Voice Quality in Telephone Interviews: A preliminary Acoustic Investigation

  • Timothy Pommée
    Address correspondence and reprint requests to Timothy Pommée University of Liège – Voice Unit (B38), Rue de l'Aunaie, 30, 4000 - Sart Tilman, Belgium.
    Research Unit for a life-Course perspective on Health and Education, Voice Unit, University of Liège, Belgium
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  • Dominique Morsomme
    Research Unit for a life-Course perspective on Health and Education, Voice Unit, University of Liège, Belgium
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Published:September 30, 2022DOI:



      To investigate the impact of standardized mobile phone recordings passed through a telecom channel on acoustic markers of voice quality and on its perception by voice experts in normophonic speakers.


      Continuous speech and a sustained vowel were recorded for fourteen female and ten male normophonic speakers. The recordings were done simultaneously with a head-mounted high-quality microphone and through the telephone network on a receiving smartphone. Twenty-two acoustic voice quality, breathiness and pitch-related measures were extracted from the recordings. Nine vocologists perceptually rated the G, R and B parameters of the GRBAS scale on each voice sample. The reproducibility, the recording type, the stimulus type and the gender effects, as well as the correlation between acoustic and perceptual measures were investigated.


      The sustained vowel samples are damped after one second. Only the frequencies between 100 and 3700Hz are passed through the telecom channel and the frequency response is characterized by peaks and troughs. The acoustic measures show a good reproducibility over the three repetitions. All measures significantly differ between the recording types, except for the local jitter, the harmonics-to-noise ratio by Dejonckere and Lebacq, the period standard deviation and all six pitch measures. The AVQI score is higher in telephone recordings, while the ABI score is lower. Significant differences between genders are also found for most of the measures; while the AVQI is similar in men and women, the ABI is higher in women in both recording types. For the perceptual assessment, the interrater agreement is rather low, while the reproducibility over the three repetitions is good. Few significant differences between recording types are observed, except for lower breathiness ratings on telephone recordings. G ratings are significantly more severe on the sustained vowel on both recording types, R ratings only on telephone recordings. While roughness is rated higher in men on telephone recordings by most experts, no gender effect is observed for breathiness on either recording types. Finally, neither the AVQI nor the ABI yield strong correlations with any of the perceptual parameters.


      Our results show that passing a voice signal through a telecom channel induces filter and noise effects that limit the use of common acoustic voice quality measures and indexes. The AVQI and ABI are both significantly impacted by the recording type. The most reliable acoustic measures seem to be pitch perturbation (local jitter and period standard deviation) as well as the harmonics-to-noise ratio from Dejonckere and Lebacq. Our results also underline that raters are not equally sensitive to the various factors, including the recording type, the stimulus type and the gender effects. Neither of the three perceptual parameters G, R and B seem to be reliably measurable on telephone recordings using the two investigated acoustic indexes. Future studies investigating the impact of voice quality in telephone conversations should thus focus on acoustic measures on continuous speech samples that are limited to the frequency response of the telecom channel and that are not too sensitive to environmental and additive noise.

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