Sound Masking

Control the impact of noise on productivity and privacy

High Tech Sound Masking for the Workplace

The purpose of Sound Masking in the workplace is to reduce speech intelligibility in an environment where this would be otherwise difficult to achieve. Our Workplace Acoustic Solutions use Sound Masking as a way to improve privacy and lessen the impact of noise on productivity.

Understanding the noise problem in open plan offices – the ABC’s

The A’s – Absorption: Furnishings, absorptive partitions and acoustical ceiling tiles are all designed to reduce reverberative sound so that the space is more comfortable for the occupants.

The B’s – Blocking: Walls, doors, and windows are barriers that stop sound from travelling from one space to another.

The C’s – Covering: HVAC systems or Sound Masking which raise the ambient sound level in the space to interfere with speech sounds and distracting noises.

It is imperative that the design of today’s higher density office spaces includes appropriate amounts of each of these elements in order to achieve a good acoustical environment. The associated costs of a flexible, well designed Sound Masking System should be in the original budgets.

How Sound Masking Works

In practice it involves the introduction of an electronically generated broadband sound into the area of concern which unobtrusively increases the ambient sound level, thus decreasing the intelligibility of speech sounds originating from neighbouring areas. Originally used in corridors outside interrogation rooms and areas deemed ‘highly confidential’, its greatest use now is in commercial and professional buildings, particularly where open-plan offices are involved.

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Features of Top Performing Sound Masking Systems

The following are features that are standard in top performing sound masking systems and are all standard with Vibra-Sonic Control Sound Masking Systems. These features allow the system to achieve the specified frequency spectrum in order to effectively cover speech sounds and distractions, while producing a soft homogeneously distributed sound.

Equalization
Allowing for adjustment of the sound spectrum within the given space, is a necessity. Building elements such as the ceiling tile can attenuate some frequencies while leaving other generated frequencies unaffected. The space itself will also affect how the sound behaves, depending on its size, configuration and finishes. A system that includes a 1/3 octave equalizer offers the ability to fine-tune the system in response to the effects of a specific environment on the original sound spectrum generated, so that the specified or national standard sound masking spectrum can be achieved.

Multi-Channel
Allows for independent spectrum development in each zone. Centralized Digital Systems are normally requested on large projects where one central control is required for the floors and there are various volume schedule requirements, or other parameters, that need to be addressed.

Upward Emitting Speakers
Speakers are installed above the ceiling tiles in the plenum space, facing the structural ceiling above. The sound generated by the speakers is dispersed and reflected downward through the acoustic tiles, into the space below, by the structural ceiling. This sound energy path results in a homogeneous distribution of the masking sound spectrum throughout the open or closed office environment.

Adaptable Speakers
Speakers are adaptable and offered in various models to accommodate open ceiling applications or unique spaces in which facing the speaker down is required. Additionally, the speakers have individual volume controls so that fine adjustments can be made in localized areas.

Expert Speaker Layout
Speakers are installed in a grid pattern to ensure a consistent distribution of the masking sound throughout the area. It’s important that the speaker layout is designed by a Sound Masking Professional who will take into consideration all of the characteristics of the environment when establishing the layout. Sound Masking should be used in conjunction with high quality acoustic tiles, other absorptive elements and barrier components to maximize overall effectiveness.

Value Added Options:

Paging
Saves the cost of installing a second speaker system with its associated components.

Background Music
Can be in specified zones or throughout the space.

Scheduling
Adjust the system’s volume at specific times each day when office activity is higher or lower.

Speech Privacy Enhancement
For those highly confidential conversations.  Engage at the push of a button to increase the masking volume in an area adjacent to an office or meeting so that the conversation has a higher level of privacy.

Critical Issues & Considerations with Respect to Sound Making

  • It must be unobtrusive to those working in the area. It should sound natural and ‘airy’, similar to typical ventilation noise (not too ‘hissy’ or ‘rumbly’).
  • The shape of the sound spectrum generated should be consistent with the human ears response to sound. Typically an NC-38-40 curve is used as a criterion.
  • The effectiveness of the Sound Masking is maximized when used in conjunction with appropriate barrier and absorptive elements within the space. Pre-planning pays dividends.
  • Sound Masking is best introduced before people move into a workplace. Retrofitting an existing area requires slowly raising the sound level over a period of time so people do not have an immediate, negative response to any interference or ‘manipulation’ of their work area.
  • It is important that the Sound Masking be as homogenous as possible throughout the sound masked area, yet be flexible enough to be locally adjustable to address individual preferences. This local volume control is also important in terms of responding to localized building elements that might otherwise increase or decrease the sound level generated in the space

Applications Where Sound Masking is Beneficial:

•  Open Plan Office Environments
•  Call Centres
•  Private Offices
•  CEO Offices
•  Meeting Rooms & Boardrooms
•  Reception Areas (hard surfaces)
•  Lunch areas
•  Interview Rooms
•  Libraries
•  Interrogation Rooms
•  Breakout Rooms
•  Administration
•  Human Resources
•  Class Rooms
•  Media Rooms
•  Waiting areas
•  Medical Facilities
•  Treatment Rooms
•  Urgent Care
•  Mental Health Clinics
•  Observation Rooms
•  Lounges
•  Corporate Espionage Prevention∼whether it be via hidden microphone in the ceiling plenum or a laser beam directed at the window, we have systems to block these types of confidentiality breaches.


Contact the Vibra-Sonic Control Workplace Acoustics experts for help with sound masking