1241: Annoying Ringtone Champion

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Annoying Ringtone Champion
It beat out 'Clock radio alarm', 'B-flat at 194 decibels', 'That noise from Dumb & Dumber', and 'Recording of a sobbing voice begging you to answer'.
Title text: It beat out 'Clock radio alarm', 'B-flat at 194 decibels', 'That noise from Dumb & Dumber', and 'Recording of a sobbing voice begging you to answer'.


This comic satirizes the large variety of ringtones that may be used on their cell phones. While many are simply tunes that personalize a user's phone, some will use ringtones that resemble everyday sounds, such as doorbells, coughing, alarm noises, or in this case, the buzzing of a mosquito. Although rather innocuous, these ringtones can get very annoying to some people, which is what this comic is getting at.

Here, Black Hat has set his ringtone to "The sound a mosquito makes as it buzzes past your ear", the winner of the "Awful Ringtone Championship". Cueball, hearing the sound, cries out and swats the air around his head, mistaking the ringtone for an actual mosquito buzzing past his ear. In addition to being an extremely unpleasant sound, it could also cause confusion to others, as shown in the comic, thus being unanimously decided as the most annoying ringtone. Black Hat's response is likely a pun meaning both "Oh, I've got to take this [call]" (like someone who has been interrupted by a phone call) and need to leave and respond and "Oh, I've got to take this [competition]" since the ringtone is so annoying.

The title text refers to four other annoying ringtones, apparently none of which were deemed as annoying as a mosquito buzzing:

  • "Clock radio alarm". These sounds are often loud and annoying, just to ensure that you really will wake up.
  • "B-flat at 194 decibels". B-flat is a musical note with a pitch of 466.16 Hz (or any power of 2 or 1/2 multiplied by that). 194 decibels is 501187233627% (most devices only go up to 100%/0dB) and is the limit at 1 atmosphere pressure. Any more energy would create a shockwave. This could also be a reference to a crowd of vuvuzelas as they also produce sounds pitched around B flat. This may also refer to several B-flat-related phenomena discussed in an NPR story, Have You Heard About B Flat? Specifically, B-flat has been found to agitate alligators, and waves passing through gas near a black hole have been found to resonate at a frequency which results in a B flat 57 octaves below middle C. Regardless of all this, a sound played as loud as 194 dB is quite literally deafening, so the ringtone would be not so much annoying as dangerous.
  • "That noise from Dumb & Dumber". Dumb and Dumber is a comedy movie from 1994. The noise from Dumb & Dumber is referring to the point in the movie when Harry and Lloyd asked, "Do you want to hear the most annoying sound in the world?" and began shrieking in imitation of a loud fax machine.
  • "Recording of a sobbing voice begging you to answer". Self-explanatory.[citation needed] Such a ringtone is obviously disruptive, annoying, and potentially worrying to those in the vicinity of the phone.[citation needed]


[At the top of the frame is a humming tone. It is written in small letters, that gradually get larger until the middle "M", when the letters gradually shrink again. Cueball is cringing while raising his arms above his head. Black Hat is holding his phone and looking at it.]
Cueball: Augh!
Black Hat: Oh, I've gotta take this.
[Caption below the frame:]
By unanimous decision, the winner of the Awful Ringtone Championship is "the sound a mosquito makes as it buzzes past your ear".

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can somebody add the link to the audio files for the other annoying ringtones mentioned her? 10:21, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

"That sound" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cVlTeIATBs --RainbowDash (talk) 18:15, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_pressure#Sound_pressure_level) 194db is the loudest sound possible without distortion in Earth's atmosphere, so unlikely that you could update an audio file of it.

And you would most likely die from that sound pressure level. -- 16:58, 22 July 2013 (UTC)
Wouldn't it be rather a question of your sound equipment if you can achieve 194dB? --Chtz (talk) 17:10, 22 July 2013 (UTC)
But the WAV format can be used to store floating point, which has a high dynamic range making it possible. 14:56, 12 April 2022 (UTC)

How can he speak of most annoying mosquito sounds and not refer to this?! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4k036R3wQE Some kid in my high school actually had this as his ringtone for awhile. I'm pretty sure he got jumped (if he didn't, he ought to have been). 00:59, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

damn im so having that as my ringtone. i dont care how uncomfortable it makes me. seeing all the others people squirm will be worth it. next up i change my text alert to the sound it makes in some popular game when your health gets low. no wait that would be such an effective alarm clock. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The "mosquito whine" could also be a reference to the very high-pitched ringtones, often known as "mosquito" tones, that some teenagers so they'll be notified about any phone activity without their schoolteacher realizing they're using a phone in class. Supposedly, "older" people (over 25 or so) can't hear such high frequencies. Acelightning (talk) 08:14, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

I'm 31 and I can still hear frequencies up to 17KHz. When I was 15 I could hear up to 16.5KHz but that may have been due to using an old mid-range speaker. Now I'm using standard apple earphones. --Zom-B (talk) 08:29, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
Some of the "mosquito tones" are as high as 23 KHz. I'm 65, and I can still hear up to around 17 KHz. Although I've worked in audio most of my life, instead of constantly jacking the monitor speaker up higher and higher so I could "feel the music", I'd put on earphones to *protect* my hearing from the musicians. They were yelling "Speak up! I can't hear you!" into the telephone by the time they were 25... and then they realized why I always wore cans :-) Acelightning (talk) 08:56, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
Just adding reference: The_Mosquito#Teen_Buzz_ringtone. -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:41, 25 July 2013 (UTC)

I wonder where the Metal Gear Solid alert sound effect placed? A ringtone that certain people (MGS fans) have unwittingly conditioned themselves to associate with heightened tension and a need to hide would be annoying. That said most of them would only have themselves to blame since MGS fans would be the most likely to have such a ring tone. -Pennpenn 00:55, 9 February 2015 (UTC)

I still think my friend is more annoying than any of those ringtones.

194 dB is referring to the scientific scale where 0 dB is silence. The part where it says the maximum output for a phone is 0 dB is in audio engineering dB, where 0 dB is the maximum output of the system and anything above clips. This is incredibly inconsistent, as a noise at 194 science-decibels is not clipping because that is not a thing outside of audio engineering, and a phone's maximum output is not silence. It also annoyed me enough to make an account. Alex paintwork (talk) 00:40, 4 April 2024 (UTC)