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What Makes Cell Phone Hold Music Sound Bad?


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. But when you call in and get placed on hold, the music quality isn’t as good. If you’re calling on a mobile phone, there are reasons why. Let’s explore what makes cell phone hold music sound bad.

While the cause of the inferior sound stems largely from the small size of the cell phone’s omnidirectional microphone that must be used within strict confines for optimal functionality, there are secondary issues, such as a dirty audio intake or issues with the sound transmission process, that could be negatively impacting sound quality, as well.

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Microphones and Noice Cancelling Software

First, there’s your phone’s microphone. It’s built for voice and is omnidirectional, meaning it picks up as much sound as possible. This introduces noise. The answer to that problem is partly solved by noise-canceling algorithms, software in the phone that tries to cut down the noise. The voice sounds are enhanced, but everything else, including music, is diminished or altered. This is one of the ways the phone devices make cell phone hold music sound bad.

Sound Frequency Limitations

Mobile phones (and most all other types of phone devices) are limited to select frequencies. 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.

SystemFrequency Response
Public Switched Telephone Network300Hz to 3kHz
AM Radio100Hz to 5kHz
FM Radio50Hz to 15kHz
Consumer stereo system20Hz to 20kHz
Professional audio equipment5Hz to 24kHz

Phone System Limitations

Phone systems use various methods to squeeze sound into small spaces. The result can be disappointing and unpredictable. A deeper understanding why a particular phone system does not produce better sound would require a discussion of bit rate, codecs, bandwidth, compression, encoding, etc. The summation of these variables is the reason your phone system sounds the way it does. Yet, we’re all used to it. We all know that the tiny little speaker on the phone device is going to lack quality.

VOIP System May Be Converting Files

Are you loading a hold music audio file onto your phone system? 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 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.

Learn more about choosing a phone system that can use a hold music stream so you no longer need to load files.

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.

Does Cell Phone Hold Music Need To Sound Bad?

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. Tired of hearing complaints from customers who say your hold music sounds bad? Learn about the way Easy On Hold helps solve this problem by reading this article in our knowledge base.