In recent years, the telecommunications industry has witnessed the proliferation of a variety of digital vocoders in order to meet bandwidth demands of different wireline and wireless communication systems. The rapid growth in the diversity of networks and the number of users of such networks is increasing the number of instances where two vocoders are placed in tandem to serve a single connection. Such arrangements of low bit-rate codecs can degrade the quality of the transmitted speech. To overcome this problem in the specific situation involving store-and-forward systems (e.g. voicemail), the invention provides a novel method and apparatus including a plurality of different vocoders that can be selectively invoked to process the voice signal so as to reduce signal degradation. Also, the apparatus has the capability to bypass the vocoder bank when exchanging data with a remote signal processor capable of accepting data frames in compressed format.