How to get clearer audio while talking over the Internet

Zachary M. Cochran
3 min readAug 6, 2018
Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

Understand why calls get garbled and 7 tips to fix the problem.

BOTTOM LINE: Use Google Duo. Read on if you want to learn more.

How frustrating is it to hear: “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you, could you repeat that?”

There are many reasons why this happens. Often, the culprit is a poor Internet connection on one side of the call.

How do you tell if you have a quality Internet connection? It’s measured by a single number: your MOS.

MOS: mean opinion score. This is the simplest measure of Internet quality: a single number between 1–5. A score of 5 is impossible because that would be instantaneous (i.e. a face-to-face, in person conversation). The highest possible MOS is 4.4. Ideally, your MOS will be between 4.0–4.4.

You can discover your MOS by testing your Internet quality on Wirefly’s Internet Speed Test. You can bookmark that link on your smartphone and computer browsers.

Screenshot of Wirefly’s Internet quality test

Once the test is complete, find and click the button that says: “View Details.”

Then scroll down to see your current MOS.

Source: https://www.wirefly.com/internet-speed-test

The score can vary from hour to hour, so it’s always worth re-testing your MOS before an important call.

Principles to follow to identify the source of your problem:

  1. Use a quality microphone. Using the microphone on your smartphones or high-end laptop is sufficient. However, if you’re using cheap headphones with your expensive device, you may want to consider buying a special microphone for your calls.
  2. Make sure your mouth is close to the microphone. Nothing will fix the audio if your mouth isn’t close enough, or if you’re covering up the mic on your phone with your hand.
  3. Choose a quality Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) platform. FaceTime, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Zoom, and Skype all use high-quality audio codecs. Google Duo seems to be the clearest with the best user experience.
  4. Check your Internet connection. If you’re calling from your smartphone and your Wi-Fi isn’t turned on, that could be the issue. However, if your Wi-Fi has a low upload and download speed and is giving you a low MOS, you may want to switch to your phone’s data network (LTE/4G) for the audio call (be careful though if you don’t have an unlimited data plan).
  5. Figure out your dead zones. If you’re not close enough to your Wi-Fi router or have a bad cellular data connection, that could also be the issue. I often have trouble by the pantry in my house, by the windows in my bedroom, and while driving in my car. If I’m taking an important call, I’m going to avoid these areas.
  6. Test in advance. Doing a practice run, especially if you’re in a new environment like a hotel room, is always wise.
  7. Have a backup plan. Having a landline makes it easy to call someone when your Internet solution isn’t working, but if you’re like me, you don’t have a landline. Calling the person back from a different device or on a different platform may do the trick. If you’re at home, restarting your wireless router could also help.

Even if you’re doing everything right, there may be a problem on the other person’s end. Either talk them through the steps above or implement a backup plan. Of course, remember that an in-person conversation will always have a higher MOS than a conversation over the Internet. :)

Here’s the link if you’d like to test your MOS: https://www.wirefly.com/internet-speed-test

Happy calling!

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Zachary M. Cochran

I think a lot + write about #careers #entrepreneurship #wisdom #productivity #grief #Christianity #NYC #parkour + more. To learn more, visit zacharycochran.com.