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How is White Noise Different from Sound Masking?
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2022
How is White Noise Different from Sound Masking?

Aug. 11, 2022 - There is a common association between white noise and sound masking, specifically as it relates to white noise in offices or other facilities. White noise is thought to be a simple and well-known solution to reducing noise distractions. Unfortunately, white noise is very limited as a solution and, in fact, white noise itself is distracting. There is a tremendous difference between white noise and sound masking – especially as it relates to creating a comfortable environment.

What Is White Noise?

White noise is all frequencies at equal energy and the sound quality is a harsh static (like radio static) to the human ear. This is why a white noise machine in an office environment would be uncomfortable. The use of white noise in office solutions is important in part as white noise covers some human speech frequencies but it cannot stand on its own. You may have found this blog as you Googled "white noise machine to prevent  eavesdropping" but the better solution for speech privacy or confidentiality is sound masking.

What Is Sound Masking?

Sound Masking is the introduction of comfortable, ambient background sound into an environment at a level just above indirect speech levels. The sound masking system reduces the intelligibility for an unintended listener from indirect conversations and therefore minimizes distraction, maintains speech privacy, and improves productivity. Said another way, Sound Masking introduces sound into a space to reduce noise distractions and make the space "feel" quieter.

What are the Differences Between White Noise Machines and Sound Masking Systems?

As explained above, white noise serves a purpose as part of a sound masking solution. But white noise machines used to prevent eavesdropping in and of themselves are uncomfortable to the human ear.

Differences in Sound Type

White noise is necessary to cover, or mask, for certain human speech frequencies. A comfortable sound masking solution, however, will blend pink noise as part of the solution. Pink noise, which is equal energy at each octave, provides lower frequencies which create a bass tone, which is much more comfortable. It is this blend that provides both all of the necessary frequencies to have an effective sound masking system that is also comfortable. Furthermore, there is no randomness in a white noise office solution. When a white noise system doesn't have randomness it becomes distracting because the brain picks up on the pattern of the signal. Sound masking systems use a random or pseudo-random noise generator with incoherent noise sources. That is a fancy way of saying that a good sound masking system creates random, multiple sounds so that there is no pattern. This is something that white noise office solutions cannot do.

Set Up of Sound Masking Systems vs. White Noise Machines

You do not go to Amazon to buy a sound masking system (although you can probably find some componentry on eBay!) White noise machines are typically available as individual units for small spaces be it at office spaces or a home environment. Although individual units are available, a typical sound masking system is designed around the specific facility layout. Furthermore, there are several different types of systems from Networked to Non-Networked  depending on the size of the space. Sound masking solutions are typical in corporate office environments or healthcare spaces.

How Can Sound Masking Be Used?

The intention of sound masking systems is to create speech privacy, minimize audible distraction, provide comfort and increase productivity. Typical environments include healthcare facilities (from pharmacy to urgent care to hospital recovery rooms), corporate offices, call centers, legal and financial facilities and more. Sound masking is specifically engineered for open plan office spaces, closed offices, inside and outside conference rooms, hallways and corridors. Sound masking has a proven return on investment (see the ROI here) and has tremendous positive impact in healthcare spaces. There is no question who wins the battle of sound masking vs. white noise machines in these spaces.

By raising the ambient background noise level to just above indirect speech levels, sound masking minimizes distractions and overheard speech. This creates sound privacy, which is important in all environments but in particular with personal information especially as it relates to your health. It also creates a level of comfort and wellness throughout the space.

Let Lencore Help You Find the Right Sound Masking Solution For You 

Lencore [] has focused on sound masking solutions for over 30 years. Our systems produce the most comfortable sound in the industry and we provide the flexibility to design the best system for your space.

From Fortune 100 to small individual offices, Lencore has worked with all types of clients and spaces. From Corporate Office to Law Firms to Healthcare facilities you can view our case studies here. Or, see our client lists from Walt Disney to Coca Cola to Bank of America and Kaiser Permanente and more.

Lencore offers both Networked and Non-Networked solutions and has the industry's largest sound masking speaker portfolio. We don't design around our limitations – we design the best sound masking systems for any facility. Learn more about Lencore, get a quick estimate based on your facilities square footage, or Request A Quote.