Networked sound masking systems
The most significant industry trend is toward networked, addressable sound masking systems. These systems use network hardware allowing reconfiguration or adjustment of the system via a networked PC or control panel. It is important to verify that the design provides for every speaker to be individually addressed. It is not good practice to connect multiple speakers to a single address.
Network systems have blurred the distinction between centralized and distributed systems. A network system should provide multi-channel networked audio for masking, paging and music signals. Sound masking signals can be broadcast through the network or generated at the speaker controller level. Beware of addressable or networked systems that specify “primary” and “secondary” speakers as the secondary speakers are not individually adjustable. Also beware of the practice of grouping more than one speaker on a channel as the speakers can only be adjusted as a group, defeating the intended purpose of an addressable system.
Centralized sound masking systems
In the classic centralized system there is a central equipment rack housing the system generator, mixers and amplifiers. Speakers are wired into specific zones. Every speaker has a volume control. This approach is still common and can offer more volume adjustment, per speaker, than some flawed network approaches.
Distributed sound masking systems
In a distributed system there is no central generator or amplifier. Each speaker contains it’s own generator and amplifier, which is an ideal solution for very small systems, with little or no growth planned.