Successful Office Sound Masking Systems
Successful office sound masking systems help ensure sensitive communications are not overheard. Plus, they reduce the noise distractions and interruptions that impact productivity. Along with sound absorption and attenuation, architects use sound masking to create acoustical environments allowing privacy and focus. See our blog post on open office acoustics for tips on how to supplement sound masking with absorption, blocking, and more.
What Is Sound Masking?
A sound masking system creates low-level, unobtrusive background noise that reduces auditory distractions and lowers speech intelligibility from other sources. For best results, the masking noise should not contain information nor any directional cues as to the location of the noise source. In addition, the spectrum, or frequency response, of the masking noise must be continuous. The goal is to provide a well designed and properly working sound masking system that people don’t even notice!
Attributes of Successful Office Sound Masking Systems
Successful sound masking systems for offices or other spaces should take into account the following factors, among others, depending on the space.
- Uniformity – Proper loudspeaker placement provides uniform sound distribution, decreasing noticeability and preserving privacy.
- Variability – Different areas of offices, such as open office space, closed office, and conference rooms, require different masking conditions. The system design must support these different conditions
- Adaptability – Companies sometimes reorganize their offices. A well designed sound masking system should be expandable and adjustable to accommodate change.
- Controllability – Systems should have central controllability with only a limited number of controls available to the owners.
- Soundscaping – People moving from masked areas of the office to unmasked areas should not notice the change in masking level. The system should include gradual changes in coverage to adjacent areas.
Sound Masking Design Considerations
While many suppliers sell one-size-fits-all sound masking systems, a custom-designed system works with the architecture of the space to deliver a better acoustic environment. In addition, well-designed systems typically survive longer.
Depending on your needs, sound masking systems can also provide background music or paging, adding additional value to the system. A designer will also work around mechanical systems, which often affect speaker positioning.
Also, most offices or other areas requiring a sound masking system have varying levels of activity throughout the day. A masking noise controller can automatically and slowly adjust the masking noise level. Furthermore, a controller can provide a gradual restoration of the masking sound after an electrical power failure. The gradual changes in masking noises allowed by a controller can help prevent occupants from even noticing the system.
Finally, before putting your office sound masking system into action, test all audio equipment. Then, test the system response, and adjust the system’s acoustic response using a one-third octave band equalizer. After deploying the system, pay attention to the comments of occupants relating to speech privacy, and adjust the sound masking, if required.
If you need help with sound masking or acoustics in an office or any other space, contact the experts at AVANT ACOUSTICS.