As I type this article on my brand new 11″ Macbook Air I’ve got some white noise playing in the background. There are days when I just can’t work without it and today is one of them.
People use white noise for all kinds of things. Some people use it to help them fall asleep at night, some people use it to calm fussy babies and some people (like me) use it to block out distractions and be more productive.
For me, white noise helps me work. I’m a writer and concentration plays a key role in what I can get done each day. Sometimes I work to music (although that works better when I am designing, rather than writing), sometimes I work to nothing, sometimes I work with the window open and hear what’s happening outside. I guess it comes down to what I’m working on what what kind of mood I’m in.
But white noise becomes a lot more interesting when you can control it. I don’t live by the beach but I can work to the sound of waves hitting the shore. I don’t have a campfire lit up in my office, but I can hear it crackle nonetheless. Heck, I can mash the two together and create a beach campout thang if I want to.
Which leads me to the purpose of this article. I set out to find what I consider to be the best white noise app for both the iPhone and the Mac—and I’ve done just that. Factors that played a part in my decision included, obviously, a great selection of white noise sounds, top-notch design (you’d be surprised at how many white noise apps have terrible, ugly or weird user interfaces) and some sort of killer “extra” feature.
Note: neither app I selected has more than 16 included sounds. To me, that’s a feature. I prefer a curated selection of quality noises. But—and I love this—the actual number of noises you can play using these apps is far greater thanks to the ability to form combinations. I also want to point out both of the apps below have timer options.
Noizio: The Best White Noise App for Mac
Noizio has a great selection of sounds to choose from. There’s October Rain, Paris Cafe, Thunderstorm, Campfire, Winer Wind, Sea Waves, River Stream, Summer Night, Sunny Day and Deep Space.
At the moment I am listening to Deep Space. It’s my favorite. Ironically, if my memory serves, sound doesn’t travel through space. But the noise reminds me of a Hollywood movie (maybe this is what it sounds like inside the Millennium Falcon or something?).
Sunny Day, River Stream, Campfire and October Rain are probably my next most-liked sounds.
If all this app had was great sounds and a gorgeous interface, it would already be a winner. But it’s killer feature is the ability to AirPlay sounds to the nearest speaker. I’ve got a Bose in my office that really brings the white noise to life.
Plus, it’s completely free.
Noisli: The Best White Noise App for iPhone
Like just about any white noise app on the market, Noisli the go-to white noises here: rain, wind, waves, stormy weather, a coffee shop… but you’ll also find some nice surprises. Aside from actual white noise (that’s a real technical term, you know), you can play purple noise or even brown noise.
My favorite sound within Noisli is probably the train. It’s more consistent and less jarring than crashing waves without being monotonous. The sound of the train on the tracks varies quite a bit throughout the recording. If you close your eyes it’s easy to imagine your taking a trip somewhere.
I love the changing background color within Noisli. I think it makes for a great experience, but the actual reason it was included has nothing to do with design: it’s so users can get the benefits of chromotherapy. I can’t tell you what that is or what it’s supposed to do as I’m far too lazy to look it up but it looks awesome.
As cool as the color-changing background is, it’s not the killer feature; that distinction is reserved for the ability to save favorite sound combinations (swipe left on the main screen to see saved combos).
I’d like to point out that I have tried (purchased even—that was a mistake) the app that goes by the name of “White Noise” in the app store and I instantly regretted it. It stank. If there were any decent sounds in the app, I didn’t want to slog through the crappy interface long enough to find out.
Noisli costs $1.99 in the App Store but it’s certainly worth it if you’re looking for a minimalistic, well-designed white noise app with just the right amount of features.
Note: Noisli is also a free web-app as well.