Generate relaxing, natural soundscapes with Atmosphere Lite

If you’re working on the PC and would like a little background noise then you could launch your media player, stream something from the web, maybe just turn on the TV. These options could be a little distracting, though, making it more difficult to concentrate on your main tasks.

Atmosphere Lite takes a more effective approach. Much like Sound Valley, which we reviewed last November, it works by generating custom nature-based ambient soundscapes, like a forest stream, a woodland campfire, the ocean’s edge and more. You get the background noise you need, but it doesn’t demand your attention: it’s relaxing, more than distracting.

The program isn’t just replaying a single audio file. It works by using multiple sounds samples, blending them together, and launching them at random times and frequencies. The end result is that even something relatively simple -- the "Night Stream" scenario, say, is mostly just gurgling water and a few owl noises -- can play in the background for a very long time, without you getting bored or noticing any repetition.

If you don’t find the built-in sound scenarios interesting, they can be reconfigured in various ways. New background sounds (rain, wind, stream, ocean) may be added with a click, there are plenty of random sounds to include (thunder, birds, even insects), and you can play around with volume -- making background sounds a little quieter, say -- to help produce the effect you need.

The end result is surprisingly effective, and genuinely relaxing, while also being unlikely to distract you from other things. If you’ve finished work, Atmosphere Lite is able to display a full-screen slideshow while you listen. And if you don’t want to risk drifting off to sleep -- or at least, not for long -- there’s an option to set an alarm.

There are a few small issues here. Atmosphere Lite is the free version of a commercial program, and a nag screen points this out, every time it launches. The interface isn’t always intuitive, either, and it took us a little while to figure out how to launch a slideshow (double-click the image thumbnail) and then stop it (right-click the desktop).

Still, on balance the program works well; it’s fun and (for the most part) easy to use. Go take a look.

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