Death of a Cash Register is a royalty-free sound library cataloguing an old cash register’s journey into transcendence. Though he dies, he is now immortal, and shall outlive all his cash register peers…
I found it at a junk shop a while ago, and the entire thing was obviously rusted solid and clearly beyond repair. It was fully mechanical, but driven or assisted by an electric motor in some manner. I’m not sure entirely how it worked, since I never got it to run (in other words, if you want sounds of a register actually functioning, this is not the library for you). It could not possibly have been of any use to anyone else, but I saw a lot of potential for sounds. I planned to record everything I could of it, from the buttons to utterly destroying it. The plan was to make a fairly small library between larger ones, but it ended up being a much larger undertaking than I had anticipated. After three months, I was pretty tired of that register.
The library contains recordings of various impacts, drops, rattles, squeaks, scrapes, springs, and mechanical movements. It includes 246 files, all recorded at 24/96 (except 5 internal impulse responses [mentioned below] which are 24/48), totaling 2 hours, 28 minutes of audio. There is a large range of sounds, from meaty clanks of thick metal, to tiny spring twangs, to armfuls of metal chunks being slammed on the ground, to small mechanical clicks, to dropping the entire thing 20ft onto asphalt. The sounds have no processing applied aside from cleanup, so there is no EQ, compression, limiting, or effects processing of any kind. All the files are stereo, as that is my preference, even when recording small things, as I feel pretty much everything benefits from the spatiality. If you want to mix them down to mono, you should have no trouble doing that, as all of the files were recorded in XY (except for the “B” files, and the internal impulse responses [mentioned below], which were done with contact mics as a spaced pair; with these you may get some phase issues mixing to mono).
Please note there are NO recordings of the register running, as it was completely non-functional, so all the mechanisms in this library are manually actuated. This does mean that the mechanisms are very clean and isolated, so they can be used for many different things. In general, none of these sounds are even identifiable as coming from a cash register (except the bell-like disk), so they would fill many different roles with ease.
I started by recording everything I could with it still intact. This includes the key being inserted and taken out, keypad buttons, the lid for changing the receipt paper, hitting it with bare hands and a crowbar, scraping it with a crowbar and a wire brush, and short-distance drops onto both carpet and hard flooring. Many of the recordings made while the register was intact have two versions: the first, called “A” in the filename is of a normal stereo mic, and the other, named “B” is a pair of contact mics attached directly to the sides of the register. The reason for this is that the thing was fairly hollow and resonant, so impacts and button presses resonated internally in an interesting fashion. The “A” and “B” files are already synchronized. They work together rather strangely, as the “A” file is a normal sounding recording with a realistic image, while the “B” file sounds aggressively close and huge and is an extremely wide image.
Once I had everything I wanted of the register intact, destruction began. It was at this point that attaching contact mics was no longer possible. It was dropped from shoulder height numerous times, then dropped from 20ft numerous times as well. I could not believe how well it held up to this. Even after THREE 20ft drops onto asphalt, it still took several hits from a heavy-duty pry bar to break the shell away from the main system. Once the main mechanism was separated from the outer shell, it was dropped from 20ft twice onto the outer shell components, and STILL it remained almost entirely intact. At the risk of sounding immensely platitudinous, they don’t make them like they used to.
Later recording sessions involved doing multiple drops of each outer shell component that had been separated, then the whole lot of them together. In the recordings of things being dropped, the object being picked up is included between drops, as this often sounded interesting. If the pick-up is not included between drops, it’s because I deemed it too boring to be useful (and I find nearly anything useful). I then went on to record manual actuation of any moveable parts I could find. Many parts were bent or broken, but this either made the sound more interesting, or freed up nearby components for actuation. I plucked and stretched any springs I could reach (you would not believe how many are in there, particularly in the mechanism that lift the plastic numbers for the readout display), and rattled everything the least bit loose. I piled all the components on top of one another, and shook them around, resulting in some meaty clanks and horrible squeaks.
Another thing I did pre-destruction was take impulse responses of the internal resonance of the register. I mentioned earlier how it was rather hollow-sounding, and I wanted to be able to apply that to other stuff. There are 5 internal impulse responses, each a little different. These were done at 24-bit, 48kHz, as that’s the highest I could go in that circumstance, unfortunately. Everything else, however, was recorded at 24/96.
There is also a sixth impulse response, which was made from an editing mistake. Although it was a mistake, I found it can make extremely cool things when used as an impulse response.
This demo should illustrate the kind of things you can expect from the library:
Death of a Cash Register
241 stereo files at 24/96, 5 stereo files at 24/48, 2 hours 28 minutes, 5.17GB (3.51GB Download)
Includes PDF, CSV, and XLSX track lists
The cover photo (the black and white one of the register in the street), the photo at the top of this post, and the first photo below by Herschel Photography; the other ones below (the crappy ones) are by me.