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Choosing a ringtone that won’t blast your eardrums

If there was a Guinness world record for loudest -- and most annoying -- ringtone, an Israeli would probably win it. Here's how to be a better (and less annoying) citizen
A man with a cellphone (illustrative photo: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
A man with a cellphone (illustrative photo: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

It’s 7:30am and you’re sitting on the train on the way to work. Somewhere between Sabidor and Ha-Shalom Train Stations, your body shudders to a loud sound. Welcome to Israel, the land of the loud ringtones.

The Guinness Book of World Records stopped publishing loudest concert records a few years ago. They didn’t want to encourage rock bands to destroy even more eardrums. I think they need a new category – loudest ringtones!

Choosing a Ringtone

How do you choose a ringtone? As a music collector, this was a big decision when I bought my first smartphone. The audiophile in me insisted on a wav file. At home, I prefer to listen to 24 bit sound, as opposed to CDs, which are 16 bit. MP3 wasn’t an option, though I doubt my Galaxy S1 Mini knows the difference. A 128k MP3 is probably more than enough.

Can bad ringtones be classified? Yes. Loud guitar riffs and power chords should be listened to at home or via headphones. Think of Boston’s More Than a Feeling or the opener to The Beatles’ Revolution. I love both bands but wouldn’t want to hear those songs all day. The same goes for Helter Skelter and Ozzy Osbourne’s Iron Man.

Remember The Police’s masterpiece, Synchronicity? The song Mother would make the worst yet funniest ringtone ever. Sting sings, “Well the telephone is ringing, is that my mother on the phone?” to a cornucopia of keyboard and drum noise.

The best ringtones are gradual build-ups of music. As a Bossa Nova fan, I considered using The Girl From Ipanema, Corcovado and Jobim’s instrumental, Wave (a great song to wake up to!). I ended up going with The Who’s Eminence Front. It starts with mellow drums, continues with a synthesizer and ends up with a guitar riff if I don’t answer on time.

Dealing with Loud Ringtones

I love riding the train in Israel – they have definitely improved the service over the past few years. They even have a quiet area on the train, but you have to pay extra for it. When I hear an obnoxiously loud ringtone, I expect it to be followed by a loud conversation. The best thing to do is get up and find a quieter place to sit or stand.

As we can see in the news, the police have more important things to deal with. I don’t want Israel to end up like some Asian countries, with super strict public behavior laws. This is who we are. Not everyone is “like that” and those same loud characteristics are helping us to achieve great things in high tech, music and business.

I hope the editors at the Guinness Book of World Records will consider adding a category for loudest, worst and quietest ringtone songs. What are your most and least favorite ringtones?

Read Start-Up Israel to keep your finger on the pulse of Israeli high-tech and innovation!

About the Author
Kenny Sahr is a startup marketing executive. His first startup, founded in 1996, was featured in Time Magazine and on 60 Minutes. Kenny moved to Israel from Miami, Florida. In his spare time, he is an avid music collector and traveler.
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