Mariella Frostrup, Dame Judi Dench and Honor Blackman make up the perfect female voice, according to researchers.

The most appealing male voices are Alan Rickman, Jeremy Irons and Michael Gambon, the research also found.

Linguistics professor Andrew Linn from Sheffield University, and sound engineer Shannon Harris, keyboard player for Rod Stewart and Lily Allen, carried out the research for Post Office Telecoms and developed a formula to find the most pleasing voice.

The formula involves measuring speed, tone, frequency and pauses between sentences to rate people's voices.

Professor Andrew Linn said: "As humans we instinctively know which voices send shivers down our spine, and which make us shudder with disgust.

"Most men find Mariella Frostrup's voice mesmerising because it's deep, slow and confident.

"Jeremy Irons speaks at 200 words per minute and pauses for 1.2 seconds between sentences meaning that he comes very close to the model and explains why his deep, gravelly tones inspire trust in his audience.

"This formula gives us an exciting glimpse into the way voices work and what makes them appealing or repelling."

The ideal voice should utter no more than 164 words per minute (wpm) and pause for 0.48 seconds between sentences that fall in intonation, the researchers found.

Mariella Frostrup speaks an average of 180wpm and pauses for 0.5 seconds between sentences, Dame Judi Dench talks at 160wpm breaking off for just 0.5 seconds and Honor Blackman articulates herself at a more considered pace of 120wpm.

31/05/2008 18:29:13