How to Stop Producing Echo in Voice Calls

Echo
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Echo is the phenomenon that causes a caller to hear themselves after some milliseconds during a phone call or Internet voice call. This is a quite annoying experience and can destroy a complete call. Engineers have been dealing with it since the early days of telephony. While solutions have been found to curb the problem, echo is still a big issue with the advent of new technologies like VoIP.

What Causes Echo

Sources of echo are numerous.

The first source is something normal called sidetone. When you talk, an amount of your voice is looped back to you so as to allow you to hear yourself. This is part of the design of phone systems to make the call appear more real. There is no problem when the sidetone is heard at the same moment you are speaking, but due to problems in hardware in phone sets, lines or software, the sidetone may be delayed, in which case your hear yourself after some time.

Another source of echo is the recording of calls, during which the echo is produced when the sound that is emitted by the speakers are being recorded (and input) by the microphone. It can also be produced when your sound driver is recording all the sounds you hear. In order to determine which one of the two you are producing, do a simple test. Turn your speakers off (set the volume to zero). If the echo stops (your correspondent can help say whether it does), you produce the first one, else the second.

If you have the first type, it is nearly impossible to fix it, but you can reduce it considerably if you take certain precautions like getting your microphone as far away as possible from your speakers, avoid using speakers but instead use earphones or headsets, and choose headphones that have echo cancellation with good shields. If you have the second type, you just have to configure your sound driver so that your microphone is the only recording input device.

Echo is caused more during VoIP calls than during PSTN and mobile phones. This is because the Internet is used, as explained further below.

There are simple causes of echo, such as:

  • A dysfunction in the echo cancellation mechanism of your phone or of the carriers providing the phone service. There could be defective hardware anywhere on the wires. The phone itself could be defective. Or software running on it, or on servers, may not be running properly. 
  • damaged cables may cause echo, especially those on the exterior. Raindrops can be a culprit as well.
  • Cheap and wrongly built phones. Many imitation phones or those built with cheap materials fail in properly canceling echo. Worse, they can induce echo themselves.
  • Surprisingly enough, a smartphone casing may cause echo.

Echo in VoIP Calls

VoIP uses the Internet to transfer voice in packets. These packets are disseminated to their destinations through packet switching, during which each one finds its own way. This potentially causes latency which is the result of delayed or lost packets, or packets coming in the wrong order. This is one cause for the echo. There are numerous tools VoIP systems to cancel echo produce this way, and there is nothing much you can do on your side but ensure that you have a good and steady Internet connection.

Getting Rid of Echo

First, try to know whether the echo is from your phone or from your correspondent's of from the provider. If you hear yourself on every call, the echo is your problem. Else, it is on the other side, and there is nothing much you can do.

If your phone or tablet or computer is generating the echo, try the following:

  • Make sure there is only one microphone working, as explained above.
  • Keep the microphone far away from the speakers. 
  • Choose headphones, earphones and phone sets that have good echo cancellation.
  • On your smartphone, try disabling the Noise Suppression Feature in the Call Settings. It may produce an echo in some situations.
  • Try charging your smartphone. Also, try restarting it. This is to give the chance to whatever echo cancellation mechanism or app running to reinitialize. The app or service may have been disabled for some reasons, which may also be a low battery.
  • Try removing the case of your phone. Some cases cause echo.
  • Get yourself a good piece of hardware. Price should not be the sole factor to consider before buying.