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XOIIO's avatar

I thought phones made everyones voice sound bad?

Asked by XOIIO (18246points) April 23rd, 2011

I’ve noticed that everyone’s voice sounds different over the phone, and it’s almost always higher pitched and makes them sound younger. I thought this was the case, until recently, I was talking with my gf, and she said my voice sounds deeper and hot over the phone? wtf? I thought phones trashed everyones voices?

What have people said your voice sounds like on the phone?

Mods, please throw this in social when you get the chance

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11 Answers

Allie's avatar

[mod says:] Done.
I don’t like the way I sound on recordings, like answering machines or something. I don’t know why, but it’s just not what I imagined I sound like. People say I sound really girly, but to me it doesn’t sound that way. I’m ok with sounding girly, but I don’t sound girly to me. That might be because I’ve heard myself all my life though, who knows. Really, I’ll never know what I sound like to other people. When speaking out loud the bones and muscles in your head alter the way you sound to yourself, and when on a recording the machine changes your voice slightly as well.
ANYWAY… When I talk to some (but not all) of my male friends their voices sound perhaps a tad deeper on the phone than in real life. As for my female friends, they mostly sound the same.

ucme's avatar

I’ve been told I sound a tad like Barry White chewing on some wasps, which is a little disconcerting to say the least.

MilkyWay's avatar

Nah, just different. You would not believe how different but nice my friends sound over the phone. There was a time I actually didn’t recognise my own friend over the phone once, when she was phoning from a new number. She realised and pretended to be someone else and started to flirt with me! I hung up but then she sent me text saying she was my mate!
Lmao ^-^

jerv's avatar

It depends on the phones at both ends as all microphones and speakers have different frequency responses. If either phone has a low quality mic or speaker (one with poor response at the frequencies involved) then your voice will be different.

Bear in mind that small speakers cannot handle bass very well due to physics, cheap speakers cannot handle bass without serious crackling (if they can handle it at all) due to being utter crap. Without the lower frequencies reproduced accurately, things sound higher. This is as true of phones as it is of stereos. many phones these days are also meant to be music/movie players so the sound on them is better than an old Ma Bell wall-phone, but still not as good as decent stereo equipment, so things sound better but still not as good as actually being there.

Also bear on mind that the human voice isn’t just one frequency but a combination of them. A rather blatant example is the voice of Popeye, which was accomplished by Tibetan throat singing and talking in a two-note chord. Not all audio equipment can handle that in it’s full glory, especially not a cheap phone.

My voice tends to sound “flat” and a bit nasally with poor enunciation whenever a microphone is involved unless I drop down a couple of pitches.

gasman's avatar

The range of human hearing is generally given as 20–20,000 Hz. The bandwidth of landline telephone voice, on the other hand, is limited to about 200–3600 Hz (ref). So it’s cut off at both the high and low ends. This probably affects different voices in different ways, but explains why nobody sounds quite “natural” on the phone.

XOIIO's avatar

@gasman Why can’t they up the requency range?

XOIIO's avatar

@jerv dang. I guess that’s why skype is growing more popular.

gasman's avatar

@XOIIOThe copper phone wire has very limited bandwidth. It was designed to provide 3,000 Hz bandwidth, perfectly adequate for a voice signal. The modem has to play some pretty sophisticated games to get higher bit rates over the limited bandwidth…Source

jerv's avatar

And new wires are expensive, especially when those “wires” are actually fiber-optic pipes. If I remember right, the fiber optic lines that run through the Victorian sewer in London (a relatively easy and therefore inexpensive install) ran around £150 per meter, or more than $75/ft. That is nearly $400,000 per mile, and there are many miles of cable. Even if we assume that that is a special case and actual costs are only 1/10th than, we are still talking a lot of money that they would inevitably want to get back from the pockets of their customers.

VOIP is becoming popular largely because it uses lines that were already laid for the purpose of data, so the cost of them has already been put into their budget (and your bill). A fiber optic line can service far more customers than a copper line and doesn’t require repeaters the way copper does, so it makes usually makes more sense to lay fiber instead of copper for new installs to areas where there are a lot of users. However, for more rural areas—with fewer customers—or places where there are already copper wires that still work just fine, the ROI just isn’t there so it doesn’t make financial sense to upgrade.

gasman's avatar

The limiting factor with telephones—at least land lines—are the copper wires from the premises to the utility’s switching station, which might then use a fiber-optic network. POTS (plain old telephone system) wiring is unshielded, untwisted 24-gauge copper wire (22-gauge in the 1970s). If you’re using Cat 5, 5E, or 6 cable at your phone jack then supported bandwidth might be somewhat better, but voice is still an analog signal between the premises and the phone company (isn’t it?), even if your phone line also carries DSL.

Cellular service and VOIP, as I understand it, gets digitized right in the handset before transmission.

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