What Is Sound Masking?
Office trends and buzz words come and go. Changes in the type of work we do, changes in the culture of our employees and changes in our technology environment constantly drives us to a new “latest thing”. Occasionally one comes along that is more than a passing fad and deserves to be notice. It is a technological shift that will change how your employees thrive in their space each and every day.
Sound Masking and Privacy Systems technology is just such a phenomenon.
What is Sound Masking?
Simply put, it is a sound system that is used to replenish the background sound level of an office space and maintain it at an appropriate volume. This technology consists of a series of loudspeakers, which are installed in a grid-like pattern in or above the ceiling, along with a method of controlling both their zoning and output.
The sound the loudspeakers distribute is continuous white noise and has been specifically engineered to increase speech privacy. Masking also covers up intermittent noises or reduces their impact by decreasing the amount of change between baseline and peak volumes, improving overall acoustical comfort
It simply keeps the background elements of sound at a constant, almost ignorable level so that employees can concentrate on their work at hand and not spend time trying to get BACK on task after a disruption.
Now that this has probably raised more questions than answers, we can address some of the most frequently asked –
1. How is NOISE able to cover up SOUND?
While this may seem counterintuitive, the truth is most offices are TOO quiet. Unlike a restaurant or a public space, there is no real ambient level of sound present. When it is so quiet you can hear a pin drop, such an event will stand out and stop your train of thought or current process. Now imagine if in this silence, you occasionally hear a conversation from a hallway or a neighboring office, one cannot help but actively listen in. Sound masking will distribute a comfortable and constant background space of sound that dampens any unexpected sound interruptions or talking. You simply ignore the din in the background.
2. Sound Masking is often mistaken as Air Conditioning, why can’t I just use my current Airflow system to accomplish the same result?
Your Airflow system will turn on and off throughout the day to maintain a set temperature. It cannot be relied on to stay on long enough to produce the desired constant white noise sound effect.
3. Is sound masking the same thing as “white noise”?
The term white noise was created back in the 1970’s to describe a specific type if sound. This older white noise technology was often abandoned because it was too disruptive in the long run. No longer the same sounds… but based on the same science, the term “white noise” is widely accepted as referring to Sound Masking sound fields today.
4. Is Sound Masking the same as Noise Cancelling?
Actually, no. Noise cancelling is more commonly found in headphone technology. This cancelling technology uses microphones to detect a type of sound. A computer is then tasked with creating and amplifying an opposite sound pattern that ends up cancelling each other out. Perfect for low frequency sounds like engine noise, or traffic. Cancellation is simply not effective in an open space where location is not constant and the interrupting sounds are just too varied.
5. Will I hear this sound?
Yes. It is designed to be completely audible, yet completely unnoticeable. The sound does not contain any distracting patterns or changes in volume. Your mind will basically ignore the sound.
6. Will I be able to hear my neighbor?
It is dependent on where your neighbor is located. Under normal circumstances, voice travels about 30 to 50 feet in an open office space. With sound masking, this is lowered to between 15 and 20 feet. Keep in mind that over shorter distances, sound masking will not prevent you from hearing someone speak, but it will prevent you from hearing what is being said. The true impact will be noticed from private office to private office. Office cubicle dwellers will notice an impact as well.
These are just a few of the common questions that come up when learning about sound masking technology. ROSI Office Systems has partnered with Speech Privacy Systems to provide this service to our clients. In business since 1995, and Texas based, Speech and Privacy Systems is the proven leaders in this field. By constantly innovating their product line and staying in step with technology, they have provided this office space improvement to companies like Lockheed Martin, Iron Mountain, and Bank of America. Not to mention the branches of our US Military and Local State and US Governments.