Why does my phone calls sound distorted?

Distorted phone calls can be frustrating and make it difficult to have a clear conversation. Distortion refers to any type of degradation in call quality, including static, echo, breaks, or warbling sounds. Solving distortion issues is important for both personal and business calls, as high call quality leads to better communication and understanding between both parties.

This article will examine the common causes of distorted phone calls, both on mobile networks and landlines. It will also provide potential solutions to improve call quality and avoid distortion. Understanding what leads to poor call quality can help identify the root of the problem and correct it.

Common Causes

There are several common causes of distorted or robotic sounding phone calls:

Network Congestion: According to IDT Express, network congestion is a major cause of distorted phone calls. When a call is placed, the audio is transported in network packets. If the network is overloaded, packets can get delayed or dropped, resulting in choppy, distorted audio.

Weak Signal: Poor cellular or WiFi signal can also lead to distorted calls, as reported by Consumer Reports. Dropped packets from a weak signal disrupt the audio transmission.

Hardware Issues: Faulty microphones, speakers, or audio components in a phone can cause distortion, clicking, or buzzing sounds on calls according to discussions on Quora. This may require repair or replacement of the phone.

Incompatible Codecs: The audio encoding algorithms on the two phones need to be compatible for clear call quality. If not, transcoding between incompatible codecs can introduce artifacts and distortion.

Network Congestion

Network congestion occurs when there is too much traffic on the network, overloading it and causing delays in data transmission. For phone calls that rely on VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), network congestion can significantly degrade call quality and lead to choppy, distorted audio.

VoIP converts voice into digital data packets that are transmitted over the internet. When the network is congested, these data packets can get delayed, dropped or arrive out of sequence. This results in gaps and jitter in the audio conversation, making voices sound robotic, clipped or distorted. According to Utilities One, network congestion is one of the leading causes of poor call quality on VoIP networks.

Network congestion tends to worsen at peak usage times when more people are accessing the network simultaneously. Areas with overloaded cell towers or weak cellular signals can be more prone to congestion issues. Switching networks or connections sometimes helps resolve distorted VoIP calls caused by congestion.

Weak Signal

Weak or poor cellular and WiFi signals can significantly impact call quality and cause audio distortion during phone calls (Source). When signal strength is low, there may not be enough bandwidth to transmit high quality audio between the caller and receiver. Packet loss and jitter can occur, resulting in choppy, distorted, or dropped calls. Weak signals force the phone to boost its transmission power to stay connected, which amplifies any noise or interference on the line. Users may experience static, echo, garbled voices, gaps in conversation and difficulty hearing the other party with weak signal strength. Improving the signal, such as by switching networks, using a signal booster or moving closer to a cell tower or WiFi router, can resolve call quality issues caused by poor reception.

Hardware Issues

Faulty hardware components like the microphone, speaker, or headphone jack can cause distorted and muffled sound during calls. Issues with these components prevent clear capture and transmission of your voice. Some common hardware problems include:

Damaged microphone – Exposure to moisture or physical impact can damage the microphone and cause it to pick up distorted audio. This results in the other person hearing crackling, static or robotic voices during calls. Replacing the phone’s microphone may be required if it’s faulty.

Speaker defects – Speakers can get damaged over time or due to water exposure, leading to buzzing or distorted playback during calls. Using headphones instead of the built-in speaker can help isolate if the distortion is due to a faulty speaker.

Faulty headphone jack – Accumulation of debris in the headphone jack can lead to improper connections. This manifests as muffled, echoed or distorted sound when using headphones during calls. Cleaning the headphone jack or getting it replaced can resolve such audio issues.

In summary, inspecting for hardware damage and getting components like the microphone or speaker replaced can be necessary if they have been compromised. This will restore call clarity and audio quality during phone conversations.

Incompatible Codecs:

Sometimes the issue with distorted call quality stems from incompatible codecs between the devices on either end of the call. A codec is the software that compresses and decompresses the audio signal during transmission. If the devices are using codecs that don’t “speak” the same language, it can result in distortion, clicking sounds, or one-way audio.

For example, if one phone is trying to use the Opus codec while the other only supports G.711, the incompatibility will likely cause audio issues. The codecs need to be compatible on both devices for high quality transmission. Some codecs like SCALABLE are adaptive and can adjust to the capabilities of the device on the other end, but have their own drawbacks like distortion.

Sometimes a codec change is triggered mid-call when a function like hold is activated, as noted in FreePBX forums, which can also disrupt the call. The key is ensuring end-to-end compatibility is maintained throughout the call to prevent distortion.


There are a few potential solutions for fixing distorted phone calls:

Switching mobile networks can help if the issue is caused by network congestion. If your carrier’s network is overloaded in your area, switching to WiFi calling or another carrier may improve call quality. See source.

Using headphones or a Bluetooth headset can bypass any hardware issues with your phone’s built-in speaker and microphone. The headphones act as an external device for both input and output. See source.

Updating your phone’s software, OS, and apps can help if the issue is caused by incompatible codecs on either device. Modern updates often include improved calling codecs. See source.

As a last resort, updating your phone’s hardware may be required if microphone or speaker issues cannot be resolved through other means. Phone microphones and speakers can wear out over time.

Network Switching

One potential solution for distorted phone calls is to switch to a stronger cellular network or WiFi connection. Weak cellular signals can introduce distortion, noise, and choppiness during calls. Areas with congested networks, like densely populated cities or indoor locations far from a cell tower, are more prone to this issue.

If your phone supports it, manually switching from the overloaded 4G network to 3G or turning on WiFi calling can improve call quality. This allows the phone to connect to a less congested network or route calls over the internet instead. According to community forums, many users have resolved distorted call issues on various devices by switching networks:

“Have tried troubleshooting using other WiFi networks. Only solution I have found is to manually switch to GSM network when connected at home.” (Sony Community)

Checking your phone’s settings and toggling between 3G, 4G, WiFi Calling is an easy troubleshooting step that could significantly improve your call quality when experiencing distortion issues.


Headphones with quality built-in microphones are an effective solution for reducing distortion issues during phone calls. Most headphones use noise cancellation technologies that reduce background sounds and focus the microphone on your voice (source). Higher-end headphones often have multiple microphones to better isolate your voice from ambient noise. Some models even have beamforming microphones that focus directly on your mouth. This results in a clearer signal being transmitted during calls.

Poor quality headphones can pick up interference and amplify background noises, causing audio distortions. Upgrading to headphones designed for voice calls, with quality microphones tuned for speech, can significantly improve call clarity. Headphones that support HD voice codecs like AAC also provide better sound quality during calls. Using wireless Bluetooth headphones further reduces potential interference compared to wired models. With the right headphones that prioritize call audio, you can reduce or eliminate distortions during phone conversations (source).


Distorted calls are frustrating, but they happen quite frequently for many. Common causes lie within network congestion, weak signals, hardware issues, and incompatible codecs.

Solutions exist through network switching, using headphones, as well as researching and addressing specific device problems. It is important to solve call issues so you can effectively communicate without extra frustration.

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