ringtones that don't annoy, 2012 edition
February 5, 2012 8:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm searching for a lowkey unobtrusive but interesting ringtone that won't draw looks of ire from those around me. I know this has been covered on ask.mefi before (in 2006), and, indeed, I ended up with one of those ringtones on a long ago now dead phone. But six years later, most of those links are dead, and we've moved from RAZRs to iPhones and Androids. So what's the latest and greatest in non-annoying ringy-dingys for our phones?

(and, yes, vibrate is often the answer in public, but particularly in certain setting when my phone is across the room, sound is indeed key)
posted by redbeard to Technology (35 answers total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
The iPhone has a relatively benign one called "Old Phone." I wanted something a bit more modern so I found a fairly unobtrusive ring that came standard on HTC Hero phones.
posted by roomwithaview at 8:19 AM on February 5, 2012

I'm partial to the codec chime from the Metal Gear video game series.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:28 AM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

I also have had the intro of the opening theme to Mad Men as my ringtone. Starts off nice and subtle and gets a little more insistent once the drums kick in. It's also fun to get knowing looks and head nods from other fans of the show.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:41 AM on February 5, 2012

Best answer: You want to check out Cleartones. They were designed specifically as "non-stupid" ringtones.

The author calls them "a set of 50 quality 'hand made', minimalist ringtones for the serious user. Like yourself. " - and I would agree with that description. I like several of them and use them on all my devices. You can buy a set with about 50 different ones in or there are a few free ones aswell which may be all you need.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 8:42 AM on February 5, 2012 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Portal Ring Tones!
posted by little miss s at 8:45 AM on February 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

I use several sounds from the mario bros games as notifications for sms, email, etc. If someone near you has never played, they sound relatively generic, but anyone familiar will smile, I guarantee it.
posted by JJtheJetPlane at 8:47 AM on February 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

posted by cocoagirl at 8:54 AM on February 5, 2012

Here's Rock Steady's codec as an MP3.

And based on the samples, those Cleartones are lovely.
posted by iffley at 9:03 AM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

My sister uses the guitar opening to Jose Gonzalez's Heartbeats (which you may know from the Sony Bravia commercial with the bouncing balls dumped down a San Francisco street). It's distinctive and very pleasant.

Not sure how she made it an iPhone ringtone, though.
posted by losvedir at 9:05 AM on February 5, 2012

Unobtrusive, pleasant, and unique -- the first 18 seconds of this (Two silver leaves by Calexico) is my ringtone.
posted by prenominal at 10:07 AM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by prenominal at 10:09 AM on February 5, 2012

I don't think it exists, but I do think a cat's solicitation purr would make a good ringtone.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:56 AM on February 5, 2012

Bit deep for a phone speaker perhaps nicebookrack?
posted by pharm at 11:01 AM on February 5, 2012

Mine is Beethoven's "Fur Elise"--classy, unobstrusive, subtle.
posted by sugarbomb at 11:53 AM on February 5, 2012

I bought a pack from RCP Tones, and am pretty happy with it. There's a lot of good, not cheesy and not annoying tones. They've got some samples you can listen to on the site.
posted by duien at 12:31 PM on February 5, 2012

losvedir, it's ridiculously easy to make any sound clip you want into an iPhone ringtone. Cut out the bit you want with an audio editor like Audacity; export it in AAC format ("whatever.m4a"); rename it to "whatever.m4r". Add it to iTunes and sync with your phone. Boom, ringtone.
posted by Suddenly, elf ass at 12:45 PM on February 5, 2012 [9 favorites]

I want a ringtone of Emma Watson saying, "David, someone is calling you on the phone."
I don't think it's going to happen.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 1:20 PM on February 5, 2012

I use a departure melody from a Japanese train.

The iPhone has a relatively benign one called "Old Phone."
Actually, this has become one of the most annoying ringtones.

posted by Rash at 1:40 PM on February 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

I made myself a ringtone out of a short clip taken from the beginning of "march of the ilomilos" which can be found here.
posted by juv3nal at 2:15 PM on February 5, 2012

Best answer: I use the Star Trek (TNG) doorbell chime, I like the subtle chirp, and it's unique. (More Star Trek samples here)
posted by defcom1 at 3:45 PM on February 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

I use different versions of the Macintosh boot-chime.
posted by hellojed at 4:44 PM on February 5, 2012

I use nonononono cat, recorded live from the laptop. It's confusing as all heck for strangers, but starts quiet enough for me to cut it off if its an inappropriate time to hear a cat howling.
posted by kittensofthenight at 6:42 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to use the theme from Moral Orel, starting at about the :20 mark.
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:59 PM on February 5, 2012

For iPhones specifically, I love the Bell Tower ringtone (linking out to another AskMe that links to the tone itself; one of the top results on Google, amusingly).

It's somewhat unobtrusive, but more importantly for me, it doesn't include as many high-pitched and screechy tones as say, Cleartones do. Bell Tower is also somehow a bit more adult sounding than the more googly tones (Sci Fi or Digital or what have you) or god help us, the latest Lady Gaga song. To like Bell Tower, it probably also helps to have a love of the sound of clocktower bells chiming.
posted by librarylis at 7:56 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

i use a white noise fade in on my iphone. here is the file: fastfadenoise. Most people don't even notice it. And there is no possibility of your ringtone being imitated if your phone accidentally goes off at the symphony.
posted by Infernarl at 8:33 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Like you, I searched high and low and finally found this pleasant digital phone sound from here
posted by theobserver at 9:36 PM on February 5, 2012

I use Chuck Mangione's "Feels So Good" (the beginning flugelhorn bit) as my ringtone. Mostly due to King of the Hill. But it's nice - smooth yet noticeable. Borderline elevator music. And it doesn't startle me when my phone rings in a quiet room.
posted by giraffe at 10:48 PM on February 5, 2012

This collection of 'meditation oasis ringtones' isn't bad. And Zen Koans has some simple ones, though they're not exactly attention grabbers!
posted by barnone at 10:51 PM on February 5, 2012

I use the opening to "He would have laughed" edited to end before any vocals. I have a Droid X2. I use Audacity to trip an mp3.
posted by psergio at 12:42 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really like the ringtone that the CTU phones on the show 24 had. Identifiable as a phone ringing, but it's fairly unique.
posted by Plutor at 5:47 AM on February 6, 2012

This certainly isn't unobtrusive and currently only supports SMS message notifications, but it is interesting. There is an app on the Android Marketplace called "Morse Names" that will play your contact names in Morse code when you receive an SMS. Instant custom notifications for all your contacts. Full disclosure, I wrote the app, so I'm not including a link to it.

Now to follow up on all these other great ideas!
posted by boba at 8:40 AM on February 6, 2012

I used to use BT's a clip from Childhood Montage for this purpose.
posted by circular at 11:14 AM on February 6, 2012

I use Mario Kart ringtones. Really.
posted by omegar at 9:42 PM on February 7, 2012

Probably annoying as hell to everyone around me, but I must share: I grabbed a sound clip of Portal 2's Space Sphere yelling "SPAAAAAAAACCCCEEE!" and turned that into my ringtone. It's the only thing I can hear when my phone is in my pocket, and it scares the crap out of me when the phone is on my desk.

More than happy to e-mail an mp3 to anyone that wants it.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:24 AM on February 8, 2012

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