mean opinion score (MOS)

In voice communications, particularly Internet telephony, the mean opinion score (MOS) provides a numerical measure of the quality of human speech at the destination end of the circuit. The scheme uses subjective tests (opinionated scores) that are mathematically averaged to obtain a quantitative indicator of the system performance.

Compressor/decompressor (codec) systems and digital signal processing (DSP) are commonly used in voice communications because they conserve bandwidth. But they also degrade voice fidelity. The best codecs provide the most bandwidth conservation while producing the least degradation of the signal. Bandwidth can be measured using laboratory instruments, but voice quality requires human interpretation.

To determine MOS, a number of listeners rate the quality of test sentences read aloud over the communications circuit by male and female speakers. A listener gives each sentence a rating as follows: (1) bad; (2) poor; (3) fair; (4) good; (5) excellent. The MOS is the arithmetic mean of all the individual scores, and can range from 1 (worst) to 5 (best).

This was last updated in May 2011

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