Sound Masking

How Does Sound Masking Work?

Sound masking is a specially tuned ambient background sound that targets the same frequency as human speech, reducing its intelligibility.


Sound masking does not cancel sound, but it makes conversations heard at a distance more difficult to understand, and thus less likely to distract.

Simply put, conversations that would normally distract someone at a distance of over 15 feet in the workplace will be notably less intelligible or noticeable. Face to face collaboration with fellow employees is not impacted, as conversations at a distance fade into the background and speech privacy is protected.

How Is Sound Masking Deployed?

Sound masking systems are installed by certified professionals specially trained in sound masking and acoustics. There are two main approaches to deploying sound masking.

Sound masking systems can be installed in a direct field position, in which the speakers point downwards from the ceiling and sound masking is emitted directly into the office space. This approach helps create a uniform and evenly distributed sound field.
Sound masking can also be installed in an indirect position, in which the speakers are hidden above the drop ceiling and the sound masking is pointed upwards and reflected off the ceiling deck and back into the environment.
Direct Sound Masking graphic
Indirect Sound Masking graphic

How is Sound Masking Different Than White Noise?

Image of White Noise vs Sound Masking Frequency Comparison Chart

Sound masking is more comfortable and effective. Sound masking is often referred to as “white noise” but as you can see on the chart on the left, the sounds are very different.

Sound masking is specifically engineered to match the frequencies of human speech and to sound comfortable to the human ear. When implemented properly, sound masking should just fade into the background “hum” of a workplace.

Conversely, the frequency of white noise would be extremely irritating if it were amplified to a volume that would be effective for masking human speech — think of loud AM radio static.

Sound Masking Protects Speech Privacy

Speech privacy refers to the ability of an unintended listener to understand another person's conversation.

When speech is hard to understand
or unintelligible - workers tend to not even notice it - it simply fades into the background.
When speech is easy to understand or intelligible -
it becomes very distracting. Overhearing conversations interferes with your internal monologue and makes concentration difficult.

Sound Masking Increases Productivity

Minimum productivity gain
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Higher retention rates
Increase in ability to recall series of numbers
Increase in ability to recall spoken words

BOSTI Associates, “Disproving Widespread Myths about Workplace Design”
Haapakangas, Haka, Keskinen, Hongisto, “Effect of Speech Intelligibility on Task Performance – An Experimental Laboratory Study,” 9th International Congress of Noise as a Public Health Problem
Sound Masking Reinforces Confidentiality
Sound masking can help protect privileged attorney client information, government secrets, confidential business plans, and sensitive patient information
Sound masking is used by law firms, hospitals, businesses, government, military and security contractors
Sound Masking Case Studies
accudata systems with name
High winds case study
Citaden Federal Credit Union Case Study

Get the insights you need to optimize your office environment by downloading the new "Getting Back to Business" whitepaper here.

The Cambridge Qt X platform from Biamp is the industry's most flexible sound masking solution. Get more details about the Qt X and sound masking here.


Image of Qt X 600 with Direct / Indirect Emitters - slight angled view Dec22
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