What Is Sound Masking?

Sound masking is a popular acoustic technology that makes an office more comfortable and private by reducing noise distractions.

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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.


Direct Field 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.


Indirect Sound Masking

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.

How is Sound Masking Different Than White Noise?

Frequency 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 it very difficult to concentrate.

Sound Masking Increases Productivity


Minimum productivity gain 1

Higher retention rates 


Increase in ability to recall series of numbers 2


Increase in ability to recall spoken words 3

  1. Brill, BOSTI Associates, “Disproving Widespread Myths about Workplace Design”

  2. 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

  3. lbid.

Sound Masking Reinforces Confidentiality

Sound masking can help protect privileged attorney client information, government secrets, confidential business plans, and sensitive patient information

Resource Library

Sound Masking 101

Sound Masking 101

Sound Masking in the Modern Office

Modern Offices


Call Centers


Hospital Environments


Financial Firms


Educational Institutions

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Sound Masking Solutions

The Cambridge Qt X platform from Biamp is the industry's most flexible sound masking solution.