Do you work from home but sometimes have trouble concentrating? There’s a neat trend of using “realistic” ambient noise, such as the bustle and chatter of a coffee shop, to provide a more natural and consistent background for working. In my personal experience, I’ve found that this “realistic” background noise works better than music or white noise for keeping focus while writing. I discovered this positive effect a few years ago when The Mac Observer‘s Jeff Gamet introduced me to Coffitivity, a website and app which offers the steady background sounds of a variety of coffee shops and cafés.
Coffitivity has been a great companion while writing for the past few years but, on a recent episode of the Windows Weekly podcast, host Paul Thurrott mentioned Hipster Sound, a service that is similar to but, in my opinion, improves upon the Coffitivity formula.
Like Coffitivity, Hipster Sound starts with a few different café backgrounds but, unlike Coffitivity, those backgrounds serve only as a base. From there, each virtual location offers several additional sounds that can be optionally mixed together to create the perfect ambient environment.
For example, the “Busy Café” background can be paired with a peaceful piano track (“Piano Bar”), the natural chirping of birds (“Open-Air Bistro”), calmly crashing waves (“Ocean Lounge”), the crackle of warm fire (“Cosy Fireplace”), or a steady rainfall on a metal roof (“Rainy Terrace”). You can enable these multiple “add-on” sounds and then control and mix the volume of each one independently.
I’ve found that the “Busy Café” base sound with “Open-Air Bistro” at a low volume and “Ocean Lounge” at medium volume creates the perfect aural sensation of a park-side outdoor café across the street from an ocean beach. It’s a great background for not only concentrating, but reducing some of the loneliness from sitting alone in a home office all day.
Hipster Sound is free but they offer a Premium Subscription for $7 per year which grants you access to additional base tracks and sounds. I may upgrade down the road in order to financially support the service, but I’m thus far completely satisfied with the sounds and options included in the free tier.
If you prefer a more “traditional” ambient sound, the makers of Hipster Sound also offer RainyScope, which pairs the sound of a steady thunderstorm with several seasonal-based backgrounds.
Both Coffitivity and Hipster Sound are great services if you’ve never tried them, and here’s a tip if you do. Coffitivity and Hipster Sound both sound great on desktop speakers and headphones but, for maximum effectiveness, try to use speakers placed quite a bit behind you when listening. For example, I have a set of bookshelf AirPlay speakers on the wall opposite my desk which I use for Coffitivity and Hipster Sound. When the sounds are produced from a little bit of distance behind you, the effect is quite astonishing, and if you close your eyes and relax, you’ll really start to feel like you’re in the café you’ve crafted.
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