As the modern workplace has embraced the open floor plan to improve collaboration and make more efficient use of each space, employees have discovered the challenges inherent in trying to concentrate while being able to hear everyone and everything around you. Sound masking is a technology that uses an evenly distributed audio field to increase privacy, reduce distractions, and promote productivity. Additionally, sound masking systems drastically increase the comfort level within a given space by creating a more coherent and consistent acoustic profile. Let’s take a closer look at sound masking and how it can help your workers.
What Is Sound Masking?
In offices and spaces featuring open floor plans, every sound represents a potential distraction to participants within the space. Employees often struggle to block out nearby conversations, typing, meetings, noise from adjacent floors, and even outside traffic. Unwanted sound is often considered the most challenging part of working in an open office floor plan. Every time an employee is interrupted or distracted, frustration increases, and valuable time and energy are expended trying to recapture lost momentum.
To create a more desirable acoustic profile within a physical space, sound masking employs a specifically selected range of acoustic frequencies to strategically mask ambient sounds. A sound masking system may initially sound like white noise but, rest assured, the light whooshing noises are a careful blend of frequencies specifically chosen for the most effective background environment.
While sound masking aims to eliminate the negative effects of distracting noise, it doesn’t create complete silence.Performance may improve in the presence of healthy background noise. The key is that it has to be healthy and balanced; sound masking systems aim to create just the right kind and level of ambient sound.
How Does Sound Masking Work?
Sound Masking is far more than just white noise. Sound Masking systems employ a carefully organized grid of emitters to ensure a perfectly balanced audio field that goes completely unnoticed by the occupants. By selecting frequencies that obscure human speech, sound masking systems drastically reduce the distance of intelligibility. Practically speaking, this means that conversations and other sounds that occur outside the immediate work area become unintelligible and the human brain automatically blocks them out. The result is a workspace that promotes both the ability to focus and the comfort of its occupants.
To create this kind of interconnected system, sound masking involves a network of sound masking emitters and specific zones tailored to the needs of each area. Each zone has its own adjustable sound masking field tuned to just the right level for maximum effect without being distracting.Sound masking systems are incredibly flexible, with an array of adjustments and modifiable settings: zone sizes and levels, individually controlled emitters for more granular control, and the choice of direct or reflected sound give end users an array of tools to address acoustic needs in a workspace.
What Are the Benefits of Sound Masking?
Sound masking offers a wide variety of benefits with everything from security improvements to comfort:
It can improve productivity and focus: We don’t need to tell you how difficult it is to read or work with loud noises and other conversations going on nearby. Studies show that masking can reduce disturbances and help improve employee’s cognitive performance. The productivity benefits can be invaluable.
It can improve comfort: Working in an uncomfortable environment isn’t enjoyable. Even if they don’t affect productivity, annoying sounds can hurt employee satisfaction. Masking helps to boost comfort in the building and could help you retain hardworking employees.
It keeps confidential conversations private: Ambient noise can cover up the sounds of private conversations, so employees, customers and clients can feel confident that their discussions stay within the two parties. This factor is especially important in environments where highly confidential or personal information is discussed.
It offers flexibility: Sound masking systems are incredibly flexible and can be adjusted as needed. You can often designate specific high and low parameters to your liking. You can also incorporate paging systems or music players within a masking system.
It offers a fast return on investment: Sound masking systems start working for you as soon as they’re in place. They can boost productivity right away and help make the office a more pleasing environment.
Who Can Use Sound Masking?
While sound masking is common in offices with open floor plans, it is also perfect for a wide variety of locations, including:
Private offices: If walls are thin, a private office may not offer much reduction in noise. One-on-one meetings may be overheard, and workers may not get a moment of privacy with all the conversations outside. Sound masking can help.
Call centers: With so many different conversations going on, a method of evening out those sounds is critical. People calling in won’t hear other conversations in the background, and employees won’t have to try to talk over others.
Hospitals: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a very serious concern in healthcare. If it’s easy for passersby to hear the details of a patient’s medical information, important confidentially expectations can be broken. A sound masking system can help keep private information within a smaller radius to minimize risks of HIPAA violation. Similar environments that can benefit from masking include pharmacies and labs.
Other health offices: Psychiatrists, specialists and other professionals can benefit from keeping things quiet, too. They can talk to patients in private without clients in the waiting room listening in.
Financial institutions: Privacy is also a big deal in banks and credit unions. Someone discussing their account with a teller shouldn’t have to worry about the customer in line behind them picking up on their information.
Military facilities: On a similar note, military facilities frequently deal with confidential topics. It is critical they can speak without fear of someone overhearing them, which sound masking systems can help accomplish.
Work With an A/V Expert
As you can imagine, an interconnected system like this can get a little complicated. Fortunately, Morefield Communications can help. We carry exceptional sound masking systems and can integrate them quickly and easily, with minimal interruptions to your workday.
Morefield Communications has been helping Pennsylvania businesses find the right technology solutions for over 70 years. Contact us today to learn more about a sound masking system and how it can help your employees work smarter.
Mics ‘N Masks by Fred Weidemann, Systems Engineer – Morefield Communications
November 9, 2020 |
Mics ‘N Masks
Fred Weidemann, Systems Engineer – Morefield Communications
I was recently sent an article from our awesome team at Panasonic and it reminded me that what may be obvious to some may be new information to others. The article outlined a small but thoughtful study that was performed by Panasonic to look at the data behind speech intelligibility in the teaching setting such as classrooms, churches and other instructional environments in the era of COVID and masks. With cases rising and the possibility of even more requirements for donning the dreaded mask, I thought it would be useful to share this short article.
In summary, the takeaway is that the muffled sound that results from wearing a mask during instruction can be overcome by utilizing a simple combination of a lavalier or head worn microphone and a sound system that can equalize the frequencies that are most effected by masks.
If you need assistance in evaluating your current setup of need advice and guidance in procuring a new system, the Multimedia and Audio Visual team at Morefield Communications can help. We dedicate ourselves in helping others make smart technology decisions.
The following is the article from Panasonic in its entirety:
How much does that face mask affect audio quality in the classroom? A lot.
Even prior to the global pandemic, it was easy to make the case for having professors use microphones in the classroom for reasons of background noise, room size, teaching methodology, to name just a few. Ensuring every student receives proper volume and clarity to maximize the understanding of what is being taught.
So, you might be wondering, in the age of COVID where masks are mandatory in the classroom for both professors and students, just how badly does that face mask affect the audibility of speech? Well, we were wondering the same, so we took the time to measure the impact of various types of masks on loudness. You just might be surprised.
Before we get started, let us be clear about our testing methodology. It is important to note that we did this with a limited sample size of subjects – 5 females and 5 males, all native English speakers, all had some experience with public speaking and instruction. Each was given the same sentence to read, first without a mask, then with various types of masks with a microphone placed at 9.8 feet (3 meters) away from the test subject and measured the audio output. As we wanted to mimic a typical classroom, the room in which the tests were conducted was 30 square feet in size.
Despite the small sample size, the results were very consistent among the male and female subjects with each type of mask used vs. their normal, unmasked performance.
Types of Masks Tested:
Each test subject was given the same sentence to read, first without a mask and then while wearing each of the masks below:
Masks do have an adverse effect on output level and intelligibility, with N95 being the worst.
All types of masks had a negative result on the clarity and level of attenuation of the audio signal. Essentially each face covering acts as a low-pass filter, attenuating the high frequencies (2000-7000 Hz) with the decibel (dB) level of attenuation differing by mask type.
Surprisingly, surgical masks performed better than the homemade cloth mask with the PM 2.1 filter inserted, likely because of the tight weave of the cloth and the filter inserted. This is particularly noticeable at higher frequencies (6 kHz+) – where we measured on average a difference of 10 dB.
The degradation in decibel level was the worst for N95 masks. The voice spectrum of the average person tested wearing an N95 mask was weaker in frequencies above 2 kHz by 12 to 14 dB compared to when the person was not wearing a mask at all!
Of course, sound level without a given distance is not very useful. Remember, to simulate a classroom experience, we placed the microphone 3 meters away from the speaker. Imagine if students are straining to hear their teacher from the back of the class while the teacher is facing them wearing an N95 mask, how much worse it gets when the teacher turns to face away from the students to write on a whiteboard while talking!
Test results – Speech level output by type of mask, no microphone
Improving Speech Intelligibility with Microphones, but what type of microphone works best?
With masks becoming mandatory in the classroom, now more than ever a case can be made for the use of microphones to improve the learning experience for the students. We had the test subjects performed the same tests but this time with several different types of microphones:
While all 3 types of microphones did improve the speech intelligibility of the presenter when wearing a mask, the performance of the lavalier microphone yielded the best results consistently across all types of masks. We found that wireless handheld microphones performed well but the users did not consistently hold the microphone in the optimal spot, and both the N95 and Cloth Mask with PM 2.1 filter both attenuated the sound at the front of the speaker’s mouth. Headset microphones did provide a small improvement for surgical and cloth masks, but this improvement was concentrated solely at the lower frequencies.
Lavalier microphones yielded the best improvement in output level and intelligibility, even for N95 masks, as evidenced by the chart below:
Test Results: Speech level output by type of Mask, With Lavalier Microphone
Generally speaking, we have found that using a microphone has a substantial impact on the clarity of teacher communication from a student listener’s perspective. Add a mask to the teacher and the use of a microphone becomes even more important to reinforce a student’s ability to clearly understand the teacher.
Panelist: Chris Howard, Manager, Advanced Technologies for Morefield Communications
Industry expert & problem solver, Chris Howard, has a fundamental understanding of technology that he utilizes each day to create success for others. With over 20 years of technology experience, Chris develops expert solutions to improve the lives of clients everyday as the Manager of Advanced Technology Services at Morefield Communications. Since he joined Morefield in 2005, his strong client focus and strategic thinking has been instrumental in integrating new technologies into Morefield’s practice. His pragmatic approach to client experience has helped shape Morefield’s team into the client-focused company it is today.
In his spare time, you can find Chris having fun with his family, embracing their love for rescue animals, and soaking in salt air whenever he can.
When to Work With an AV Integrator
April 22, 2020 |
Audiovisual systems are essential to all kinds of businesses. If you’re looking to add a new room in your company building, or you are moving to a new office space, your AV needs can quickly become complex. AV integrators can provide essential expertise and services to tackle these issues for you. But what exactly does an AV integrator do, and how do you know if you need one?
What Does an AV Integrator Do?
AV integrators oversee the installation and management of your AV solutions. They work to ensure that technologies are integrated for maximum efficiency and productivity, and that everything is running smoothly.
From troubleshooting to repairing to maintaining your company’s AV system, AV integrators are essential to keeping your AV system healthy so that your day-to-day operations are not affected by any AV issues.
AV integrators also provide design and equipment services to effectively set you up with a new AV system that is properly integrated and standardized for easy management.
Signs You Need to Bring in an AV Integrator
AV systems can be complex to work with, especially when they are interacting with other systems. But how do you know if you need to bring in an AV integrator? Here are some top signs that it’s a good idea for your business:
You need a complex AV solution.
Your AV system needs to work with other system solutions.
You want to make sure you’re getting the biggest return on your investment in the AV system.
Your project is very large and you don’t have all the necessary resources to tackle it without assistance.
It’s important to keep in mind that the sooner you can bring in an AV integrator, the better. When they are involved from the start, they will be able to guide the design and installation process for a smoother and quicker process.
What to Look for With an AV Integrator
AV integration is a growing field, and you will likely have numerous candidates to choose from. When you’re deciding on the best AV integrator for the job, there are several important factors to consider:
Customized solutions: Every company has different AV needs, and your potential AV integrator should provide solutions that address your unique challenges.
Design services: The AV integrator should provide a design that is specific to your needs, cost-effective and addresses ongoing challenges.
Ongoing support: An AV integrator should provide ongoing technical support and service to ensure that your system continues to run smoothly and that all issues can be addressed.
Proven experience: Any potential candidate for your AV integrator position should have a history of successful projects to share and proven experience in the field.
Current technologies: Your AV integrator should offer the latest high-quality technologies and demonstrate the ability to adapt and stay on top of all the latest innovations.
Excellence in customer service: The AV integrator should have plenty of testimonials to share that show a commitment to excellent customer service.
What Are the Benefits of Working With an AV Integrator?
An AV integrator can be an essential member of your team, keeping your AV systems running without a hitch. Some of the top benefits of working with an AV integrator include:
Cost-effective: By hiring an AV integrator, you ensure your AV system is designed to operate with maximum efficiency and minimal issues for cost savings over the long term. And when you involve them from the start of the planning process, they provide suggestions about details such as compatible building materials, ideal electrical outlet locations and conduit paths.
Expertise: A professional AV integrator will bring an in-depth knowledge of AV systems to your project, which enables them to quickly identify and address any potential problems.
Industry standards: AV integrators follow all industry standards for audiovisual design and installation so that your AV installation or integration projects will meet the highest quality standards while still being delivered on time and within budget.
Prevent system failure: An AV system failure can result in costly downtime and repair. When you work with an AV integrator, they will work to prevent system failures from occurring and tackle any issues that arise, quickly and efficiently, to minimize any potential downtime.
Successful project launch: Before your project goes live, AV integrators do thorough checks of the system to address any issues ahead of time so you can launch the project glitch-free.
Streamlined communication: Another part of an AV integrator’s job is to make sure everyone is on the same page. They will work with other departments to ensure that everything goes smoothly to complete the project quickly while also keeping to your budget.
Contact Morefield Communications Today
At Morefield Communications, we provide technology solutions for a wide range of businesses. With more than 70 years of experience, you can trust us to provide your company with expert installation and care for your integrated solutions.
To find out more about our services and how we can help your business, contact us today.
WFH: Keeping your team connected & your information secure
April 1, 2020 |
We are all realizing this is the new normal for a bit longer. At Morefield, we want to make sure that your organization can be effective and efficient in this new environment. We are working with all of our strategic partners to provide elongated free trials and special pricing of collaboration tools, remote working solutions & connectivity options to all of clients. Together we will come through this. Please let us know how we can help your organization weather the storm. Please contact us if you would like to discuss any of the available options below.
Webex is providing special features for virtual learning education during this time.
Cisco Umbrella protects users from malicious Internet destinations whether they are on or off the network. Existing customers are able to exceed their user limit to support an increase in remote workers & new customers can access a free license.
Duo Security enables organizations to verify users’ identities and establish device trust before granting access to applications. Existing customers are able to exceed their user limit to support an increase in remote workers, and new customers can access a free license.
Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Clientempowers employees to work from anywhere on company laptops or personal mobile devices. It also provides the visibility and control security teams need to identify who and which devices are accessing their infrastructure. Existing AnyConnect customers can exceed their user limit to support an increase in remote workers, and new customers can access a free license.
Notifications and alerts in or outside your facility
Digital Signage integration
Pre-recorded paging announcements
Status Solutions CATIE:
Social connectionsfor your residents are so important during this time. There is a free of charge web portal available from Status Solutions called CATIE-Web that allows your residents to receive community messages, while they stay connected to the happenings and services in your community. This can be set up remotely without the need to come on site. See https://www.statussolutions.com/catie-web-offer.