Soundwave can detect and jam radio transmissions all across the energy spectrum, a talent that makes him naturally suited to his position as Decepticon Communications Officer. Soundwave also possesses the ability to monitor electrical impulses within brain circuitry - i.e. he can read minds. Additionally, he has a photographic memory thanks to the vast data storage capacity of the magnetic disks in his chest compartment, and he is armed with a shoulder-mounted radio wave sensor and hand-held concussion blaster. Soundwave is also one of the physically strongest Transformers. He transforms, shrinking as he does so, into an Earthly microcassette deck, and in the tape compartment, which becomes his chest in robot mode, he stores the Decepticon spy cassettes Ravage, Laserbeak, Buzzsaw, Ratbat, Rumble, Frenzy, Slugfest and Overkill who are under his command in the original television series.
The relationships among Soundwave and his counterpart cassettes are only briefly touched upon in the animated series and comics. However, there are indications the relationship is much like a family, with the cassettes quick to defend and protect Soundwave during a crisis. The "animal" versions of the cassettes such as Buzzsaw, Laserbeak, and Ravage appear to relate to Soundwave much like a pet relates to its owner. The exceptions to this were in the Marvel and Dreamwave comic book series, which portrayed Ratbat as an independent-minded Decepticon who had risen to a position of power. In the Marvel series, Ratbat even had authority over Soundwave within the leadership of the Decepticons' forces. Even in this situation, Soundwave showed himself to be loyal to Ratbat in the same way that he was loyal to Megatron. In the Dreamwave comics, Ratbat led the Ultracons faction, while Soundwave remained with the Decepticons led by Shockwave, although this was before Ratbat became a cassette.
In the original Transformers cartoon — his most prominent role in Transformers fiction — Soundwave was Megatron's right-hand robot, frequently sent on important reconnaissance missions with his cassettes, and often playing a key role in many schemes against the Autobots. On Cybertron, he used his ability to transform into a roadside fixture to spy on the Autobot city of Iacon, learning of the Autobots' plan to search for energy on other worlds. Joining in Megatron's attack on the Autobots' craft, the Ark, Soundwave fell to the same fate as the rest of the ship's occupants when the craft crashed on prehistoric Earth, entombing everyone within in stasis. Immediately after the Transformers awakened on Earth in 1984, Soundwave played an essential role in the generation of energon cubes and the formation of plans for a new space cruiser to return the Decepticons to Cybertron.
Later, he used his mind-reading talents to acquire an antimatter formula for the Decepticons from the brain of Chip Chase. He and his cassette minions were often on spying missions against the Autobots.
One of Soundwave's most notable misadventures came in 1985, when, operating a plan conceived by Starscream, he brainwashed humans with ultrasonic vibrations, leading to a confrontation with his Autobot Communications Officer counterpart, Blaster, and to a lasting rivalry between the two.
Soundwave rarely displayed much emotion, infrequently exhibiting any traits that could be considered to be in line with his tech spec. However, he showed distress when one of his cassettes were hurt in battle, and he always came across as extremely loyal to Megatron, even going so far as to recover his body after being left for dead at the Battle of Autobot City in 2005. But while Soundwave was loyal, he was far from outspoken, and kept silent when Megatron's body was subsequently ejected into space, and although he did suggest himself as a replacement leader ("Soundwave: superior. Constructicons: inferior."), Soundwave again loyally served Megatron when he was recreated as Galvatron.
In the year 2006, although operating in a less prominent capacity for most of the time, Soundwave played a prominent role in Galvatron's attempt to learn the secret of a sonic weapon on the planet Eurythma, where sound and music were the way of life, leaving Soundwave entranced by the planet's perfect melodies. Recording each piece of the harmony that formed the devastating sonic effect, Soundwave was defeated when the Eurythmans countered the harmony with white noise, and was again pulled into a confrontation with Blaster, who erased his recordings.
Soundwave was performed by Frank Welker, whose voice was heavily modulated by a vocoder to achieve Soundwave's distinctive, metallic monotone. However, Welker's voice was left unmodulated at certain points during the episodes "Roll for It" and "Webworld" due to production errors. Welker's voice is then very similar to the one he used for his role as Dr. Claw in the series Inspector Gadget. In Japan, Soundwave's voice was performed by Issei Masamune. The Chinese dub, presumably lacking a vocoder, attempts to imitate Soundwave's original mechanical voice by having the actor "sing" the dialog in different tones, resulting in an operatic performance which may strike viewers as comical.
Although Soundwave only appeared as a background character in the American cartoon series finale, the three-part The Rebirth, he returned to the forefront in the new Japanese-exclusive series, Transformers: The Headmasters, which was created to replace The Rebirth. Reborn as Soundblaster (New Soundwave in the English version and Vizar in Italy) Soundwave's new toy incarnation was, like the series, available only in Japan.
In the opening cut and thrust of Headmasters, Soundwave and Blaster engaged in their final clash in the Arctic Circle as the Autobots and Decepticons were in the process of searching for the missing Autobot Matrix of Leadership. The two opponents inflicted fatal damage to each other, and Soundwave's body exploded even as Blaster collapsed. Soundwave's fragments were recovered by his cassettes. Using reconstructive technology from the planet Master, the leader of the Decepticon Headmasters, Zarak successfully rebuilt and resurrected Soundwave as Soundblaster — essentially identical to his former self, except for his predominantly black color scheme. As Soundblaster, he served the same role as he had as Soundwave under the leadership of Galvatron and later Scorponok, frequently embarking on spying missions with Ratbat.
A flashback in episode 5 of Beast Machines, "Forbidden Fruit", showed the G1 Soundwave (or a close likeness of him) being gunned down and presumably killed while helping the Maximal Nightscream escape the Vehicon tank drones.
Like much of the original 1984 cast of Decepticons, Soundwave played a much smaller role in the Marvel comic book series than he did in the cartoon. He quietly and efficiently served loyally, first under Megatron (even sending Ravage and the Insecticons to derail talks between the Autobots and Ronald Reagan at one point in the 1985 Transformers U.K. annual), then under Shockwave, attacking an aerospace construction plant whose facilities were used to build the Constructicons, who then built a massive radio dish that Soundwave used to beam a message back to Cybertron.
Continuing to operate under Shockwave, Soundwave then moved to serving Ratbat, and co-led the defense of Buenos Aires against the Underbase-empowered Starscream alongside Fortress Maximus, only to wind up deactivated by the villain.
Unlike many of the others deactivated by Starscream, Soundwave would appear again, under Scorponok's command. Throughout the U.S. comic, Soundwave was colored purple instead of blue (presumably in an attempt to break up the large amount of blue coloration used in the comic, as it was often substituted in place of black and gray) and frequently appeared with a mouth.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in the U.K., a sister title to the American series was also in production. It reprinted the American stories, but it was released weekly, as opposed to monthly. It soon began to run out of material to reprint, opting to create its own original stories which deftly weaved in and out of the ongoing American storyline. Under writer Simon Furman, Soundwave — colored in his correct blue hues — was a fairly major player, portrayed in a manner much more consistent with his profile — that of a manipulator and blackmailer, reading others' minds and using their secrets to his own ends, always working towards his own goals.
When Megatron and Shockwave were both briefly believed deceased, he assumed leadership of the Decepticons during Optimus Prime's Crisis of Command and then the Dinobot Hunt; manipulating events to weaken the Autobot leadership and cause maximum casualties. When the two commanders returned and vied for the single leadership, he turned the situation to his own advantage by working both sides of the field, reporting to both commanders without either knowing. He also enjoyed a rare victory in this period when he, Dirge and Kickback took over a NASA complex, attempting to contact Cybertron with the facility's deep space radio equipment. The Autobots arrived, but a series of miscommunications between Prowl and Jetfire resulted in the transmission being sent, allowing the Decepticons to claim victory.
Towards the end of the U.K. series, a break-away storyline began which separated from the regular ongoing American continuity, covering the exploits of the proactive Autobot Earthforce. In these stories, Soundwave's selling of Decepticon secrets to both the Autobots and Shockwave's group of Decepticons resulted in Wildrider getting blamed for his actions, and Soundwave silently allowed him to be killed rather than be discovered. After Starscream was successfully able to remove Megatron and Shockwave from power, he and Soundwave entered into joint leadership of the Decepticons. Notably, it was not explained how Soundwave was restored after his deactivation at the hands of Starscream - like other similarly-affected Transformers, he may have been revived with the transformation-paralyzing fuel nucleon.
Issue #279 of the Marvel U.K. Transformers comic featured a story called "Divide and Conquor!" where Soundwave lead the bulk of the Decepticon forces on Earth against the Autobot Earthforce headquarters while Starscream attacked an oil tanker. Sent into battle by Prowl, the Dinobots routed the main Decepticon forces while Springer lead the Autobot Survivors, Broadside, Inferno, Skids, and Carnivac to defeat Starscream.
Soundwave also attained the leadership position in the future world of 2008, following the death of Shockwave (who had seized power when Galvatron traveled back in time). Soundwave led his era's Decepticons back to 1989 to participate in the Time Wars when the fabric of reality began to crumble, but before as the conflict came to a head they fled back to their own time. Since it was later established that the damage done to the time stream may have resulted in their future being erased from the timeline, the final fate of the future Soundwave is unknown.
Soundwave was featured in the 1985 Transformers audio books Autobots' Lightning Strike, Megatron's Fight For Power, Autobots Fight Back, Laserbeak's Fury and Satellite of Doom, as well as Galvatron's Air Attack from the 1986 series.
Soundwave appeared in the 1986 story and coloring book The Lost Treasure of Cybertron by Marvel Books.
Even in the face of failures such as this, and later the loss of Megatron in an early space bridge experiment, Soundwave's loyalty to the Decepticon cause never wavered, as he remained true to the faction under Shockwave's leadership.
As in most other continuities, the story continues in the traditional manner, with Soundwave a member of the Nemesis crew who attacked the Ark and was sent into stasis when the craft crashed on Earth, awakening again in 1984. After years of fighting on Earth, eventually the combined forces of the Autobots and their human allies were able to defeat and capture the Decepticons. The intent was for the Autobots to take their enemies back to Cybertron aboard a new craft named the Ark II, but just as the ship cleared the atmosphere, it exploded, the victim of machinations by Shockwave, who did not want Prime and Megatron to return to Cybertron yet.
Soundwave's body crashed back to Earth in the Arctic, where he lay inactive for several years, until rogue military scientist Adam Rook, calling himself "Lazarus," recovered and reactivated him, putting him under his control with a program he had developed while studying the Transformers before their explosive departure. Several other Autobots and Decepticons fell to the same fate, and were to be sold on the black market — Soundwave himself was put on display by being sent to attack the Smitco Oil Refinery alongside several other Transformers — but when Megatron liberated himself, Soundwave was soon freed by his leader and assumed his position at his side. When Shockwave arranged for the capture and extradition of Prime and Megatron's forces as war criminals, Soundwave was among the captives, but when Starscream jettisoned Megatron into space on the return trip to Cybertron, Soundwave made the best of a bad lot and teamed with Starscream to return to Earth and conquer it, being reunited with Ratbat in the process. Heading back to Earth in a kidnapped Sky Lynx and with the Combaticons now added to their ranks, the Decepticons attacked the Ark in hopes of acquiring parts to make the Nemesis spaceworthy again, however Soundwave, Skywarp and Thundercracker were defeated and thrown in the Ark's brig. When the Combaticons, combined as Bruticus, laid into the vessel, they were freed.
It was not much later that the surviving Megatron made contact with Soundwave from space, and Soundwave was all too willing to return to his service, setting up Starscream to fall before Megatron when he returned. And return, Megatron did — but the bankruptcy and subsequent closure of Dreamwave left the rest of the story untold.
Sometime later, Soundwave was part of the conference of scientists called by Thunderwing in the The Transformers: Stormbringer, where he refuses to accept Thunderwing's findings that Cybertron was dying. In around the same time period he had Beachcomber captured and implanted with a cerebro-shell, having the unwilling traitor eject his opposite number Blaster into space (in Spotlight Blaster) in order to demoralize the Autobots prior to a Decepticon offensive.
Soundwave's story was later continued in his own Spotlight one-shot, where he was a self-serving and duplicitous Decepticon internal affairs agent. Soundwave was dispatched by Megatron to keep an eye on Bludgeon's investigation of Shockwave's lab. However, he kept quiet about Bludgeon's obsession with the Regenesis project, thinking he could turn it to his advantage. Following him to Earth in 1984, Soundwave monitored Bludgeon's attempts to harvest Ultra Energon and confronted him after he'd acquired it. Horrified to discover they were not planning to use it in a power-play but instead to reanimate Thunderwing (who previously devastated Cybertron), Soundwave attempted to stop them but was trapped in stasis-lock in cassette player mode. It was revealed in the epilogue that two young humans considered buying him at a pawn shop in 2007.
In The Transformers: Escalation #1, Optimus stated there was evidence that Soundwave had been present in Earth's history. Despite this, he didn't reappear until issue #4 of The Transformers: Devastation, where, still trapped in cassette player mode, he interfered with Skywatch's control of Laserbeak and Ravage, presumably calling them to free him.
As a Mutant, this Soundwave transforms from bat to alligator, with no robot mode. Due to his in-built radar in bat mode, and crushing jaws in alligator mode, he excels at a variety of missions. However, due to his situation, Soundwave is a dark and bitter character. He has an ultra-sensitive internal radar in bat mode, and in alligator mode, his tail can send seismic shockwaves through the ground.
IDW's Beast Wars Sourcebook series identifies the mutant Soundwave as a former warrior who may have been a veteran of the Great War, though the details are ambiguous at best. Sourcebook #4 states that Soundwave became an actor/entertainer after the ratification of the Pax Cybertronia, developing a "dramatic flair in everything from his movements to his speech paterns".
In Transformers: Universe - The Wreckers the Mutants traveled to Cybertron and sought the guidance of the Oracle computer, seeking a cure for their condition. What they didn't know is that the Oracle was under the influence of the Quintessons. The Mutants were sent to the outer Orion Cluster. Once there they were captured by the Quintessons, found in contempt by the five-faced aliens, and destroyed in an attack by a swarm of Sharkticons.
The package bio for Soundwave mentions that Planet X itself may be a total deception, and that it is actually a term the agents use to refer to their service to Unicron. Although he and Sideways are the survivors of a dead civilization, they actually serve Unicron throughout space and time as his heralds in taking over new worlds to replace his loss of previous forms.
Soundwave is armed with two cannons, and can hide himself behind holograms when working in conjunction with Laserbeak.
Shortly after they arrived on Gigantion and there Megatron was upgraded into Galvatron, Soundwave abandoned the Decepticons, and joined up with his counterpart, Sideways. During a battle with the Autobot Cybertron Defense Team, he revealed the history of his world, and how they desired the Cyber Planet Keys to get revenge on the inhabitants of Gigantion.
Later, he and Sideways attempted to intervene in the epic battle between Galvatron and Starscream in order to claim the Planet Keys and Omega Lock, only to be sent into another universe by the distortion caused by the two fighters' conflict.
However, Soundwave would appear later, when Starscream reached out to Galvatron across dimensions, seemingly trapped along with him and Sideways. However, Starscream seemed to have returned by the series' end, which meant that the same possibility existed for both Sideways and Soundwave.
Soundwave is the only major transformer in the series who never summons his Cyber Key. In his toy version, his Cyber Key opens his chest compartment to store Laserbeak or one of his two cannons. In his first appearance to the Autobots, Soundwave demonstrates the ability to do this without the aid of a Cyber Key.
G1 Soundwave makes a cameo appearance in the animated series as a blue boombox that Sideways used to hear music.
Almost from the moment the live action Transformers movie was announced in 2004, producer Don Murphy and the production team made it clear they did not want to feature mass/size shifting in transformation (excluding the Allspark), due to concerns over realism. With this process an inherent part of Soundwave's tape deck alternate mode, there was some discussion over whether or not to change it due to its obsolescence, or to include the character in the film at all. It was announced by Hasbro at SDCC 2004 that movie Soundwave would be a helicopter.
Early leaked movie scripts proposed that his alternate mode would be a helicopter, but animatics shown at the 2005 Comic Con were poorly received. This led to a rethink, with the eventual helicopter character rechristened as Vortex, then finally Blackout.
2006 script reviews named Soundwave as a spying boombox on Air Force One, able to transform into a small robot, but eventually, this character was amended to being Frenzy, with Don Murphy stating that Soundwave will be reserved for a future sequel, until they can "do him right".
In a USA Today online fan poll, Soundwave was one of the 10 Transformers that the fans wanted in the sequel, winning with 20% of the votes.
When the film was released on DVD a special on-line content from Best Buy showed early animation footage of Blackout as a blue helicopter with a head that resembled Soundwave.
Soundwave was recently confirmed to be appearing in Transformers 2 by one of the script-writers, Roberto Orci. His minions Ravage and Laserbeak are tentatively suggested to appear with him.
However, the excessive usage of the key to give Soundwave niftier, more entertaining functions, wrought a side-effect Megatron had not anticipated; Soundwave was developing almost Cybertronian sophistication at an alarmingly increasing rate due to the unique, almost sentient, energy-signature of the Allspark Key. Within no time, Soundwave became self-aware, and refused to take orders from Sari (or any other human) any more. It was by observing the common labor-robots in the city that he deduced not only that robots are superior to humans in every way, but that it's illogical that robots are forced to succumb to their human masters, and it should be the other way around. It's here that Megatron discovers that Soundwave's central processor was altered by the Allspark Key's last surge, causing him to become self-aware. He introduces himself to Soundwave through televisions in a nearby electronics store as his creator (of sorts). Also imposing his plan to crush the Autobots. At first, Soundwave deems this illogical, for they are robots themselves, but Megatron insists that they are traitors that uphold the humans slavery of all robot-kind...it is here that Soundwave ultimately sides with the Decepticons, and makes it a point to crush all organic life and the robots that protect them. He uses his technology-manipulating speakers to summon all nearby labor-robots to merge with him, melting and morphing his simple robot-form into a massive, near-Cybertronian-class robot mode that loosely resembles the G1 Soundwave.
Transforming into his vehicle mode, he uses his sophisticated sound-system to try to initiate a robot-revolution against their human-oppressors. Trains get stopped, and all of the labor robots jump the Autobots when they appear on the scene.
After failing in hypnotizing Bulkhead into killing Sari in the name of all robot-kind, it would appear that Bulkhead destroyed Soundwave with a single blast with his powerful wrecking-ball arms, shattering his body into hundreds of pieces. Fortunately for Soundwave (and fans) he appeared to transform into a tiny, overlooked media player (that bares an uncanny resemblance to G1 Soundwave's Tape-Cassette Player) with a blinking Decepticon logo on his screen.