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Sound Masking Comes Full Circle

Feb 28, 2008 10:28 AM, By Jessaca Gutierrez


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Why Technology?

With all the buzz about IT and AV convergence, it’s easy to get caught up in the systems making the AV industry grow, which is something Leonard says integrators have to watch out for. Instead, it’s essential to get back to the roots of what it means to be a part of this industry. “The most important element of sound masking is actually the sound that is created in the system and how it is propagated,” Leonard says. “That needs to be looked at first because too often companies do a great job of selling ‘why’ technology—I call it why technology because why do you need it? If it doesn’t really lend to any purpose that’s significant in improving the quality of either the masking system or the space, what is its purpose? That is why it is most important to always start with the sound.”

DSP technology in masking systems is really raising the bar. Because the mind thinks best with a mix of non-congruent sound, DSPs are a great tool as the sound-generating source of a sound-masking system. Leonard says you can look to nature to find the type of sound that creates a comfortable environment, such as waves at the beach or wind rustling the leaves on the trees. “Our brains enjoy complete random sounds that have many different sources,” Leonard says. “It’s important that when we create our masking sound that we create as many sound sources as possible—the DSP is a great device to help us do that.”

Working with Architects

Because more AV systems are becoming part of design builds, architects are slowly reaching out to integrators to deploy systems that are tied into the building’s IT backbone. This is opening up the communication lines between architects, integrators, and even building owners. But the relationship between architects and integrators still leaves much to be desired. Leonard says that although more integrators are becoming a resource to architects, education has to happen on both sides for sound-masking to recognize its full potential. Often, it is facility managers and building owners pushing architects to put sound-masking systems in their buildings.

“It’s not that [architects] are not concerned with acoustics, they are,” Leonard says. “It’s just that architects will typically get an acoustical engineer involved to handle acoustics, but since everyone should be part of the design and implementation process, we all need to be proactive in understanding how to address the acoustics to create better space. “

Industry associations are working to develop and strengthen the relationship between architects and integrators. Education is slowly happening on both sides. For example, Lencore conducts a sound-masking systems presentation for American Institute of Architects (AIA) credit. InfoComm and NSCA both have offered educational sessions in the past that have addressed sound-masking to support this area of interest.

Where’s sound masking heading and will the future be even brighter for opportunities? Leonard seems to think so: “It’s moving in that very strong, very plodding direction, so eventually a path will be carved, and it will be a pretty deep path—one that will absolutely create opportunity for companies that are in the channel for sound masking.”

In the next issue of Corporate AV, find out the good and the bad of proprietary systems in the AV industry.



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