Monday September 10, 5:20 am Eastern Time
Press Release

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Americans Speak Out, Select the 'Best and Worst Voices in America' In
Online Polling by the Center for Voice Disorders of Wake Forest University

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Sept. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Americans prefer relatively low-pitched voices with minimal high-frequency noise, according to the results of an online public-opinion poll conducted this summer to determine the "best and worst'' voices in America, and the choice for Best Voice Overall -- James Earl Jones -- exemplifies those characteristics.

The Center for Voice Disorders of Wake Forest University conducted the poll over a period of five months, asking voters to name their top vocal picks in eight categories. The center also performed voice analyses of the winners to try to discern what was appealing -- or not -- about them.

Here are the leading vote-getters overall:

The Best Voices The Worst Voices in America 2001 in America 2001 Fran DrescherRoseanne BarrGilbert GodfriedBobcat GoldthwaitJoan RiversHoward SternRosie O'DonnellHoward CosellDick VitaleMike Tyson
James Earl Jones
Sean Connery
Julia Roberts
Katie Couric
Barbra Streisand
Sam Donaldson
Mel Gibson
Diane Sawyer
Meg Ryan
Anthony Hopkins

Honorable Mention Honorable Mention

Bob Costas, Tom Brokaw, Oprah Megan Mullally, Jaleel White, Bill Winfrey, Peter Jennings, Celine Clinton, Richard Simmons, Rush Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Faith Hill Limbaugh, Regis Philbin

Jones is recognizable for his deep, signature voice. He also won the most distinctive voice category with roles such as Darth Vader in the movie "Star Wars,'' and as the voice of CNN. Fran Drescher, star of the television program, "The Nanny,'' was the top vote getter in the entire survey, receiving more votes than anyone else in the categories: Most Distinctive Voice, Most Annoying Voice and Worst Overall.

Of the top 10 best voices, half are men and half are women. Six are actors, three are announcers, and one (Barbra Streisand) is a singer and actor. Of the worst voices in America, six are men and four are women.

Sean Connery was voted to have the sexiest male voice and Kathleen Turner the sexiest female voice. The best singer voices were Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand. Interestingly, of the almost 3,000 votes, two-thirds were female, but survey respondents equally represented all different age groups.

One of the main purposes of this project was to call attention to the voice and to voice disorders. Approximately three percent of Americans have voice disorders, and it has been shown that voice disorders are often more disabling than hearing loss. The Center for Voice Disorders of Wake Forest University was one of the first comprehensive, multispecialty, voice centers in the United States, and it continues to push the frontiers of voice science and medicine.

Winners of Special Categories V

*Most total votes (often in more than one category)

Voice Analysis

Americans like distinctiveness and distinctive voices such as those that were found in this poll. Virtually all of the top vote getters have voices that would be recognized by most people. Acoustical analysis of the Best Voices in America reveals that Americans prefer melodious, relatively low-pitched voices with very little high frequency noise. Conversely, vote getters in the worst voice category usually had relatively high-pitched voices.

The average speaking pitch for men in the "Best Voice'' category was 126Hz (frequency of vibrations in cycles/second), which is within the normal pitch range for male speakers (normal = 110-130Hz). Sean Connery's pitch was the highest at 158 Hz, and Mel Gibson's was the lowest at 108 Hz. In the "Worst Voice'' category, the average speaking pitch for the men was 242Hz. This is quite high-pitched for men. Gilbert Godfried and Bobcat Goldthwait had the highest-pitched voices.

The average speaking pitch for the "Best Female Voice'' category was 201Hz, which is also normal (normal range = 200-230Hz). Barbra Streisand's speaking voice was the highest at 228Hz, and Julia Roberts' voice was the lowest at 171 Hz. In the "Worst Female Voice'' category, the average pitch was 262Hz. This is quite high-pitched even for females. Roseanne Barr had the highest- pitched voice at 377Hz. This is extraordinarily high.

In conclusion, the average speaking pitch of males as well as females in the "Best Voice'' categories were within the expected normal ranges for their gender. The average pitches of both males and females in the "Worst Voice'' categories were higher than expected ranges for their genders. Sean Connery's higher than expected pitch may be the result of cultural factors as well as age. Male speaking pitch tends to increase with age, whereas female pitch tends to decrease with age.

Visitors to the Center for Voice Disorders Web site, may cast their votes for the Best and Worst Voices of 2002 beginning next January.

Due to availability of usable voice samples, not all voices in the poll were analyzed. David Blalock, MA, CCC, SLP, Director, Voice Laboratory, and Shannon Kemp, MS, CCC, SLP performed the analysis. Center for Voice Disorders' Choice for Best Voice

Although not on the popular list of "Best Voices'' presented above, the Center for Voice Disorders staff voted George Payne (narrator for the "Nature'' television series) the best voice in America. His familiar and expressive speaking style is melodious and soothing.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center