Got Noise? Try A Sound Masking Device Made for Hotels

BURLINGTON, ONTARIO—Guestroom noise is a common complaint, whether it’s on-site construction or rowdy revelers next door. But, why is it pervasive? According to Niklas Moeller, VP of K.R. Moeller Associates Ltd., a global developer and manufacturer of sound masking technology, there are two main reasons why noise issues seem to persist in hospitality.

“First, as demonstrated by industry surveys such as the J.D. Power North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction Survey, the majority of guests don’t complain when they’re disturbed by noise,” said Moeller. “Instead, they simply decide not to return to the property. That leaves many hotels unaware of both the problem and its impact—unless the guest subsequently posts an online review. Second, properties that are aware of noise issues usually try to address them using traditional tools, and always in pursuit of an impossible goal: silence.”

Sound reduction and sound masking may seem similar in their goal, but there are distinct differences.

“Traditional approaches are geared toward sound reduction. Properties attempt to block noise from entering rooms and to make the noise sources within them—such as HVAC, plumbing, minibars—quieter,” said Moeller.

“The trouble with this tactic is that it’s impossible to eliminate all noises, and the lower the room’s background sound level becomes, the easier they are to hear,” he continued. “In fact, in this kind of ‘pin drop’ environment, even low volume noises seem loud, disrupting guests’ sleep, as well as their sense of privacy and overall comfort.”

Sound masking essentially does the opposite, elevating the room’s background sound level in order to mask or cover up noises, Moeller explained.

“Though this sound is typically compared to softly blowing air, unlike ventilation or clock radio-style white-noise products, it follows a particular spectrum, engineered to balance acoustic control and occupant comfort,” he said.

In sharing the origin story of MODIO, Moeller explained that a number of hotels had implemented the company’s LogiSon sound masking system and received positive guest response, but installing the system proved challenging in terms of locating components and wiring. The company changed its approach and integrated the sound masking technology with a device that’s easier to add to guestrooms.

“MODIO is the first commercial-quality sound masking device specifically designed for hotels,” he said. “It’s literally the same technology we provide to our corporate, healthcare and government clients packaged into a device that can be installed in minutes. MODIO is also simple for anyone to use. The dial on the control pad gives the guest complete control over the masking volume.”

MODIO’s design merges form and function. It works in a variety of spaces because it’s designed to be a bolt-on rather than a built-in solution. For example, it can be attached to the back of a freestanding TV using its VESA mounts or to furnishing, such as a table, cabinet or nightstand.

“People like the honeycomb pattern—so it serves an aesthetic purpose—and it also provides structural strength to the grill,” he said. “In five to 10 minutes, a hotel can go from a room with noise issues to one that is far better protected. Although MODIO is attractive, it generally won’t be seen and, therefore, doesn’t impact the room design. The only visible element is the control pad, which is a small device that blends in well with the TV or other items next to it.”

According to Moeller, the device has been tested at hotels worldwide and the company has learned that properties across all categories and in all markets exhibit low interior ambient levels, usually in the neighborhood of 28 to 32 decibels.

“Most properties feature relatively lower levels at the mid to higher frequencies, exposing guests to very low noises in this range. Hotel owners/operators may be surprised to learn that the measured volume of noise inside guestrooms is rarely much higher than 40 decibels,” he said. “In theory, this isn’t what one would typically call loud, but the 10 or more decibel swing is what’s uncomfortable and likely to wake a guest. The good news is that you can entirely cover many noises with a relatively low level of MODIO masking.”

MODIO launched on Nov. 1 and the company is already in talks with a number of hotels about trials on the property level. In 2018, Moeller expects to see the company actively educating the industry about this approach to guestroom noise and encouraging clients to try the technology.

“The industry’s noise issues aren’t going to go away until this missing aspect of acoustical design is adopted,” he said. “MODIO is on from the moment the guest arrives—set at a default level chosen by the hotel. From there, guests can adjust it according to preference or need, or even turn it off, if desired. This helps stop noise problems from occurring in the first place. In a service industry, it’s far better to prevent a poor experience than try to fix one after the fact.”