MagicJack/Support Resources/How-To/Choppy Voice

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This article describes how to diagnose what is commonly described as "choppy," "garbled" or "robot" voice. The following are common causes. The problem can be a combination of any (or all) of them.

When testing the following solutions you can use the special echo-test phone number to avoid bothering others with your tests.

Specific to using a handset[edit]

If you use a handset the first thing to do is unplug it from the USB device and see if you have choppiness when making calls using the softphone and a headset connected to the computer's speaker/mic jacks.

If the choppiness is specific to using a handset, try using a powered USB hub. See the FAQ: Why do I keep hearing so much about powered USB hubs?

The following may also help (and may eliminate the need for a powered USB hub):

Windows XP

Disable power management for all your USB devices in Device Manager. Follow these steps:

  1. Right click "My Computer" and choose "Manage."
  2. Click on "Device Manager" and expand the "Universal Serial Bus Controllers" branch in the pane on the right side.
  3. For every "USB Root Hub,"
    • Double click it, click the "Power Management" tab, and uncheck the box saying "Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power."

Note: This will make your computer less energy efficient, and will drain your laptop's battery. If you notice no improvement, you should reverse the change.

Credit: The power-management suggestion comes from http://www.phoneservicesupport.com/post29629.html#29629. There have not been many reports of this making a difference. If you find that it improves choppiness, please post to that thread.

Note: If, after trying the advice on this page herein and from other sources, you do not succeed in eliminating the choppiness or echo, you may want to consider switching to the use of a headset with mouthpiece microphone. While this solution for most people may require them to remain at their computers while on calls, several sources have reported that use of a headset with mouthpiece microphone saw a complete elimination of the choppiness or echo. These users also reported that they had been using radio (ie, cordless) telephones prior to their switching over to headphones.

Not enough CPU or memory[edit]

This can occur if you have an old computer, a computer with a slow CPU, and/or too many processes consuming too much CPU (anti-virus, firewall, etc.). Too little memory could contribute, causing the CPU to spend time swapping memory to disk (which could be further aggravated for Windows users by an excessively-fragmented hard disk).

This can be eliminated as a cause by following the How-To: Set priority.

If you run an extremely old/slow computer, there are "tweak" guides on the Internet explaining how to adjust (and disable) Windows features to get better performance. (Google for "Windows tweak guide.").

If your computer appears to be unusually slow, it's worth considering whether it is infected with spam bots, spyware, viruses, etc.

Router Security Features[edit]

Routers typically come with a number of security features. One feature in particular, DoS attack prevention, may interfere with communication. Routers with this security feature enabled may interpret the incoming call as a DoS attack causing the audio to sound choppy, as though the signal is being rapidly switched on and off. The outgoing audio remains unaffected. Disabling the DoS attack prevention feature resolves the issue described in this section. How do I do this?

Connecting to your router wirelessly[edit]

Wi-fi can cause (or contribute to) this problem. It can introduce latency delays and lost packets (due to interference from microwaves, cordless phones, garage-door openers, etc.).

To eliminate this as a cause, connect the computer to the router with a wire until the problem is resolved.

If this proves to be a problem it can be improved by:

  • Change the wireless channel to one that isn't as congested in your area, or one less susceptible to common interference (I think that's channel 11, but that's a common channel, meaning it's probably congested.).
  • If your router has a detachable antenna, a high-gain antenna may help.
    • A directional antenna is even better, if you can place the wireless router in a location of the house where broadcasting in one direction makes sense.
    • Wireless PC cards are available with an external directional wireless antenna.[1].
    • In the most extreme conditions you could use a directional antenna at both the wireless router and the computer, creating a point-to-point beam.
    • It is possible to flash a router with the free Tomato or DD-WRT firmware. These allow the user to increase the wireless router's transmit power.

Not enough bandwidth[edit]

This problem is often due to too many processes (or computers on the same internal LAN) competing for bandwidth, robbing MagicJack of the bandwidth it needs. This can be compounded by a slow broadband connection.

Additionally, some broadband services are prone to quality problems. This includes municipal wireless (wi-fi), cellular (EVDO) wireless, and satellite. These types of broadband can introduce latency, jitter, dropped packets.

This topic leads to QoS as a solution. QoS always helps. It's just a matter of how much. Many people will find it easier to jump to the QoS section without spending time to understand their existing condition. Others will want to know how QoS will help before investing in it. The following section on analysis is for them. Those who jump to QoS first, but continue to have quality problems should consider the following analysis.

Analysis[edit]

In this topic, you will need to understand the following:

  1. The perceived sound quality of an actual call.
  2. The measured (technical) quality of your broadband connection.
  3. Your computer's
    1. Ambient network activity, when nothing is happening.
    2. Common network activity, as you normally use the computer.
  4. Steps 1 & 2 should be conducted under both ambient and common network activity.
  5. If you already use QoS, you should try the above with QoS enabled and disabled.

Perceived sound quality[edit]

Test the quality of your voice by using the special "echo" phone number: 909-390-0003. This will echo anything you say back to you, giving you an idea of what other people are hearing (without bothering anyone with test calls).

After getting an idea of your call quality under normal conditions, perform another test to simulate the worst possible condition. While keeping the echo call active, start a speed test. This will saturate your broadband connection (down first, then up). During this test speak into the phone (count from 1 to 20). This will give you an idea of how badly your quality could deteriorate under worst-case conditions.

Measured quality[edit]

Test your system's (connection's) VOIP quality. When the test finishes you'll see five vertical tabs on the left. It may take awhile for all of them to appear. On the "Summary" tab is a link to "click here for detailed analysis." This is a semi-permanent URL. Copy the URL and save it somewhere. You may need it later.

This page is more useful than the information on the tabs because it provides graphs showing all the activity. For example, if the summary information says you have a very high "max" delay, it doesn't mean much if it was just one spike, and the rest of the test was very low.

The important elements of this test are:

  • The down/up speeds
  • Delay
  • Jitter.
  • Packet Loss.

You can go to the user forums and request help interpreting this information. You should provide the URL to the "detailed analysis." However, you should perform the following network activity test and provide that information with these results. It will give some context to these results.

Ambient network activity[edit]

The above tests will be more useful if you understand how much bandwidth is consumed while the tests are performed. To do this, use the correct method for your platform,[2].

Then conduct either of the sound-quality or measured-quality tests. When the test is complete, capture one minute of ambient activity again (so you have a before and after measurement of background activity.).

It is suggested that you capture ambient network activity (and perform quality tests) two different ways: 1) Under normal usage. And, 2) stop all known processes that consume bandwidth.

Quiet test[edit]

Stop all obvious processes that consume network activity on your computer. (Close unnecessary web browser sessions, email client, instant messenger, torrent file transfers).

This is a good opportunity to identify unknown (unexpected) activity. Random activity is normal. But, you shouldn't see a steady rate of activity (unless you know you're running something that uses a steady rate of bandwidth. In that case, you should stop that activity prior to measuring your network activity.). If this time-test measurement shows high or steady levels of unattended, background activity, you may want to investigate whether your computer is infected with spyware, spambots, viruses, etc. Or, consider whether if you installed something (like Bit Torrent's btdna) which is consuming bandwidth in the background.

Note: If multiple computers share your broadband connection, you should collect the before/after ambient traffic mentioned above.

Normal usage test[edit]

You can perform the preceding ambient measurement under normal activity (without closing web browsers, email, IM or torrent downloads). This will give you an idea of the difference QoS will make.

QoS[edit]

QoS is a router function to give priority to internet traffic, in this case MagicJack's traffic. It is always a good idea. The extent to which it may help can only be determined from the preceding analysis section. Or, you can just implement QoS and see if it fixes any problems. If it not, you can return to the preceding section to determine what problems may exist with your broadband connection.

To implement QoS see the How-To: QoS.

MagicJack server problems[edit]

The server(s) your MagicJack uses are regional. It has been observed that some regions seem to have more load (oversold?) than others. If you use one of these regional servers your choppy voice may be partially (or entirely) due to capacity problems of that server. Similarly, the network routes (the "hops" as seen by executing the tracert command) may be better between you and other servers.

To eliminate this as a contributing factor, please see the FAQ Answer: How do I find/change my proxy? Keep in mind that you may want to perform tracert commands on the servers (proxy and vms) and take that information into consideration when comparing performance.

Notes
  1. See http://wifi-link.com/ ("Wireless USB Adapter" under ""Wlan Accessories.").
  2. Windows
    • Go into your Start->Settings->Network Connections and open the connection you are using (like "Local Area Connection" or "Wireless Network Connection"). Watch the "Activity" section.
    • Write down the received and sent packets.
    • Wait one minute, then write them down again.
    • Subtract the before and after values to get the number of packets received and sent in one minute.