Peer Reviewed
Ramblings from a Researcher-In-Training

Peer Reviewed

Reviewed: Dark Noise — a Simple, Beautiful Ambient Noise App for iOS

As ambient noise machines find their way into more corporate offices, retail spaces, and infant nurseries, ambient noise apps have also grown in popularity. Joining that list today is Dark Noise for iOS — an excellent ambient noise app developed by Charlie Chapman.

Why All The Noise?

Ambient noise machines and apps like Dark Noise have numerous uses and benefits. Some people find that they or their infants sleep better when playing ambient noise. Others, myself included, find that ambient noise helps them to focus on the task at hand, or remain productive in a noisy environment (for the nerdy: here is one of the many studies highlighting the cognitive benefits of ambient noise).

Dark Noise caters to these needs with a comprehensive list of over 30 sounds to choose from, and a simple UI that lets you pick a sound and get back to what you were doing — be it sleep or work. While beta testing Dark Noise, I have experienced first-hand the productivity benefits of ambient noise; Dark Noise has quickly become one of my most-used apps.

Integrations and Customizations

Although at its core Dark Noise is just a list of looping soundbites, it supports many useful features and integrations that satisfy the needs of power users as well. As you might expect, Dark Noise has an optional sleep timer with both countdown and fixed-time support, a Favorites feature to keep your most-used sounds easily accessible at the top of the list, and AirPlay support (with full AirPlay 2 support on the way).

Beyond the basics, Dark Noise also has a customizable widget that allows you to quickly start any noise from the Widget page (or perhaps the iPadOS home screen). In addition, each sound in Dark Noise has its own action in Siri Shortcuts, allowing you to integrate Dark Noise into any number of your Shortcuts routines. I myself have used the Shortcuts actions to incorporate Dark Noise into my simple Bedtime shortcut, kicking off ambient Campfire noises before I head to sleep.

Dark Noise’s sleep timer, an example Siri Shortcut using a Dark Noise action, and Dark Noise’s widget menu.
Sleep timers, Siri Shortcuts support, and a customizable Widget each add a useful way to interact with Dark Noise.

Not Just Nice on the Ears

A good ambient noise app has a quality selection of sounds to choose from — a great ambient noise app has a beautiful design to match. This is where Dark Noise distinguishes itself from many other apps in the category — the developer has invested so much time and care into the artful details of this app that you can't help but appreciate them. Dark Noise has eight custom Themes and 22 custom app icons (many of which are creative takes on some of my favorite podcasts' artwork), and the developer doesn't seem eager to stop adding new ones any time soon.

All eight of Dark Noise’s themes side-by-side
All eight of Dark Noise’s custom themes, with no signs from the developer that the list will stop growing.

However, it's the little things that I've appreciated most about Dark Noise's design. For example, when favoriting a sound the Favorite heart is filled with a subtle but whimsical animation. Each sound has a unique minimalist icon designed by Charlie himself — but by far my favorite details are the animations on the Now Playing screen. Each of the custom-designed icons also have custom animations that move almost rhythmically as the sound plays in your ears. I only wish iOS supported animated lock screen thumbnails so I wouldn't have to leave my phone unlocked to enjoy them.

Three Dark Noise icon animations on the Now Playing screen
Each sound icon has its own custom animation that pleasantly loops on the Now Playing screen.

Wishlist and Outro

I can't overstate how much I've enjoyed adding Dark Noise to my workflow (and sleepflow!), and I'm looking forward to some of my wishlist items making it into future releases. For example, an upload feature for adding my own sound files to the app would be a welcome addition. Folders and/or collapsible sound categories would also be a nice touch to clean up the main table view, especially as the list of out-of-the-box sounds naturally grows with each update. Perhaps my most wished-for feature are some spooky dungeon sounds to use as ambiance during D&D sessions — the moment I gave Dark Noise a try I knew it would be a killer addition to my Dungeon Master toolkit.

Dark Noise is a simple and elegant ambient noise app that strikes just the right balance between beauty and function. The developer has also done an excellent job at communicating with his beta testers and incorporating that feedback into the app — foreshadowing similar responsiveness as the app is pushed out to a public audience, which I find incredibly valuable. Dark Noise has been an incredible addition to my home screen, and has single-handedly refocused my attention on many pressing projects over the last few weeks — perhaps it could have the same effect on your productivity. Dark Noise is available today for $3.99 on the app store.