A few months ago, I purchased the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones, and let me tell you, they are worth every penny. The active noise cancellation (ANC) these headphones offer is simply the best on the market in 2023. After fine-tuning the equalizer, the frequency response is excellent, the battery life lasts for days, and they are incredibly comfortable. As I explored their features and compatibility with other apps, one particular app caught my attention: Endel.
Endel is an audio app designed to provide ambient audio atmospheres that help you stay focused, relaxed, and get quality sleep. Endel doesn’t provide a playlist with the typical definition of music, instead it provides a different set of smooth sounds mixes. While it doesn’t have a free version, I believed it could be the perfect companion to the Sony headphones, helping me immerse myself in isolation with the ANC. I purchased a one-year license and began exploring the various modes the app offered, including focus, deep work, commute, sleep, nature sounds, chill, power nap, create, study and more.
What kind of sound does Endel offer?
During the first month, I spent a significant amount of time listening to Endel. I tried different modes while working, at the gym, while cooking, and chilling. My initial impression of Endel was reminiscent of listening to Brian Eno, the pioneer of ambient music. Brian Eno’s album “Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks” serves as a precise reference.
Endel offers variations within each mode. Depending on the mode, could include or not percussion, variations in tempo, different synthesizers, as well as nature sounds like wind or water. However, not all modes in Endel are as simple as that.
After a few weeks, I began to crave new modes or sounds, as it felt like I was listening to the same thing every day. That’s when I started exploring the new collaboration sets that Endel released with artists like Grimes and Richie Hawtin. These collaborations offer a fresh perspective as they introduce different styles compared to the modes mentioned earlier.
Endel groups the listening modes by activity: Focus, Relax, Sleep and Activity.
Deeper focus: By Richie Hawtin. This is an eternal minimal techno session. Is designed to keep you in a deep state of productivity and isolation. I like minimal techno, but I am conscious is not for everyone.
Focus: Fast tempo but not aggressive percussion. There are arpeggios, bell sounds, smooth synthesizers like brass and keyboard, all of them working to create a positive and happy sound. Is one of my favorites.
Dynamic Focus: This one sounds like Focus with the possibility of changing tempo and the “immersiveness”, with this term I refer of how much bright or spacy is the resulting sound.
Study: Inspired in Lofi music. Downtempo, trip-hop and ambient music together. One of my favorites.
Scenarios are the same modes with a timer as additional parameter.
Deep Work: Smooth synthetized string, keyboard and wood notes, slow tempo and immersive background harmony. I guess it could work also on meditation.
Create: Similar to Deep Work.
Commute: Similar to Deep Work and Read.
Homework: Similar to the previous one but more energetic: Faster and louder tempo.
Read: No percussion, just immersive ambient music, chips of bright notes with medium tempo.
Focus Timer: Interface that helps to set periods, time of listening and breaks time. Combines the best of this group: Focus, Dynamic Focus, Study and Deeper Focus modes.
Most of the different modes sounds equal or very similar, like ambient music. Disappointed to have many with the same sound. Note: All of them are absent of percussion.
Relax: Ethereal and bright sounds. Loud ambient atmosphere.
Recovery: Ambient music sound with a quieter atmosphere than the previous one. Arpeggios and chips of keyboard sounds design to “cure”. Similar to Read.
Wiggly Wisdom: Energetic ambient music with motivational phrases by Alan Watts.
Nature Elements: Sounds of fire, beach, rain, forest at night or day, wind and storm. All in one using a tuner like Dynamic Focus.
Meditate: Quiet ambient music like Recovery.
Chill: Similar to Relax.
Self Care: Similar to Relax.
Yoga: Similar to Relax.
Chores: Similar to Relax.
Spa: Ambient music with nature sounds.
Starred group for me. Works for meditation, sleep, nap and relax. No percussion.
Sleep: Quiet ambient music with sleepy melodies, like small lullaby melodies.
Rainy Outside: Nature sound of a cold day with ambient music and melodies like the previous one but quieter.
Wind Down: Pleasant simple piano melodies, rainy noise and samples of voices designed to relax. This could be useful to relax or meditate. Produced by James Blake.
Hibernation: Ambient music with sounds of the time of the day and current weather. For a rainy night, reminiscence of a hope scene in a movie.
Power Nap: Similar to Sleep.
Airplane: Quiet ambient music with drops of notes and background sound to give a perception of movement.
Daylight: Quiet ambient music with metallic soft sounds acting like sea waves.
Move: Ambient sound with sounds of the time of the day that reacts to the walking movement adding percussion to the mix and keeping the tempo of the cadence. Recommended for walking.
Clarity Trip: Similar to the previous one plus vocal chops, brass instruments and more energetic percussions. Recommended for running. Produced by Miguel.
Workout: Similar to Focus.
Warmup: Similar to Relax.
After analyzing every mode, I notice I am not wrong about the very close similarity of some of them, particularly in the group of Relax. Focus is the group I most use but from now I am going to use more Activity and Sleep with modes like Wind Down, Hibernation and Clarity Trip.
The sound often remains subtle and its simplicity aims to create a soothing atmosphere and mood.
Sensors, weather and time
Endel employs a clever combination of sensors, weather data, and time to tailor your ambient soundscapes. It utilizes the heart rate sensor on your smartwatch and the pedometer on your phone to compare your current heart rate to your resting heart rate. And indeed, it did.
To make the most of this combination, follow these steps: Turn on the sensors on your smartwatch, connect Google Fit between your watch and phone, and install the Endel app on your smartwatch. By doing these, you’ll unlock new variations and sounds that enhance your listening experience.
What’s interesting is that Endel seems to work even better when it knows your location, especially on rainy days. It appears that the weather has a role in shaping the background sounds, making them even more enjoyable.
For those who share my dislike of smartwatches but want to discreetly monitor their heartbeat, there’s another compatible device called the Oura ring. It has a sleek and tech-savvy appearance and could be an excellent choice for those looking to track their heart rate without the noticeability of a smartwatch.
Whether you’re a dedicated music enthusiast, an audiophile seeking to rejuvenate your listening experience, someone demanding specialized sounds to enhance focus, or simply in search of an additional tool to create a serene, isolated space, Endel is an app worth considering.
As I write this article, I’m enjoying the soothing sounds of Endel, and I can confidently say that it’s not a waste of money for those who appreciate the transformative power of audio. If you’re considering investing in a quality headset for music or gaming, be prepared to spend at least $200 USD. Additionally, if you’re aiming to infuse your daily activities with a sense of peace and comfort, give Endel a try.
Remember, while great headphones enrich your audio experience, Endel enhances your environment and state of mind. It’s a unique addition to your toolkit for achieving tranquility and focus in the modern life.