9 Ways to Play Ambient Sounds on Mac for Focus and Productivity

Listening To Ambient Sounds While Working On A Mac

With the rise of remote work and the constant influx of digital distractions we deal with daily, finding focus and enhancing productivity has become more critical than ever. One proven way to boost focus and productivity is through ambient sounds, intended to help drown out distractions and allow your mind to engage more deeply with the task at hand. Let’s explore the best solutions for playing ambient sounds on your Mac!

1. Background Sounds

Price: Free (included in macOS)

You may not realize it, but your operating system can play ambient sounds to help you focus and be more productive. The feature is called “Background Sounds,” and is found in the “Audio” section of the macOS Ventura “Accessibility” menu.

With Background Sounds, you can listen to randomly generated noise, the sound of ocean waves, gentle rain, or a calming stream. The only customization option available is a volume slider, but we don’t see the fact that Apple kept the feature simple as a downside.

To enable Background Sounds in macOS, you need to:

  1. Launch the “System Settings” app.
  2. Switch to the “Accessibility” tab.
  3. Navigate to the “Audio” category under Hearing.
  4. Enable the toggle next to “Background sounds.”
  5. Optionally, click the “Choose … ” button and select your favorite sound.
Background Sounds

Pros

  • Built-in macOS feature
  • Completely free and unlimited
  • Light on system resources

Cons

  • Tucked deep inside System Settings
  • Requires macOS Ventura or later

Tip: don’t see the option to activate background sounds in the System Settings app? You may need to update to macOS Ventura first.

2. Endel

Price: $14.99/month or $89.99/year

With thousands of raving reviews across different app stores, Endel is likely the most popular app for playing ambient sounds worldwide and is also one of the most expensive. Despite its high price tag, users flock to Endel for its unparalleled sound quality, scientifically-backed algorithms, and plentiful customization options.

According to its developers, Endel’s patented core technology, Endel Pacific, adapts in real-time to personal inputs, such as location, weather, and heart rate. By aligning with the user’s biological clock and nature’s organic rhythms and cycles, Endel complements these natural patterns to improve overall well-being throughout the day and night.

Endel

Pros

  • Sleek user interface
  • Backed by science
  • Personalized and customizable

Cons

  • Expensive subscription-based pricing

3. Noizio

Price: $9.99 (Free with Setapp subscription)

Noizio is an ambient sound equalizer app with over 40 enchanting ambient sounds. Easily blend the sounds to create the perfect mix to help you concentrate on work, increase productivity, set the mood for a romantic evening, or be lulled into a peaceful slumber.

An Internet connection is needed to use Noizio, and the app’s autopause timer and alarm functions add an extra layer of practicality. If you’re a Setapp subscriber, you can try Noizio right now without spending more. Alternatively, you can buy the app from the App Store for $9.99.

Noizio

Pros

  • Affordable one-time purchase
  • Also available on Setapp
  • More than 40 ambient sounds

Cons

  • Has not been updated in over two years

4. Focus@Will

Price: $7.49/month or $52.49/year

Focus@Will is a unique ambient sound app created by platinum-selling music producers and backed by world-class neuroscientists. With thousands of hours of exclusive tracks and over 2 million subscribers, the app is designed to help users concentrate and retain information more effectively.

Focus@Will’s music and audio are designed to get users into a focused state within 20 minutes of listening and maintain that focus for up to 200-minute sessions. The audio is intended to blend into the background and become unnoticeable after the brain habituates.

Focusatwill

Pros

  • Designed with the help of neuroscientists
  • Over 2 million subscribers
  • Many unique tracks to listen to

Cons

  • Not on the App Store

5. Elpy

Price: Free

Elpy is an ambient sound app that allows users to mix up to three ambient sounds and individually adjust their volumes to create personalized atmospheres. With an intuitive interface, Elpy caters to those who want to craft their own unique soundscapes, whether for work, meditation, or relaxation.

The app’s ability to save and load custom ambient sets ensures users can easily access their favorite soundscapes, while built-in presets provide inspiration right out of the box. Best of all, Elpy doesn’t cost a thing, as it’s supported entirely by donations.

Elpy

Pros

  • Completely free
  • Customizable sound mixing
  • Built-in timer

Cons

  • Last updated three years ago

Tip: if you’re experiencing any issues with sound on your Mac, check out our guide on how to fix the sound not working on a Mac.

6. NoiseBox

Price: Free

NoiseBox is a unique background noise generator designed to help users concentrate, right within their terminal. This open-source application allows you to customize the audio mix by editing a configuration file.

To run NoiseBox on your Mac, install Python 3.6+, then download the app from GitHub and launch it in your terminal emulator of choice using the python noisebox.py command.

Noisebox

Pros

  • Free and open source
  • Light on system resources
  • Customization

Cons

  • Doesn’t have a graphical user interface

Good to know: is your Mac failing to output sound properly? It could be an input/output configuration issue. Discover how to customize sound settings on your Mac.

7. Dark Noise

Price: $2.99/month, $19.99/year or $49.99/lifetime license

Dark Noise offers 50 built-in sounds and the ability to create custom mixes, providing an endless variety of soundscapes to choose from. With its innovative adaptive toolbar, users can easily access Dark Noise controls through a Mini Player that shrinks the window for quick and convenient access.

Additional features offered by Dark Noise include a timer to fade out noise before waking up, multiple customizable widgets, and support for keyboard shortcuts. Unfortunately, the lifetime license option is very expensive, and not everyone is keen on spending money on yet another subscription for an ambient noise app.

Dark Noise

Pros

  • 50 built-in sounds
  • Mini Player for quick access

Cons

  • Expensive lifetime license

8. myNoise

Price: Free (includes in-app purchases)

myNoise, created by St├ęphane Pigeon, a passionate sound engineer with a Ph.D. in applied sciences, offers more than 250 noise generators designed to help users focus effectively, even when surrounded by external distractions.

The calibrated noise generators cover the entire audible frequency range, from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, providing an optimal sound quality that can be enjoyed in various scenarios, such as working, studying, relaxing, or sleeping.

Mynoise

Pros

  • Free with in-app purchases
  • Plenty of ambient sounds to choose from

Cons

  • Designed for iPad, so only compatible with Apple silicon Macs.

Tip: having trouble running certain apps on your Mac? Discover how to check whether an app has been optimized for Apple Silicon in macOS.

9. Wotja

Price: Free with in-app purchases

Wotja is a powerful generative music system that’s an excellent choice for users seeking to create their own ambient sounds, making it possible for users to easily create beautiful live ambient music and use MIDI devices locally on their Mac.

If you have no interest in ambient sound creation, then you can use Wotja as a generative music player, thanks to its one-tap flows. The app has a sizeable and very active user base, so there are plenty of free resources for you to explore and learn from.

Wotja

Pros

  • Mature and stable software product
  • Intuitive yet powerful

Cons

  • Not suitable for casual listening

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I add a background sounds toggle to Control Center?

Yes. Navigate to “System Settings -> Control Center,” then click the switch labeled “Show in Control Center” under the “Hearing” header. You can access several of your favorite tools from Control Center, including AirDrop and Focus Mode.

Can I set alarms using background sounds?

Native macOS lacks implementation for setting alarms using background sounds. However, you can discover four simple methods for setting an alarm on your Mac that uses custom sounds and third-party apps.

What else can I do with macOS Ventura?

Accessing background sounds is just one of the ways to improve your Mac experience with macOS Ventura. You can follow our dedicated guides to learn more about using the window management option Stage Manager or accessibility tool Live Text.

Image credit: Pexels. All screenshots by David Morelo.

David Morelo
David Morelo

David Morelo is a professional content writer in the technology niche, covering everything from consumer products to emerging technologies and their cross-industry application. His interest in technology started at an early age and has only grown stronger over the years.

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