SoundVision Audio Video Shades

Sound Masking, Simplified

A variety of elements can be employed to address noise control and speech privacy for added worker productivity, comfort and confidentiality. Collectively referred to by the architectural community as the ABC’s of acoustic design, solutions can either absorb, block, scatter (officially called “diffusion”), or “cover” sound. An effective solution may include involve one, two or a combination of all three methods. Designed to cover noise, sound masking checks the “cover” box.

In contrast to acoustic treatments which absorb noise, sound masking is actually the addition of sound created by digital generators.  Sound Masking is an ambient sound that’s engineered to the match the frequency of human speech, targeting conversational noise and make it less distracting by rendering it unintelligible. Sound masking is not white noise and does not cancel sound or eliminate all speech noise in an environment; it simply reduces how far conversations can extend and be clearly understood by others. Its frequency varies significantly from the irritating, garbled static of white noise. Instead, it is engineered to match the pleasing frequency range of the human voice. When implemented properly, sound masking will simply fade into the background of a workplace while simultaneously making speech more difficult to hear and, more importantly, to understand.

Sound Masking, as a means of contributing to speech privacy, is a desirable solution for financial institutions, doctors’ offices, law offices, hotel lobbies and more. By rendering speech intelligible, it not only protects the privacy of students, clients and workers, but can contribute to HIPPA compliance of patients’ confidential information.

Sound Masking: How and when to Activate

It’s human nature. You’re sitting in a room and suddenly something “turns on”. Is it the HVAC…an appliance…? You’re now aware of it. Instead, if you were to enter that same space after it was already “on”, you very well may not even notice it was on at all.  That’s how sound masking should be considered. Rather than activating it while the room is occupied, workers will find it more pleasing if it’s activated while they are away and walking in once implemented. For the best ongoing results, activate and deactivate automatically while the space is unoccupied.

Sound In-Sync

For environment having widely varying noise levels, an “active volume control” can be added to the system to measure the conversational speech levels and adjust the system’s output as the noise levels rise and fall. With the system staying in-sync with the environmental noise and, therefore, performing at optimal levels, the occupants would be unaware of any variance in sound level. Manual volume control, on the other hand, is not recommended and defeats the transparent operation of the system.

Acoustical treatments are another solution for noise control, providing barriers and sound absorption which lessen overall noise levels and reduce reverberation from hard surfaces but, unlike sound masking, does not contribute to speech unintelligibility.

So, what’s the right combination of noise control solutions? Do you want to make your office environment more comfortable and productive and your waiting area or private offices more secure? Call SoundVision today to schedule a complimentary consultation for your space.

Additional Reading:

Good Acoustics Are Crucial, Commercial Architecture Magazine

How Acoustical Treatments Enhance the Design and Experience of Any Space

How Acoustical Treatments Enhance the Design and Experience of Any Space

Custom panels absorb unwanted noise while complementing the room’s decor

Listen! Can you hear that? If you’re at home enjoying a movie in your media room, are you experiencing the audio as it was intended with clear, crisp speech and striking, directional sound? Or, if you’re seated in a cozy lakeside café for an intimate, fine-dining experience, are you able to comfortably enjoy a conversation, or is the space vibrating with chatter, scooting chairs and clanking plates? Sound is a critical factor in how we experience a space, yet it is often completely overlooked in the room’s design.

Lively conversation and laughter create a fun, bustling atmosphere but, if the space is designed with only hard, reflective surfaces, the noise level in the room can quickly escalate, reaching uncomfortable levels. In fact, according to a ZAGAT survey, when restaurant-goers were asked what irritated them most about dining out, 25% responded “noise”. The Action on Hearing Loss found similar results from a campaign; 91% of respondents said that they would not return to a venue where noise levels were too high.

Soft, background music and normal speaking levels are desirable sounds, but noises that bounce off the hard surfaces and high ceilings need to be controlled. That’s the job of acoustical treatment, a thoughtfully engineered and aesthetically designed series of ceiling, wall and floor treatments to absorb unwanted noise and improve sound.

Like Newton’s theory

A sound wave will bounce around a room, reflecting off surfaces until it hits an object that either diffuses or absorbs it. Made of sound-absorbing material like foam and fiberglass, sound absorption products are intended to absorb unwanted noise, like echo, within a space. Acoustic panels, tiles, ceiling clouds and ceiling baffles are all sound absorption products that are designed to dampen sound in a properly treated space. An acoustical analysis will determine the treatments required to improve the room’s acoustical properties. Once determined, the design choices are endless with custom fabrics, materials, shapes and placement options that will complement the architecture and décor.

Comforts of home

Uncomfortable noise & distractions aren’t limited to just public spaces. Today’s trending remote workforce has more and more people working from home, creating a shift in focus to controlling sound levels not just in our home cinemas, but throughout our homes. Actually, many newly constructed homes and multi-unit buildings now have noise blocking requirements. However, for homes without these initial treatments, noise control can be combatted with carpeting, rugs or floating hardwoods, luxurious draperies, upholstered furnishings, and, of course, elegant acoustic panels. Panels created for the home can mimic art, featuring works from a favorite artist or perhaps your favorite movie or musician. To open a space, panels can even create faux windows with tranquil Lake Norman scenery and exquisite city skylines.

Now what do you hear?

So, listen. Are you able to have a conversation with the clerk behind the counter or with your waiter, without leaning in and asking them to repeat what was asked? Can you conduct a comfortable video conferencing call from your office without raising your voice above the office chatter and HVAC? Sound is an essential element in the overall experience of a space and the treatments to overcome unwanted noise are extensive and elegant. Are you ready to have a “conversation” about how to address the acoustics in your spaces? Call us today – we’re “listening”!

Additional Resources:

Rules for Placement of Acoustic Panels in a Theater Room: Technology in Education, Mark Valenti

Soundproofing, ExplainThatStuff, Chris Woodford

10 buildings with extraordinary acoustics: Where to find a sonic surprise, The Spaces

Eating Out Loud: Why Restaurants are Getting Noisier, New Statesmen,Caroline Crampton

Introduction to Acoustic Treatment, Home toys, Ethan Winer


Clients can expect a response by noon the FOLLOWING BUSINESS day. For more IMMEDIATE support or if you are interested in a Service Membership to EXPEDITE service – PLEASE call (704) 696-2792 ext. (2) and leave a detailed message for our ON CALL Service Team. 

Custom Membership

Send us your contact info and we will contact you to discuss our custom membership option.