Want to kick back and relax while someone prepares a virtual feast just for you, with all the juicy dents, scrapes and cuts that can entail (peeling potatoes, sharpening knives, lighting the stove, munching on some vegetable scraps), while you serves a nice glass of wine (although also virtual)? How about walking through London’s Borough Market, avoiding traffic as traders on both sides of the road try to sell their wares?
Or how about escaping to a cabin in the woods only to realize you’re not alone – and that your additional guest upstairs might not be human? Or (and this is perhaps the most terrifying one) have you ever wondered what it would be like to be buried alive while the earth piles up around you? Well, imagine no more – Ammersive is here.
Unlike the best music streaming services, surroundings (opens in new tab)‘s spatial audio content includes not songs, tracks and albums, but unique immersive audio curations from sound engineers, music producers and voice artists, who take listeners on various aural journeys across different realms, ideas and concepts.
Ammersive co-founders Jamie Bell and Sam Addadahine fell in love with 3D/8D music one night on YouTube, listening to the virtual barbershop (opens in new tab)a sound curation (made in 1996) that both believe is still one of the most incredible audio experiences ever created.
What is 8D Audio? Essentially, it’s a collection of effects applied to a stereo recording, including spatial reverb and mixing, to make it look like the audio is able to move in a spherical space around your head.
Sam looked for an app with a similar array of immersive sounds, and while many apps seemed to feature soundscapes and some experimental audio, nothing quite hit that virtual barbershop vibe – so he decided to create one.
Having studied Music Technology in college, Jamie discovered a plugin called Dear VR Pro that could integrate with his software of choice (Ableton), allowing him to manipulate sounds around 360 space. Alan Watts, the duo created their first experience. It’s not their best work, says Sam, but it’s a start.
Of course ideas are cheap and execution is everything – but luckily Sam is an extremely talented software developer.
Ammersive is a project of genuine passion and it shows. I’ve been listening to it all morning, on my Sonic Lamb headphones (you really should listen on headphones – ideally a set of the best over-ears, but the app is platform and headphone independent) and it’s relaxing, textured , outrageously immersive or downright terrifying, depending on what you hear.
Opinion: it’s excellent – just don’t listen to Buried Alive before bed…
Jamie explains that the most basic level of creating immersive audio is to simply move sounds from left to right (pan) to give the feeling that the sound is alive and that the listener is at the center of the movement.
Then, he can vary the distance of said sounds from the listener’s ears – a whisper in the left ear, a shot far away in the right – and, thirdly, add sound rotation, where sound items of different volumes are no longer symmetrical in the right ear. left and right of the listener, but can appear in front of, behind and above them.
Finally, Ammersive’s production adds a plot or narrative. This is something the listener must be able to relate to – a physical or fantastical plot. The duo say it’s the hardest part to get right, and I think they rocked it.
Most experiences last around five minutes, and more are being added every day.
Which is Buried alive really like? Close your eyes and it’s terrifying. Think of a heavy, shallow breath, desperately scratching at the wood of your coffin from the inside, a racing heartbeat, and a descent into what must be Twilight Zone madness – until it’s all just a nightmare… or isn’t it?
Sam tells me they have some really exciting ideas in the works, including a 10-minute WWII D-Day experience they plan to release on Remembrance Sunday this November, as well as a Podcast to support the app called Experience Sound, that they start recording this week.
How much does Ammersive cost? Well, there’s a free plan, which lets you listen to any sound in the app, but only 15-30 second previews.
The Premium plan gives you access to everything and lets you subscribe to your favorite creators, download for offline listening, and even suggest ideas for future sounds. It costs $5.49 / £4.99 / AU$8.49 per month or $44.99 / £39.99 / AU$68.99 per year (a savings of 33% or more).
just don’t listen cabin in the forest if you get scared easily…