Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Pulse and Tone

Pulse vs. Tone

Pulse and tone dialing are terms that we usually come across with when we want to have an access to the internet using a dial-up connection. They are methods used to establish a connection to an Internet service provider using a telephone line. So what are their differences?

First of all, a pulse dialing, also known as loop disconnect dialing, is an older method and is used when you have an older phone that has a rotary dial. Tone dialing is used when your phone is a touch tone phone or the one that has numeric keypads. However, there are some new telephones that have a switch on them if you want to convert your connection from tone dialing to pulse dialing and vice versa depending on your preference. Both can enable you to connect to the Internet but most experts recommend tone dialing because it is a faster way to dial and connect to the central telephone.

Pulse dialing sends dialed digits by a series of clicks corresponding to a number. The clicks are briefly interrupted in every digit sent. For example, two clicks for the number two, a short pause and then another set of clicks for the number three, pause again, another set of clicks for the next number and so on until the phone number is completely dialed. It needs to pause in between the digits such that every number can be identified from each other. The number zero is represented by ten clicks and not by a pause. This representation however varies from some places. Let’s take New Zealand for example, zero is ten clicks, one is nine clicks and so on.

The tone dialing, also known as Dual Tone Multi Frequency, however, is a recent development. It uses different pairs of tones to indicate the different numbers. If you can observe, the numeric keypad has four lines and three columns. There is a designated tone for every line and tone for every column. For example, the number five is being transmitted; the tone of the second line and the tone of the second column are both transmitted simultaneously.

Because of the mechanism they used to dial the number, one of them is more preferred by most users. People these days are always in a hurry and since tone dialing uses a tone or frequency and does not need to pause, it is a faster way of dialing and therefore more popular than pulse dialing. When you use pulse dialing you need to wait for the dial to return to its resting position first before you can dial the next number. This problem does not exist in tone dialing since it has a number keypad. You can dial the digits as fast as you want and thus make it more convenient.


1. Pulse dialing is usually used if your phone has a rotary dial. Tone dialing is used when your phone has a numeric keypad. That is the standard idea but nowadays, telephones that are being manufactured allow you to switch from pulse to tone dialing and vice versa regardless whether you have a rotary dial or numeric keypad.

2. Series of clicks are used to send digits when using Pulse dialing. In tone dialing, there are different tones representing each number when dialing.

3. Brief pauses are needed in pulse dialing but not in tone dialing.

4. In pulse dialing, you have to wait for the dial to return to its resting position before you can dial your next digit. But in tone dialing, you can type in your numbers as quickly as you want.

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1 Comment

  1. Is there an advantage to switching to pulse tone?
    Security-wise are pulse tone dialing decoders less common nowadays?
    Is pulse tone dialing less vulnerable to infrared computer port logging?

    Thank you.

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