The amplification of acoustic stimuli is a feature of hair cells that evolved early on in vertebrates. Though standard stereocilia mechanisms to promote such amplification may persist in the mammal, an additional mechanism evolved to enhance high frequency sensation. Only in mammals, a special cell type, the outer hair cell, arose that possesses a remarkably fast somatic mechanical response, which probably endows the passive cochlea with a boost in sensitivity by a factor of 100 (40dB), at least. Experiments conducted over the past few years have shed light on many aspects of outer hair cell electromotility, including the molecular identification of the motor, the effects of a knockout, and underlying mechanisms of action. A review of this remarkable progress is attempted.