ExPostModern, Meditation, Spotlight

Review: Does the Ananda “Brain Wave” App Really Work?

Ananada app by Manu Loigeret

Notice: This is not an affiliate review. I do not receive any pay or profit for sales of this app nor was I compensated for reviewing it. I was offered a free download of the app, but I paid for it anyway. 

You know when you’re hard at work at your breakfast table, but instead of doing paid client work you’re writing unpaid fiction, but you’re not making much progress at it because you keep pausing to refresh gaming forums?

Okay, maybe that’s not exactly like most peoples’ workdays. But I think most of us have times when we’re supposed to be focused and concentrating, and instead we’re scattered and unmotivated. That’s why I love Ananada.

Ananda is officially a “meditation app.” Designed by my friend Manu Loigeret, at a glance it looks like a relaxation noise machine: listen to some ambient sounds and get your bliss on. But it’s really much more than that. Hidden in Ananda’s peaceful broadcasts are binaural tones designed to alter your brain waves. These tones purport to help influence you toward concentration, relaxation, or other mood changes—take your pick.

Here’s how Ananda explains it:

“Binaural tones are produced by the frequency offset between two sounds, one aired in one ear, the other in the other ear.

“For example, if a 200Hz sine wave is produced in the left ear and a 210Hz sine wave is produced in the right ear, the resulting binaural tone is 10Hz… a 10Hz beat will induce 10Hz brainwaves.”

Those particular brainwaves are associated with mood elevation.

Does the app work? Well, I’m always a little hesitant with claims like these. I have no doubt that Manu paid good attention to the science behind it, but without testing I can’t say whether he successfully creates binaural tones that help induce specific brain activity. What I can report on is my own anecdotal experience, and it is positive.

I almost always listen to relaxing music while I work. In rare cases the right trip hop track will put me in a trance-like state of focus, even seemingly alter my mood, and then Pandora goes on to the next song and the spell is broken.

For me, Ananda produces that trance-like concentration with much greater reliability.

When you activate Ananda you have a simple menu that lets you choose what kind of brain waves you’re looking for (with options like deep meditationfocus & concentration, and restorative sleep). You can set how long the sounds will go for, and each setting has a recommended minimum (power nap is a lot shorter than restorative sleep).

Once you press play you hear an ever-changing soundscape of chanting, nature sounds, droning and even snippets of distant street life or electronic music. The result is a basic ambient track that would be pretty relaxing on its own, with or without the brain hacking. Every few minutes the sound elements change, and you can manually choose how often this happens if you want.

So how well does it work?

I’ve used the focus & concentration setting several times while working, and I plan to use it regularly from now on. I work better with Ananda. I get lost in the sound and my work and sometimes I get an actual chill down my back. It’s uncanny.

I’ve also tried the power nap mode. In my case, I’m not used to having sound while I sleep—even relaxing sound—so I had a hard time drifting off. I turned the volume way down (something the Ananda instructions says has no effect on the binaural tones) and ended up having a good, if brief, nap. I’d like to play with this more.

Positives:

Ananda stands out from most apps with its beautiful design and easy interface, but where it really shines is in the options. There’s a trend in apps to make all settings minimal, which basically caters to stupid people and/or insults the rest of us. Ananda rises above that. Instead of just “meditate—work—sleep” Ananda offers 14 different binaural settings, all of which have clear utility. There’s also a simple settings menu with fine-grain volume control and an elegant, helpful Information section.

Negatives:

It would be nice if there was an option to block/silence alerts and calls while Ananda is in play. (As it is, to prevent interruptions I have to either activate Airplane Mode (less than ideal) or manually turn off alerts.) I also think it would be nice if the different sounds would transition in and out more gradually—currently they create the effect of changing out tracks, which draws my attention to the sound instead of relaxing/working.

If nothing else, Ananda provides endless non-repeating ambience to help you with your work day, stress relief or getting to sleep (without commercials *cough Pandora cough* or DJ’s *hack cough Stillstream*). I can’t say whether it physically affects my brain waves, but I like the mental state it gives me.

You can purchase Ananda for $2.99. Check the App Store or get Ananda here.

L Days cover_front only_half size

My book Lúnasa Days is available on Kindle and in paperback. Get your copy here.

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