April 5, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka
“What is HD voice?” a reader asked after we quoted Sprint CEO Dan Hesse saying that his company would be the first to implement it in the United States. Is it like the high-quality Voice over LTE or just a cheeky marketing term?
It turns out that HD Voice is just a marketing term by Sprint, but it’s a term the company has earned based on a demo we had at last night’s HTC EVO 4G launch. The company seeks to deliver unrivaled call quality with HD Voice, so we had to take it for a spin and see if the Now Network will be the next network when it comes to voice calling.
But before we get into the results, let’s clear up one thing: the EVO 4G LTE does not have noise cancellation as many have said. It has noise reduction, an important distinction that users should make when setting their expectations for performance. There may be noise in the background, but it is severely minimized.
That’s what I heard when walking into an audio booth to compare calling on an HTC EVO 4G and the new EVO 4G LTE. The person on the other end of the phone spoke on an original EVO 4G and was fine, but there was a very noticeable improvement when speaking on the 4G LTE. To illustrate, my phone buddy turned up the radio in the background. When using the EVO 4G LTE, I could hear a faint crackle, but his words were clearly audible. Yet when using the EVO 4G, the background noise was so powerful that I could actually make out the words of the song being played.
I then asked to have a phone conversation outside of the booth. In a room with music blaring and bloggers talking loud enough to struggle to hear the person standing 18 inches in front of them, I could perfectly hear the person on the phone. This was a one-way benefit because the noise still made it difficult for him to hear me, but I suffered no such problems. It was night and day, quiet and loud, difference in noise reduction.
Sprint is able to achieve the improved audio thanks to its “network vision” and audio encoders/decoders built into the phone. As Sprint has prepared to roll out its LTE network and reallocate resources on its existing CDMA networks, it’s able to route calls differently. Throw in the dual-microphone and improve audio decoding built into the EVO 4G LTE and the result are calls that are crisp and clear.
The best part of it all is that you don’t actually need the LTE aspect in order to see improved calls. Multiple people on-site told Androinica.com that HD voice is about Sprint’s network improvement and the aforementioned hardware enhancements in the latest EVO. As long as a user has the EVO 4G LTE and they are in a market where Sprint has implemented its “network vision” improvements, there will be a remarkable difference in sound quality.
How does this all compare to the more familiar but still not implemented voice over LTE? I’m not quite sure yet because I haven’t had a VoLTE demo since February 2011, so it’s impossible to make an accurate comparison off memory. However, I can tell you that the HD voice was exceptional sound quality. The difference is probably along the lines of Pepsi vs. Coke, which would make the call quality you currently enjoy a lowly, off-brand cola.
Look forward to drinking in a higher class of calls when HD voice debuts later this year.