Sound Masking 101
What is Sound Masking ?
Sound masking is the process of adding background sound to reduce noise distractions, protect speech privacy and increase office comfort. Sound masking is ambient background sound engineered to match the frequency of human speech for greater speech privacy.
Adding sound to a space actually makes the space seem quieter. It sounds counter-intuitive but it’s true. This is because the added sound reduces the intelligibility of human speech. In other words, sound masking makes a building seem quieter by raising the ambient noise level of an environment and making speech noise less intelligible and therefore less distracting. When you can’t understand what someone is saying, their words are less distracting — in fact, you probably don’t even notice them.
Sound masking is an ambient sound, similar to the sound of airflow, that’s specifically engineered to the frequency of human speech you can target conversational distractions and make them less distracting. Sound masking does not cancel sound or eliminate all speech noise in an environment; it simply reduces how far away conversations can be heard and understood by others, which we call the radius of distraction.
Sound Masking System vs. White Noise
Sound masking is often misunderstood as white noise. White noise in office spaces is irritating when it is amplified, sounding similar to loud AM radio static. By matching the frequencies of human speech, sound masking is specifically engineered to mask conversations for greater speech privacy and productivity. While white noise includes all frequencies at equal energy and can be distracting and annoying, sound masking creates a more immersive experience that people barely notice.
Figure: Difference between white noise and sound masking spectrum
Sound masking systems should be installed with a detailed installation plan, accounting for every light fixture, wall, and even the material of your ceiling. This is achieved by appropriate spacing of sound masking speakers (emitters) and adjusting the intensity of the sound masking. There are two deployment options for sound masking speakers – Direct field and Indirect field sound masking. Depending on the layout and the structure of your unique space, our design team will provide the best advice to create a comfortable acoustical environment for your workplace.
Where can sound masking be used ?
Sound masking systems are commonly used in open-office spaces to minimize noise distractions, increase speech privacy and optimize work productivity. Sound masking solutions are also must-haves today for hospitals, clinics, and therapy offices to protect patient privacy.
Types of work environments that benefit from Sound Masking
- Open-plan offices
- Closed or glass partition offices
- Meeting rooms
- Reception areas
- Financial institutions
- Government offices
- Health facilities
- Call centers
And all privacy sensitive spaces
In an activity-based working environment, everyone doesn’t necessarily have their own desk. On any given day, employees can choose a place in the office where it’s most suitable for them to complete specific tasks, ranging from intense and focused work to team collaboration to formal meetings or impromptu one-on-ones.
In such highly flexible working environment, no two days are alike. The office space’s soundscape tends to vary a great deal, from buzzing and distracting to pin-drop silent and fairly tense, based on the ever-changing levels of activity and occupancy.
In closed offices where private conversations are typically meant to be kept that way, sound masking eliminates or reduces the need for plenum barriers, insulation and extra drywall layers. With sound masking system, office construction and soundproofing costs can be reduced by up to $3 per square foot, while still achieving proper speech privacy and confidentiality.