I love this app's spatial audio 8D soundscapes, except for one horrifying one

Ammersive app on black background
(Image credit: Ammersive)

Want to kick back and relax as someone rustles up a virtual feast just for you, with all of the juicy scrunches, scrapes and snips that this might entail (peeling potatoes, sharpening knives, firing up the hob, chomping on a bit of leftover veg), while you pour yourself a nice (albeit also virtual) glass of wine? How about walking through London's Borough Market, dodging traffic as traders on either side of the road try to sell you their wares? 

Or how about escaping to a cabin in the woods only to realize you're not alone – and that your additional house guest upstairs might not be human? Or (and this is perhaps the most terrifying) have you ever wondered what being buried alive might sound like, as the earth piles up around you? Well, imagine no more – Ammersive is here. 

Unlike the best music streaming services out there, Ammersive's spatial audio content comprises not songs, tracks and albums, but unique immersive audio curations from sound engineers, music producers and voice artists, all of which take listeners on various aural journeys into different realms, ideas and concepts. 

Ammersive's co-founders, Jamie Bell and Sam Addadahine, fell in love with 3D/8D music one night on YouTube, listening to the Virtual Barber Shop, a sonic curation (made back in 1996) which they both believe is still one of the most incredible audio experiences‍ ever created. 

What's 8D audio? Essentially, it's a collection of effects applied to a stereo recording, including spacial reverb and mixing, to make it seem as if the audio is able to move in a spherical space around your head.

Sam searched for an app boasting a similar variety of immersive sounds and, although plenty of apps seemed to feature soundscapes and some experiential audio, nothing quite hit that virtual barber shop vibe – so he decided to create one. 

‍Having studied Music Technology at college, Jamie discovered a plug-in called Dear VR Pro that could integrate with his software of choice (Ableton) thus enabling him to manipulate the sounds around the 360 space. Using samples from Splice and an Alan Watts speech, the duo created their first experience. Not their finest work, Sam says, but a start. 

‍Of course, ideas are cheap and execution is everything – but luckily, Sam is an extremely talented software developer. 

Ammersive is a genuine passion project and it shows. ‍I've been listening to it all morning, on my Sonic Lamb headphones (you really must listen on headphones – ideally a set of the best over-ears, but the app is platform and headphone agnostic) and it's relaxing, textured, outrageously immersive or utterly terrifying, depending on what you listen to. 

Opinion: it's excellent – just don't listen to Buried Alive before bed…

Jamie explains that the most basic level when creating immersive audio is simply moving sounds from left to right (panning) to give the sense that the sound is alive and that the listener is central to the movement. 

Then, he can vary the distance of said sounds from the listener's ears – a whisper in your left ear, a gunshot far away over on your right – and thirdly, add sound rotation, where sonic articles of different volumes are no longer symmetrical on the left and right of the listener, but can feature in front of, behind and above them. 

Lastly, Ammersive's output adds a storyline or narrative. This is something the listener should be able to relate to – a physical or fantastical storyline. The duo say it's the hardest part to get right, and I for one think they've smashed it. 

Most of the experiences are around five minutes long, and more are being added every day. 

What's Buried Alive actually like? Close your eyes and it's terrifying. Think heavy, shallow breathing, scratching desperately at the wood of your coffin from the inside, a quickening heart-rate and a descent into something that must be the madness of the Twilight Zone – until it's all just a bad dream… or was it?

Sam tells me they’ve got some really exciting ideas in the pipeline, including a World War II D-Day 10-minute experience which they plan to launch on Remembrance Sunday in November this year, plus a Podcast to support the app called Experience Sound, which they start recording this week. 

How much is Ammersive? Well, there's a free plan, which allows you to 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 favourite 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 33% saving or thereabouts). 

Just don't listen to Cabin in the Woods if you scare easily… 

Becky Scarrott
Senior Audio Staff Writer

Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.