feeling of impending doom than with worrying about what sounds are around me in the cabin. So from memory, this is not going to work.
I hit the internet and start looking for quality videos of the 737 classic series, both from the outside and also the cockpit. Ah yes, I am starting to remember what these engines sounded like back in the day when I was more concerned about my fear of heights than enjoying flying!
Now, let us hear what these engines sound like and if they deliver the developers promise of a quality rendition of the CFM56-3 symphony.
Starting with the levers and switches first, the sound of the flap lever is very pleasing to the ear! I cannot fault it, it is 100% credible. Not all of the switches have audible “click” sounds on them, for example the ones that I could find that did produce a click sound when you flick it on or off, is the fuel pump switches. Again, I found it surprisingly realistic for flip switches and it is very pleasing to the ear.
One of the big differences between the NG and the classics are that sort of rattling noise that you get in the cockpit - this is beautifully simulated! This sound is apparently generated by the gyro instruments and the instrument comparator. I obviously stand to be corrected here, but these sounds are not so prominent, if at all present, in the NG’s. It adds a touch of nostalgia and a good touch of realism to the package!
Now the big one, the engine sounds - I will start with a startup of the CFM56-3's. I am happy to say that the startup sounds are as far as I can tell, absolutely perfect! I loved the way that it sounds! They compared extremely well to the real deal and I was again very pleasantly surprised!
Changing to the various throttle settings for taxiing out and lining up with the runway, the engine thrust note changes are extremely pleasing to the ear.
Now for the take off! Just brilliant! It sounds exactly like the real deal and has that lovely “timber” sound to the engine noise when at the higher power settings.
There are also a fair bit of rattling going on as the aircraft is rolling down the runway. Once the wheels leave the runway and you select the gear up, a voice actually says “gear up!” and then the wheels start coming up. And yes, the sound of the wheels being lifted into their bays are there and are, as far as I can tell, completely authentic - simply marvelous!
The only thing that I noticed was that although quite a bit of change can be detected in the wind noise, it is not quite enough. It sounds very realistic, but is not loud enough. Please note though, I used default sound volume settings during testing!
This means that you can always hear the engines, even when above 250 knots. Even when pushing the environment sound settings up to a 100% the engines were still perfectly audible. Although this is the case, it doesn’t really detract from the enjoyment of the simulation.
On approach and landing, when lowering the gear, the voice (read your virtual Fist Officer) will announce “gear down!” and the sounds of the gear being lowered are present and correct! And again, yes, they are completely believable.
The touch down is an audible joy as well! The rattling sound of the touch down and the rolling sounds are beautifully done, and although I did not hear the spoilers deploy as you would expect in the real aircraft (that high pitched whirring sound on touch down!), the experience was realistic in the audio sense of the word.
One thing you need to be aware of though is the fact that the 3D sound model is not utilized. This means that you rear speakers, if you are using quadraphonic or surround sound speakers will not produce the engine sounds behind you - they will all be played over the two main speakers right in front of you. This again, is nothing major unless you are an absolute purist. It is one aspect that might be worth looking at by the developers though as it will add some more realism to the package.
Another key element that I did miss was the “clacking” sound of the trim wheels operating, either when the autopilot is engaged or when you simply manually trim the aircraft. Again nothing major, but this might be worth looking at for the developers as well, since this is definitely a very commonplace sound on the 737's flight deck!
So apart from a thing missing here and there as I outlined in the above passages, there can be no doubt - it will sound as if you are flying a 737 classic!
The performance impact? I have an Intel Q9550 quad core with 6 GB RAM and a GeForce 480 GTX with 768 MB video memory and I had no performance impact whatsoever. I you have anything in the region of the recommended specifications, you should be fine.
Let me make one thing very clear - these sounds are very high quality! I can very well believe that they may have a toll on lower end systems, that is, systems below the minimum specifications, as a lot of processing power will be required.
In order to demonstrate this effect, let us think back to the days of the 486 and when mp3's had become the rage! My friends all had Pentium 133MHz and higher end systems, so they could play mp3's in 128 mbps format, whilst I, with my 486 DX 100 (yes that was a powerful chip in its day!) could manage that, only if I decoded them to EXCLUDE stereo, or if I did use stereo, I had to drop the quality to around 64 - 96 mpbs, or else it would stutter. I think you get the picture right?
In summary then? This is an extremely high quality audio package and adds tremendous realism to flying. If I had to compare them to the default sound set? I cannot, they are not in the same class!
You simply cannot go wrong with this package! It is inexpensive, it is realistic and is easy to use, and most of all, you will certainly feel like you are piloting a 737 classic!
As far as I could tell, and I always say this, I am not a real world pilot folks, but by relying on the next best thing, which is quality video recordings of the real deal, I can tell you that your audio experience will be authentic and enjoyable!
What I liked about it
1. The real world quality of the recordings
2. The warm and authentic “feel” created on the flight deck
3. The price!
What I didn’t like about it
1. One or two items not modeled, but nothing major!