Use this setting to make your Facetime Audio and Video calls sound better
We at Techplugged prefer to use FaceTime Audio or WhatsApp instead of normal phone calls whenever possible. The folks we’re phoning see it as a regular phone call, yet the audio quality is far superior to a regular phone call.
But! It turned out that we weren’t doing things correctly. Today, we discovered a newish Control Center function that quickly increases the quality of your microphone during calls, whether you’re audio-only or on video.
Voice Isolation is available on most iPhones, iPads, and Macs from the last few years that are running iOS 15 or macOS Monterey. (It appears that anything that supports Spatial Audio also supports Voice Isolation.) It’s oddly difficult to discover, and you can only access it when you’re already on a call: swipe down from the upper-right corner (or click in the upper-right corner on a Mac) to get to the Control Center, then press on the “Mic Mode” button. It is set to Standard by default, however, there are two alternative options: Voice Isolation and Wide Spectrum. Wide Spectrum will actually allow the other people on your call to hear more background noise, which may be beneficial if you’re holding up your phone at a concert but seems like a terrible thing to do to the other people on the line. But what about Voice Isolation? The magic happens in voice isolation.
When you set Voice Isolation, your smartphone starts aggressively processing the audio coming into your mic to reduce background noise. When we activated the setting on an iPhone 12, all background noise up to 20 feet away vanished — as did practically all traffic sounds. When we turned it on on my MacBook, the noises of both the laptop fan and my keyboard typing vanished.
In the process of isolating the voice, Apple appears to bring it closer; there’s less echo and room tone, making it sound as if you’re holding your phone to your face when you’re not. The trade-off is that your voice sounds more processed, although it always sounds processed when using apps like FaceTime or Zoom.
The only issues with Voice Isolation are two. For starters, it’s not a global setting, so you’ll have to enable it in each app you use for calls. Two, it is not applicable everywhere. Voice Isolation is made available by Apple via an API for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, however not all apps support it. On mobile devices, it has a strong track record: Snapchat, WhatsApp, Slack, Signal, and Instagram all support it, while TikTok does not. Zoom had it on iOS but not on the Mac, and there’s no way to enable it for any in-browser apps that we’ve found, so Google Meet and a few others are out.
But what is the most notable omission? Calls on a regular basis. There are no Mic Modes for phone calls, despite the fact that this is arguably where you may benefit the most. I asked Apple why this was the case, but the firm did not respond.
To be fair, Apple does some noise-cancellation work even in regular modes. If you want to put it to the test, hold a fan up to your phone and listen as the gadget identifies and suppresses it, but it doesn’t go far enough. We’ve now heard Voice Isolation, so we know what better can sound like. The only thing we need now is for this feature to become universal, so that we can all enjoy some high quality calling across all devices.
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