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Searching For Sounds

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Ever wondered what a kookaburra sounds like? Want to use the Roadrunner's "beep beep" as your "you've got mail" sound? FindSounds can help you find these and hundreds of other sound files on the web.

FindSounds is a specialized search engine for sound effects and musical instrument samples. Unlike some other multimedia search services that help you find songs, radio broadcasts or other types of recorded content on the web, FindSounds is limited to simple sounds and short samples.

All of these sounds are from freely available, non-restricted web pages, and that means you can both listen to and download them to your own computer, using sounds that you find to replace the built-in event sounds in your operating system. You can also use them in your own multimedia creations for interesting effects.

The easiest way to get started finding sounds is to browse the list of sound types and simply click on a link for a sound that interests you. Sound types are grouped by category, such as animals, birds, musical instruments, nature, and so on.

Click on a particular sound type -- say the musical instrument taiko -- and you see a standard search result page, with links to the web page where the sound was found.

You also see a visualization of the waveform of the sound, information about the file size, sampling rate, and length. Click the speaker icon, and you can listen to the sound (assuming you have an audio player configured to play sound, such as Apple's Quick Time or the Windows Media Player). If you like the sound, there's also a link that allows you to email it to a friend.

There's also a "sounds like search" icon that will retrieve up to 200 audio files that sound most like the example. The similarity of sounds are computed based on characteristics of the digital audio recordings using sound-matching technology developed by Comparisonics, the company behind FindSounds.

FindSounds also offers a number of fine-tuning tools that let you narrow your search in a variety of ways. You can search for specific keywords, though these will only match filenames of particular sounds rather than doing the similarity comparison described above.

You can also limit your search to specific the file formats AIFF, AU, and WAVE formats, which are the most popular formats for sound effects on Macintosh, Unix, and Windows, respectively, and you can exclude a format by un-checking the box beside its name.

Other limiters include files recorded in stereo, mono or both, 8 or 16 bit resolution, four different sample rates (higher rates usually means better quality), and a drop down menu for limiting filesize.

The help page offers detailed instructions for downloading sounds, changing event sounds on your computer, and other search tips for making the most of the site.

What about copyright issues? The site's copyright policy is forthright in stating that while all of the sounds it makes available are found on publicly accessible web sites, sounds in these audio files may be copyrighted. FindSounds declines to offer advice on the fair use of these files, though it will remove links to copyrighted sounds at the request of the copyright holder.

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