Sound Masking FAQs

American Sound & Electronics serves many industries, including offices that face privacy concerns for clients, such as law offices, medical offices, and financial institutions. 

Today, our team answers several FAQs about sound masking.

What is sound masking?

Sound masking represents a technology that produces ambient background noise that precisely matches the frequency of human speech. The idea is to cancel out normal human speech for better speech privacy when individuals have confidential conversations.

What does sound masking accomplish?

Sound masking reduces how far away conversations can be heard and understood by others. It does NOT cancel sound or eliminate all speech noise.

What types of companies need sound masking?

Companies that need sound masking often have privacy concerns or must follow regulations to ensure privacy for clients, customers or patients.

You might find sound masking in:

  • Public spaces
  • Reception areas
  • Pharmacies
  • Waiting rooms
  • Medical offices
  • Dentist’s offices
  • Hospitals
  • Banks
  • Insurance offices
  • Government offices
  • Attorney’s offices
  • Hallways adjacent to private offices
  • Open office plans
  • Private offices
  • Counseling offices

In what rooms do companies install sound masking speakers?

Speakers that emit sound masking frequencies are installed in rooms or areas where conversations should not be heard, not necessarily in rooms or areas where conversations take place.

Why do offices use sound masking?

Sound masking disrupts voices in a room, so they do not travel farther than the space of an ordinary conversation. This ensures no one outside of a room can’t overhear the conversation using normal means.

How does a professional sound company install sound masking technology?

  1. Professional installation companies assess the space that needs this technology by taking measurements and looking at the structure of the space, including the thickness of walls, floors, and ceilings. This is called a site survey.
  2. Then a technician plugs in the measurements to their software to determine how many speakers, their sizes, and distribution throughout the room.
  3. The professional sound installation company installs the speakers, typically in the ceiling.
  4. After the installation of speakers, technicians calibrate the speakers and take measurements of the sound they produce. At this stage, technicians will tweak the ambient sounds for optimal results. 
  5. Following calibration, sound masking technicians will install software on an office computer that allows the company to control the system. All of the speakers in a system are controlled from a centralized location, typically a hub, where all speakers connect to (either hardwired or wirelessly).

How does sound masking work?

This technology uses quiet sounds, similar to that of gentle air-conditioned air filtering into a room, to actually make rooms quieter.

Sound masking technology works through speakers emitting a specific frequency of sound over various channels. The frequency is near the same frequency as human speech, which disrupts speech coming from other parts of the room.

What does sound masking noise sound like?

The noise from the speakers sounds just like airflow from a central air conditioning unit as it pipes air into a room.

How much does sound masking cost?

Average systems cost from $1.50 to $2 per square foot, but your actual costs vary depending on how many speakers you need and the size of the space that needs sound masking

For example, your building is 10,000 square feet. However, techs determine that only 4,500 square feet need sound masking speakers installed. This gives you an average range of $6,750 to $9,000 for installing this technology. Again, your actual results will vary.

What are the benefits of a sound masking system?

In addition to maintaining speech privacy, companies may see the following benefits:

Less distractions. People are less likely to be distracted because they can’t hear conversations in other rooms.

Higher productivity. Because sound masking cuts down on distracting conversations, your workers may actually be more productive at the office.

Protect your customers. Think of what happens when a customer places an order over the phone. Do you read back the customers’ credit or debit card number to make sure you heard it properly? What if another customer overheard that number? Is the customer’s card information safe?

Remove awkward silences. Oddly enough, completely silent rooms can be distracting when a sudden noise penetrates the silence. Reduce this distracting effect with sound masking technology.

How long does installing a sound masking system take?

Installers may take a day or two to install a system. The company will make an appointment with you to be at your office or facility after the equipment comes in.

What are the best sound masking systems?

The best ones adapt to changing conditions in the room, such as when sound levels are low or high, through the system’s equalizer equipment. 

Why is calibrating the sound masking system important to its functionality?

Calibrating the system is vitally important because there may be multiple channels through which the sounds flow. 

Think of calibrating the system like your television or radio. Your television uses three main colors, red, green, and blue, to generate all of the images on a screen. If even one of these colors is off, it will make images that you can tell are weird. On a radio, think of the bass and treble channels from the music. Increasing the bass means more “thump-thump-thump” sounds, while the treble produces lighter sounds. You can alter the music you listen to by changing different channels like the treble or bass.

Similarly, technicians must equalize and balance all of the channels in the sound masking speakers to make sure they work together properly to produce the right sounds. Otherwise, the ambient noise doesn’t sound right, and people in the room will notice.

Is sound masking safe?

Yes, these systems are perfectly safe for human hearing. It operates at a level of 48 decibels or lower. For comparison, 48 decibels sounds like a home’s automatic dishwasher. OSHA regulates the sound levels that employees can be subjected to over an eight-hour period, and the maximum amount is 90 decibels for every eight hours. 90 decibels is equivalent to heavy traffic, a window air conditioner, a subway, or a shouted conversation.

Do companies offer free quotes for sound masking systems?

Yes, if your company is serious about installing this kind of system then professional installers may offer a free quote. They will need to see the facility first.

Who should install my sound masking system?

Professional installation is the best way to go. Professionals will make sure the system looks cohesive, works properly, and trains the necessary staff on its operation. American Sound & Electronics can help! Contact us for more information or call (859) 261-9024.

Sound Masking Terminology You Need to Know

American Sound & Electronics prides itself on installing world-class, professional sound and video equipment. One aspect of our business is high-quality sound masking technology. Whether protecting confidentiality is a matter of preference or mandated by law, sound masking is an excellent good solution. Today’s blog from American Sound & Electronics explains sound masking terminology you need to know.

ABCs of Acoustics

The ABCs of acoustics stand for:

  • A Absorb Sound
  • B Block Sound
  • C Cover Sound

A combined approach to absorb, block, and cover sound is the best way to ensure speech privacy in your building. Sound masking technology provides Cover Sound by generating white noise with overlapping acoustic signals that make speech in another room unintelligible. The noise from Cover Sound is similar to air circulating in a room.

Articulation Index

The articulation index represents a quantitative measurement of the intelligibility of speech in a given location. A value of 1 means all speech can be understood, while a value of 0 means no speech can be understood. Acceptable speech privacy is when the articulation index is 0.2 or lower for sound masking. American Sound & Electronics will strive to hit this mark with every install.

Privacy Index

Privacy index is the inverse measure of the articulation index. Sound masking technology must achieve a privacy index of 80% or greater, either by itself or in combination with sound blocking or absorbing.


Appropriate sound masking technology needs multiple channels, or unique output signals, to achieve a privacy index of 80% or greater. For example, one channel may cover sounds with a higher pitch while another covers sounds with a mid-range pitch. Our technicians will adjust the channels on sound masking technology to achieve optimum results. Once we achieve the right results based on your building’s acoustics, the technology will be barely noticeable to ordinary people.


Directional describes the distribution pattern of sound coming from a speaker or sound source. Highly directional speakers project sound across greater distances, and they work well to cover speech coming from another room. Speakers may also use the ceiling to disperse sound to cover speech in the same room. Speakers with wide dispersal patterns radiate sound directly into a room. American Sound & Electronics will determine the best system for your building based on the materials, shape, and size of each room where you need sound masking.

Decibel Tolerance

Decibel tolerance measures the uniformity of the sound emitted by sound masking systems. The smaller the tolerance level, the better the uniformity of the system. The best sound masking systems, like the ones we install, have a decibel (dB) tolerance of less than 1 decibel. In essence, this level of tolerance means you can’t tell there are different channels emitting various frequencies and decibels of sound that cover the sounds of speech coming from other rooms or across the same room.

Sound Masking by American Sound & Electronics

Sound masking helps to ensure the privacy of patients and clients in the healthcare, legal, and financial industries. It also reduces distractions and provides privacy in boardrooms and conference rooms. Contact American Sound & Electronics or call (859) 261-9024 for more details on our world-class sound masking technology.

How Sound Masking Technology Works

Sound masking uses modern acoustic technology to make a quieter space for everyone. This technology comes in handy for protecting speech privacy, improving workplace acoustics, and reducing noise distractions. In today’s blog from American Sound & Electronics, we explain how sound masking technology works.

Related Post: Sound Masking Terminology You Need to Know

We Add Sound

It seems counterintuitive, but sound masking works by adding ambient sounds to the existing environment. The added sound disrupts the way soundwaves travel and reduces the intelligibility of human speech. Less speech in the immediate environment makes the space quieter and less distracting. It also creates better privacy for clients, customers, and employees. The sound you hear is similar to air flowing and moving about the room. But this noise is special: It’s precisely tuned to disrupt human speech.

Precise Wavelengths

Sound masking technology works at specific wavelengths of sound. Not only do we have to take into account the volume of human speech, but also the acoustics of the building. As we install sound masking technology, our technicians measure the masking sounds at ear height in the room. Then we adjust the volume and equalizer accordingly.  

Properly Placed Speakers

The beauty of sound masking technology is that no one should ever notice it’s there. Speakers are unobtrusive, usually blending in with the existing ceiling or fixtures of the room. The speakers are small. They’re designed to overlap throughout the room at precise radii. A dedicated computer program manages all of the speakers at once.

Computer Controlled

Variations in noise levels can impact sound masking technology. That’s why a special computer program monitors everything while the system is turned on. Speakers should have a tolerance range by which they are allowed to deviate from the target sound frequency. Some speakers may change the frequency of sound output by a very little bit to compensate for more or less noise in the room. Testing for the optimal sound disruption level may take a few hours, but this process creates the best results.

Related Post: Who Benefits From Sound Masking?

Sound Masking Installation by American Sound & Electronics

Sound masking technology not only improves the privacy of your building, but it also makes ambient conversations far less distracting (and therefore improves productivity). We can install sound masking technology in new and existing structures. Contact American Sound & Electronics or call (859) 261-9024 for more details on what we can do for you.

Who Benefits From Sound Masking?