Silence is golden, but not on Skype – Tips to diagnose audio issues
Thomas Edison is credited as coining the word “Hello” as a way to start a phone call. But every now and then I hear friends and family starting a Skype call with “Can you hear me?” instead. I’d like to give you the same tips I give them for troubleshooting audio issues on Skype calls.
This is quite a complex issue so today’s post will not be short. It contains two sections, one on diagnosing the cause of audio issues and another on using the call quality tool to fix them. If you’re only interested in one section or the other then feel free to pick and choose, otherwise grab yourself a tasty beverage and let’s get started.
Diagnosing the issue
The audio on a Skype call is determined by five different components:
- Your microphone – used to transmit sound
- Your speakers – used to receive sound
- Your friend’s microphone – used by your friend to transmit sound
- Your friend’s speakers – used by your friend to receive sound
- The internet connection between you and your friend – carries the sound both ways
Any audio issues you experience are most likely the result of one of these 5 components not working as expected. Let me run you through a couple of examples of how to diagnose problems using those five components.
Scenario 1: Your friend can’t hear you or they hear you through the wrong speakers
If your friend can’t hear you it’s either because you are not transmitting any sound to them, or they are not capable of receiving the sound you’re transmitting. If you look at the five components above that means there’s either a problem with your microphone or with your friend’s speakers. If your friend can hear you but the sound is coming through the wrong speakers this would also be considered a problem with their speakers.
Scenario 2: You can hear your friend, but softly and with a delay
This is a complex issue with two symptoms. More often than not any delays in the sound between you and your friend or distortions that make them sound robotic or like they are “breaking up” are a result of the connection between you being slow. Learn more about using the best connection for your Skype calls.
The other symptom is that your friend’s audio is very soft. This is either a problem with how they’re transmitting or how you’re receiving the sound. Looking at the five components above, it’s either a problem with your friend’s microphone or your speakers. You can test your speakers by playing some music or a video, if you also can’t hear the music or video very loudly then you should turn up your volume.
Using the call quality tool to fix audio issues
So now you (hopefully) know what it is that’s causing your audio issues, let’s dive into using the call quality tool within Skype to resolve it. In case you you’ve never used the tool before, the symbol for it in Skype is:
You can access the call quality tool before you start a call or while you’re in the middle of a call and it gives you access to:
- Change your speaker settings
- Change your microphone settings
- Change your webcam settings
- Test the performance of the internet connection between you and your friends
- Test the performance of your computer
Adjusting your speaker settings
In the Speaker tab you can select the audio device which your speakers are connected to and adjust the volume of the selected device. You can also allow Skype to adjust the volume of the device automatically. Finally, you can also play a test sound to make sure you can hear things as expected.
If you’ve used the tips in the diagnosis section above and decided there is a problem with your speakers then you can use these settings to help solve it. If you can’t hear anything at all, try selecting a different device from the list. If the device you want to use isn’t in the list, make sure it is plugged in and installed correctly. If you can hear your friend but not very well, try turning up the volume.
Adjusting your microphone settings
In the Microphone tab you can select the audio device which your microphone is connected to and adjust the volume of the selected device. You can also allow Skype to adjust the volume of the device automatically. Lastly, you can test whether or not your microphone is working by doing a test recording.
Like the Speaker tab, you can use the Microphone tab to solve issues which you have diagnosed as being caused by your microphone. Try selecting a different device if your friend can’t hear you at all, or turning up the volume if they can’t hear you well. If the volume is all the way up and they still can’t hear you well, try getting closer to the microphone or using a headset.
I’ve read it all and I’m still having trouble, what can I do?
It’s always difficult to prescribe a one-size-fits-all solution to a problem as complex as audio issues. If you still haven’t been able to solve your audio issues why not ask a question in the Skype Community? If you’d like to do some more reading then there’s also loads more on this subject on the Skype support website.