Updated 09 Feb 2017

Our programs have been recorded to a high standard, as they need very clear speech and phonemes.  However, the quality of speakers  and soundcards used in computers is variable and not something we can control. We also find that some children simple love to set up the soundcard to replicate a Disney character inside an echoing cave. This can result in less technically minded adults thinking there is a serious issue with our programs! The following notes help to obtain best sound quality from your computer.

Poor sound quality when using internal speakers is not unusual in any program, including ours. Sound card settings can also make a considerable difference. Taking each in turn:

Internal speakers:

Users expect ever – smaller, lighter computers, at lower cost and with longer battery life. Manufacturers respond to these expectations, often by fitting smaller, lighter, cheaper speakers and soundcards with lower power consumption. This results in lower frequencies being compromised, as these need big speakers with more power. The resulting sound can be quite “tinny”. PC shops stock an increased range of powered speakers designed to plug one’s computer into. This is not a coincidence.  

Happily, there ARE two simple ways of hugely improving quality of sound:

Buy external mains-powered speakers. This will improve the sound quality for all programs, not just ours.  Ideally, go shopping at a quiet time and  listen to a few different speakers. Some good shops will allow you to plug a selection of speakers into your machine with Wordshark running, and you will soon hear that some speakers deliver much clearer speech sounds than others. Whilst high quality speakers can cost a fortune, £30 to £100 can buy decent mains-powered speakers, which will last for many years and be usable on your current and future computers Note - some use USB, and others use Jackplug, connections. Check which you need for your computer.

Buy good quality headphones.  Similar advice applies.Some headphones come with attached boom microphones, which can then be used for recording your own word lists in Wordshark. Look for ones described as “suitable for voice recognition”, as these are usually optimised for speech. Consider buying two pairs plus a headphone splitter, to allow two people to listen to the computer at the same time.

Sound Card Issues:

Whilst there is a limit to the quality you will obtain from some of the cheaper soundcards, there are several settings you can adjust on most types of soundcard:

          You can tell the program to refresh the sound memory. To do this, sign into the program as the Wordshark administrator, go to Admin and advanced features. Tick the option “refresh sound routines regularly”

         You can alter the speaker properties to improve the frequency range. To do this:

         Go to start and select control panel (For windows 8 right click the windows icon on the desktop to locate control panel)

         From the menu choose “Sound”

         Click to highlight your speakers and choose ‘Properties’

         This will take you to ‘Speakers Properties” – choose the ‘Advanced tab’

         Try altering the Default format to see if any of them perform better than others. Generally, most people will be able to hear a better sound quality when choosing  24 bit 96000Hz studio quality, than the 16 bit 44100 Hz CD quality, and will rarely notice any difference in performance of the computer.

 Select the  “Enhancements” tab. If you have chosen the “Environment = Sewer Pipe”, then expect Wordshark to sound odd!  Choosing “Pitch” and “+4” will result in a high, squeaky sound more akin to a Disney cartoon than appropriate for clear sound. We suggest you tick the “Enhancements”  box “Disable all sound effects”.

 Select the “Levels” tab. Generally, most computers sound best for Wordshark when the tab “Levels” is set at   100% for the audio output, and adjust volume using the speaker volume controls).

Sound FAQ 05:

 I have sound, but I want to improve the quality.

I have sound but it is of poor quality     The sound is “tinny”

Other sound issues