Static heard on all Google Voice calls on OBi202

Started by LotharX, March 08, 2017, 12:21:13 PM

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azrobert

Take the OBi202 and the phone to a relative or friend's house and see if the scratchiness follows. I also have a Panasonic Dect 6.0 phone and the sound is clear.

LTN1

Quote from: LotharX on March 11, 2017, 09:24:45 AM
They said that some sort of wireless interference from some other device might make my OBi sound scratchy.  I have a whole lot of electronic devices in my house, including a lot of WiFi-enabled home automation devices, so if that's the issue, it could be anything.

Probably one or more electronic devices in your house causing the issue. But to rule out that it is not your an electronic item interfering with your cordless phone in general...do you still have a landline connection near the OBi device? Sometimes, even if the landline connection is cut off, you may still be able to dial 911. If you can, try plugging the entire cordless phone directly into the landline RJ22 plug (without plugging it into the OBi of course) and see if you can call 911. And...if your call does go through to 911...don't hang up...just tell them you accidentally pressed the number and are OK.

If you can't call 911 (assuming you don't have a landline to test calling any other number) from a landline in your house, the only other suggestion I have (unless you already have such a phone) is to try buying a 5.8Ghz cordless phone to test (you can always return it if it doesn't work out).

drgeoff

Maybe this can shed some light.

Your OBi202 can record a call in progress.  During a call, log in to its local GUI and click on Status, then on Call Status. In the left column of the orange strip you will see a Record button.  Clicking that will prompt you for the filename to save the recording on your PC.  The file has a .au extension and can be opened in programs such as VLC and Audacity.

Listen to the file and if it exhibits the noise post a copy so that we can hear it too.

If you don't hear the noise then that means it is being introduced in some later section of the 202 or the phone plugged in to it.

LotharX

Thanks for the latest replies, azrobert, LTN1, and drgeoff.

@azrobert: I just moved into the state and don't have any friends or relatives here yet, so unfortunately I can't try taking my equipment to another house to test.  Good suggestion though!

@LTN1: I don't have an active POTS jack in my house, so unfortunately I can't try that either.  That would have been a very useful test though.

Your idea to try a 5.8 GHz phone is a good one, but I'd be concerned that that frequency band would interfere with my various 5 GHz WiFi devices, since the frequencies do overlap.  A DECT 6.0 phone shouldn't conflict with any of my WiFi devices.  Before I go out and buy yet another phone, which do you think would be a better next option, trying OBiTALK support's suggestion to try a VTECH phone (another DECT 6.0), or your suggestion to try a 5.8 GHz phone?  Either way, I'm going to have to try to find a phone at some local store where I can return it, so my options may be limited.

@drgeoff: That's really useful knowing how to record a call, thanks!  I just tried that by calling a couple of numbers that have automated attendants answer the phone, but the recorded voices on the other end weren't really high enough quality to show you the scratchiness that I'm hearing.  I'll try that again next time I've speaking to a live person who doesn't mind me posting part of our conversation on the forum.

LTN1

Quote from: LotharX on March 11, 2017, 12:41:42 PM
@LTN1: I don't have an active POTS jack in my house, so unfortunately I can't try that either.  That would have been a very useful test though.

Your idea to try a 5.8 GHz phone is a good one, but I'd be concerned that that frequency band would interfere with my various 5 GHz WiFi devices, since the frequencies do overlap.  A DECT 6.0 phone shouldn't conflict with any of my WiFi devices.  Before I go out and buy yet another phone, which do you think would be a better next option, trying OBiTALK support's suggestion to try a VTECH phone (another DECT 6.0), or your suggestion to try a 5.8 GHz phone?  Either way, I'm going to have to try to find a phone at some local store where I can return it, so my options may be limited.

If you are going to the store to buy a phone for testing anyway, and if you are able to do so temporarily (1 day) on a credit card, why not buy both types of phones just to test? It doesn't have to be expensive...just cordless using those frequencies...a 5.8 and 1.9 GHz.

Another thing you can do, if it is possible, to turn off every single electrical device (temporarily) except your modem and router, and see if that helps your current cordless. If it does, slowly turn on each off device--one at a time--and make calls each time--to see where the culprit is--if it is indeed one of them.

LotharX

Quote from: LTN1 on March 11, 2017, 12:59:16 PMIf you are going to the store to buy a phone for testing anyway, and if you are able to do so temporarily (1 day) on a credit card, why not buy both types of phones just to test? It doesn't have to be expensive...just cordless using those frequencies...a 5.8 and 1.9 GHz.

Another thing you can do, if it is possible, to turn off every single electrical device (temporarily) except your modem and router, and see if that helps your current cordless. If it does, slowly turn on each off device--one at a time--and make calls each time--to see where the culprit is--if it is indeed one of them.

Great suggestions, LTN1, thanks!

I'm having a hard time finding any local stores that carry any decent VTech phones (I'm interested in trying one that has HD Audio), but I'll see what I can find.

Your suggestion to try isolating the device that might be causing the interference (assuming it is interference) is a good one.

What I'd like to do is to exchange the OBi202 for another one, but I'm not sure if OBiTalk will issue a return authorization, if their diagnostic tests on my connection didn't show any problem.  I've had it for too long to return it to Amazon.

SteveInWA

There are a very large number of people using Panasonic DECT 6.0 cordless phones with OBi products.  AFAIK, nobody has reported symptoms like this.  In my experience, Panasonic makes very high quality phones.  I don't see how switching to Vtech would help at all.  "HD Audio" isn't an official/standard term, but it generally refers to the use of wideband audio CODECs on pure VoIP calls (the entire call path is via VoIP, vs. the legacy public switched telephone network, or PSTN).  The PSTN is limited to narrowband audio, and the OBi 200 series, designed to be used with standard telephones, doesn't support wideband CODECs.  So, a "HD Audio" phone would not necessarily sound better, since it is limited to G.711, although it might have better quality audio amplifiers, microphones, speakers etc.

DECT 6.0 uses a dedicated 1.9GHz radio band, that is not used (well, legally) by any other equipment.  Typical wireless devices using WiFi or Bluetooth run on 2.4GHz or 5.8GHz, and as far as home automation goes, I can't speak for the old crap (X-10 or Insteon) causing interference over power lines, but Z-Wave uses the 900MHz band,   and Zigbee also uses the 915MHz band, so neither one should interfere with DECT.

I have a very large WiFi network with a large number of devices running on both WiFi bands, and I have a Z-Wave mesh network running about 16 devices, and no interference with my phones.

I gave you some options to explore beyond Google Voice.  I suggest testing with a SIP ITSP, such as Callcentric, to compare call quality.  Aside from that, if you can't find the problem, all I can suggest is to return the OBi for exchange or refund.

LotharX

I actually meant to comment on your suggestion earlier to try another VoIP service like Callcentric, Steve, but forgot about it.  That is high on my to-do list for tomorrow.

You've just made me re-think my idea to keep testing various cordless phone models, to try to get around the potential interference problem.  I've grown weary of running around to local stores looking for other models that might work better.  Any halfway-decent-quality cordless phone shouldn't be giving me the problems that I've been experiencing.

That's very useful to know that nobody has reported any issues similar to mine with Panasonic phones.  I'd sure rather keep mine, since I can't return it now.

Based on everything that I've been reading about ObiTalk adapters, I'm doubting that their equipment is at fault, unless I just got a defective unit.  It happens.

Taoman

Quote from: SteveInWA on March 11, 2017, 03:58:15 PM
So, a "HD Audio" phone would not necessarily sound better, since it is limited to G.711, although it might have better quality audio amplifiers, microphones, speakers etc.


It's a gimmick. I've tried the phone. All "HD Audio" means, in this case, is preset equalizer settings. That's it.

I've tested VTech, AT&T, and Panasonic DECT 6.0 phones. I always return to Panasonic.

LotharX

Quote from: Taoman on March 11, 2017, 04:17:59 PM
Quote from: SteveInWA on March 11, 2017, 03:58:15 PM
So, a "HD Audio" phone would not necessarily sound better, since it is limited to G.711, although it might have better quality audio amplifiers, microphones, speakers etc.


It's a gimmick. I've tried the phone. All "HD Audio" means, in this case, is preset equalizer settings. That's it.

I've tested VTech, AT&T, and Panasonic DECT 6.0 phones. I always return to Panasonic.

That's really useful to know guys, thanks!  You just saved me from buying a useless phone tomorrow.

I've been using a Panasonic PBX system for many years, and have always been impressed by it.  Different tech, I know, but that company makes quality products.

SteveInWA

Quote from: Taoman on March 11, 2017, 04:17:59 PM
Quote from: SteveInWA on March 11, 2017, 03:58:15 PM
So, a "HD Audio" phone would not necessarily sound better, since it is limited to G.711, although it might have better quality audio amplifiers, microphones, speakers etc.


It's a gimmick. I've tried the phone. All "HD Audio" means, in this case, is preset equalizer settings. That's it.

I've tested VTech, AT&T, and Panasonic DECT 6.0 phones. I always return to Panasonic.

So essentially, VTech is using a meaningless term, similar to calling a grocery product "all natural".  Just to be clear, though, wideband audio, aka "HD Voice", in the telephone industry, usually means that the product supports one or more of the wideband audio CODECs (G722.2 AMR-WB and/or OPUS).  The OBi IP phones do so, and the sound quality on a true wideband call (the entire path supports WB), sound fantastic compared to the typical narrowband call.

Wikipedia has a good write-up here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wideband_audio

LotharX

Quote from: SteveInWA on March 11, 2017, 04:41:35 PMSo essentially, VTech is using a meaningless term, similar to calling a grocery product "all natural".  Just to be clear, though, wideband audio, aka "HD Voice", in the telephone industry, usually means that the product supports one or more of the wideband audio CODECs (G722.2 AMR-WB and/or OPUS).  The OBi IP phones do so, and the sound quality on a true wideband call (the entire path supports WB), sound fantastic compared to the typical narrowband call.

Wikipedia has a good write-up here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wideband_audio

As it turns out, I think I had a VTech phone all along, so I didn't need to go buy one to follow OBi tech support's suggestion... I did some research and found out that VTech owns the AT&T brand for telephones, and VTech does manufacture at least some AT&T phones.  The AT&T cordless phone that I had been discussing above actually does look like a VTech phone, and I hadn't noticed this earlier, but that AT&T's cordless handset is stamped "HD Audio" on the back.  So I assume this is actually a VTech-mufacturered phone.

That being said, as I noted earlier, the scratchiness is heard on both my Panasonic and my AT&T cordless handsets.  I hear the scratchiness to a much lesser degree using the AT&T's corded handset, but it's really just on the cordless handset that the call becomes difficult to understand.

I tried using a different AC adapter on the OBi202 today.  That didn't help with the scratchiness, so I don't think a bad power brick is the problem.

I also signed up for Callcentric today and linked it to the OBi's Phone2 port, leaving Google Voice on the Phone1 port.  I still hear the scratchiness on Callcentric calls.  Switching my cordless phone's connection back and forth between Phone1 and Phone2 (to compare Google Voice vs. Callcentric), I don't hear any difference.  The call quality is equally bad on either service.

I've attached a recording I made, using the OBi202's web interface (using the OBi202's IP address as the URL), calling the echo test number.  I recorded it two different ways, one using the AT&T phone's cordless handset (the attached file), and one using its corded handset.  The recording sounded exactly the same using either handset, so I didn't bother attaching the 2nd recording.

Note that my own voice sounds pretty clear in the recording, but OBiman's voice is very scratchy.  Perhaps this is simply because his voice is not very high-quality on OBi's end, but the scratchiness gives you an idea of exactly what I am hearing even when I am speaking to a live person, using a cordless handset.  A live person often sounds at least as bad as Obiman's voice here, if not worse.  Some live calls are much worse than others.

I'm curious if anybody else hears OBiman's voice sound noisy like this, when they call the echo test number at **9 222 222 222 ?

I still plan to go buy a 5.8 GHz phone today, as the last thing I can think of to test.

LTN1

I downloaded your audio file, listened to it--then dialed the **9 to listen to the same exact OBi prompt. I can confirm that what I heard on your audio file was pretty close to what I heard in doing the **9 test on my own OBi202.

The OBi prompt sounded like it was poorly recorded with some background line noise. The voice was OK...but it was over that background noise--somewhat like speaker phone background noise.

The echo test itself, did not have the background noise.

I then took my Uniden Dect 6 (1.9 Ghz of course) and made a call to 800-555-1212. The automated operator was clear but now I was listening for background noise when she didn't speak--and can confirm there is some line noise that could be heard if you listened carefully enough. I then went to an AT&T Dect 6 cordless and found it similar to the Uniden.

Afterwards, I used a Uniden 2.4 GHz cordless and found a bit more line noise when there was silence--but of course, only because I was focused on looking for the "noise."

I also tried a Uniden 5.8 GHz cordless, and it was similar to the Dect 6 phones...maybe a tad better.

I also used a cheap backup pure landline analog phone and when looking to hear noise during the silence, I also found line noise--worse than the cordless.

The clearest connections were from my corded IP Fortinet phone ($350 phone) (almost seems like it had line noise suppression between voices) and from my Verizon Dect 6 cordless phone connected directly to a landline--but of course, I could still find minute traces of background/line noise during the silence if I intently looked for it.

I also found that depending on the phone number I called (assuming the calls were routed through different CLECs), certain connections were clearer and certain had more line noise.

My tentative conclusions thus far are that some CLEC connections are clearer than others--and that is an additional layer of impact on the type of phone you are using--even if you are using the best phone possible. So a person may be calling from your area where the CLEC is using a less than premium line connection--which could impact your call quality. That same call, from another CLEC, in an area that uses a more premium line connection, could sound much better.

I just had some time on Sunday to test these issues...but my testing is from a layman's (non tech professional) perspective. Someone like SteveInWA, a real tech professional, could clarify these things much better, besides correcting my misuse of these terms.

LotharX

Thanks so much for running those tests, LTN1!

I just called 800-555-1212 myself.  The automated operator's voice sounded pretty clear to me, and I didn't notice any substantial background noise in the silent spaces.  In fact, whenever I hear the scratchiness that I've been talking about, I think it's only when people are speaking, not during silent spaces between words.

I've also noticed that the scratchiness seems to be much more pronounced with male voices than with female voices.  Perhaps that's just a coincidence, and I've just happened to get high-quality connections to some numbers that have female voices, or perhaps the typically lower frequencies of male voices are more susceptible to generating the noise that I hear.

I tried playing around with the various G711U codec settings in the OBi Expert Configuration today, but nothing that I changed had any noticeable effect when listening to OBiman on the echo test number.  Perhaps something would have had a noticeable effect when talking to a live person though, I don't know.

I searched the online in-store inventory for all of the Best Buy stores near me today, and none of them sell any 5.8 GHz phones.  They're all DECT 6.0.  So it seems that I may have a hard time finding a 5.8 GHz phone to test if some sort of radio interference inside my house is the problem.

drgeoff

@LotharX

1.  The Obi records incoming distant audio at a take-off point in the processing chain before the phone connection.  That means the phone you use has minimal effect.  It is only any sound picked up by its microphone and added in to the mix that affects the recording.

2.  Do you find any significant difference between the scratchiness when listening to a recording compared to the live version through the phone?  Concentrate on the scratchiness because the tonal balance may be quite different between the speakers or headphones and your phone(s).

LotharX

Quote from: drgeoff on March 12, 2017, 04:11:22 PM
@LotharX

1.  The Obi records incoming distant audio at a take-off point in the processing chain before the phone connection.  That means the phone you use has minimal effect.  It is only any sound picked up by its microphone and added in to the mix that affects the recording.

2.  Do you find any significant difference between the scratchiness when listening to a recording compared to the live version through the phone?  Concentrate on the scratchiness because the tonal balance may be quite different between the speakers or headphones and your phone(s).

That's an excellent question, drgeoff. 

I just listened to an OBi recording of a conversation that I had with my father this morning (a private call, so I'd rather not post it here).  It sounds significantly scratchy, but is at least understandable. 

As you were getting at though, it's hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison comparing the sound coming out of my laptop computer's speakers, versus what I heard on the cordless handset.  It's probably a lot more scratchy on the cordless.  It's sort of as if the scratchiness is present in the transmission from the OBi202 to my phone, but it gets amplified by my cordless handset and therefore sounds more apparent on the latter.  That follows something I've noted earlier in this thread--I can hear the scratchiness on corded handsets, but it's much more apparent on cordless handsets.

I'll try to make a point of recording the next significantly scratchy call that I'm on with a live person, and do the comparison again.

Back to the OBiman recording that I posted here earlier though... I understand that his voice is apparently not good quality in the first place (per LTN1's test), but the recording nonentheless sounds just like what I am hearing on a typical scratchy live-person call.  It's like listening to a vinyl record album (for those of us old enough to remember what those sound like) that's been damaged by rubbing the vinyl with sandpaper.

So I'm wondering if whatever phenomenon is responsible for OBiman's voice sounding like that (compression artifacts, or whatever) just happens to be the same as what's causing the problem on my own phone calls.

At this point, I'm perhaps willing to give up on my Panasonic and AT&T cordless phones and go buy an expensive IP phone (either to use with the OBi202 if it's compatible, or with its own VoIP adapter), to see if that works better, but I'd probably have to order one online, so that will make it difficult to return if it doesn't work out.  I'd rather exhaust all other options first.  I don't know anything about whether IP phones can work with Google Voice, if anybody can educate me.

SteveInWA

Again:  calling ***1 or ***0 (or some other IVR) is not a valid test.  Those are low-bandwidth, synthetically-assembled voices.  There's going to be significant distortion.  You need to talk with a real, live human being.

Also, be aware: by design, the OBi (and most other ATAs) inject a small amount of hiss into the receiver, known as "comfort noise".  Research found that, when a call is completely silent, people think the call has been disconnected, or the other party can't hear them, so the noise is intentionally added.  On top of that, the ATA optionally sends a fraction of your side of the call (whatever it picks up from your voice and the room) back into your earpiece. This is known as "sidetone".  Again, this is to solve a human factor issue:  when you speak face-to-face with someone, your brain is hearing your own voice, too.  If you don't hear it, you tend to talk too loud.  These two things may not be what you are hearing, but they need to be considered when analyzing the overall audio.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comfort_noise
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidetone

Bottom line:  if you are sure that you hear the same crappy sound quality on Callcentric as on Google Voice, when a live human being is talking to you, the only thing you can do is to experiment lowering the ChannelTxGain value (the  amplification level of the sound being sent to your telephone's earpiece) in combination with the volume setting on the phone itself.  If this doesn't solve the problem, then either you have a defective OBi, or your own hearing finds the sound objectionable, and there's no fix (other than to get a hearing test, and/or try to get the OBi exchanged).

RE:  IP phones:  you wouldn't plug an IP phone into an OBi ATA.  An IP phone takes the place of an ATA.  For example, you could buy a OBi 1022, 1032 or 1062 IP phone, and configure it with your Google Voice or Callcentric (or other SIP provider) accounts.  All the OBi IP phones have the same, very high quality audio components.

SteveInWA

Quote from: LTN1 on March 12, 2017, 02:15:44 PM
I downloaded your audio file, listened to it--then dialed the **9 to listen to the same exact OBi prompt. I can confirm that what I heard on your audio file was pretty close to what I heard in doing the **9 test on my own OBi202.

The OBi prompt sounded like it was poorly recorded with some background line noise. The voice was OK...but it was over that background noise--somewhat like speaker phone background noise.

The echo test itself, did not have the background noise.

I then took my Uniden Dect 6 (1.9 Ghz of course) and made a call to 800-555-1212. The automated operator was clear but now I was listening for background noise when she didn't speak--and can confirm there is some line noise that could be heard if you listened carefully enough. I then went to an AT&T Dect 6 cordless and found it similar to the Uniden.

Afterwards, I used a Uniden 2.4 GHz cordless and found a bit more line noise when there was silence--but of course, only because I was focused on looking for the "noise."

I also tried a Uniden 5.8 GHz cordless, and it was similar to the Dect 6 phones...maybe a tad better.

I also used a cheap backup pure landline analog phone and when looking to hear noise during the silence, I also found line noise--worse than the cordless.

The clearest connections were from my corded IP Fortinet phone ($350 phone) (almost seems like it had line noise suppression between voices) and from my Verizon Dect 6 cordless phone connected directly to a landline--but of course, I could still find minute traces of background/line noise during the silence if I intently looked for it.

I also found that depending on the phone number I called (assuming the calls were routed through different CLECs), certain connections were clearer and certain had more line noise.

My tentative conclusions thus far are that some CLEC connections are clearer than others--and that is an additional layer of impact on the type of phone you are using--even if you are using the best phone possible. So a person may be calling from your area where the CLEC is using a less than premium line connection--which could impact your call quality. That same call, from another CLEC, in an area that uses a more premium line connection, could sound much better.

I just had some time on Sunday to test these issues...but my testing is from a layman's (non tech professional) perspective. Someone like SteveInWA, a real tech professional, could clarify these things much better, besides correcting my misuse of these terms.

Great testing work.  2.4GHz and 5.8GHz cordless phones have been obsolete for years.  If any are still for sale, they'd most likely be old stock/discontinued products.  In particular, 2.4GHz phones are very susceptible to dropouts and severe distortion from microwave ovens, WiFi and other uses of that band, and 5.8GHz are too, to a lesser extent.  That's one reason DECT has its own, dedicated frequency range. 

drgeoff

Attached recording made as follows:

Olympus LS3 recorder with Sony ECM-TL02 microphone between my ear and earpiece in handset of Gigaset S445 DECT handset and base station.  (Original European DECT system.)  Recorder set to 44.1 kHz sampling, 16 bit PCM mono, manual level control and low cut filter off.

DECT base connected to phone port of OBi110.  OBi110 registered as an extension on my Asterisk PBX.  Called my Callcentric number using GV trunk on Asterisk.  Callcentric trunk on Asterisk brought the call back across the Atlantic to Asterisk which forwarded it to Lenny as a remote SIP extension.

LTN1

Quote from: drgeoff on March 13, 2017, 12:48:17 PM
Attached recording made as follows:

Olympus LS3 recorder with Sony ECM-TL02 microphone between my ear and earpiece in handset of Gigaset S445 DECT handset and base station.  (Original European DECT system.)  Recorder set to 44.1 kHz sampling, 16 bit PCM mono, manual level control and low cut filter off.

DECT base connected to phone port of OBi110.  OBi110 registered as an extension on my Asterisk PBX.  Called my Callcentric number using GV trunk on Asterisk.  Callcentric trunk on Asterisk brought the call back across the Atlantic to Asterisk which forwarded it to Lenny as a remote SIP extension.

I didn't hear any audible problems, except the person speaking appeared kind of nervous. Was that a real call or a fictional one? Also, who did the voice belong to?