It’s all about the acoustics!

Open-plan collaborative, connected workplace design make huge demands on your workers.

Getting the acoustics right improves worker concentration, productivity, privacy and morale.

Getting the acoustics right makes your business better.


The ABC of Workplace Acoustics

Workplace acoustics, be it small cafe, or large office, is managed using the right combination of 3 main components depending on the intended use and atmosphere you wish to create.



If a space has too many smooth, shiny surface like plasterboard, glass or concrete, sound will have nowhere to go. Acoustic panels, suspended acoustic ceilings and other sound absorbent products are used to reduce reverberation/echo.

Examples: Noisy pub or cafe, minimal modern concrete offices.



Once any reverberation has been controlled, partitioning or screens are used to create private space or contain noisier areas or teams.

Examples: Private offices and meeting rooms, printing or cafe areas in offices. Sales and customer service teams.

Adaptive Sound Masking

Adaptive Sound Masking


Cover also known as sound masking is used to manage speech intelligibility by artificially controlling ambient sound level. After controlling reverberation issues and creating private spaces, cover will optimise the resulting acoustic environment.

Examples: In overly quiet open-plan office space conversations are whispered and everyone hears everything! No so much the sound of voices, but the actual detail of each conversation. Try and unlisten to that conversation about Jack’s night out on Friday and the footy results and..…..

Sound masking reduces speech intelligibility which reduces unwanted interruptions. Office wall performance is increased for greater privacy.


Acoustic Absorption

Acoustic Absorption is required to correct reverberation of sound or echo. Without absorption, sound has nowhere to go reverberates around the space. As one person speaks, their speech stays in the space for longer and as someone else speaks they must speak louder to be heard over that reverberating sound. In most cafes and restaurants and especially bars, visitors compete to be heard and the sound level can quickly reach ridiculous levels. In office space, the hollow echo of some modern interiors is similar to working in a factory and stress level increase.

Acoustic absorption comes in many forms:

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Acoustic Panels

Acoustic panels are the most common product used to control reverberation. In modern minimal office space, cafes, restaurants and bars, acoustic panels play an essential part in preventing the build up of sound.


Acoustic Ceiling grids

Traditional acoustic ceiling used mainly in office space may be out of fashion but they do a fantastic job both correcting reverberation and hiding unsightly services. Covering a large area, reverberation throughout entire office space is corrected.


AcousTic Baffles

When suspended ceilings are not used, acoustic absorption is still required to control reverberation. Acoustic baffles maximise sound absorbing surface area usually been suspended vertically from the soffit. As such, they can be used to control reverberation in areas with large volume such as office or shopping centre atria.



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Creating rooms for meeting, boardroom and focused private work. Partitioning is the obvious and effective way to define space and create privacy. Workspace fit-out uses these systems in conjunction with suspended and fixed ceilings and ambient sound to ensure speech privacy.


Although complete privacy is reserved for cellular enclosed office space using partitioning, mobile and fixed screening is not only used to define space but plays an important part in blocking the path of sound across open-plan workspace.

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Acoustic Furniture

Blocking sound transfer and absorbing sound production at source is a great addition to any open workplace.

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C = Cover


Also known as sound masking, cover is background or ambient sound. 45dB are experts in sound masking. Having completed numerous projects across all sectors including Commercial Office, Education, Healthcare and Leisure sectors , we know what we’re doing. 45dB Systems have provided state of the art sound masking systems to most of Australia’s great buildings.

Sound masking manages ambient sound levels using a network of hidden or exposed speakers throughout the workspace which create a familiar (but unobtrusive) sound similar to air conditioning.


Productivity: simply put, if your workplace is too quiet your workers will hear too much. Not so much the sound, but the detail of conversations. Humans can’t ignore words if they are audible, and concentration on what they are trying to do is lost. Constant interruption throughout the day has a dramatic impact on productivity.

Increasing ambient sound levels to where they should be according to the Australian Standard (AS2107) reduces interruption by others and productivity is optimised.

Privacy: Offices and meeting rooms, open wards and ICUs hotel bedrooms, need privacy for concentration, confidentiality and sleep!

If ambient sound levels are low, office partitioning performance is impaired and room to room privacy fails. In hospitals interruption from equipment and ward staff interrupt good quality sleep and recovery is impaired. In hotels sleep is interrupted by late arrivals or street sound.

Increasing ambient sound improves partition wall performance for increased privacy. Sleep interruptions are reduced to aid recovery in hospitals and a great night rest enjoyed in hotel rooms..

Comfort and morale:

In office space, quietness increases inhibition as you are aware that everyone is listening to your conversation. Robust business activity is suppressed and communication in open-plan offices is impacted.

Optimising ambient sound creates relaxed, uninhibited activity allowing workers to go about their work with confidence.


Automatic narrow band calibration

SoftdB’s automatic calibration provides extreme accuracy in 1 minute. Every zone is calibrated to exactly the right volume level across 340 narrow bands ensuring speech frequencies are covered perfectly and comfortably to the ear.

Realtime Adaptive adjustment

In open-plan office or ward space audible activity is unpredictable and therefore sound masking cannot be static. At busier times of the day the masking must be louder to protect those not involved. At quieter times the masking level should reduce to more comfortable yet still effective levels.

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Multi zonal

Different areas in a workplace require different levels of sound. Open-plan space vs cellular in offices. Nurse stations vs wards in hospitals and bedrooms vs corridors in hotels. Each must separated and zoned for its particular purpose. SoftdB’s system provides multiple zones large and small for precise calibration.