What is Sound Masking?


To help alleviate issues with noisy offices, many companies are introducing sound masking systems. That, of course, raises several questions, beginning with:

What is sound masking?

Sound masking is a process by which low levels of noise are introduced to an environment to cover up other sounds. The frequencies of the noise such a system introduces are engineered to be similar to the frequencies of human speech, effectively masking the sound of others’ conversations. 

And like the sound of a nearby fan, air conditioner, or traffic outside the office window, your brain can tune out the noise a sound masking system produces.

Watch Yamaha UC’s most recent webinar that showcases the power of sound masking, or as we like to more accurately call it, speech masking:

How do sound masking devices work?

Sound masking systems work by placing a sound masking speaker at various places in a room, introducing ambient noise that reduces the radius of distraction, or the distance at which you can make out the conversations of others. As a result, nearby conversations are less intelligible, and thereby less distracting. Because a sound masking system helps stop your brain from tuning in to what others are saying, you simply don’t pay attention to those conversations. 

Sound masking doesn’t eliminate the sounds of others’ conversations, it simply makes them much less noticeable by reducing the radius of distraction.

Where can sound masking systems be used?

busy office with people working at desktop computers.jpgSound masking systems are a perfect fit for open offices, medical facilities, and outside of conference rooms where the goal is to provide privacy for sensitive conversations and to reduce distractions. Additionally, they can be used in call centers where many people in an open office may be on the phone at the same time.

Pharmacies and medical offices are especially good candidates for sound masking systems. Discussing a patient’s prescriptions or medical history in spaces where others may hear could lead to fines under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the federal law designed to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.

A sound masking machine will effectively render discussions involving sensitive patient medical information unintelligible in areas where the speakers are installed.

What are the benefits of a sound masking system?

There are many benefits to using sound masking machines, including:

  • Fewer distractions: Employees are less distracted by the discussions of others, and as a result, tend to be happier and more productive.

  • Privacy: The process of sound masking generation means that confidential conversations remain confidential, increasing security in situations where sensitive information such as impending deals or employee evaluations are being discussed. 

  • Price to performance: With the cost of installing the sound masking wiring and associated components being relatively modest compared with the benefits it can deliver, the increase in employee productivity means an investment in a sound masking system can easily be offset by a boost to the bottom line. 

The best sound masking systems for offices

There are a variety of sound masking systems on the market, but it’s a good idea to work with a reputable brand that has a long history of providing audio equipment and other products, such as Yamaha Unified Communications.

At Yamaha UC, we offer an incredible sound masking solution in our VSP-2 Speech Privacy System, in stock today.

The VSP-2 Speech Privacy System yamaha's vsp-2 speech privacy system.

The VSP-2 increases the background noise level high enough to mask nearby conversations and prevent accidental listening in small open work areas, conference rooms, or executive offices while creating a relaxing acoustic environment free from distractions.

The tabletop control unit connects to speakers via wire and includes three easily adjustable sound elements. These are:

  • Speech Sound Masker: Made from elements of a human voice

  • Environmental Sound: Forest Sound, Murmuring Brook, Urban Clatter, Room Air Conditioner

  • Sound Effect: Guitar, Piano, Music box, Digital Device

Read our recent case study on how the VSP-2 solved speech privacy issues for a patient treatment center.

The VSP-2 provides up to 65% higher masking performance at the same sound level as other conventional sound masking methods, creating a relaxing acoustic environment free from distractions. The compact micro speakers are easily installed or retrofitted in existing conference rooms using the included mounting solutions, meaning there’s no need to cut through existing structures.

The solution is offered with either 2, 4, or 8 speakers, covering a range of up to 250 sq feet per speaker (2,000 sq feet max).

The VSP-2 Speech Privacy System is just one of many office and conference room solutions Yamaha UC has to offer. For more information on the perfect audio solution for your needs, contact one of our experts!

Additional sound masking resources:

How speech privacy systems prevent information leakage
How to soundproof a conference room
Why your commercial office needs a speech privacy system