phone on hold

How to Make On Hold Music Sound Better


One of the most often asked questions at Onhold Studio is, “How can we make our On Hold Music sound better?” To begin, we must learn some fundamental criteria in order to comprehend why music frequently sounds so horrible when played down the phone line.

While there are several reasons why music doesn’t sound well on phones, the most important being that phone audio is intended to handle speech rather than music. Using industry-standard compression and EQ, along with lossy codecs to minimise file size, reduces audio quality even more, and when poor song selection is added to the mix, the result is poor sounding music.

When phones initially came out, the speakers just had to cover the range of sound that humans could hear. Generally 125Hz to 8kHz. As a result, the great majority of on-hold music or messages that current phone systems can accommodate are generally at 8kHz, which is the highest limit of what most PSTN phone lines can handle.

Despite the fact that current smartphones can manage a broader range than older phones, it is all about compromise. Even now, different handsets respond differently to different frequencies, each with their own unique set of characteristics.

Most phone calls allow you to hear voice clearly and crisply, therefore, as much as technological advancements have come along, keeping older equipment operational at this time is as crucial.

The Change is coming

This is expected to change when the PSTN (public switched telephone network) undergoes changes. Phone companies such as BT will transition to a digital-only solution beginning in 2025.

Now that we’ve established the fundamentals, we can go about creating optimal music for On Hold Music that won’t cause your callers to hang up.

Music royalties are another big cause of bad-sounding On Hold Music. You’ve probably heard of Royalty Free Music. This is music created and distributed with the understanding that the copyright will not be registered. You may put it on your phone system without having to pay per usage. The only charge you’ll have to pay is the original purchase price for the Royalty Free track. You’ll only have to pay once.

Because on-hold music is intended to fill the silence, it frequently veers toward bossa nova or elevator-style music, which is intended to be reassuring. However, because of the severe overuse of this style of music for on hold music, many consumers find it rather unpleasant. Many businesses are now exploring new possibilities to incorporate various genres such as folk.

To summarise, practically all on-hold music does not sound particularly well. This is due to the fact that the entire phone system was designed for convenience and usefulness. Rather than favouring your favourite riffs, bass-heavy, and hi-hat music. It’s possible that the music is horrible in itself. Perhaps the phone doesn’t sound too good. It’s most likely a mix of all of these elements, which makes it sound dreadful! Our final words though are that we hope you don’t spend too much time on the phone.

Need some inspiration?

We hope this has given you some inspiration. But if you need more, fill in our Free Demo form and we’ll send over audio examples from your industry and a bespoke audio sample to share with your team.

You rarely get a second chance to make a first impression, we can help you make that first impression count.

About us and this blog

Onhold Studio has been developing custom on hold audio messages for almost two decades! We specialise in audio marketing for both VoIP and conventional telephone systems. Our team can handle every step of the process for you, whether you need music or on hold messaging, call menu options, or out-of-hours audio messages.

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