Navigating the soundscape: Decoding the perfect sat nav voice

Close up rear view of active senior man using global positioning system while sitting on front seat of the car

Sat navs and other navigation apps are significant parts of our lives. Their voices accompany us on our daily journeys and are part of our routines, so it’s important that they’re pleasant on the ear.

Over the years, the customisation of sat nav voices has become popular, allowing users to choose from various options, from celebrities to professional voice actors. But what makes the perfect sat nav voice?

Various scientific studies have suggested that deeper voices are more trustworthy on first impressions for both genders. In addition, less monotone ones are seen as more engaging. This is known as having a higher variance.

With this in mind, Uswitch analysed the default UK voices of the three most common apps, Google Maps, Apple Maps and Waze, to see which are the best. Uswitch has also analysed over 100 celebrities to see which are the best and worst as your navigator.

Which navigation apps have the best voices?

RankAppDepth (Hz)
1Apple Maps92
2Google Maps152
3Waze (Kate)167

Depth, measured in Hertz (Hz), refers to the pitch or frequency of the voice. A lower value means a deeper voice, which is more calming and authoritative.

1. Apple Maps – 92 Hz

Apple Maps, with a depth of 92 Hz, has the deepest voice among the three. This lower pitch might be perceived as more soothing or authoritative, potentially giving drivers a sense of calm and reliability. It’s worth noting that the default voice for Apple is male, while Google and Waze are female.

2. Google Maps – 152 Hz

Google Maps has a medium-level depth of 152 Hz. Google might offer the most balanced option if you prefer a female voice to a male one. It’s not as deep as the male voice of Apple but deeper than the default Waze voice.

3. Waze – 92 Hz

Waze allows users to pick from a wide range of voices, but the default one in the UK has the highest-pitched voice at 167 Hz. This means that it is potentially more lively or energetic. While some may prefer this, it also has the potential to be distracting.

RankAppVariance
1Google Maps25.92
2Apple Maps13.39
3Waze (Kate)12.31

Variance measures the dynamic range of the voice. A high variance is expressive and engaging, but a low one is monotone. A voice with higher variance is more likely to keep you engaged, which is crucial when driving.

1. Google Maps – 25.92

Google Maps leads in variance with 25.92, suggesting a highly expressive and dynamic voice. This variance indicates that the Google Maps voice significantly changes its pitch, which could make for a more engaging drive.

2. Apple Maps – 13.39

Apple Maps has a moderate variance of 13.39, balancing monotony and expressiveness. This variance level means that Apple Maps’ voice has some pitch variation, making it engaging without being distractingly so.

3. Waze – 12.31

Waze, with a variance of 12.31, shows the slightest pitch variation. This lower variance indicates a more consistent pitch, which is stable and straightforward but could cause you to lose attention.

Which celebrities have the best sat nav voices?

RankNameDepth (Hz)VarianceOverall score /10
1Morgan Freeman6728.958.96
2Stephen Fry6224.628.69
3Liam Neeson5821.818.39
4James Earl Jones5719.798.33
5Bryan Cranston6122.048.32
6Colin Firth7225.438.24
7Vin Diesel5817.337.66
8Al Pacino8026.047.44
9David Attenborough9134.817.29
10Morrissey7319.417.23

1. Morgan Freeman – 8.96 out of 10

Depth: 67 Hz
Variance: 28.95

At the top of the list is Morgan Freeman, renowned for his deep, calm, and authoritative voice, with a depth of 67 Hz and a variance of 28.95. Freeman’s voice is often associated with wisdom and comfort, making him a popular choice for narration and, apparently, the preferred voice for guiding drivers.

2. Stephen Fry – 8.66 out of 10

Depth: 62 Hz
Variance: 24.62

Stephen Fry follows closely, with a slightly lower pitch at 62 Hz but a lower variance of 24.62. Fry’s iconic British accent and eloquent and articulate speech make for a distinct and engaging navigation experience.

3. Liam Neeson – 8.39 out of 10

Depth: 58 Hz
Variance: 21.81

Liam Neeson ranks third with a voice depth of 58 Hz and a variance of 21.81. Neeson’s voice, known for its gravitas and intensity, adds an engaging and reassuring presence to any journey.

Which female celebrities have the best sat nav voices?

RankNameDepth (Hz)VarianceOverall score /10
1Cate Blanchett9227.426.62
2Theresa May11336.206.56
3Oprah Winfrey9728.836.53
4Helen Mirren12737.305.92
5Meryl Streep12230.865.77
6Nigella Lawson12933.905.74
7Hillary Clinton11928.665.73
8Jennifer Aniston12932.215.64
9Carey Mulligan11927.205.55
10Angelina Jolie12830.275.52

1. Cate Blanchett – 6.62 out of 10

Depth: 92 Hz
Variance: 27.42

With depth being one of the two factors analysed, each top-ranked voice was male, so we’ve also looked at the top female celebs. At the top of the list, Cate Blanchett leads with a voice depth of 92 Hz and a variance of 27.42. Blanchett’s voice, known for its rich, resonant quality, evidently stands out for its distinctive tone and versatility.

2. Theresa May – 6.56 out of 10

Depth: 113 Hz
Variance: 36.20

Theresa May ranks second with a higher pitch of 113 Hz and a variance of 36.20. As a politician, May’s voice needs to command attention, demonstrating the impact of clarity and authority in sat nav voices.

3. Oprah Winfrey – 6.53 out of 10

Depth: 97 Hz
Variance: 28.83

Oprah Winfrey is closely behind in third place, with a pitch of 97 Hz and a variance of 28.83. Winfrey’s voice is known for its warmth, empathy, and persuasive power, making her a beloved figure in the media.

Leoni Moninska, car insurance expert at Uswitch, discusses the dangers of distractions such as sat navs when driving: “Driving distractions can significantly increase the risk of accidents and injuries on the road. Navigation tools, including satellite navigation systems (sat navs), have transformed how we travel, offering real-time directions and traffic updates that can make journeys more efficient. However, it’s crucial to ensure that these tools are not an additional source of distraction for drivers.

The dangers of distractions while driving

“Driving distractions take many forms, from mobile phone use to adjusting the radio or eating. These distractions can divert a driver’s attention away from the road, reducing their reaction time and ability to make informed decisions quickly. A few seconds of distraction can be the difference between safety and disaster when driving. calling. Using any navigation tool must make driving safer and not more dangerous.

“Using navigation tools can also be distracting if not used responsibly. Constantly looking at a sat nav screen or fiddling with its settings while moving can be just as hazardous as texting or calling. Using any navigation tool must make driving safer and not more dangerous.

Using sat navs safely

“To ensure that the use of sat navs and other navigation aids does not become a distraction, consider the following tips:

  • Preparation is key: Input your destination and review your route before setting off. Familiarise yourself with major turns or exits in advance to avoid last-minute lane changes.
  • Mount properly: Ensure your device is mounted in an easily visible position without needing to take your eyes off the road for more than a glance. The device should not block your view of the road and mirrors.
  • Voice commands over visuals: Use voice navigation features, allowing you to focus on the road while receiving voice directions.
  • Minimise distractions: Try to keep distractions in the car to a minimum. This means setting your radio or playlist before you leave, avoiding eating or intense conversations, and asking passengers to let you concentrate.
  • Don’t panic over missed directions: If you miss a turn or exit, don’t panic or make sudden, unsafe manoeuvres. Trust that your sat nav will reroute you or find a safe place to pull over and reassess your route.
  • Regular breaks on long journeys: Fatigue can exacerbate the effects of distractions. Plan for frequent breaks to rest and refresh on long trips, ideally every two hours or so.
  • Educate yourself on features: Modern sat navs have various features to make driving safer, such as traffic updates, speed camera alerts, and lane guidance. Familiarise yourself with these features before your journey to use them without distraction.

“By following these guidelines, drivers can enjoy the benefits of navigation tools without compromising their attention and safety on the road. Remember, the primary task when behind the wheel is to drive safely. Anything else should only help with this goal.”

Methodology

Uswitch’s research was based on the following sources, which claim that a deeper voice is more trustworthy and a less monotone voice (higher variance) is more engaging:

To determine which sat nav systems have the ideal voice, Uswitch analysed the default UK voices used for the leading navigation apps, Google Maps, Apple Maps and Waze.

For each voice, Uswitch recorded around ten minutes worth of navigation and ran the recordings through Vocular to see which had the lowest voices and the most variance.

The figures for celebrities were also sourced from Vocular, with each being given a normalised score out of ten for their depth and variance before taking an average of these.

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