You know the situation: you want to talk about something important over the phone with the other caller, only to have a call where the majority of the conversation is just repeating ‘What?’ and ‘I didn’t quite catch that’ over and over. Perhaps this is because your partner can’t understand a word due to the constant background noise or because your own words are echoing back at you. This is not only annoying but could also suggest a bigger problem with the phone system or the device that the calls are made from. Thankfully, however, identifying and then getting rid of the issue of echoes and noise isn’t complicated – and if a VoIP service is involved, there is a chance that the solution is even simpler.
What May Be Causing Echoes or Noise?
Although the only true difference between echo and noise is the person who experiences it, when any of these two phenomena occur, it usually indicates one of two things: network latency or hardware/software issues. In the case of the latter the causes are more obvious, varying from a faulty device or poor echo cancellation to electromagnetic interference from other devices or simply having the mouthpiece too close to the earpiece.
Latency, however, is a bit different. Believe it or not, voice latency – or ping – is actually something that is also present in traditional telephony but since it only lasts for 10 milliseconds tops it produces just enough echo to help make the phone conversation sound more natural. In VoIP, latency is much bigger since voice has to be converted multiple times, plus it has to share the network with every other data packet. Granted, a strong network connection could greatly reduce latency and therefore data loss, but the moment that ping exceeds 150 milliseconds – which sadly is quite possible – jitter and echoes will become more frequent and noticeable in calls. And unlike problematic hardware or software – which can easily be replaced or better configured – network latency is something that could require a significant amount of time to be fixed.
Avoiding Echoes and Noise the Smart Way
Echoes and noise can be annoying, but there are steps that can be taken into consideration to reduce the chance of an inaudible conversation down to zero.
Using the Right Hardware
Although it’s quite convenient to be able to speak hands-free – with the use of a microphone and speakers – if the mouthpiece and the earpieces are too close to each other, then the call could become noisy or echoey. However, this can be easily avoided by simply using a good-quality headset or a VoIP desk phone. In fact, most of these devices come with echo cancellation or noise suppression features by default, which ensures that the only thing transmitted between callers are their own voices.
Killing off Latency
Latency can be a huge problem when it comes to VoIP, which is why many cloud phone services provide a bandwidth saver, a simple yet ingenious tool that automatically optimizes your network for VoIP traffic. Admittedly, not all virtual phone system providers come with such a function and, if so, then latency can be taken care of by using a VPN, too. However, the best way to avoid latency to begin with is to have a network good enough to handle VoIP calls – something that can easily be confirmed by performing a ping test.
Having the right equipment and network connection is an important means of eliminating noise, but the overall call experience can be improved by performing small changes in the settings, too. Such a small yet important change, for instance, is the ability to turn off the on-hold music during conference calls – a feature that RingCentral admins can perform by default for every user in the system.
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