What is sound masking?

Sound masking is a soft ambient sound introduced into a room, that sounds like air-conditioning. Within this sound, we tune in the multiple frequencies that contour human speech. The end result is a soft sound that masks human speech, and other related offices noises.

Typical office noise ranges from human speech and conversations, to phones ringing, keyboards clicking, fax machines, filing cabinets doors slamming, people walking, computer sounds, car/truck traffic outside the window, elevators dinging, and many more.

These noises cause distractions that lower employee productivity, raise data entry errors, increase employee stress, mental fatigue, and sometime lead to turn over, especially in call centers.

What are the reasons and benefits for sound masking?

There are many reasons and benefits, but here are the top four.

  1. Sound masking offers confidentially and speech privacy. Anywhere people need privacy, or to protect their conversations from being overheard by others.
  2. Employee productivity. Studies show productivity goes down by as much as 40% because of noise and distractions. *Sound masking can raise productivity 15–35%.
  3. Data Entry Errors. The Data Entry Management Association states that data entry errors can go up by as much as 38% because of office noise and distractions. *Sound masking can lower Data Entry Errors by as much as 34%.
  4. Employee stress, mental fatigue, burn-out, that can lead to turn-over. (especially in call centers)
*Sound masking can reduce employee stress, mental fatigue, burn-out, and potentially lower turnover.

What are the typical areas for sound masking?

There are countless areas and buildings for sound masking. Here are a few.

In Office buildings, Executive areas, conference/board rooms, human resources, administration, manager/directors offices, cubicle areas, I T, research and development, Legal/finance, reception, etc.

In Hospital/medical (HIPAA). Administration, admitting, patient registration, billing, human resources, same day surgery, patient services, exam rooms, ER, physicians offices, exam rooms, medical offices, counseling, waiting areas, reception areas, and many more.

In Legal-financial facilities. GLBA. ( see Gramm, Leach, Bliley Act). Attorney offices, Banks, credit unions, loan offices, offices, mortgage companies, title companies,

What is a sound masking system?

Sound masking system consists of a technical sound conditioning generator, amplifiers, and special speakers. The system also includes paging, music, emergency evacuation paging, and microphone capabilities at no extra cost.

In a sound masking system, the speakers are typically hidden in the space above the ceiling, aimed upward. The sound from the speakers mixes above the ceiling tile, then passes downward through the ceiling tile into the work area below. It sounds very much like air conditioning.

We also have a variety of speakers for facilities with no ceiling, for use under raised floors, specific situations in Healthcare and medical facilities, portable units, and many other unique situations.

Audio equalizers are used to shape the sound to human speech and the specific acoustical signature of each facility. The system can be automatically controlled to provide the correct level of privacy dependent on the time of day and day of the week. A typical sound masking system will consist of one or more of the following:

Who needs sound masking?

Everyone: Office noise and distractions, confidentiality and speech privacy are concerns for virtually every company.

In healthcare, commercial offices, call centers, private offices and cubicle areas, sound masking is a necessity. We install Sound Masking in office buildings, medical facilities, legal facilities, military bases, Defense buildings, Homeland Security and U. S. Embassies worldwide.

Meets HIPAA requirements for protecting patient privacy through oral speech in Healthcare facilities.

Meets GLBA requirements for protecting financial information through oral speech in banking, securities, financial institutions, law offices, mortgage & title companies.


Can you hear the sound masking sound?

Yes. The sound masking sound is audible but sounds like air-conditioning. Because we are so familiar with the sound of air-conditioning, most people don’t notice it. Sound masking has been designed to be as inconspicuous as possible.

The sound masking system is specially tuned to reduce any variation in the sound volume across the office space, and it does not contain any variations or patterns which can be consciously recognized. The system also uses pink noise which is very soothing and pleasant. It sounds similar to lightly blowing air.

This soft sound masks conversational speech, which alleviates distractions, creates speech privacy and increases productivity substantially.

Can the sound masking system move with me to a new building?

Yes. The entire system moves easily from one facility to another, and the twenty year warranty is still in affect.

Where is sound masking installed?

Speakers are mounted above the ceiling tile where you can’t see them and pointed upward. Audio equalizers are used to tune the sound to the specific acoustic characteristics of the office. The background sound can adjust automatically throughout the day. The level of sound is lower during non-peak hours than during periods of greater activity. Sound masking is used in cubicle areas, exam rooms, private offices, as well as reception areas, and public spaces.

Can sound masking be installed in new or existing buildings?

Both. Sound masking can be installed in existing buildings as well as new construction, and/or renovation projects.

How long is the warranty?

Sound masking system and equipment is warranted for 20 years for both parts, equipment, and wiring. If, for any reason, the system is not working properly, we will repair, replace, re-tune and re-balance the system at no cost to the customer for 20 years.

*Travel cost may apply depending on location of the system, or if system is located out of the continental United States.

What is the difference between centralized and distributed systems?

Centralized systems incorporate a central control point for the masking generator, equalizers and amplifiers. All speaker zones are wired back to the “rack” or central location. This allows for volume controls and sound masking, paging and music to be controlled and maintained in a single location. This approach also allows for upgrades as new technology arrives.

In a distributed system there is no central “rack” location. Every individual speaker is its own self contained masking system. While this basic approach is acceptable in very small projects with little or no growth potential it has disadvantages for medium to large size projects. Distributed systems cannot be easily re-tuned or maintained on larger projects.

Also, distributed systems lack 1/3 octave band equalization tuning capability and as such do not meet ASTM standards for professional sound masking systems.

Can sound masking, paging, and/or music be combined into one system?

Yes. sound masking is designed to distribute any and/or all of the following audio functions; Sound Masking, Paging, Emergency Evacuation Paging, Music, and Microphone.

Sound masking is a unique system provides exceptional broadcasts due to the even distribution of its speakers throughout the office space. It is clear, impressive, and not garbled like many paging systems, In many situations, these functions are included in a basic Sound Masking system at no extra cost..

This saves companies tens of thousands of dollars from installing a separate paging or music system. Just think of it, sound masking, paging, evacuation paging, and music, all for about $1 a square foot where installed.

Why is sound masking important?

As trends continue to push traditional enclosed private offices out into the open plan cubicle workstations, the issue of sound and the ability to control it has become paramount. The ability to concentrate is a key benefit that all employees must have to keep their productivity up, if companies are to remain productive, competitive, and operate at optimum levels. Office noise and distractions are at a all time high, with many employees suffering with decreased productivity, increased data entry errors, mental fatigue, and noise related stress.

A recent report by The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) shows that over 80% of respondents currently use open plan cubicle panel systems in their space planning. The use of workstations having thus defined the majority of corporate America, has presented new office related problems and issues.

The latest trend receiving focus is office acoustics:

To reduce overhead costs for real estate, corporations are devoting less square footage to each employee and increasing the number of people within a space.

The use of traditional, Sheetrock (drywall), private offices is declining rapidly as upper management moves out into the open plan cubicles or into movable, demountable wall offices.

The use of teaming environments, shared spaces and the rise in the use of speakerphones continues to increase sound problems.

Computer hardware and software with voice-activation and animation contributes to an increase in noise as does the industry’s change to a 17 inch from a 13 inch monitor screen. This change in screen size increases the amount of surface to reflect noise. Sound masking greatly reduces office noise, distractions, and masks human speech, providing these results:

What is the difference between pink noise and white noise?

White noise is a sound that contains every frequency within the range of human hearing (generally from 250 hertz to 8,000 kHz) in equal amounts. Most people perceive this sound as having more high-frequency content than low, but this is not the case. This perception occurs because each successive octave has twice as many frequencies as the one preceding it. For example, from 100 Hz to 200 Hz, there are one hundred discrete frequencies. In the next octave (from 200 Hz to 400 Hz), there are two hundred frequencies.

Pink noise is a variant of white noise. Pink noise is white noise that has been filtered to reduce the volume at each octave. This is done to compensate for the increase in the number of frequencies per octave. Each octave is reduced by 6 decibels, resulting in a noise sound wave that has equal energy at every octave We mix white, super white and pink noise to the perfect frequencies to mask human speech, and deliver it in one third octave equalization tuning, as per ASTM, (American Society of Testing and Materials).

What is 1/3 Octave Band Equalization Tuning?

Unlike a fixed sound masking spectrum for all applications, this process precisely fills in one-third octave band attenuation deficiencies for the specific application, and generates and contours a precise computer generated sound masking spectrum for optimum performance.

As per the ASTM, American Society of Testing and Materials definition of “True sound masking”.

Acoustical privacy is accomplished by a combination of voice levels, sound attenuation, and background levels. The sound attenuation factor is a property of the building structure and cannot be changed, once installed. The background sound levels are set with a masking sound spectrum that is designed to complement the sound attenuating factors such that a specific degree of privacy is obtained.

This computer tuning process assures the maximum degree of speech privacy at the lowest possible background sound.