It’s time to let the spring water run! Best masking sound in open office plans.

The performance results and subjective perceptions showed that the spring water sound was the most optimal speech masker whereas vocal music produced negative effects similar to those of speech.

Fifty-four subjects were tested in seven sound conditions: speech, silence and five masked speech conditions. The five masking sounds were filtered pink noise, ventilation noise, instrumental music, vocal music and the sound of spring water. They were superimposed on speech. In each of the seven sound conditions, the subjects performed a short-term memory task, a proofreading task and a creative thinking task and completed a questionnaire on acoustic comfort. Compared to silence condition, short-term memory performance deteriorated in speech condition and in most masked speech conditions. Compared to speech condition, performance improved when speech was masked with spring water sound. The use of constant masking sounds should be preferred in open-plan offices instead of instrumental or vocal music.

Source: Effects of Five Speech Masking Sounds on Performance and Acoustic Satisfaction. Implications for Open-Plan Offices. Haapakangas, A.; Kankkunen, E.; Hongisto, V.; Virjonen, P.; Oliva, D.; Keskinen, E. Acta Acustica united with Acustica, Volume 97, Number 4, July/August 2011 , pp. 641-655(15)

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