Sound is massively important to the mobile and flexible working experience. Too much of it, and it’s distracting; too little of it, and it’s hard to be creative.

There are a couple of things you can do to better control the sound experience in your workday. For one, we always recommend using a headset to maintain a professional connection to the outside world.

If you’re in control of your surroundings, use them to your advantage. We like to work in cafés, because of the buzz and the movement we don’t hear or see in our home offices.

If you can’t get out to a café or struggle with noise and distraction, here are 5 of the best ambient sound apps to increase your focus and creativity.

  1. Noisy (Mac only). Noisy is based on an old app called Noise that was sort of abandoned by its developer – and it’s probably the simplest of all apps on this list. Toggle between three switches (‘Off’, ‘Pink’ and ‘White’ noise) and adjust the volume. That’s your lot. But it’s pretty effective. White noise, by the way, is the sound of all frequencies played at once – like the hissing of your old, out-of-tune TV – and it’s supposed to help you concentrate. (Pink noise emphasizes lower frequencies and is better at masking sounds like noisy cars or machinery.) There are white noise apps for Android and iOS too.
  2. SoundCurtain (iOS only). SoundCurtain for the iPhone and iPod touch cleverly masks distracting noises with white noise and harmonic sounds, adjusting its volume, pitch and tone in response to the noise around you. You need a headset with a mic for it to work properly.
  3. DeepFocus (Mac only). If you prefer your white noise in a desktop app, DeepFocus, available in the Mac App Store, combines white noise with “sonic auralscapes” and allows you to enter “varying productive states”. It is, also, a little bit frightening.
  4. Ambiance (Mac, PC, Linux, iOS and Android). Omnipresent ambiance with the definitive-sounding Ambiance app, available on all desktops via Adobe Air; iOS devices and Android. There are literally thousands of ambient sounds to download, listen to and remix, but they’re not all the usual forest, waterfall, dolphin raps – there are urban sounds in there too, like airports, shopping centres and even bars.
  5. Coffitivity (Website). Our favourite ambient sound app isn’t really an app at all – it’s a charming one-page website, underpinned by research, that’s helpfully explained. “It’s pretty hard to be creative in a quiet space,” it says. “The mix of calm and commotion in an environment like a coffee house is proven to be just what you need to get those creative juices flowing.” So, the page just plays a loop of coffee house ambiance. That’s it.

If you’d like some real-world coffee house ambiance, look for a laptop-friendly café on the WorkSnug website.

Photo Credit: Khánh Hmoong via Compfight cc