It is a well known fact that music and various sounds have a positive effect on us. I myself rarely work without some sort of music playing, and around 30% of the time I opt for some soothing ambience sounds; Ambiance is my perfect companion.
Available for the iPad, iPhone, and the desktop (on most systems via Adobe Air), if you also like ambient music and sounds, this app will be right up your alley! Let’s dive in.
Once you fire up the app, the two basic places to visit are the store and the library. You can find sounds and music in the store and download them into your library for future listening. The word ‘store’ here is a bit misleading. They do have premium sounds which you can buy separately, but they have a vast selection of free sounds, which I’ve always found sufficient.
Finding the sounds you’re looking for is very easy using the category based navigation, but a search option is also included in case you have something specific in mind.
The beautiful Ambiance player in action.
The Browsing Experience
I find the experience of finding sounds surprisingly enjoyable. Each sound has an inviting photo and a – sometimes quite evocative – description. This makes the process more fun than the usual initial startup stages for an app.
The Listening Experience
During the time I’ve used this app (about a year), I have only found a handful of sounds where I wasn’t very satisfied with the quality. In all these cases, this had to do with the noticeable change when the loop restarted. In most cases however, the quality is superb, sounds are crisp, clean and enjoyable. For the record, I am not an audiophile or an audio expert, so do let me know if you’ve noticed problems.
A small part of my library on Ambiance.
Bells & Whistles
At its core, Ambiance is an audio store and a player rolled into one. It performs these core functions well, but there are some other notable features tacked on.
The app has a built-in timer which acts as an alarm clock. Whenever playing sounds, just click on the clock icon in the top left to set a timer. I use this frequently to take 20-60 minute naps listening to some soothing rain and thunder.
Apart from setting the timer, the app gives you the option to set an initial delay, set a fade in/out, select an alarm sound, and so on.
While listening to a track you can also easily share it using the share icon in the bottom left. Twitter and Facebook are standard options nowadays, but I was surprised to find Posterous, Read it Later, Instapaper, Delicious, Tumblr, and more in there.
Playlists, Favorites, and Mixes
Playlists are an expected part of an audio player and Ambiance is no exception. You can create and save playlists and start them any time from the favorites menu. You can of course favorite a single sound as well, all these will show up in the favorites menu.
Mixes are a very cool feature, which bring a whole new dynamic to an otherwise relatively gray area (selecting what to play). Mixes allow you to layer multiple sounds onto one another and control their level separately. For example, if you love a rainy day sound and a chirping bird sound, you can lay them on top of one another to create a sound where birds chirp in the rain.
Individual sounds, mixes, and playlists can all be saved and favorited separately, giving you endless opportunities when listening to ambient sounds.
The app not only lets you listen to sounds, it also enables you to record sounds (mixing them for you automatically) and upload them in seconds. Just click the record button, get the sound and upload it, it really is that simple.
The recordings themselves are quite good. If you are a sound editor, you’ll probably want to use your own setup and do your own mixing, but for the average user this is a great tool to capture some cool sounds.
Design & Usability
Ambiance is a very well designed and well thought out application. For me it was obvious where to find the features I was looking for even after I first started up the app. The initial loading is screen looks great and disappears in under 2 seconds.
Browsing sounds is a joy with the media rich format found in Ambiance. As I’ve mentioned before, each sound has it’s own image and description, making it a very user friendly experience.
Previewing a sound in Ambiance.
Managing and using your content is also a breeze with categories and search bars prominent on every screen. Ambiance gives you the opportunity to quick link to many elements, so you can easily reach and frequent items you use.
Ambiance is clearly an application which appeals to a niche audience. While I don’t use it every day myself, I inevitable turn toward the app when I need to focus on something, when I want to relax, or just feel like I need some calm in my day.
The app is executed very well, and the recordings, alarms, favorites, and mixes goes above and beyond what you would expect of it. The fact that it is available for all your devices is also pretty great, although regretfully it doesn’t sync right now. This is not a necessity on my end, but since the app does cost $3, it warrants a point deduction. Otherwise I highly recommend this app, the content and execution is spot on.