We at MakeUseOf.com love our sounds. We have a huge archive of posts on sound and music (pun intended), and just a few on the topic we are going to cover today – ambient sounds and binaural beats. The jury is pretty much divided on these and not for lack of research.
Binaural tones were discovered in the mid-nineteenth century and since then they have been a part of acoustic sciences. The beats themselves are a very real phenomena, but their so called effects on enhancing human performance and psychedelic effects have been met with skepticism.
Personally for me, they are just meditative tools. Just like Beethoven’s symphonies or a flute playing in the background. It could be a curiosity for you, or a serious look at the benefits of binaural tones…either way a fresh new iOS app rather aptly named as AtmoSpheres ($1.99) is interesting in the way it allows us to create our own beats from pre-recorded ambient sound files.
AtmoSpheres is a 162 MB download and is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later.
Relaxing with AtmoSpheres
AtmoSpheres is a multi-track sound mixer that enables you to bring two or more sound together and create interesting mixes out of them. AtmoSpheres has a compilation of 72 highest quality ambient sounds including 5 binaural beats. It is meant to be an easy-to-use sleep-aid, relaxation, and meditation tool that you can carry around with you in an iPhone or iPod Touch.
The term “multi-track sound mixer” probably made you pause and say to yourself – Oh! This is not for me.
Take your fingers off that pause because AtmoSpheres doesn’t have anything to do with banks of complicated sliders and knobs. It has to do with just a few simple spheres. Though the first screen is clear and empty.
Finger On The Ball
Mixing two or more ambient sounds to create a fresh new one that sounds pleasing to the ears is usually the stuff of sound engineers. AtmoSpheres puts it all in your pocket with its simple and intuitive design. Put on your headphones and launch the app.
The basic interface has numerous sounds arranged in different sound categories. On the right, there is a large purple sphere which is the master volume control. You drag it up and down to increase and decrease the volume. The bottom is occupied by four Sound Select tabs where each represents a sound you select from the compilation in order to mix them around. You can select two, three, or four…or even none at all.
Click on a Sound Select tab – Pick a sound from the categories, go with your ear and click on the tab again to finalize your selection. Each sound you select is represented as a colored sphere. These spheres rotate when the sound is playing and you can pause them individually with a touch. A long press gives you the option to delete them altogether.
To create the right ambience with the sound spheres, you need to place the spheres at different spots. Just move them around and catch the changes with your ear. By placing them at different spots on the screen, you are subtly changing their frequency and the differential effect they have on your ears. Here, I liked experimenting with all the natural sounds like ocean waves, stream, or lake. I can also save the right mix as a preset for one-touch playback when I feel like it later.
Meditate With a Timer or Go to Sleep With a Fade Out
Setting the timer and enabling the 30-second fade out effect is a nice touch if you plan to plug the earphones and meditate or go to sleep. For the latter, I would recommend putting the iPhone or iPod Touch on a dock.
The Simple Touch
Quite literally. Playing with the 72 sound files is all the “hard work” here. Mixing the sounds with the spheres is child’s play. The quality of the sound files are top-notch (the developer says he used up to five microphones for simulating 3-D sound). Personal preferences might find some sound loops to be on the harsher side. The files keep playing in a continuous loop and you can even close the app while the sounds play, if you want to use some other app in the meantime.
AtmoSpheres is a nice and elegant app that could be a handy aid if you meditate regularly. You can try it as a sleep-aid and see if it works for you.
Create your own ambience, get out of the trance, and come back to tell us if you found the sound of AtmoSpheres for $1.99 on the App Store pleasant enough to your ears.
Also give an ear to these previous posts: