If you are anything like me, then creating the perfect noise environment for reading, studying, or getting things done, is essential. Over the years, I have tried several noise-canceling apps that claim to increase productivity and creativity, and I believe only a few of these apps are well done and worth trying.
If you are skeptical about how well these apps work, check out research by Ravi Mehta, Rui (Juliet) Zhu, and Amar Cheema in the Journal of Consumer Research that found that low ambient sounds can increase creativity. As you can imagine, they also found that a high level of noise can actually hurt creativity (1).
Here are some of my favorite noise-canceling apps:
I am using Tide (muse) as I write this post.
The Tide app is celebrated as the Pomodoro and white noise app for creators. I use it often because it is simple and it has a timer. I preset the timer to 30 minutes, and that is just enough time to get me going on any major task or to create a course of action for studying, homework, reading, etc. The Tide app is ideal for anyone who works with the Pomodoro Technique.
I recently downloaded Noisli on my Chrome web browser, and so far, I have created two mixes. One for drowning out noise and the other for focusing on a task. Noisli also allows you to set a timer. Though I like the app, I am not ready to invest in the paid iOS version.
Infinite Storm was the first noise-canceling app that I tried, and I still use it frequently. The app’s focus on thunderstorms, rain, and water, make it the best app that I have used for these particular sounds. I use infinite storm and other variations of rain/thunderstorm inducing sounds when I need to think or create. I find that these familiar sounds allow me to focus deeply on a task.
With Infinite Storm, you can also select the length of time to play your storm. So it could also work as a Pomodoro timer. Also, you can choose preset storms and sound extras to select additional sounds.
Gently put, simply noise is not for me.
Besides, I can not recall ever wanting the sound of a humming fridge in my ears. For others of you that have, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy the white, pink, or brown noise selections. To me, they all sound like noise!
I am biased because this app does not offer the rain/thunderstorm sounds that I genuinely enjoy, nor does it have a timer.
White Noise Free
I only have the White Noise app on my iPad and I use it while flying to drown out the mechanical sounds of the plane, that to me, sound like the plane is in need of a tune-up. I like this app because I can download some of the sounds to use them offline. With this app, I think you can also create and share/sell the sound mixes that you make.
I have used Coffitivity in the past and I usually do so while working on tasks that just need to get done. Noise-canceling apps with actual voices do not work for me for sustained periods of time.
The Coffivity team sites the same research study by Mehtma and colleagues that I refer to above. If you enjoy working in coffee shops and are not able to get to one, i.e. if you need to get some work done on a plane, Coffitivity might be the app for you. Coffitivity is available on your web, iOS, and Android platforms so you can pretty much take coffee shops with you on the go.
Full disclosure, this site is often down.
Overall, I like Soundrown and I’m often going back to it. The site plays different types of sounds and allows users to mix and match sounds. It is quite surprising to me that Soundrown does not yet have an app.
Brain.fm is one that I have recently come across. Their compositions are original and put together with artificial intelligence, where each tune is timed and made precise for relaxation, focus, or sleep. I have not used Brain.fm because it is a paid service, but I have heard great things about the app.
Rainy Mood (http://rainymood.com/) is simply rain sounds to help you relax or focus. I love it
Amazon Music and Spotify
I have also used Amazon Music and Spotify and have found useful playlists for studying and focus. Unfortunately, I always seem to forget to use these apps for things other than music. If you already have these apps though, you’ll be happy to find pre-made playlists for focus and productivity.
The ideal work environment changes from person to person. While you might prefer a quiet setting, others might desire an environment that is full of chatter or music. Creating the ideal work environment is not always easy, but at least, noise-canceling apps create a way to mimic our perfect sound environment. Mehta, R., Zhu, R. and Cheema, A., 2012. Is noise always bad? Exploring the effects of ambient noise on creative cognition. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(4), pp.784-799.
Also published on Medium.