Annoying Music On Hold? People Are Listening!

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If you’ve ever thought that your choice of “on hold” content wasn’t important, consider this exchange from the Comcast customer forum. The point here is, people ARE listening! What are they saying about your company?

ANNOYING MUSIC ON HOLD
10-05-2011 04:41 PM

The music that Comcast plays while on hold is the most annoying music i have ever heard period!  It is a short annoying jingle that is irritating because it plays over and over and over and over again. And we all know how long we are on hold.  It’s almost like they do it so you’ll hang up!  Think about that one!  Who agrees with me?

Re: ANNOYING MUSIC ON HOLD
10-05-2011 11:48 PM

The techs have to listen to that same horrible music. Imagine doing it for several hours every single day. The “tune” is still stuck in my head. blah.

Re: ANNOYING MUSIC ON HOLD
10-06-2011 09:54 AM

so what universe do you live in?

Re: ANNOYING MUSIC ON HOLD
10-06-2011 09:55 AM

So why doesn’t someone get it changed ?

Re: ANNOYING MUSIC ON HOLD
10-06-2011 11:40 AM

They could turn the music off and you listen to nothing…no matter what music they pick, no matter what ads they run on hold someone will complain about it.  Six in one and half a dozen in the other…

Re: ANNOYING MUSIC ON HOLD
10-06-2011 12:01 PM

Not true…..didn’t you ever hear the saying , “silence is golden”.

Re: ANNOYING MUSIC ON HOLD
10-06-2011 12:49 PM

The thing about silence is you wonder if you are still connected. At least with the music or blurbs for other services or Comcast features you know that Comcast hasn’t disconnected the call. I’ve listened to silence on hold before and a few times did get disconnected and not know it.

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Why Does Some Music On Hold Sound Less Than Perfect?

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When your custom music and message on hold is produced by Easy On Hold, the highest recording studio standards are upheld. Files are 100% digital and of the highest quality sound. Our voice studio uses industry-standard equipment and practices. When you receive your digital audio, it sounds clear. Perfect. So why doesn’t it sound as good when you hear it on your phone system?

Listening On A Telephone Device Limits Sound Frequencies
Telephones are unable to transmit high-quality audio. Frequency response is a term that refers to a range of sound, typically measured in Hertz, a measurement of cycles per second. The smaller the number, the lower the frequency. The human ear is said to be able to hear between 20 and 20,000 Hertz. (more information). Now take a look at various communications systems and notice that the smallest frequency range (or poorest sound) is represented by the telephone.

System Frequency Response
Public Switched Telephone Network 300Hz to 3kHz
AM Radio 100Hz to 5kHz
FM Radio 50Hz to 15kHz
Consumer stereo system 20Hz to 20kHz
Professional audio equipment 5Hz to 24kHz

(Chart courtesy of diracdelta.co.uk.)

Your Phone System Has Its Own Limits On Sound
Understanding why your particular phone system does not produce better sound would require a discussion of bit rate, throughput, bandwidth, compression, encoding and the like. The summation of these variables is the reason your phone system sounds the way it does. Phone systems use various methods to squeeze sound into small spaces. The result can be disappointing and unpredictable. Yet, we’re all used to it. We all know that the tiny little speaker on the telephone handset is going to sound “tinny” to some extent.

External Player Settings
If your phone system uses an external player as the music on hold source, that music on hold device may be putting too much audio into the phone system (overdriving), causing the sound to be distorted. The overall volume may not change because the phone system is compensating for the audio level, attempting to maintain a sound limit. Try backing off the volume of the playback device. Most phone systems require a 600-Ohm input from an external device.

File Format May Be Incorrect
If your phone system uses an audio file upload as the music on hold source, the correct file format must be used. These files are highly compressed, as the phone system is designed to conserve memory. The file compression further reduces sound quality in many cases. This is another reason why an external device is the best choice, if possible, for music and messaging on hold.

VOIP System May Be Converting Files
Once an audio file is uploaded to a VOIP Off-Site (hosted) phone system, the host may process or compress the audio file further, possibly converting it to a different format. This process can vary between phone system providers. Again, this is out of your control. Some VOIP systems do not allow a volume control for audio playback, so it may be best to send the audio file to your phone system host and request that they make the music sound as pleasant as possible.

Listening On A Cell Phone
Cell phones employ noise-cancelling technology, which can cause sound distortion. By emphasizing voice frequencies, a cell transmission can help your call recipient find your voice among the background and wind noise. The result when listening to music, however, is that a warble or distortion occurs. When testing your music on hold, use a land-line phone for the most accurate results.

New Easy On Hold Production Studio Opens

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One of the studio microphones in use at the new Easy On Hold Recording Studio.

Easy On Hold announces the opening of its new recording studio in Portage, Michigan. The studio features a large production room, client area and generously-sized isolation recording room.

The custom-built studio is constructed on a solid concrete base and is surrounded by brick walls covered with concrete siding. The isolation room is a “room within a room” design to keep all sound and vibration out. Special construction techniques were utilized, such as the use of sound and vibration absorbing material between walls, extra heavy drywall, the use of airspace for sound wave cancellation and high-density flooring.

The window between the control room and the isolation room is made of two panes of 8 layers of laminated glass with a 4-inch airspace between. Acoustic treatment throughout the studio allows for a pleasant-sounding space that’s not too “live” or “dead” (studio terms that refer to the sound reflection qualities of a room).

The studio uses Neumann microphones, including the Neumann TLM103 and Neumann U87. Sound is processed using the API 512C preamp and 525 compressor. A custom-built Windows-based system operates Avid (Digidesign) ProTools. Mogami cabling is used, along with classic Yamaha NSM-10 near field monitors and Alesis reference speakers. (The Wikipedia article on studio monitors says about the NSM-10, “many more successful recordings have been produced with its aid over the past twenty five years than with any other monitor.”)

Audio is stored on a raid-5 server and additionally backed up from there. To accommodate audio file transfers, two T-1 lines are maintained. The studio is equipped with Source Connect, a software that allows a live studio-quality connection over the Internet so that talent at the Easy On Hold studio can record at other studios without actually being there, and other voice talents can be recorded at the Easy On Hold studio from their similarly-equipped facilities.

With the completion of the new studio, Easy On Hold is demonstrating a firm commitment to the very highest quality sound recording.

Easy On Hold is a producer of voice announcements and music on hold messages for phone systems, marketing messages, voiceovers, radio and tv spots, narrations, IVR, auto attendant, overhead announcements, web voiceovers, and voice recordings for flash, video, online and Power Point presentations.

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Audio File Formats For Telephone System On Hold

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Better telephone system technology allows message on hold audio to be loaded directly into the phone system, rather than played from an outside source, such as a music on hold player.

If you’re using your phone system’s internal music on hold capabilities, you will need to know the required file format. You message on hold provider should be able to offer the correct format for your phone system.

Here is a list of the most commonly used file formats for telephone system music on hold:

PCM (pulse code modulation) refers to an uncompressed .wav file:

  • PCM .wav    44.1 kHz, 16 Bit
  • PCM .wav    48 kHz, 16 Bit
  • PCM .wav    16 kHz, 8 Bit
  • PCM .wav    8 kHz, 8 Bit

U-Law (also known as mu-law) and A-Law are special compression schemes:

  • CCIT u-Law (.wav) 8 kHz, 8 Bit
  • CCIT a-Law(.wav)  8 kHz, 8 Bit

ADPCM (adaptive pulse code modulation) differs from PCM, in that the PCM .wav files are stored using linear samples, while ADPCM uses deltas between samples.

  • IMA ADPCM(.wav)   8 kHz, 4 Bit

Dialogic ADPCM files are always 4 Bit files. Learn more.

  • DIALOGIC ADPCM (.vox) 6 kHz
  • DIALOGIC ADPCM (.vox) 8 kHz

G711 is a type of U-Law or A-Law. More here.

  • G711 u-Law (.vox) 6 kHz
  • G711 u-Law (.vox) 8 kHz
  • G711 a-Law (.vox) 6 kHz
  • G711 a-Law (.vox) 8 kHz

MP3 is extremely common. Excellent results are obtained with a  monaural 128 Kbps .mp3 file.

  • MPEG-3 (.mp3) 128 Kbps

The .au file extension was begun by Sun Microsystems. It is similar to .wav formats, but requires the .aw file extension.

  • .au   u-Law 8 kHz, 8 Bit
  • .au   a-Law 8 kHz, 8 Bit
  • .au   PCM 8 Bit
  • .au   PCM 16 Bit

If converting your own files…

If you are converting audio from one file format to another, be aware that it is best to begin with the native file format, that is, the highest-quality original format in which the audio was created. Often this is a 16 Bit .wav file. To work with converting audio files, you might want to try the SwitchSound audio file converter.