The Best Ambient Sound Apps for Creative Focus
Utility｜Web • March.8, 2020
For centuries, we’ve believed that silence is the best way to focus. Poets, engineers and problem-solvers do spent hours in silence, waiting for the best ideas and solutions. But, is silence really the best way to creative focus? This is why people started talking about Ambient Noise.
What is ambient noise?
Let’s not get too much technical here.
Ambient noise refers to background noise that has a particular amount of intensity. It’s not the ear-breaking noise pollution that you hate, but it’s not near ultimate silence either. The best example would be the chatter you listen to at a coffee shop. The sounds are not that intrusive but you know it’s not complete silence either.
So, the question is this: Is ambient noise bad, after all? Well, scientific research has some answers for you.
The science behind ambient noise
Back in 2012, a group of researchers set out to study the relation between noise and creativity. Of course, the idea was to debunk several myths that linked creativity to ultimate silence. Their results, published in The Journal of Consumer Research, found something so interesting.
Ambient noise of about 70 decibels improved the creative focus and performance of individuals when compared to a quieter situation of 50 decibels. The team also found that going beyond the 70-decibel limit may cause some negative impacts as well.
Well, the key takeaway is this:
The ambient noise from your neighborhood café or during a rainy evening can help you improve focus. Ravi Mehta, the lead author, said that such noise distracts a person just enough to think broadly. It means you’re likely to think outside the box and get some creative ideas when there is some limited background noise.
So, you are likely to be more productive and creative when you’re in a coffee shop or somewhere else.
But, you cannot always head towards the coffee shop or set up a campfire, right? Well, don’t worry, ambient noise apps are here to help you.
What are ambient noise apps?
As the name says, an ambient noise app helps you listen to ambient noise. It will simulate ambient noise of various sources like coffee shop, thunderstorm, rain, campfire etc. while you are doing some work. The best part here is that you can even mix and match things according to your needs. Well, it all depends upon the app you’re using.
As it happens, there is a wide variety of ambient noise apps out there. You can find desktop-based software as well as web-based apps. The choice depends on where you work and how you work. By the way, just so you know, you can use these apps for other purposes as well. For instance, there are people who listen to ambient noise for quickly falling asleep.
Talking about that, you should have one of the best ambient sound apps if you need creative focus.
And, in this article, we have compiled a list of the best ambient noise apps you can check out.
Our choice — Noizio
As it happens, Noizio is our recommendation when you are looking for the best ambient sound app.
It’s also one of the most popular ambient sound apps you can find for macOS, Android and iOS. Touted as a powerful ambient sound equalizer, there is a lot Noizio can do to help you. Personally speaking, I have been using Noizio for a long period of time and I’m happy to give you a detailed review here.
What is noizio?
Noizio is an easy-to-use ambient noise app that you can use for improving your creative focus. While it offers a variety of ambient noise options, the app is well-designed for the focus part only. That, however, is not an actual limitation. Instead, Noizio turns out to be a dedicated tool for ambient noise manager. As we said in the intro, we can also call it an ambient noise equalizer.
Now that you know the basic things about Noizio, let’s check out how it is to use the app in real-life.
Installation and getting started
Noizio is one of the simplest macOS apps I’ve ever come across. It’s so low in size and has a minimal footprint to begin with. Downloading Noizio from the official website and installing it on your Mac will not take more than a few seconds. Or, if you are getting it via Setapp, things are even easier. Once Noizio is installed, you’d be able to start using it in no time.
First things first, Noizio does not have a fully-fledged window interface. Instead, the app fits right into your macOS menu bar. Right next to your battery and other icons, you can find the Noizio icon as well. Clicking on this icon will open up the easy-to-use interface. Here is where all the magic happens. As you can see, the User Interface is quite intuitive.
Using ambient noise from Noizio
Unlike most of the ambient noise apps you come across, Noizio is an ambient noise equalizer. It means you can mix different ambient noises to create the best deal. This is pretty great, considering that some people love to listen to coffeehouse chatter while others prefer the sound of a night owl. In any case, Noizio is ready for that.
So, when you open the Noizio interface, you can see a list of all the sounds along with level bars. To begin, however, click on the Play button. Now, adjust the volume levels for each of the sounds according to your own tastes. As you can see in my case, I have created a mixture of October Rain, Thunderstorm and Waves in the Sea.
We can also adjust the intensity. In this case, Thunderstorm is given the topmost priority, meaning that I will be listening to more of that. Noizio also has a timer function. But, you can always decide to interrupt and hit the Pause button.
Saving ambient noise mixtures
One of the limitations with Noizio is that it doesn’t offer any pre-built mixtures. But, that’s actually a superb thing if you think about it. That is because Noizio allows you to save customized ambient sound mixtures to the app. The process too is super-easy. Suppose you are listening to a few sounds that you selected according to your mood, like I did above.
Now, if you think the combination is helping you focus better, you can open the Noizio app and click on the Save button. This action would save the pre-set and you can give it a name as well. So, the next time you like to do the same thing, you can access the same sounds in a single click. This is a great feature that we haven’t seen in other tools.
The ambient noise collection
This, we think, deserves a special mention.
We tested a number of ambient sound apps for this article and Noizio still has the highest number of noises. As you may have noticed from the screenshots, the collection is quite rich. There are conventional ambient noises like coffeeshop and ocean waves. But, if you scroll down, you can also find new sounds like night owls and other sleep-oriented ones.
See, Noizio markets itself as an ambient sound app for focus-boosting. However, the way we see it, you can create the right sound mixture for all sorts of needs. Of course, you may have to put in some extra effort in choosing the right sound tracks. But if you do, you will surely love the rich ambient noise collection that the app is offering.
So, there are a few additional features that make Noizio more impressive to use. Let’s have a look at them.
First of all, the controls in Noizio are super-easy. On top of this, you can assign keyboard shortcuts to make things easier. The app comes with a few default shortcuts, but you can change them. For instance, pressing Cmd+Shift+P will pause the ambient noise.
Secondly, Noizio also lets you schedule and automate the app. For instance, you can set up Noizio to start when you turn on your computer. In addition to this, you can also tell the app to start playing sounds as soon as you open the app.
A word about Android and iOS apps
The above review was based on the macOS app from Noizio. It was based on the idea that people normally use their Mac to get work done. However, if you are someone who wants to plug in the headphones to your Android or iOS devices, Noizio won’t disappoint you either. The apps are great, easy to use and offer a free version.
There too, you can mix various ambient sounds for the best effect. We believe the apps will be great if you want to listen to ambient noise while trying to sleep or relax. At this point, the pre-sets would be super-cool too.
What could be better
There are a few things we thought could be better in Noizio.
- While the User Interface is easy, it could be better integrated with macOS system
- It offers customization, but a suggestion of sound pre-sets would make things simple for first-timers
- Features are way too limited in the free version
Availability and pricing
Noizio is available for macOS, Android and iOS. For these platforms, you can download dedicated apps to listen to ambient noise. The developers have kept the same User Interface everywhere. It’s disappointing that Noizio is not available for PCs running Windows.
Noizio for macOS costs $4.99, a quite reasonable amount. This unlocks the full set of ambient sounds, which is great. On Android and iOS, however, Noizio is completely free to use. However, because the collection is so limited, you will have to do in-app purchases to unlock more sounds. So, the point is, you will need the Pro version if you need the real power of Noizio.
Considering all these, Noizio is indeed the perfect ambient sound app for macOS, Android and iOS. It is just awesome that you can actually have the same experience and same sounds in all your devices. So, on any day, it’s in our recommendation list.
While Noizio is the perfect ambient noise app for almost all needs, Focus@will is a bit different. However, if you are looking for a scientifically-proven method to increase your productivity and focus, Focus@will is the best you can get. Let’s have a look at how it works and why you want to consider Focus@will for your team.
What is Focus@will?
Focus@will is a service that brings you scientifically optimized music to increase your productivity as well as focus. It’s not technically an ambient noise app, because you are listening to professional-made background scores. But, the unique point of Focus@will is that the service suggests you the best music that would bring you the best amount of focus and control over what you’re doing.
Focus@will is based on human neuroscience and it takes input from various research studies conducted all across the world. Because of this, the service provides customized music content for all needs. Say, you are a logical thinker or a creative writer or a student. In all these cases, Focus@will can offer you a dedicated set of ambient music.
How to use Focus@will?
One of the most straightforward web apps we’ve seen, Focus@will is so easy to use.
Focus@will is basically a subscription-based service. You will have to create an account and purchase one of the subscription plans to get started. Focus@will offers both individual and team plans, and the team plans are great when you want to boost the productivity of an organization as a whole.
Once you have the account, you can sign into the dashboard of Focus@will. The dashboard is very easy to use and you can start streaming in a second. All you have to do is to click on the Play button. Focus@will will be playing the ambient noise track it has already selected.
There is also an option to set up a timer that will track your productive time. You can click on the Next button to move to the next track. The controls are super-easy here. If you have been using Focus@will for a notable period of time, the recommendations will be based on what you’ve listened to and what you’ve skipped.
Ambient sound collection
The rich collection of ambient sounds offered by Focus@will deserves a special mention on any day. There is so much to choose from if you want.
First of all, there are background sound channels. Each channel produces a different kind of ambient sound, aimed at different results. You can manually choose the channels or let Focus@will recommend you the best according to your tastes.
In the Labs section, you will find a slightly different collection of sounds. These background scores have been designed with the help of scientific research, to offer assistance to various people. You can always check out these Lab sounds to see if something helps you better than the other one.
You can also favorite certain sound sources to access them quickly.
Apart from an ultra-simple UI and an amazing collection of ambient sounds, Focus@will offers a few extra features as well.
As the name says, this feature will analyze how productive you have been on a given day. The interface can present the data using a chart or a list but you get an idea anyhow. Once again, Focus@will makes use of a few scientific algorithms to track your productivity and present the final insights. What’s more, you can also download the productivity-based data for further analysis.
This is one of the most impressive features we found in Focus@will. The Channel Recommender works in a truly scientific manner. It will ask you a few questions about your personality, working habits, the ongoing levels of productivity and focus. Based on these inputs, Focus@will will suggest the best channel of ambient sound. In my case, the recommendations were on-point and so effective.
Availability and pricing
Focus@will is primarily available as a web app. You can open the website, sign in and start using the ambient sound streaming service. In addition to this, official apps are available for Android, iOS and Sonos. Once you have logged in, you can listen to the same great music from all the devices.
Focus@will offers subscription plans that start from $8.99 per month. However, you can pay annually to get some discount. In addition to this, Focus@will is also offering a lifetime-access package that costs $299.95. At the end of the day, you can choose based on your needs.
As we said earlier, Focus@will also has a dedicated version for Teams. This service is used by companies like Google and Forbes, adding more trust. In this case, however, you will have to pay the subscription amount based on the number of users your organization has.
Focus@will is no less than wonderful when it comes to increasing productivity and boosting focus. As it has said earlier, the service can increase the productivity by 4x and we believe that’s true. The tracks and chosen carefully and offer the best results. And, for everyone who needs a better working scenario, we will suggest the service.
Other options worth considering
Obviously, we had considered other choices before choosing Noizio as the ultimate ambient sound app. The majority of them got filtered out, but here are a few worthy alternatives you can consider. Most of these are web-based interface. So, if you can keep a browser tab open for some productive ambient noise, you should consider these options.
Portal is an ambient sound app for iOS with a difference. As its name implies, Portal offers an escape portal into another environment entirely. Portal employs 3D soundscapes, Philips Hue smart integration, and imagination-inspiring visuals to make you truly feel, as much as possible, like you’ve escaped to a new place.
Focus, Sleep, and Escape are three central uses promoted for the app, so you’ll be asked to choose one of these three upon launch. When you open the app next time, Portal plays the last sound you were listening to, no need to select from a list.
The app also has a nice background activity and the mix with other apps feature. This means if you like listening to ambient noise while enjoying other audio sources, Portal provides a toggle you can enable to let its audio mix with other apps, such as a game you’re playing or a podcast you’re listening to.
Portal is a free download on the App Store, with a $3.99 In-App Purchase unlocking full functionality.
Coffitivity was one of the first ventures to make the dream of ambient noise come true. In the course of time, the website has improved a lot for sure. For instance, you can listen to a wide variety of coffeehouse chatter now. It is based on the same kind of research we talked about in the beginning and offers some level of choice for the customer.
Unlike other services, Coffitivity allows you to choose between various coffeehouse environments. There is one for breakfast-style cafes and another one for the lunchtime chatter. In case you are interested, you can also bring in the chatter from a typical university café. Some of these options are premium while most of the sounds are free.
Collaborating with an open-source developer named Siwalik Mukherjee, Coffitivity has an offline app as well. You can download this macOS app if you want to take the ambient sounds with you. In case you didn’t guess, only three ambient sounds will be available in the app. The app is pretty cool to use but takes up some space due to the high-quality chatter.
Practically, Coffitivity is easy to use but you can always upgrade for better sounds.
Noisli is a wonderful ambient sound app if you can keep yourself connected to the Internet. It’s a web-app, and you need to keep a browser tab open for listening to the sound. That factor apart, Noisli offers one of the best ambient noise collections we have seen. However, it should be noted that you can download Noisli apps for iOS, Android and there is an extension for Chrome as well.
In all these methods, you have some added advantages. First of all, you can simply select the sound and alter the intensity to make your own mix. However, if you are indeed confused about the process, Noisli can also suggest some options. You can click on the Productive or Relax button to launch corresponding sound sets. In addition to this, Noisli has a random noise selector as well.
In order to save your presets and preferences, Noisli wants you to create an account. Using the account, you can access the service on other devices as well. In the iOS and Android apps, however, you have some extra features such as the timer functionality and offline sound support. If you are on a Mac or PC, however, bad luck.
Noisli is free to use, but the iOS app costs $1.99.
MyNoise goes a step forward when it comes to ambient noise apps. While the app itself may not win awards for anything, the collection of ambient noise would surely will. The way we see it, MyNoise is a platform that brings awesome ambient noise to your ears. It’s just that you can have the same experience on your iPhone, Android or some supported devices.
Talking about the collection, MyNoise is something unparalleled. It not only brings you scenario-based sets of background sounds but also customize almost everything. For instance, if you open the section called the Irish Coast, you will be able to adjust the volume of individual sounds like wind rumble, waves crash, loch and rain.
At the end of the day, MyNoise offers a unique ambient noise experience. You are your own boss and you’d get to decide which sounds you listen to. We also loved the detailed interface of the website. On Android, it is possible to download the myNoise app and enjoy all the sounds while trying to relax, sleep or work. It’s in the list for the amazing collection.
MyNoise is free to use, but there are some premium sections as well.
White Noise Lite
White Noise Lite is an ambient sound app that is available for Android, iOS, macOS and several others. That having said, there are some drastic differences in terms of pricing. While the app is free for Android and iOS, you have to pay for most of the other platforms. However, if you are ready to pay, there are paid versions of everything available.
If you are asking us whether White Noise Lite is worth it, the answer is yes. The whole app is enriched with a collection of ambient noise for sleeping, relaxing and focusing. In addition to this, there are a few alarms, recorders and mix pads. All these work really great when it comes to ensuring the best sleeping or focusing experience.
Some might say White Noise Lite is a bit overkill, and we won’t blame them. It isn’t the simplest app when it comes to ambient sound. What’s best? You can even record voices from the surrounding and use them as a noise for background. If you dig these extra features, you should give White Noise Lite a try. We wish if it had a free version for desktop though.
White Noise Lite is free on iOS and Android, but you’ve to pay for the Desktop versions.
So, these are the best solutions when you are looking for the best ambient sound app for creative focus or a good night’s sleep. We stick onto our opinion of recommending Noizio and Focus@will, because they bring an amazing app as well as one of the best collection of ambient sounds. And, we are also sure that you would love every single app or web service we’ve listed here.