The benefits of white noise are well-documented.
From bloggers that swear by pink noise for energized productivity to bonafide studies confirming that yes, sound waves are, in fact, a powerful tool for boosting mental output.
Research has shown white noise can improve both memory and concentration.
According to the Harvard Business Review, lack of sound privacy is the most significant drain on employee morale. HBR reports that workers lose a whopping 86 minutes a day, on average, to sound-based distractions.
White noise in the office allows you to drown out the sounds of coworkers smacking their lips, tapping their keyboards, and conversations you’re probably not supposed to hear.
To help you stay sane, we’ve put together a few of our favorite noise-canceling apps. But first, an explanation of what we’re going for.
What is white noise, and what’s with those other colors?
You’ve probably heard the term white noise. It’s that ambient sound that aims to mimic the gentle whirring of a fan, waves crashing on the beach, or in some cases, the humming of your vacuum. The name “white noise” comes from an analogy to white light, in that it contains the full spectrum of sound.
White noise has been shown to help kids with ADHD focus and stands to help frustrated adults trapped in open-floor-plan hell.
But white noise isn’t the only color on the noise spectrum. Brown noise, for example, is designed more for human ears than white—it’s a warmer, deeper ambient noise.
Brown boasts a lower rumble than white noise, but many people find it soothing—like a steady rainfall or blowing wind.
Pink noise also accounts for human hearing. Its goal is to provide more of a balance between high and low frequencies—and is thought to boost memory and sleep.
5 best white noise apps for drowning out distractions
Noisli comes loaded with 16 different sound loops, that you can mix together and change the volume however, you like. Mix rain noises with the gentle crackling of a campfire and save your faves.
The sound-generating platform works on both your web browser and mobile devices—and it’s especially useful for folks using two monitors, as the colored background is there to set the mood—whether it’s relaxation or productivity is up to you.
Research has shown that certain colors can influence your productivity. Red can help you bang out some projects, while blue calms you down and boosts creativity.
Noisli’s noise options are presented clearly—choose from nature sounds, thunderstorms, coffee shop chatter, wave, campfire, and more. The sound is decent, and the customizations make for tracks that don’t quite so easily reveal that your sounds are playing on loop.
What’s more is, Noisli was designed for the distracted worker. The app also comes with a distraction-free text editor, which allows you to write content on top of your favorite color background.
2. A Soft Murmur
A Soft Murmur is an app that focuses on washing away distractions with ambient noise. The app comes with times and mixes—so you can apply the old Pomodoro method as you get things done.
A Soft Murmur looks a lot like Noisli at a glance. Customize your sounds by choosing from a selection of soothing tracks—crickets, coffee shop, fire, wind, rain, and that singing bowl you’ll find at a yoga studio.
It’s a decent collection of elements and white noise, A Soft Murmur is available for free in the App and Google Play stores, or you can just open it up in your browser. Give it a shot here:
Binaural beats are emerging as a form of sound therapy. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, binaural beats are a sound wave therapy that plays sound in the right and left ears at two slightly different frequencies.
You’ll perceive the combination of sounds as one uniform tone, which moves between the two ears, creating an unusual sense of movement.
Research has shown that binaural beats can help you tap into different energy. Whether that’s being more productive or creating a sense of calm.
This brings us to the Binaural app. One of the better designs, this app allows you to simply choose a frequency, and the app takes care of the rest.
Different frequencies correspond with different goals — 10.0 Hz, for example, promotes dreams and relaxation, while 5.0 Hz promotes meditation and sleep.
You can also add rain sounds to your beats, softening them for more noise-canceling benefits.
Weirdly, the App Store page mentions that you shouldn’t use binaural when you’re driving or operating heavy machinery. There are conflicting data out there, as to whether or not the sound waves come with any adverse effects.
The dual frequencies are thought to put listeners into a trance, so perhaps the worry is that you’ll fall asleep.
4. Simply Noise
Simply Noise is a free online noise generator that lets you pick a color for a specific type of “auditory zen.” Choose from white, pink or brown, depending on your preferences.
The website mentions that white best suits drowning out those pesky small talkers within earshot of your desk—but brown and pink will do the trick, too.
Blame it on the ubiquity of the Starbucks or the rise of the laptop—and later, remote work. In any case, there’s a sizable group out there that depends on the gentle murmur of coffee shop conversation punctuated by the sounds of steaming milk and pulling espresso shots to get things done.
Cofftivity brings the coffee shop to your phone or desktop and comes with your choice of six coffee shop sounds, including Morning Murmurs, University Undertones, and Lunchtime Lounge.
Whether you prefer to tap into your creative side via binaural sounds or by turning the workplace into your own personal coffee shop, there’s no denying the productivity power within these sound waves.
In the end, you might just settle on a Spotify list. But for anyone struggling to focus, white noise and its warm-hued counterparts stand to give you an escape from the sounds that keep us down.