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A Trained Ear Can Tell Us A Lot About Kawasaki’s Ninja H2 – Have a Listen


The video below (which we posted earlier, and nobody paid attention) is number 2 in a series of teasers by Kawasaki for the Ninja H2 which will be unveiled at Intermot. We wrote about this yesterday. If you can’t tell the difference between Mozart and Weird Al Yankovic, don’t bother … But if you have been listening to internal combustion engines, including those with forced induction, and have a discerning ear, tell us what this sounds like? By the way, we are not so sure this isn’t a large displacement engine (a 600 would rev higher, wouldn’t it?). Sounds rather deep and throaty.


  1. Michael H says:

    My trained ears hear subtle changes as air flows over and around a beak. The air is travelling southeast to northwest, and the relative humidity level is 58%. It’s the middle of the afternoon, in early June. At :35, I hear a nightingale sing.

  2. Jim says:

    Let Kevin Cameron listen to it. He’ll tell us what it is.

  3. -D says:

    That is a middleweight 4 cyl turbo. End of discussion.

  4. Don says:

    Don’t they already make a 1500cc supercharged/intercooled in-line 4cyl. jet ski that makes 310hp? Why don’t they just stick that engine in a bike and drop the current 1400? My Tuono would be history in a heartbeat.

  5. jim says:

    At the 4, 5, 6 second mark you can hear something winding up, especially when the RPM’s dip momentarily. How about hybrid electric?

  6. david says:

    Considering that the big deal about this engine is the supercharger, why would the teaser sound be related to anything else?

  7. Kim says:

    Shifting sounds similar to the paddle shifters in indy cars,they make the same clicking sound .

  8. Tank says:

    Sounds expensive.

  9. Roberto says:

    Sounds like either a speedshifter or a sequential manual transmission is being used. I definitely hear something that sounds like a waste gate, possibly from a supercharger. The downshifts sound like they are controlled by a combination of a slipper clutch and electronics. They definitely have me sitting on the edge of my seat.

  10. scott from NY says:

    Speculate all you’d like, given Kawasaki’s propensity for celebrating their past, the answer is in the name: a 750 triple, guaranteed.

  11. Mike says:

    It’s a supercharged triple of unknown displacement.

    • Dave says:

      The word “triple” does not appear anywhere on that page, 4 spark plug caps do appear in the CAD drawing.

  12. Ed says:

    If it’s a wastegate, why do we only hear the chirps on the 3-6 shifts and not on the 1-2 or 2-3 shifts. Granted, the 1-2 shift is neither full throttle or high rpm, but the 2-3 shift is definitely wound out at full speed, and if it’s a blowoff valve then you would get it for that. Way too mysterious, Kawasaki, way to keep me in my seat…

  13. Tim says:

    There is a distinct sound of a blow off valve that’s associated with some type of forced induction. As for what displacement that’s possible… My guess is that it’s a larger bore design due to the deeper sound associated with a liter bike & not the whine of a six hunn-ed… Either way, I’m pretty excited about factory forced induction!!!

  14. Jeremy in TX says:

    I think it is a super-charged engine around 1000cc’s.

    To form that opinion, I used my keen sense of inference and deduction to decode Kawasaki’s announcement a year ago when they stated were developing a super-charged engine around 1000cc’s. Combine that cryptic message with the fact that they already build a large super-charged I4, and it is hard to believe it will be anything else. A lightweight 600cc? When faced with the choice between “less filling” and “tastes great”, Kawasaki always goes with “tastes great.” I think it will be big and fast rather than light and nimble.

    Anyone getting giddy for a 2-stroke has clearly breathed in too much oil smoke as a youngster.

  15. JasonB says:

    I come here just for the comments and MD’s readers never disappoint.

  16. Provologna says:

    This is generally a great website. Even Joe Montana lost a few Championship games. This is friendly criticism from a musician and a person with moderately well trained ear for music, audio, and recording technology.

    The task of describing a motorcycle engine by listening to an audio track requires someone who knows internal combustion engines and knows how cylinder quantity, cylinder layout, firing sequence, 4 vs. 2 stroke, and atmospheric vs. forced induction affect the sound of that engine. Ditto the aural differences between transmission types. Ditto the aural differences between motorcycles recorded on a dyno vs. the vehicle being ridden as it was intended in normal use.

    A person can meet all the above criteria and know nothing of the musical differences between Mozart and Wierd Al.

    (This “test” if one may call it that, is particularly difficult because there’s no recording of a known quantity to compare to the unknown recording. For instance, they could play back a recording of their 1000cc open class race replica, then the unknown bike with exact same recording parameters…oh well, certainly the marketing department had no scientific goals and desire only to market this bike which is either very cool or extremely over sold or both.)

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “The task of describing a motorcycle engine by listening to an audio track requires someone who knows internal combustion engines and knows how cylinder quantity, cylinder layout, firing sequence, 4 vs. 2 stroke, and atmospheric vs. forced induction affect the sound of that engine.”

      Norm G. goes Horshack…

  17. George says:

    I really seriously doubt anyone will ever bring back a 2-stroke streetbike.

    It is a shame but I doubt it will ever happen due to the emission regulations and the current technology to sufficiently clean up a 2-stroke make the 2-stroke engine just as complex as a 4-stroke…

    If it is not 2-stroke, then it should be a triple to maintain SOME connection to “H2” name.

    If it is neither a 2-stroke, nor a triple, Kawasaki should be ashamed of themselves for connecting the bike to the iconic H2 name.

  18. david says:

    This shouldn’t be much of a surprise since there have been pictures of the engine with the supercharger on it out there for a while now.

  19. Fmdbh says:

    Air assisted shifter

  20. ApriliaRST says:

    Since everyone now agrees it is 4-cycle, I think it’s just another over-sell of basically the same thing from a motorcycle manufacturer. Light weight is king when moving and accelerating wheeled vehicles, especially around curves and this bike is not likely to set new standards of weight reduction. After the hype, Kawasaki scores big snore. Maybe they’ll jazz it up with a beak. LOL

  21. Philip says:

    I’m going with the Supercharged 750 theory. It would create some individuality for Big K in the “mid” displacement range.

  22. mickey says:

    I hear chirping 24/7. 49 years of riding without earplugs lol. Can’t tell you what kind of motor this is, although it’s fun reading the responses from all who ” positively” know what it sounds like, but no two agree. Typical.

  23. George says:

    I think someone doesn’t understand the difference between “video” and “audio”.

  24. PN says:

    It’s sounds like my 650 Versys motor with a supercharger:)

  25. kpinvt says:


    • kpinvt says:

      Can I get a larger font here? H Y D R O G E N. No one seems to be paying any attention to the fact that this is not a dino-fueled bike.

  26. Andrew M says:

    I would definitely go with turbo from the sound factory blow off valve which is normally much quieter than an aftermarket unit and usually chirps as per sound when the rider downshifts. Too deep to be a 600 more likely to be around the liter mark. You don’t have to hear a whistle for it to be a turbo especially if it is small to go with a small displacement, compared to say a diesel with a much larger turbo making a lot more boost even in stock form.
    P.S. I love turbos not matter the size or boost level.

  27. Michael Watts says:

    We truly live in the best of times!
    Thanks for motorcycledaily keeping us updated.
    So many choices for high quality bikes big or small.
    Cruisers, superbikes, inexpensive smaller displacement bikes,
    Redo’s of the touring bikes.
    No looking through rose colored glasses.
    Just the facts!
    Excitement and so many choices.
    There are lots of other products companies can make and sell but
    it is so refreshing to see many manufacturers engineering excitement.
    Looks or speed or utility. Nirvana!

  28. Norm G. says:

    wait, i forgot Special K doesn’t have a 600. could this be 636 based…?

  29. Rich says:

    I was bummed it wasn’t a 2-stroke……”H2″, remember?

  30. Norm G. says:

    re: “if you have been listening to internal combustion engines, including those with forced induction, and have a discerning ear, tell us what this sounds like?”

    you rang…?

    right then, it’s an I4 (definitely NOT a triple or tumor). no real revelation there at this point I guess. the engine’s driving a centrifugal supercharger (not a turbo ’cause there’s no turbine spool/whistle, any self-respecting diesel guy had better KNOW this sound), and it’s displacement is 750cc to a liter (well 1043cc). pitch is deeper than your school boy 600, but not deep enough for your 1200-1400 hyper bikes.

    there’s a guy who frequently rides down my street during the season on a Busa, but I hear him droning in a mile away before he even gets to the development. I can always tell it’s him and he must be an older, respectful guy ’cause he deliberately keeps the noise down.

    in contrast, you know the youngsters, they’re the one’s playing “throttle jockey” out on the main road as they’re constantly cycling between 3,000 rpms to 10,000 rpms and back (if not banging off the limiter). bike never gets out of 2nd gear. they WANT everybody to hear them.

    • Tom Shields says:

      I vote with Norm. I4, highly integrated centrifugal supercharger (a la Rotax maybe?), bigger than a 600 for sure, likely no bigger than a liter. Maybe a 900?

    • Curly says:

      Ding ding ding. Norm wins again. Kawasaki missed a good chance to jump on the Triple ship though. A supercharged 750 or 900 triple would have been a sweet motor and a legit tie in with the triple of old.

  31. PABLO says:

    Im very confident that the chirp is a re-circulation valve (blow off valve to some).
    Defiantly either turbo or super charged. Going by the way it builds boost i would guess turbo, however the patent drawings sugest supercharger. Displacment is a bit harder to guess, but 600-800cc would seem like the likely choice and inline 4 cylinder.

  32. xlayn says:

    even and high pitched sound… you already know what that means.
    but someone added the automatic transmission, may be a good thing to offer (for them to differentiate, that’s it) so it’ll be the automatic ninja.
    On my books another triple would be nice.
    triple turbo 450 on low weight would be even nicer, heck even four inline 450 would be nice

    but economy it’s not for that so mantis 600 for everybody (very sad face)

  33. mono12r says:

    I’m thinking a proper reborn H2 would have to sport a displacement of 750cc and a triple cylinder. Forced induction of some sort would be a good way to sweeten things up. Cool marketing idea, but what I can’t help wonder is if this H2 finally has the 1500cc supercharged engine that’s been in the watercraft now for a few years. Being an owner of a ZX14R, I can’t imagine a huge increase in power, but Kawi knows if they build it, we will come and get it. Listening to the sound clip though, it just doesn’t sound like a big bore.

  34. dave kingdon says:

    turbocharged triple makes the most sense. seem to hear waste gate and triple has torque without high compression being ness.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “triple has torque”

      triples though have an unmistakable RASP that can’t be confused for anything else. (675’ers across creation nod their heads)

      • Klaus says:

        I agree that it’s an inline four but during the first few seconds, at low revs, it sounds like a triple to me, but just for a moment. At low revs it doesn’t sound like your run-of-the-mill inline four.
        My guess is that it’s smaller than 1000cc – if it has a turbo or a supercharger and is revving quite high the bike should be going 200 mph on that clip!
        I stick with my 750cc, around 150hp guesstimate.

  35. Mr.Mike says:

    It must be a 651cc four stroke, carbureted single with a flapping cam chain tensioner.

  36. Billy Atkinson says:

    Sounds like a 750 turbo. The turbo is the chirping sound. Next!

  37. Robert says:

    To me it sounds more like a twin a hopped up 650 maybe, but the shifting sounds like a semi auto trans

  38. GP says:

    My ears tell me its a 600cc turbo inline 4. It revs too high and too quick to be a 1000cc motor. Besides it should be good for liter bike HP with the turbo added. NO WAY would Kawasaki unleash a 1000cc turbo with 250HP for the average joe to wrap around a pole!

    • GP says:

      It probably will have a rather mundane compression ratio of 9 to keep the engine together for more than 5k miles too. I just hope they don’t go overboard and price it higher than the current ZX10R.

      • GP says:

        On a side note, the chirping and engine sounds alone make it a unique and cool sounding bike that should bring big grins.

  39. Shaunock says:

    I love all the comments demanding/pining for a two stroke.

    Let it go. It’s not going to happen.

    • xlayn says:

      same for the ones asking for low price, high performance, high tech machine (optional beak)

    • Norm G. says:

      I just hope it looks good.

      as my mantra goes, NAIL THE STYLING. you can stuff all the tech you want under the bonnet, but if the first glance doesn’t draw them in…? they’ll never bother to find out.

  40. Cagefree says:

    Since its a 4cyl maybe Kawi decided to put the 300hp turbo 1500cc from their watercraft into a bike and put everyone else on the trailer. I doubt it, but who thought Dodge would ever produce a street car with over 700 hp. Wouldn’t surprise me

  41. George says:

    Why not a 750 cc triple, that would mean you are hearing about 13k rpm instead of 10k rpm redline.

    a 750 cc triple would also be modularly expanded to 1000 cc by adding another cylinder. Conversely, could be 3/4s of the existing ZX10R.

    Chirps sound like wheel slipping on a dyno as the wheel hesitates for each up shift. The chirps on the downshifts are very similar sounds.

    I don’t hear a turbo waste gate.

    I don’t hear a supercharger whine either.

    • todd says:

      I’m with George. I immediately thought “tire slip on dyno drum.”

    • dino says:

      I hear some kind of boost rev up near the beginning, just before it really gets loud. Thought it sounded like a supercharger, but the chirping did suggest a blow-off valve, which a supercharger shouldn’t need, but a turbo would. But there was just something odd about the chirp, so maybe it is the slipping on a Dyno drum (never really listened for one before)..

  42. Buzz says:

    I’m just bummed it sounds like a 4 Stroke 4 cylinder.

    I was hoping for a street legal 2 smoke.

    • Tom K. says:

      I’m no expert, but I agree with Buzz, sounds like a suck/squeeze/bang/blow inline four somewhere around 750cc. I can’t make out exactly what the chirp is, maybe the sound guy had the hiccups? Or maybe it’s the electric motor assist clutch cycling. I don’t hear the “whine” of forced induction, but again, I’m no expert. I do know one thing; “Even the Ninja fears the Hurricane”. Maybe this will be the shot across Honda’s bow that will wake it up. Can I get some butter on my popcorn, please?

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “I don’t hear the “whine” of forced induction”

        you won’t, it’s not your classic roots type, it’s centrifugal like an aerocharger or procharger.

        (sorry in advance xlayn)

        • Tom K. says:

          Could be, Norm. You read my mind elsewhere, I was looking for the “whistle” of a turbodiesel but didn’t hear it (sometimes it’s a “hiss”) – that’s what I’ve been listening to for longer than I’d like to admit. Isn’t the term “onamanapea”, finding a word that sounds like the sound you’re trying to describe? This is kind of fun, it’s a party game for those who use “Eau Castrolla” aftershave.
          If it were only a concept bike, I’d still think there was an outside chance of some kind of “hook”, like an electrical motor/gen powered by a set of lightweight capacitors, that would give you about 30 seconds of “boost” before discharging, recharging with braking. But I don’t think that idea is ready for prime time, or would even be all that practical, it would be much easier just to give it better lungs.

    • dino says:

      me too… not really “changing the landscape” when they already tried turbo’s in the eighties.

      I guess just about everything has been tried (maybe a turbo-rotary diesel??) but a turbo on a 4-cylinder would be interesting to see how well they executed it…

  43. chase says:

    Uhhhhhhh.This thing is hardly a secret. has a photo of the motor. Supercharged 4 cylinder stroker.

  44. Starmag says:

    It should have been a 750cc 3 cylinder with supercharging if they were (slightly)honoring the past, but it sounds like a 800-1000ccish 4 cylinder with a supercharger and no more than a 9000-10000rpm redline. Which could have stupid power depending on boost PSI.I think there are turbo S100RR’s with like 350hp. MotoGp with 250hp? Whimpy! I doubt this will have anywhere near that though.

    • Chaz says:

      It may be that the H2 refers to the handling–Holy Highside, Batman.

      • Starmag says:

        Cook Neilson had some experience with that, Robin. Dig..

        I remember one time, after we’d published a particularly scathing road test of an H2 Kawasaki 750, I decided that I’d show the Kawasaki people exactly what I was talking about with regard to handling instability. There was this one corner on Mulholland Highway that was perfect for testing: fast and bumpy (it was on a section of that highway that became known as Racer Road). The Kawasaki guys showed up; I showed up. So I was whistling this 750 through this one very high-speed turn when it started to wobble. When that happened, the suspension started to oscillate, then the muffler on the left side started banging off the ground, then it high-sided me through a barbed wire fence and I ended up in the hospital (“Charge it!”) for a little while.

        • Cyclemotorist says:

          The Z-1s were also bad in bumpy corners.

          You didn’t have to be racing it to uncover this fault either.

          Although there frame deficiencies, the cause was mostly suspension related.

  45. JR says:

    You need to play the rest of the sound tape.. whereby the cops siren can be heard chasing him down and issuing a speeding ticket.

  46. bartman50 says:

    The last two entries have it. It is a 1 Litre(1000cc) four with a turbo. That “popoff” is the wastegate shedding extra boost between shifts. I can’t tell if it’s a two stage turbo or not. Would make a bunch of sense so to reduce turbo lag.

    BTW, Nigel, I accidentally hit report for your post…apologies!!!

  47. lynchenstein says:

    Sounds to me like squids getting squished. 🙂

  48. oldbeezer says:

    The chirping sounds like it might be a oneway clutch to keep the revs up on a super/turbo charger?

  49. david says:

    Pop off valve opening for the turbo

  50. Nigel says:

    To me it sounds like a Litre (1000cc) bike. There are a lot of whatifs and my adult boys are hoping for a 14. Love the chirp at the peak of the revs. Kwacka are being very cunning in the advertising of the H2. You would think 750 but I still reckon its very Ninja 1000.