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Show HN: Increase your productivity with ambient noise (coffitivity.com)
337 points by hangoverhammers on Mar 5, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 205 comments

If I'm correct, this is a type of Binaural recording, where they use a stereo microphone combination separated approximately at the distance of our ears while recording. I used to be a Binaural hobbyist sometime back and I recorded some (unprofessional) stuff along the way. I'd be glad to share it with the community:

1) 3d Sea - https://www.box.com/s/krtxx1tejeftffaegh4v

2) 3d Rain - https://www.box.com/s/feoczntidb4rkppz1fa7

3) 3d forest - https://www.box.com/s/35p4vpn4t6rdc2p8ok39 (This is a Binaural music track composed by me :D)

Please use headphones to listen to these tracks (and not your speakers, because binaural stuff sounds good only on headphones)


Here are two more professional recordings (not by me) that will (possibly) blow you away! :D

1) Amazing 3d Matchbox - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYdIidUIbAs

2) Virtual 3d Haircut - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnNEJfokpWU

Another professional one, more of a binaural play: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u163wC6mP2A

I think there is a lot of space for improvement left in binaural recordings and presentation. For me the suspention of disbelief required to hear a sound from my headphones as actually being remote is really hard. I still mainly hear it as being right at my ears, or maybe somewhere between my ears. Does anyone feel the same?

For a headphone with a particularly "live" sound that's not too awfully expensive, let me recommend the German Maestro GMP 8.300 D (http://www.amazon.com/German-Maestro-GMP-8-300-Professional/...) or 8.35 D (http://www.amazon.com/German-Maestro-GMP-8-35-Headphone/dp/B...). The 8.35 is a 35Ω model but otherwise identical -- it will play louder and is intended for use with portable players (but I just tried my 300Ω unit with an iPod and it gets pretty loud, just not into ear-damage territory).

When listening to well-recorded jazz with these 'phones, I find it easy to close my eyes and imagine I'm in the room with the musicians -- more so than with anything else I've found in the price range.

Beware of heavily marketed expensive headphones! I'm not saying the one you suggested is bad, but you gotta make sure you don't fall for the Psychological marketing that is heavily abused in the world of headphones, where you end up paying more for the brand than the headphone components themselves. For example, when they say "You will hear sounds you've never heard before" you will suddenly almost always feel that way, because of how psychology works. I can suggest you two excellent, professional, accurate, inexpensive, comfortable headphones that are better than even the most popular Sennhs:




Maybe my recordings are shitty mate, but in general they're REALLY good. There is another one called Holophony, which is a patented technique of recording binaural audio, (by some guy named Hugo) which is multitudes better than plain binaural recordings! I want you to check out if you feel the same way for these PROFESSIONALLY recorded holophonic recordings too:

1) Amazing 3d Matchbox - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYdIidUIbAs

2) Virtual 3d Haircut - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnNEJfokpWU

>Does anyone feel the same?

It varies from person to person, a lot of variables are involved:

Your age, your headphones' type, brand, closed/open, etc.

I think your recordings are great, comparing the stereo to mono version with VLC is really impressive. But it still sounds located close to my ears to me. Might be that my headphones are bad, or I have unusual ears? I would really love to have a truly immersive audio experience, but so far I haven't found it.

I'm given to understand that binaural recording works much better if played from actual speakers. Headphones end up placing the sound "in your head" too much. See this recent New Yorker article:


Headphones bypass our pinnae, which I suspect may be an important part of how we place sound (along with all the other important parts).

I've heard of lengths one can go to to get truly accurate 3D sound from headphones, but those involve taking an impression of your ear - I forget if it's the canal, or the pinna, or both - and then running some sort of further audio processing based on their topology.

Thanks, I think you can check out those Youtube links I've posted above, they are the best you will ever find, I guess..

Binaural beats are also kinda amazing - listen to a 400hz tone with left ear, a 407hz tone with the right ear, and your brain registeres a 7hz beat.

Here's an example: http://www.plyply.com/binaural/

Very interesting, but I find I get much the same effect with the right types of music (which are also more aesthetically pleasing, to me).

Also, recorded environmental sounds always have a certain degree of annoyance for me. There's nothing on earth I love more than the sound of rain or a crackling fire, but recorded versions just don't cut it (for me). This seems to fall into the same category.

Any recommendations on specific music that helps you (artist/album)? I find that Radiohead/In Rainbows is good for me

I can't recommend CAN highly enough. I've written code to their music since 2006 (with pauses when I couldn't stand it anymore). Their music ranges from kinda rock to kinda ambient but they usually have a solid beat which helps me concentrate and somehow makes me type faster since I try to align to it subconciously I guess. They also have minimal vocals, and if there're vocals, there're hard to understand since it is a gibberish of english, japanese, german, and made-up words. I recently created a light playlist of CAN tracks that work well for getting into the music: http://open.spotify.com/user/1218377486/playlist/5I4ZecZgYo9...

Apart from that, these two albums are also good for getting into it:

CAN - Tago Mago

CAN - Future Days

(Also, their music is from 1968 - 1973 but sounds very contemporary) Edit: Lines

They're an amazing group. Krautrock is a great genre and those albums are among the best. I love Kraftwerk as well.

Thanks for the link. I actually have that playing as well as the cafe background noise.

Kind of feels like I'm listening to music in a cafe! Working pretty well so far :)

Great idea to have the cafe noise in the background, too.

Thanks for introducing me to this!

In a similar style Fujiya & Miyagi is great.

Thanks for reminding me. I really liked "Lightbulbs" but haven't listened to it in quite some time.

These guys are great!

It depends on my mood. I find productive music to almost always lack vocals. I will list some artists and their respective albums, of the top of my head. (subgenres) Many of these artists have great discographies.


1. Glenn Underground - Atmosfear (house)

2. Aphex Twin - Ambient Works 85-92

3. Moby - 18

4. Space Dimension Controller - The Pathway To Tiraquon6 (soul-house)

5. Boards of Canada - Music has the right to Children

6. Ulrich Schnauss - Far Away Trains Passing By


1. Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians

2. Ólafur Arnalds - ...And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness

3. Max Richter - Memoryhouse

4. Nico Muhly - Speaks Volumes


1. Royksopp - Melody AM

2. The Album Leaf - In a Safe Place

3. Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun

4. Miles Davis - In a Silent Way

5. Benoit Pioulard - Lasted

"I find productive music to almost always lack vocals."

Languages you don't speak also work.

I'll echo this sentiment. Been listening to a lot of music from Mali and being really productive with it on. Highly recommend Khaira Arby, Ali Farka Touré and Amadou & Mariam.

LoL!! Try coding to Gangnam!!

Thanks for this list, I went through everything you listed and found a few new albums which fit my coding music tastes.

Along the the same lines as fumar's suggestions, I recommend:

1. Music from Braid (yes, the video game)

2. Black Swan (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

3. The Social Network Soundtrack

Inception OST is insane too. Live long, Hans Zimmer!

I think you would like everything from Bonobo. Warning: addictive - I often keep his new albums on repeat for many weeks.

I created a Spotify playlist with all of these albums (except Boards of Canada and Nico Muhly, not available):


Check out Tycho, which is available on Spotify. Similar to BoC and also excellent.

Thanks! I will use it myself. Spotify is lacking some great music, that includes BoC. But, in general, I find myself using it more than I thought.

Shameless plug. I released an EP recently. I will be honest only two tracks are, what I consider, finished work. Track 2 and 5. But, still learning... fantasmafigueroa.bandcamp.com

Would like to add the Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alvo Noto collaborations as well as the pole Red, Blue, Yellow albums to this!

We enforce this in the rules on our communal listening site, http://codingsoundtrack.org -- we like to think it's something to do with that part of our brains already being dedicated to understanding computer language.

I usually put 2 or 3 quiet electronic/trip-hop songs in my playlist and then I use the last.fm similar tracks to fill up the playlist, works quite well:


Got some of those in your list myself. More to include: 1) Eno - Music for Airports <br> 2) Kaen - Interworlds 3) Shulman - Random Thoughts. It's too engrossing the first few times. After that, pretty good for background music.

> I find productive music to almost always lack vocals.

This agrees with generally accepted psychological models. The mind is totally single-threaded in language processing/parsing (compared to incredible parallelism in spatial processing).

This is why I don't understand you can hear voices in the coffitivity vocals, you need music not to catch some (parts of) sentences here and there. I do like it so far though, on the note of music that is nice to code to try out Pretty Lights.

Thanks. I will try it out.

Instrumental/lack of vocals also helps me. I mostly listen to post rock - godspeed you!black emperor, pelican, mogwai.

Carbon Based Lifeforms

I'm surprised this hasn't been listed yet since it's usually a HN fav: http://musicforprogramming.net/ It's my go to at work whenever things get too noisy.

I greatly prefer ambient, and my favorite ambient artist these days is the late Lucette Bourdin: http://www.earthmantra.com/artist-detail.php?id=17

I'm also very fond of Steve Roach.

Not for everyone, but this is what I often program to http://www.di.fm/play/goapsy

Found in this reddit thread http://www.reddit.com/comments/6l9t9/best_background_music_f...

Balam Acab - Wander Wonder. Textural, ambient, sparse dub beats, sometimes dark, sometimes uplifting. Full album: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiH-O8eU1yg

Lifeformed - Fastfall. I made this! It's my first album, I made it for the indie game Dustforce. It's electronic, chill, fakebit (8-bit chiptune sounds with a modern sheen), with some beats. Full album: http://lifeformed.bandcamp.com/

Extremely anecdotal, but my silver bullets are jazz (modern soft jazz is great for this, but Kind of Blue [www.youtube.com/watch?v=hB669XXjnUg] has the advantage of being a landmark work AND incredibly relaxing) and really soft indie/folk (Blind Pilot, Iron and Wine, Noah & The Whale, that kind of thing.)

I love coding to jazz. "It can be played as background music, yet it amply rewards close listening" [0]. I collect records too, and jazz is one of my favorite genres to listen to on vinyl (although the distraction of the record flip can be a problem... sometimes I'll forget that it needs to be flipped at all, and I'll listen to the inner/lock groove for like 15 minutes before turning it off).

[0] http://www.allmusic.com/album/kind-of-blue-mw0000191710

I find myself going between Digitally Imported's "Epic Trance", "Vocal Trance", and "Hands up" stations [1], but as soon as I can find my Tron Legacy soundtrack I'll be listening to the "Sea of Simulation" track on infinite loop.

1: http://di.fm/

I like some ambient drum&bass for a similar sound, but a little more energy to keep me focused.

http://www.last.fm/listen/group/Atmospheric%2520Drum%2527n%2... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzoY_eEnnac http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ziP7iMCAok

I've been collecting albums in a playlist, sharing because I don't see any of them here: http://open.spotify.com/user/1216782004/playlist/7Me4IwfD6FV...

I've been adding much more quickly than curating, so probably lots of stuff that's not a good fit; at any rate, a few of my favorites so far:

1. Apparat - The Devil's Walk 2. Washed Out - Within and Without 3. Little People - Mickey Mouse Operation 4. Phutureprimitive - Kinetik

Wow, I listen to these 4 constantly. Really helps me get stuff done. Good choices!

I agree with a number of these, also want to add:

Brian Eno, any of the Ambient series

Either of the Fripp and Eno albums


Windy and Carl

I find a lot of ambient music without vocals is good (Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Nettless, etc...). Not too repetitive, but the sounds give a nice "mask" to the external world and lets you focus.

I also found an online radio station called "Moving Through Space" which provides some nice background ambiance when reading (esp. science fiction): http://www.live365.com/stations/atombob

If you have Spotify, I made a playlist that puts me into beast mode:


Note that Port St. Willow's album "Holiday" should come right after Tim Hecker's "Ravedeath, 1972".

Holiday isn't on Spotify currently, but it'll be back on in April. If you can find it, give it a listen. On its own, it's great as work music.

The fact that you are the only one on here mentioning Tim Hecker is appalling. If I wanna get stuff done, I throw on Tim Hecker's many albums.

Well, I really doubt this will work for you, but as a metalhead I find abstract and atmospheric death or black metal works quite well for me (Lately I've been on an Agalloch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4ih3JVrRPE) kick).

Also I find that medium-intensity electronica will put me in the zone - Deadmau5, Justice, etc.

Relax Daily. Good for coding, reading and sleeping. http://relaxdaily.net/relaxation-music-instrumentals/

Here's a mix of most of his previous works. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qycqF1CWcXg

My favorite so far is Phillip Glass's soundtrack to Kundun. Really interesting but not so much that it's distracting.

Anything from Explosions In The Sky. They're awesome and without vocals. Most of their music has made it to YouTube.

LCD Soundsystem - 45:33. I can always get a good flow on with a little caffeine. Works just as well for running.

I've gotten much more done with this one than anything else: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfPHEUZbPnw

An hour long of unchanging audio sort of fades into the background so you are unaware of it.

The best music for me when trying to be productive is music that I least pay attention to and concentrate on enjoying. If the music is too interesting then I get distracted. So for me: techno.

Nine Inch Nails presents Ghosts I - IV: http://ghosts.nin.com/main/home

I for one don't mind the ambient noise approach. But when I need to get into a coding groove, I chuck on Soma FM - Groove Salad :P

I'd strongly recommend any of Cafe del Mar's music 2000's-era music. It's very mellow and ambient, and there's a lot of it.

I always use the soundtrack of the TV show greys anatomy. the series is meh but the music ils always good and diversified

Ambient and drone work well for me. Brian Eno's Thursday Afternoon and Soma.fm's Dronezone stream are favourites.

I've been listening to the Dave Brubeck Pandora station lately, the music goes well with anything.

well, shameless self promotion aside, programming was specifically what I composed my own music for: https://soundcloud.com/shawndumas/likes

DJ Shadow, Blockhead, Bonobo

I've been listening a lot of Hans Zimmer's music lately.

My favourites for coding are:

Stephan Micus

John Surman


[EDIT: tried to put artist names in different lines ]

Anything by Queen :)

di.fm is great: try the progressive channel.

Just so every one knows, the guy that made this started learning to code from nothing about a month ago. Great job, man. I'm impressed that you conceived of, built, and then launched something in your first month.

Did I miss something? Where's the code? Isn't this just a sound file player embedded in a webpage?

justin didnt understand html or css a month ago

Aha. Well, congratulations to him. Not being snarky, I just don't consider HTML or CSS 'code' (I always considered 'code' to be executable).

Gotta start somewhere :)

and you're right! snakiness, forgiven

... Seriously? Link to bio? I'm really impressed. This is why I love coding. Someone can dive in, create something out of nothing, in virtually no time.

I personally can't work with that kind of noise. I prefer classical music or something like that. But, I know people do thrive in this kind of environment. Really neat idea. Surely the creator had a background in UI/UX design??

well the UI/UX was done by another friend of mine who has a background in interior design. This is also HER first project.

i think they'll be ok with me posting their twitters..

@nicoleehorton - design @jkauszler - Coding

I dig. Congrats to them both. Excellent small project.

Well done all around!

Bad ass to that guy - must be a VCU guy or something

"Research shows it's pretty hard to be creative in a quiet space."

I'm sure that research is accurate for some people, but it's definitely not accurate for me. Quiet, aside from any noise I make myself, is the only way I can be truly productive.

Ditto, although it depends entirely on my mood, environment and what I'm trying to do.

But for working in an open office that fluctuates from high activity to periods where you can hear a pin drop, I'm finding this type of thing to be incredibly focussing when trying to code. For actually planning that code (the creative part), I tend to find as quiet an environment as possible - people are disruptive to intense thought.

I make gross noises, which is exactly why I like background noise.

It's alright but there's way too much dish hitting. The talking is good but the kitchen cleaning staff is not only distracting but angering.

Perhaps a better version would have independent sound tracks of each ambient noise, so that you could adjust each individual part.

Or, at least different "flavors". I'd like to try "Busy Airport Terminal" and "Mall Scene".

For working parents, maybe a recording of your kids playing/fighting in the background. :)

Busy Airports reminds me of Brian Eno's Music for Airports.


Brian Eno + "3d Rain" link above = Blade Runner. Now I want to nap.

Like http://www.ambient-mixer.com/ ? I've long used that website to give some atmosphere to my tabletop RPG sessions.

Yeah, I don't get it. It sounds like a noisy restaurant. clang bash bang

also, people with annoying laughs :/

My brain must be wired differently. I listened to that for about three minutes before I wanted to pull my hair out. The only ambient sound I've ever been productive listening to is rain.

I've tried to work in coffee shops before. Every few minutes I realize I've been listening to my neighbor's conversation and not doing work. I really dislike working in noisy places.

Not just you, this made me want to scream and throw something after a few minutes too. I program best listening to music I've heard a million times before, preferably something a little bit technical, like progressive rock or metal. It has to be familiar enough that my brain can anticipate every sound that's coming and not be surprised by anything, yet complex enough to give the idle parts of my brain that are prone to distraction something to 'chew' on, so I'm not off to HN every time the actual problem solving part of my brain gets stuck for 30 seconds. I tend to listen to the same album or two on repeat for a few weeks until I get sick of it, then switch to a different album or two.

Music is even worse for me than chatter. I think it's because I'm a musician, I can't help but concentrate on it.

One other thing I've noticed about myself in this regard is that annoying noise irrationally enrages me when I'm trying to concentrate. For example when I'm working in my cube and a manager or maintenance guy walks by whistling, I really want to scream at them. Even if it's only for a few seconds. I ignore the feeling because I know it's totally irrational, it goes away and I don't actually feel any ill will towards people.

I've heard others talking about this kind of thing before so I'm pretty sure it's not just me. It's annoying because I'd like to be able to work around noise better, and I don't like being angry.

Rain sounds are like lullabies to me. I love them, but can't listen to them for background music. =/

http://somafm.com/ Old site, still amazing broadcasts direct to VLC.

Real people , not an algorithm "learning" what you like. Don't forget to donate:)

They have some great stations.

I would recommend http://www.zenradio.fm too. It features a mix of light instrumentals and ambient music.

MP3 : http://flux1.zenradio.fr:8800

OGG: http://flux2.zenradio.fr:8000

Interesting. I honestly would never have thought this type of erratic ambient noise would be a productivity boon.

I like to get in the zone, which is trickier when having to worry about the world around me. I don't consider myself paranoid, but I guess I subconsciously maintain spatial awareness when out in public.

Maybe I'm just not well acclimated to working in public spaces, but I find a lot of the background activity distracting (like the dishes, for instance).

Silly idea, backed by "research" from the world of business-studies pseudo-academia. Do you trust the results of a paper that starts with the sentence "Creativity is ubiquitous in the realm of consumption"?


It's not a silly idea as it actually works, and works quite well, for some people.

I'm one of those people. While this particular site's ambient noise doesn't suit me (too many sharp, distracting sounds) there are many sounds that do help. I typically find I get far more done and am able to focus better when i have my headphones on playing music that has few words.

Many others are the same way. While the paper you link to might not be 'research' (don't know, not paying the $14 to read it) it's not a silly idea by any means.

Didn't mean that noise/music doesn't help some people work. But I do contend that creating a web page with the sole purpose of playing noises that sound like a cafe, is silly.

http://www.rainymood.com is my background noise of choice.

Uh, didnt that site have a volume slider at one point? And shouldn't OP's have one in Firefox?

This is getting quite annoying.

rain makes me feel drowzy

Goes very nicely with the fragrance of dark coffee [1]

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMnrl0tmd3k

Nice track. I do enjoy some jazz/chillout stuff while working. I really like Ryo Fukui's Early Summer [1]. But, one can never go wrong with Miles Davis' In Silent Way [2]. I am also a big fan of electronic ambient stuff like Liumin [3].

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaVVdkVbYfA [2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUOGehr-4CA [3] https://soundcloud.com/modernlove/sets/deepchord-presents-ec...

Well played. This is awesome. I usually throw on some Explosions in the Sky or This Will Destroy You, but this track is feeling good right now.

I like "Star Trek TNG Ambient Engine Noise (Idling for 24 hrs)" for drowning out everything else: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPoqNeR3_UA

I'm currently running coffitivity and the idling engine noise at the same time. Feels like I'm in the cafeteria aboard the enterprise.

I'm trying this out now and am really enjoying it. I work at home and usually just have my noise canceling headphones on with no music playing, so having the ambient coffee shop sounds plus music is a nice change. So far, I'm still able to concentrate on my work. Not sure if I'm being more productive or not, but it is a nice change. I just need a coffee to complete the illusion.

The loud dish clanks don't really bother me yet. (I am using my beloved Bose Q15 headphones, listening to KCRW Eclectic 24 + the ambient soundtrack both volume levels are very low).

Man, this reminds me of a relatively unknown movie 'pushpak' - a silent Indian movie. The lead actor's house would be next to a movie theater but he will be forced to move out. He moves to a quieter place but can't sleep in the quiet zone. So he goes back, records all that movie theater noise and manages to get a good night's sleep listening to that recorded noise :).

I've got to say that as skeptical as I was--noisy environments tend to annoy me--coffitivity is working very well for me.

Coffitivity plus Soma.FM's Groove Salad station (Soma.FM is great in general) has made me bang out more work in the last hour or so than in the several hours before it.

It could be the placebo effect, but so far, I'm loving it! Thank you!

Soma.fm is my go to for internet radio. I personally find Mission Control the perfect thing to relax my mind and just zone out. For the uninitiated, it's a blend of down tempo atmospheric ambience and real recordings of astronauts talking to mission control.

This is very similar to http://raining.fm which I'm a big fan of. Rainfall seems to be a nice approximation to pure white noise while having enough randomness to not be noisy.

The pomodoro style timer is also very handy.

http://soundtracker.com/ is what I use for this. He makes binaural nature recordings. They are as effective as white noise at blocking out my surroundings, but because of the feeling of space and the variety of sound, I don't get tired of listening to them the way I do listening to noise.

Here's an article on his search for quiet places and the movement to preserve them. http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/3627

from the actual paper (linked at the bottom of the coffitivity post):

"A total of 188 ideas were generated, for an average of 4.48 (SD = 2.09) ideas per person. The noise level did not affect the number of solutions generated"

"ideas generated by participants in the moderate- (vs. low-) noise condition were rated as more original (M = 3.87 vs. 3.66; F(1, 40) = 4.76, p < .05)."

Ratings were on a 7-point scale (1 = not at all, 7 = very much)... so ... a difference in originality of (3.87-3.66)/7 = 3% (i.e. not actually particularly significant (in the usual use of the word) even though the 3% difference was statistically reliable)

"... a significant effect of noise on this appropriateness index, such that ideas generated by respondents in the moderate-noise (vs. low-noise) condition were rated as more appropriate (M = 4.48 vs. 4.20; F(1, 40) = 5.34, p < .05)."

again, (4.48-4.20)/7 = 4% difference... not exactly impressive, although apparently it was statistically reliable

It always pains me to see scientific research reported in the media in such a way as to inflate the significance of the work ("significance" used here in the layperson sense of the word, not the statistical sense of the word).

PS the statistical significance was only reported as "p < .05", which means there is a 1 in 20 chance of getting a difference that large or larger due to random sampling alone (i.e. in the absence of an actual effect).

This XKCD cartoon is worth a look: http://www.xkcd.com/882/

I favour trance (e.g. Armin van Buuren). They usually have dreamy female vocals & the electronic feel makes all the notes sound the same, so it doesn't distract (OCD style). The mixes are often 1hr+ long so need to worry about track selection. I find it offers a good mix between not boring & easy to tune out (flow).


Ana Criado & Omnia No One Home https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOSgtpbnCeI

These are great. I also like listening to Tiesto's Club Life -- both his and Armin Van Buuren are actually BBC radio shows recorded into podcasts.

Anyone ever heard of the Hawthorne Effect? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawthorne_effect

I see lots of people talking about it not working for them. I find the idea Genius! I haven't got anything done today, I'm going to start now with your product + the pomodoro technique and see if I can get things done.

EDIT : Okay I really can't focus while having this on the background. But I'm sure it's because I'm doing math. A task that would require less focus would be better with that kind of background. I need silence right now.

For arbitrary ambient sounds, http://www.ambient-mixer.com/ is great. You can create your own mixes or just listen to premade ones. And you can individually adjust each 'effect' on mix board: http://weather.ambient-mixer.com/light-thunderstorm

Very nice idea! This is strangely compelling and I almost forgot it to the background despite having radio on... :-)

For those moody evenings and nights a nice choice is "You are listening to" It combines ambient tracks from Soundcloud and police/fire department/etc. radios: http://youarelistening.to/

Does anyone else's brain get distracted trying to pick out conversation from the ambience? Perhaps it's an ADHD thing.

Yeah, I prefer not hear this kind of thing. I'm not that impressed with the linked paper, which is from a consumer research journal and aims to identify environments that are likely to lead to higher purchasing levels.

I ran into a similar thing today, focus@will:


More than specific patterns they offer, I found interesting that they they claim unfamiliar music is better for productivity:

"And the single most important factor to consider when choosing a genre is what kind of music you usually listen to for fun and entertainment when you are not trying to be productive. And then, counter-intuitively, it's best to select the very opposite kind of music when using focus@will. Why? Because your brain gets pleasure, releasing dopamine when it hears music you like and listen to a lot, and music that is associated with good times or strong memories of any kind will reduce the focus enhancing effects when used as a productivity tool."

Unfortunately, I can't try them out because I'm not in the US.

Well, I know it's anecdotal, but this is not how it works for me. Music I enjoy, with lyrics, works pretty well.


I'm trying them out right now. Seems interesting.

Some interesting music/audio for coding: 1. ambient sounds of star trek lcars (http://www.lcarscom.net/) and the repetitive beeping noise. 2. classic video game music on NES, like Super Mario Bros., Zelda 3. ASMR (search youtube) works wonder for those are affected by it. It puts the listener into a super-relaxed state, which can only be described as tingling or extreme pleasure for the brain. 4. Office Sound Effects (http://www.amazon.com/Offices-Sound-Effects/dp/B008HKONNA)

For me, I find long periods of time spent working in front of a screen can lead to anxiety. When I start getting distracted in many directions the feeling starts to come on. Listening to this ambient noise for the past half hour has calmed down that anxious feeling and made me feel more focused.

I am however used to spending lots of time working in public spaces in the past, and have spent the past six months in a more isolated work environment. (On an off the grid property 50m up the side of a volcano that you need to take a boat to access)

Maybe this is just putting me back in my comfort zone.

I'm using it on soft combined with music, and I'm into it! Helping me out.

This doesn't work on me. Even with the volume down low, I couldn't help trying to listen to the coffee shop conversations the instant it started playing. All the voices were somewhere in front of me in space, and after a few seconds I felt pretty overwhelmed. Completely lost my ability to focus on anything else, unfortunately.

This could be due to the fact I get sensory overload easily (and I'm somewhere on the broad autism phenotype). It was a jarring experience.

Plus the coffee shops I frequent are usually quieter than that - that sounded more like a busy canteen than a coffee shop to me! Needed less echo, more muffling, less voices, and some ambient background coffeeshop music, in my humble opinion of small-coffee-shop patron-hipster :)

If I want to focus on stuff, often I have to completely block out people talking and ambient noise and stick music on. The best kind of music is lyricless (or at least, no coherent words - Sigur Røs' english-icelandic gibberish mix is a good example of that), usually long movements, lots of prolonged chords and repetitive segments and a steady rhythm. That stuff helps with my sequencing ability and I find I flit between tasks less.

I've also tried white noise / "binaural beats" (those audio signals that use gentle modulation to supposedly alter your brainwaves), but those are pretty overwhelming too.

I do wonder if it would have a better on me had they used binaural recording (two microphones where the ears would be on a fake head, plus some algorithms to create a 3-dimensional sense of space from the signals) - which to me sounds more natural.

I can't read the whole paper on this, but I'm wondering if they took account of the spectrum of different neurotypes when studying this "coffee shop creativity" effect?

Also, since I've seen other people doing it, here's the artists/bands I listen to like 24/7 when in work to help me concentrate: Godspeed You! Black Emperor (favourite <3), Set Fire To Flames, Explosions In The Sky, Lovett's "Ghost of Old Highways" album, Sigur Røs, Ludovico Einaudi, Philip Glass, Massive Attack, Portishead, Liquid Stranger, Radiohead, DJ Shadow, RJD2, Kid Koala, Hybrid, Deadmau5, Hans Zimmer soundtracks, Nine Inch Nails' "Ghosts I-IV", 65daysofstatic (some stuff anyway, some of their stuff is crazy loud and overwhelming)

I just work in a public place like a college cafeteria and I fall in love 100 times in a day watching beautiful women. That's even more disturbing than the noise. I still get work done.

This was pretty good for getting work done. The real benefit came when my homemade lunch tasted like it was made in a cafe and cost me like $13.27 before tip. I bussed my dishes.

(edit: I was confused, it's not restricted. Sorry for the noise)

"not yet available outside the US" .. fair enough, and kudos for saying up front. How about adding a way of telling me when it is available?

Specifically, that is. I'm not going to subscribe to your normal feed because enthusiastic messages about a service which I can't get yet are just irritating. Indeed, the better they sound, the more likely I am to search for alternatives! This goes for anyone else who is rolling a service out slowly..

Is this the comment intended to be on this thread? I just talked to the guys that made this and they arent aware of any location restrictions

I think they are probably referring to http://focusatwill.com/beta mentioned elsewhere in the comments.

Yes, that is what I was looking at.

No problems here in The Netherlands.

Works for me in UK.

I listen to "binaural beats for a more creative mind" or "binaural beats for concentration and alertness" on spotify while working sometimes. I'm not convinced on the actual science behind binaural beats' affect on the brain, but it very much helps my productivity. At the least it drowns out ambient sound and doesn't distract me with familiar music or lyrics.


Explosions in the Sky is fantastic for getting things done. I've written some of my best code to their music.

http://open.spotify.com/track/5uWzSBJKqdSKJ3uMrYYUIT is one of my favorite songs by them.

The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place is my favorite album from them. http://open.spotify.com/album/1JU4XTyTzADBQE1KpM0Wtx

The link to the research paper at the bottom is the bomb, because no matter what it says I should get an hour or two of placebo filled awesomeness from this.

Did nobody else notice it's a link to JSTOR? Aren't they evil or something?

I've always enjoyed the whitenoise of HVAC systems. It was always pleasant in college to find empty classrooms after-hours, with just the whirr of the HVAC.

You want a Marpac 980 white noise maker. It's a little fan in a box with tone adjustments (no speaker involved). Amazing white noise.

Me too. I found this pack of high-quality recordings of various fans and blowers:


I loop my favorite samples which makes for a nice background.

Spice up your noise a bit:


beautiful! but how does it work? can we look at the source without decompilation?

No unfortunately not. Maybe I'll put it on my GitHub soon. I was thinking maybe I'd find some way to make money on this, so I haven't released the source yet.

As to how it works, internally there's a modular data processing pipeline. I wrote a number of modules that serve a specific purpose (sine wave, square, etc, and reverb, gain, etc). They all get connected together in a driver class. Each driver makes heavy use of random numbers. Those in turn decide the notes played and durations. The durations are extremely short, leading to a granular synthesis of sorts. The notes are chosen from classes I structured around standard chord theory and classical modes.

I have an unreleased version that processes mic input, but it's not ready for prime time yet.

Edit: I decided to release it, probably under AGPL license. Keep an eye on this page: https://github.com/hollingsworthd/ApplPi

Interesting. I find I get a ton done with ear plugs but it might be due to some traffic noise right outside my window.

I've also tried white noise which works pretty well.

I'll give this a go, but I'm not sure any music will work, the music itself can't be too enjoyable or engaging or it can become a distraction.

Somafm.com is a great station for this kind of music that you can leave running in the background where the music is good, reasonably unfamiliar,etc.

I'm listening to Souxsie and The Banshees right now while I'm trying to work, I can tell you it is not helping my concentration. Though it is very cool.

I created a playlist with soundtracks from indie games. Initially it was created as background music for playing StarCraft II, but I use it as background music when working instead.

It includes soundtracks from Bastion, Machinarum, Braid, Dustforce, Dustforce, Fittest, and Limbo.


Focus@Will is a startup doing music to boost productivity: https://www.focusatwill.com/

Lifehacker did a related post abiut choosing music for focus: http://lifehacker.com/5987019/choose-unfamiliar-work-music-f...

(The founder's a friend)

Have to say I was skeptical, but after about 20 minutes of this, I think I'm sold. I do think this would be nice as a downloadable soundtrack/app though but the concept works very very well in an open plan office.

Not sure where this urge for cake is coming from and I swear if you listen closely enough, once in a while, you can hear a sheep bleating just briefly.

I know people want their posts to be on HN front page, but rigging the upvotes is not the right way. (users RamzyIS,acecallwood)

acecallwood worked on this with justin, and ramzyIS is their friend. no rigging involved!

My bad. Anyway, site has nice UI.

I use ambiance (http://ambianceapp.com/iphone) a lot when working, you can record your own sounds or download lots of free ones. I find airplane noise quite good, or low frequency humming.

I think half the effect comes from people thinking twice about bothering you if you have earphones in.

What I like to listen while coding:

Aes Dana - Memory Shell

Aes Dana - Season 5

Black Sands - Bonobo

Carbon Based Lifeforms - Interloper

I also find jazz and post-rock pretty good for ambient noise

Bonobo is fantastic. Based on what you've listed, I think you'd enjoy Emancipator as well.

If I'm having trouble concentrating I listen to some Brandt Brauer Frick.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR8KGam3m9Q (ignoring the intro)

Bugfixing is fun with Mozarts Requiem - Dies Irae :) It feels like saving the world with every commit :D

I heard someone I know used white noise, so trying this one I found


A bit crazy they want to charge nine quid for it, but can just play it in the web player

I like this, it would be even cooler if there were a way to scale the density of the conversation/background noise. As it is, for me, this sounds a bit too cluttered and makes me feel a bit anxious, besides that, it's pretty cool, and a great idea.

I didn't read the whole research, but a quick glance at it told me that moderate ambient noise boosts creativity. The research doesn't mention productivity, though.

EDIT: And neither does your website, I see now. Why did you use it in the HN title?

This is excellent! Well done. :)

I'd consider making it more procedural, to slowly mix and match different sources (akin to ambient-mixer) for a less static experience (that, by side effect, would also happen to be infinitely long).

Well, let's give it a try, although I prefer Dave Matthews Band discography (and my wife likes programming with Bach, Beethoven or other soundtracks).

But that's a good idea, this should work better on very almost-dead quiet spaces.

(If you use iTunes)

Along the same lines, I'm a fan of this https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/people-sound-effects-2/id5... Track 21.

I would rather go to my favorite coffee shop. Comes with great coffee too! Lately, this has been my routine a few times a week in the afternoon. The change of environment has been quite effective.

most of the time when i'm programming from my home office, i'm not listening to any music.

but since i'm working in an office, with 10 other people most of the time we listen to music over some speakers.

when its rock or metal i'm not very productive - but when listen to some good chillstep tracks with the right volume i notice for my self i get more shit done.

so i totally agree, right sounds/music in the correct volume and everything is fine.

p.s.: people talking around me distrect me totally, because my scumbag brain want to listen all the time...so i do not prefer coffee shops

Thanks... its a great pairing with Songza. Particularly, http://songza.com/listen/jazz-for-reading-songza/

I can't tell, is it the same track over and over again or a new one?

By the way, I absolutely love this. I'm 4x more productive in coffee shops compared to everywhere else and I never knew why.

Some days I get more done on the 30 min train ride home and then I do all afternoon at the office I also didn't know why.

Love this!

As getting the precise volume is so critical, it would be nice if the volume-slider on the widget were wider, making it easier to find the right balance.

I always listen to this on loop in itunes: http://www.sonicstudios.com/pptwaves.mp3

It works for me.

Chrome on Windows 7, clicking play button does absolutely nothing.

EDIT: started working after like a minute of sitting. Maybe it had to wait to download the audio file?

You right. It works!

I mixed it with some Claude Debussy radio on Spotify.

I like EDM (Avicii station is a favorite).

I also sometimes like the sound of rain, so picked up a mp3 for a buck off Amazon ('The Sound of Summer Rain').

I personally find ambient noise to be distracting, but I have to say I love the simplicity and cleverness of this idea. Well done!

I dunno if anyone recommended this or not, but these days i'm into "Two Steps From Hell", especially their album "Invincible"

Well, that women at left are so talkative.

If this helped me focus then my colleagues talking would also make me focus - that is not the case though..

After 3 minutes I had to close it. Maybe if I wasn't aware that this is synthetic I would benefit from it.

For the love of coffee.. this is money!

Great, but the one sample of the woman going "I shouldn't!" over and over is pretty distracting.

I am not seeing a volume slider on Firefox 19 Stable, OS X. Is this something that can be added?

Really, really useful. Thank you!

I like, save for the bits around 4-4:30 where spoken word is too clear and disturbing.

Anyone else hear an occasional goat bleating in the background of that cafe?

Exactly what I was thinking to :D You can hear it clear on 4:15

There are some strange noises in that soundtrack...

Doesn't work for me, I find it highly distracting.

This works very well for me. Thank you!

man, are you just kidding? is this a joke project?

this "ambient noise" is the reason why I have open offices.

I kill my ears day by day with loud music to stop hearing this shit.

it's down. :( what is it? just drowning out distracting sounds or magic productivity noise?

I liked this webservice! :)


* dons evil hat * How much would you charge to insert subliminal adverts?


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