Online noise generators compared

Find music distracting? Noise generators provide the focus of immersive audio with none of the lyrics.

Noisli’s soothing user interface

We all like a little audio accompaniment while we work. It can help concentration. However, if you’re doing something challenging lyrics can get a little itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini.

Oops! I mean distracting.

To get the focus audio provides, with none of the intrusiveness of lyrics, I like online noise generators. They help block out noise that may surround you while you work (humans, printers, etc) without confusing your brain.

Here are my thoughts on 4 online noise generators I’ve tried.

The Best Online Noise Generator: Noisli

Noisli is one of the leading players in the cut-throat world of noise generators. It’s so killer that it’s been ripped off by at least two other outfits, who I will not mention here.

A delightful user interface alongside soothing, softly alternating colours makes for a great noise package. And that’s before you get to the noise itself, which is top drawer.

You’ve got rain, lightning, wind (lol), trees rustling & birdsong, leaves, waves… Hell, it’s easier to find a noise they don’t have (chainsaws, for one)!

However, the pièce de résistance, noise-wise, is the fact that you can combine these sounds to create your own custom noise blends that work for you. Some of my faves include:

  • Rain + Train: Evokes mundane afternoon train journey from Swansea to Bristol Parkway (place an egg sandwich nearby for a genuine bank holiday multi-sensory experience)
  • Gently lapping water + Night crickets: Like unwittingly awaiting a murderer at a midwestern lakeside campsite
  • Coffee shop + storm: I only stopped in here to get away from the rain, I wonder if I can get away with using the toilet without buying a £3 flat white

You can vary the prominence of each track or, if you want to get straight into a particular zone, they have pre-mixed ‘Productivity’ and ‘Relax’ combos. There’s also a ‘Random’ setting, but I cannot vouch for its effectiveness and if you choose to try this I salute your bravery.

Summary:

  • Does it allow you to pretend humans don’t exist: Yes
  • Might you have a panic attack: Listening to the train noise for too long may feel like being trapped on an infinite journey. But maybe that’s your problem and not Noisli’s
  • Does it get a bit tedious/distracting after a while: Not really, but use too many water-based tracks and you may require more tinkles than usual

Overall noise grade: A

The second best online noise generator: White noise web player

I should point out that despite the name of this tool, if you feel ‘white noise’ lacks diversity you can also select other ‘colours’ of noise. (They haven’t made this up — colours of noise are an actual thing.)

I found blue and purple to be rather feeble, while grey evoked the sound I imagine you would hear if an atomic bomb exploded a hundred miles away. A panic attack I experienced shortly afterwards may/may not have been related.

White, meanwhile, was a bit tinny for me. All of which means that brown and pink are where it’s at.

Summary:

  • Can you pretend humans don’t exist: Yes
  • Might you have a panic attack: Stay away from grey and you should be fine
  • Does it get a bit tedious/distracting after a while: You’d think so, but I found I actually forgot I was listening to it

Overall noise grade: B+

Honourable mentions to these online noise generators:

Furry Friend

Stroking a cat can cause it to emit a sound known as a ‘purr’. For cat-fondlers, this sound tends to equal relaxation, peace and an inability to move from the couch. But how does this sound perform when you need to get productive?

Pretty well, actually. Now, it’s unclear whether Furry Friend comprises a recording of one (possibly sedated) cat over several hours, or a specific sequence of purrs which have then been looped — if it’s the latter I have to say I can’t spot the join, and applaud their editing prowess.

Regardless, this kitty in my ears helped me complete a proposal, a timesheet and a New Yorker article in short order, and I can’t give him/her higher praise than that. I won’t.

Summary:

  • Can you pretend humans don’t exist: Yes, and indeed you may imagine a massive cat is looming over you, having eaten all of the people in the world
  • Might you have a panic attack: If you’re allergic to cats this might not do you any favours. But again, maybe this panic thing is something you need to speak to someone about. It’s just a cat soundtrack, FFS
  • Does it get a bit tedious/distracting after a while: I kind of wanted to stroke the cat after a while and hear it do a little wake-up yelp

Overall noise grade: B

Hipstersound

Previous noise-a-nators have concentrated on removing humans from the equation, but Hipstersound actually adds them in. While it offers tracks like ‘cosy fireplace’ and ‘ocean lounge’, many of their tracks instead employ the hubbub of busy locations.

Some of these are pleasingly evocatively titled. ‘Buzz of a busy Texas cafe’, for example, or ‘Les charmants cafes de Paris’, which I believe (without checking Google Translate) means ‘Being condescended to by a handsome waiter in Paris’.

Now, you may think hubbub is hubbub, and that the sound of one cafe doesn’t differ from the sound of another. Well unthink that, because the Texas cafe contains twangs of Texan and the Paris cafe contains strains of French.

Vitally, neither location becomes overly intrusive; at no point in the Texan cafe do you explicitly hear anyone exclaim that the Government needs to be abolished and rebuilt from the ground up, for example.

Summary:

  • Can you pretend humans don’t exist: Only if you avoid the tracks stuffed with wall-to-wall humans
  • Might you have a panic attack: Do you get a bit twitchy in noisy, busy spaces? Need to have an exit in view at all times? Are you starting to overheat? Seriously: see a doctor. This can’t go on
  • Does it get a bit tedious/distracting after a while: Hearing snatches of conversation without ever quite making out what people are talking about is, potentially infuriating. And infuriation is quite distracting, I find

Overall noise grade: C- (the minus is for the name, which I think I did well not to dwell on until now)

Further online noise generator resources

  • Here’s a Product Hunt noise generator collection, offering some more options to check out.
  • MyNoise.net is where Furry Friend is based, and in truth I could have picked any one of dozens of noise options on the site. For example, listening to the ‘Eerie Channel’ might entail doing your work to sounds of footsteps, thunder, ominous ambient tones, mysterious whispering and barking wolves. (The panic attack potential is off the scale here.) Other MyNoise.net offerings I have yet to check out include the intriguingly-titled ‘Airport Terminal’, ‘Fish Tank (US)’, ‘Examination Time’, ‘What the Farm’, ‘Mr. Rhodes’, ‘Friends of Winter’… and more!
  • If that has piqued your interest in what appears to be a subculture of noisings, check out in addition the MyNoise subreddit. Example threads include ‘Guest Submission — Wizard’s Workshop’ and ‘A quiet night in the Old Port District (Dishonored)’… not to mention, er, this one:
Yeesh

Have I missed some glaringly obvious noise sources? Do you employ ‘organic’ noise generation strategies, like using your laptop on train tracks or working next to an operating vacuum cleaner? Any and all tips welcome.