Spotify’s Journey ASMR Sounds, Ranked

The sound of the waves crashing on the shore? For sure. The engine noise of a cruise ship? No thanks.

(iStock/Washington Post illustration)


Spotify is a bottomless pit of entertainment – a black hole of sounds ranging from Top 40 hits to the entire audiobook of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. It’s loaded with the types of media you’d expect, like the latest Beyoncé́ album (or a Washington Post podcast), but it’s also loaded with sounds that might surprise you, like hotel hair dryers.

A TikTok video drew my attention to these incredible niche travel sounds. In the video, creator Megan Smith jokes that her most listened song of the year on Spotify was “Hotel Air Conditioner (8 Hours) Calming White Noise.” First I laughed, then I stopped laughing and thought: is that really so?

Yes, that really is a thing. And that goes far beyond hotel noise. There’s an entire Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) world of travel-related “songs” and “podcasts” of plane, cruise, and station whirrs, rumbles, chatter, and whoosh. They are designed to put you to sleep, calm you down, or help you focus. Some sounds feel like they do the exact opposite.

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While I understand that the sound of rain can help you relax, I’m not so sure about some of the other travel ASMR content I’ve found on Spotify. I listened to several and rated each category. One means “This is torture, turn it off!” while a 10 is the acoustic equivalent of feeling like a bug in a carpet.

Hotel air conditioners: 1/10

I started with “Hotel air conditioning (8 hours)”. It started with an introduction to what you’re listening to: a podcast designed to help you sleep, focus, and everything in between. Then it continued to blast a horrible noise that sounded like being in a semi truck. Nothing nice about listening to a hotel air conditioner running so loud and so cold you can’t sleep next to it.

Next came Hotel Room Air Conditioner, which sounded like a hotel air conditioner, but a particularly bad one. It was more like a window unit in an Econo Lodge or a very old, very damp Holiday Inn Express – really everywhere with a room with a slippery polyester bedspread that never gets washed.

I thought Santa Barbara Hotel Room Air Conditioner would be comfortable and luxurious like Santa Barbara, but no. It was a minute and eight seconds of distress. After all, if you absolutely insist on hearing the sounds of a hotel air conditioner, “Hotel Air Conditioner Sound” is less harsh than the others.

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I expected exponentially more gulls from the ASMR cruise ship. Instead I got a minute and 38 seconds of grating white noise from “Cruise Ships Cabin Ocean Sound” and a low rumble of white noise from “Cruise Ship Engine & Sea Noise”. more appealing? “The winch lift system for large vessels starts, runs and stops in heavy flooding,” which was surprisingly reassuring.

It would be deeply disturbing if a travel professional spoke to me like the woman whispering in Travel Agent ASMR Soft Spoken, Tracing, Page Flipping, or the woman whispering faster in Fastest Travel Agent, Drawing You, Tattoo Artist, Hotel, Bank, Orthodontist, tutor and more.” But I’m haunted by the almost inaudible whispers and sticky mouth sounds of “Luxury Travel Agent Roleplay”.

The most realistic and least scary option was “A Realistic RPG for Travel Agents – Book a Winter Vacation” – on whole album of a British woman who speaks in a normal voice, clatters keyboards, turns papers and writes. Points for being more relaxing than a hotel air conditioner but too creepy for me.

There are soothing sounds in a hotel, like “Hotel Pillow ASMR” and “Hotel Reception Sounds”, who have all the hygge trappings of a Hallmark holiday movie (excited, hushed chatter, fluffy sheets – very cozy). At the other end of the spectrum is Hotel Hair Dryer – Non-Stationary, the hotel equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. You can say it’s the cheapest hair dryer – one that doesn’t actually dry your hair and is connected to the wall by a very curly cord. I will report anyone who voluntarily listens to a hotel hair dryer to the authorities.

Hotel Shower Sound Water Running was somewhere between good and bad, because showering can be relaxing, but it also brings back the memory of rushing to the shower while traveling while being late.

Cabin Noise Focus has over 168 million plays, which is what I get. It’s a softer white noise that reminds you of cruising at 36,000 feet. “Airplane Takeoff Sound” had the same effect, capturing the vibrating energy of a plane taking off from the ground plus some pilot talk. I also liked “Natural Airplane Sound for Baby’s Sleep”. Looped, repeatable.” Don’t let the name fool you; it can definitely put full grown adults to sleep too.

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Train Station 3 Hours begins with the creaking of a slow-moving train. When the screeching is over, the “podcast” becomes more enjoyable with announcements in foreign languages ​​and a hushed bustle. Within minutes of listening, my jaw was sagging, my eyelids were heavier, and I felt like the bear on the Sleepytime Tea Box. But then the iron screech returned, snapping me out of my European fantasy.

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Train Cabin Sounds 3 Hours was mostly realistic: it sounded like you were sitting in a rumbling private train car, but it lacks any notable cabin sounds like passers-by, someone’s phone ringing, passengers loudly eating chips. Disappointing. A better option in the cabin is “Night Train & Snowstorm Sound” with its clattering tracks and “Polar Express” vibe.

With “Pirate Ship Ambience” I finally have the seagulls I wanted – plus some swaying masts and sea sounds. Is calling a pirate ship a sonic journey too far-fetched? Maybe, but I don’t care. When I equipped Pirate Ship: Asmr Rain it was over. Between the crackle of a fire, the creaking of wood and the rain beating on the ship, I could have fallen asleep on my feet. A highly recommended, deeply beneficial good time.

My initial mockery of the genre was unfounded. There’s something for everyone in ASMR’s weird, wonderful world of travel. You never catch me in the shrill nightmare of a hotel hair dryer, but in the rustling of cozy hotel bed linen? Cozy lobbies? music to my ears

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