Why Hold Music Sounds Worse Now

Why Hold Music Sounds Worse Now

It’s not your imagination; hold music on phones really did sound better in the old days. Here’s why, as we talk about old telephone exchanges and audio compression.

Thanks to the Milton Keynes Museum, and their Connected Earth gallery: http://www.mkmuseum.org.uk/ – they’re also on Twitter as @mkmuseum, and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mkmuseum/

I’m at http://tomscott.com
on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tomscott
on Facebook at http://facebook.com/tomscott
and on Snapchat and Instagram as tomscottgo

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78 Responses

  1. Egghead Productions says:

    good video

  2. Ethan Cox says:

    -Wtf does that title mean?- Oh hold music…

  3. * Fahrenheight * says:


  4. Evan Blenkinsopp says:

    Take me back to the good ol’ days, Tom!

  5. Álvaro Lopes says:

    That title got me good, Tom, you mischevious fellow.

    • archie_4220 says:

      i thought it said “why music sounds worse now”

    • Jürgen Hans says:

      I don’t see the ambiguity in grammar here, what’s the other meaning?

    • SonOfFurzehatt says:

      There are a few ways to start reading that sentence. ‘Hold’ is usually a verb, here it’s an adjective.

      “Why hold…” makes you wonder why someone would want to hold the thing that comes next.

      “Why hold music…” – music isn’t something you can hold, so you’re forced to reevaluate the sentence.

      “Why hold music sounds…” – are we talking about the sounds of hold music or are we talking about how the hold music sounds?

    • Famus Jamus says:

      _Jürgen Hans_ According to another thread, it’s mistaking “hold” for a verb (“Why _hold_ music?”) before having the sentence collapse in on itself as you try to finish it.

      EDIT: Ninja’d.

    • Adventures in Nostalgia says:

      The title was completely accurate too

  6. I'm Very Angry It's Not Butter!! says:

    Let’s all share the most memorable hold music we’ve ever experienced.

    Once when I was on hold, I was treated to a lovely piano arrangement of Chrono Trigger’s 600 AD overworld theme.

    • Wyld Bob says:

      A pharmacy near where I used to live in Missouri had an instrumental version of ‘Still Alive’ the epic song from the game Portal made by Valve as part of their hold music rotation. Gave me the giggles every time.

    • Rainer Riegler says:

      Falco – Vienna Calling was the absolute best hold music I got. And it even sounded decent. Maybe because the other end of the line was not even 200m away.

    • David Lambert says:

      Are you convinced or unsure? Which is it?

    • Chuck Fickens says:

      I’ve had Megadeth before, I believe it was the threat is real, I personally didn’t recognise it at all and had to call the office metal fan over.

    • Martin Dodd says:

      I work in the aerospace industry, and one of our suppliers uses the Top Gun theme music as their hold music.

  7. dobkayaker says:

    “Milton Keynes isn’t boring, it has a museum of telephone equipment!”

  8. Olivia Unwin says:

    I was so expecting Tardis noises. humbug.

  9. MikeDrop says:

    At work I LOVED when we did calls over a computer. The sound was SO much better. I struggle to understand people while talking over phones it’s terrible.

    • luckyluckydog123 says:

      yes, phone quality is so disgustingly terrible that I really can’t understand why everybody is putting up with it. HD voice exists but no one is pushing it

    • jkacvbhijfn says:

      Probably because people don’t talk as much as they used to? Everyone texts/facebook msgs/whatspps. At the same time home phones are disappearing, and honestly, if you removed the phone feature on my phone, I wouldn’t even notice.

    • ekner says:

      Phone quality is awful, I too struggle. There’s so much information in the human voice that’s lost you might as well text eachother and use robotic voices to read the stuff aloud. Then at least you’d have a transcript…

    • Mikael Levoniemi says:

      Nokia did try, but it didn’t become a new standard. Nokia to nokia calls had a better quality to them.

  10. wkc19 says:

    I was hoping for that phone box to dissapear like the tardis

  11. Raul Ricardo says:

    Were you hoping for a true TARDIS?

  12. To The GAMES says:

    I was hoping so much the ‘Tardis’ would dissapear… Wrr Wrrr Wrrrr WRRR -goneski-

  13. Whitfield Groves says:

    Wow Dr. Who made a Tardis replica for this museum! Cool!
    I was hoping to see the future of phone technology…

  14. Tom Scott says:

    By the way, the Milton Keynes Museum is wonderful. I know the town’s got a reputation for roundabouts and concrete cows, but the museum’s a gem.

  15. ash G. says:

    solution: audiobooks for hold sound….uses the frequency that isnt cut (human voice) and u get some entertainment while you wait similar to music.

  16. SkTheJanner says:

    But it still sounds better than “Your call is important to us, please hold.”

    • NoLight says:

      I don’t really mind hearing that phrase. It’s the ten thousand years of silence that follow that get under my skin.

    • Pspaughtamus says:

      NoLight, YES! Especially if they have to transfer you, and you aren’t quite sure if the call didn’t drop somehow. At least some sort of noise lets you know it’s still connected.

  17. TheYoo2b says:

    Seeing as the sound is already optimised for speech, it would probably make more sense if all hold music was done by acapella groups

  18. bobobobinalong says:

    For me it’s not the quality of the sound that I have problems with, it’s the absolute crap music they play. And I was recently subjected to crap hold music that was on a 15 sec. loop.

    • Prehistoricman says:

      between the same 15 seconds of music they play a really annoying clip of “don’t worry, we’ll answer your call shortly”

    • chimpwithagun says:

      And the adverts for the service you’re phoning up to cancel. I’d rather it just beeped occasionally to let me know it was still connected.

  19. Korvin Ezüst says:

    You should’ve ended the video at 3:30 and imply that you’re moving around in a TARDIS for all these videos.

  20. Fred Stewart says:

    They could just play dubstep and we wouldn’t be able to tell if the connection was bad or not

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