What is the difference between sound masking and white noise?

By Jon Page 7.09.2020

What is Sound Masking?

Sound masking is the process of adding a low level, unobtrusive background sound to an environment to reduce the intelligibility of human speech and reduce noise distractions in that environment. It is a key tool to help solve the speech privacy problem.


Sound Masking System vs. White Noise Machine

Sound masking is often misunderstood as white noise. White noise in office spaces is irritating when it is amplified, sounding similar to loud AM radio static. By matching the frequencies of human speech, sound masking is specifically engineered to mask conversations for greater speech privacy and productivity. While white noise includes all frequencies at equal energy and can be distracting and annoying, sound masking creates a more immersive experience that people barely notice.

Difference between white noise and sound masking spectrum

Difference between white noise and sound masking spectrum

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Immersive Sound vs. Localizable Sound

White noise is localizable. This means you can tell where the sound is coming from. Just like a fan, your ears can locate a white noise machine and it thus becomes a distraction. A sound masking device is a more immersive experience because the sound is everywhere. When the system is properly tuned and installed, sound masking should fade into the background. There should be no gaps in sound masking as you walk throughout the office.

Deployment option


Sound masking systems should be installed with a detailed installation plan, accounting for every light fixture, wall, and even the material of your ceiling. This is achieved by appropriate spacing of sound masking speakers (emitters) and adjusting the intensity of the sound masking. There are two deployment options for sound masking speakers – Direct field and Indirect field sound masking. Depending on the layout and the structure of your unique space, our design team will provide the best advice to create a comfortable acoustical environment for your workplace.

Where can sound masking be used? 

Sound masking systems are commonly used in open-office spaces to minimize noise distractions, increase speech privacy and optimize work productivity. Sound masking solutions are also must-haves today for hospitals, clinics, and therapy offices to protect patient privacy. The solution can help improve HCAHPS scores and help meet HIPAA compliance in healthcare facilities.

sound masking in open office

sound masking in open office



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