Math

Researchers Have Determined the Mathematical Formula for the Perfect Voice

Behind anything beautiful, you'll always find math and science. Visual beauty often comes down to the rule of thirds, the golden ratio, and the Fibonacci sequence — just look at Leonardo da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man," for example. Researchers now claim to have found a new formula that equates to the perfect voice. The results? Here's a hint: You'll hear one near-perfect voice coming from a cartoon character in "The Lion King."

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Linguist Andrew Linn of Sheffield University and sound engineer Shannon Harris (the keyboard player for Rod Stewart and Lily Allen) teamed up to determine what makes a nice voice so appealing to hear. In 2008, they conducted a study that supplied them with the math to answer their question. They asked a group of participants to rate 50 voices, and then analyzed the results based on a combination of speech tone, speed, frequency, words per minute, and intonation. Then, they used that data to formulate the recipe for the perfect voice.

According to this study, the most appealing speaking voice utters no more than 164 words per minute and pauses for 0.48 seconds between sentences. The end of sentences should drop in pitch, rather than rise at the end in that kind of valley-girl upspeak. (No word on the Kardashian-like vocal fry.) Linn and Harris also found that vocal traits associated with positive characteristics, like confidence and trust, scored highly with the participants. For example, deep gravelly tones inspire trust in listeners. Paging Morgan Freeman!

Do You Recognize These Voices?

Before we get to the examples of beautiful voice-havers, just know that this study, commissioned by Post Office Telecoms, took place in the UK. So, don't be alarmed when Morgan Freeman isn't on the list, because (spoiler alert!) he's not. Drumroll, please ...

The study found the best female voice to be a mixture of actress Dame Judi Dench, journalist Mariella Frostrup, and actress Honor Blackman. It found the best male voice to be a mixture of actor Alan Rickman, actor Jeremy Irons, and Sir Michael Gambon. Or, in other words, that's Professor Snape, Scar, and Dumbledore. You're stumped how Gilbert Gottfried didn't make the list, we know.

"As humans, we instinctively know which voices send shivers down our spine and which make us shudder with disgust. The emotional responses panelists had to the voices were surprising and go some way to explaining how voiceover artists or radio DJs are selected, or why particular celebrity voices appeal," Linn said in the study press release. "This formula gives us an exciting glimpse into the way voices work and what makes them appealing or repelling."

Why Do Men Have Deeper Voices?

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. On average, adult men's voices have a lower fundamental frequency than adult women's voices. 00:19

  2. One's voice can be affected by the size of the larynx and development of facial bones and cavities in the head. 01:17

  3. During puberty, testosterone causes the vocal folds in a boy's larynx to grow longer and thicker. 01:55

Written by Joanie Faletto December 14, 2017