Spatial uniformity tolerances for sound masking systems in open-plan offices



Electronic sound masking systems raise the ambient sound level in offices to a controlled minimum sound level in order to increase speech privacy and reduce distractions. Sound masking systems are calibrated to provide the most uniform sound field achievable, as a spatially non-uniform masking sound field could result in occupant perception and uneven speech privacy conditions. Tolerances for acceptable spatial uniformity vary between specifiers, and may be based on different evaluation methods using only a few discrete measurement points to represent an entire office space. However, the actual uniformity of a masking sound field across an office, and the parameters influencing it, has not been widely investigated. Thus, this study aims to investigate the masking sound uniformity in a typical open-plan office space using fine-grid measurements conforming to measurement method of ASTM E1573-18. Percentages of measured locations where the sound pressure levels were within specified tolerances (with increments of 0.5 dB) were calculated using the measured 1/3 octave band levels. The research also utilized geometric acoustical simulations to investigate how physical office parameters (number of loudspeakers, partition heights, ceiling absorption, and diffusion characteristics) affect the sound field uniformity of the sound masking system.