There's a bizarrely hidden setting in the Control Center of Apple’s iOS 15 and MacOS Monterey that you need to know about, because it significantly boosts vocal clarity when using audio and video calling apps.
The feature is called Voice Isolation and, though it was announced when iOS 15 launched (and was reported on by us here), it has tiptoed largely under the radar. But it's great, and and whenever people discover it, it tends to blow minds. It's recently blown up thanks to Twitter user can duruk and The Verge, pushing Voice Isolation and its notable perks from the depths of your Apple device's settings into the headlines.
i had no clue that a) Voice Isolation was a feature available on the new iPhones / Airpods and b) it worked so well. It's incredible on the other end — you hear nothing but the person you are talking to. Surprised it's not automatically turned on!May 16, 2022
One of the weirdest features of Voice Isolation is that you need to be in-call to use it, but once on a WhatsApp, FaceTime (audio or video), or even Zoom call on your Apple device, toggle it on by swiping down from the top-right corner (iOS/iPadOS) or clicking (MacOS) the top right corner of your screen and selecting the 'Mic Modes' menu. It’s set to 'Standard' by default, but there are two other options: Voice Isolation and Wide Spectrum. Voice Isolation is the one you want.
Essentially, it's like noise cancelling for your voice. Your device's mics aggressively process all incoming noise and filter out extraneous background rackets to make your dulcet tones much clearer in loud environments (at a concert, about to cross a busy main road or just a crowded office desk, say).
Users have reported nothing but good things; everything from barking dogs to noisy MacBook fans has been largely nixed from calls.
To clarify, Voice Isolation works on most recent iPhones, iPads and Macs as long as you’re running iOS 15 or macOS Monterey (we tried it on an old iPhone 7 and the feature simply does not appear. On an iPhone 11, the Mic Modes menu did appear, but despite running the latest iOS 15.5, the iPhone told us that Voice Isolation was 'unavailable').
Analysis: much better audio quality, but there's a catch…
There's certainly much to celebrate here, but there are two big issues with Voice Isolation – and that's aside from the problem of having to make awkward small-talk with your caller while you deploy it in the first instance.
Firstly, Voice Isolation is not a universal setting, so you will have to manually enable it in every app you use for audio and video calls.
Secondly, because Apple makes Voice Isolation available through an API on iOS, iPadOS and macOS, there are holes in the app support. On mobile, for example, Slack, WhatsApp, Signal, and Instagram all support it, but TikTok doesn’t. For Zoom, there's iOS but not Mac support. And the biggest omission? Actual old-school phone calls – arguably the area that is in most need of it.
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Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.