To those who have ever used Skype, Yahoo! Messenger voice chat, Ventrilo, TeamSpeak or any other over-the-internet method of peer-to-peer voice communication, you’ve noticed the quality of sound is far superior to land-line and wireless/cell phones.
Why is this?
There are actually a few good reasons.
First, some explanation.
VoIP is Voice over Internet Protocol. This is, generally speaking, the method used for voice comms on the internet. POTS is Plain Old Telephone Service. This is deemed a “voice grade” (meaning low grade) method of voice comms.
The reasons POTS sounds so unbelievably crappy compared to VoIP is for two primary reasons:
The speaker in your phone is terrible.
It doesn’t matter if you spent $10 or $100+ for your phone. The built-in speaker is chintzy and cheap.
The cheapest speakers are in cell phones. All of them are tinny, “raspy” and just outright awful.
The only reason corded and cordless land-line phones sound any better is because the speakers are physically larger, giving them more of a “warm” sound compared to tiny cell phone speakers.
When using VoIP you have far superior speakers (usually headphones) and better microphones. Even if you use a bargain-bin set of headphones from a thrift store, they still sound better than your phone. Sad but true.
The best possible kHz frequency on a POTS phone is usually about 10kHz.
10 kilohertz is the equivalent of a radio with a monophonic speaker tuned to an AM station.
In digital terms, a POTS sound is a 10kHz WAV at 8-bit resolution.
On most POTS phones, you usually only get 8kHz at best. It’s terrible and sounds like you’re speaking thru a thick blanket.
VoIP on the other hand is usually at 22kHz at a minimum 16-bit resolution. This is roughly FM radio quality.
VoIP can also go much higher in quality – even up to compact disc specs which is 16-bit 44.1kHz. It may be monophonic (there’s no reason for stereo with voice) but it sounds crisp and clear.
It should be noted that you only get the better quality sound on VoIP when going peer-to-peer and not VoIP to POTS or vice versa.
“But I have a digital land-line phone service. Shouldn’t the sound be better?”
No. Your phone still has a crappy speaker and the service you use is purposely designed for voice-grade sound quality only.
“But I have a super-duper cell phone. Shouldn’t the sound be better?”
No. It’s still POTS quality.
“Will POTS ever get to VoIP quality?”
Indeterminate, but leaning towards “no”.
Concerning the phone cloud itself, it should have been at a VoIP level of audio quality at the time more people had broadband compared to dial-up internet (roughly 5 to 7 years ago), but POTS to this day still has the same crappy audio as it did in the 1970s. In fact, the audio is worse due to ever-cheapening chintzy speakers in handsets and cell phones.
Concerning the phones themselves, it would be nice if more attention were paid to the physical quality of speaker put into them. Unfortunately there isn’t any company willing to take that step.
There are, however, handsets made by Panasonic with “Voice Enhancer” technology that make the audio better-sounding, but you’ll pay a pretty penny for it. I personally spent almost $100 for a cordless base + 2 handsets over 5 years ago specifically to get a better-made, better-sounding phone. I still have them and they still sound great (given the limitations of POTS).
Got a recommendation or two?
Panasonic is my phone of choice for land-line, but if anyone out there has brands they think are above-average for the sound, feel free to chime in with a comment or two, as I’m sure people would be interested.
When I’m talking about land-line handsets, I mean brands like V-Tech, Uniden, GE, AT&T and the like.
If you have a recommendation for a particular wireless/cell phone brand (i.e. LG, Nokia, etc.) that physically sounds better, mention those too.
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