man sitting at a laptop with silver headphones on. Image for a blog post on the top 5 sound effect websites For Clients

5 Best Websites for Sound Effects

It’s a tricky line to walk: finding the perfect sound effects for your video and audio content. The right music and sound effects can take a project from “good” to “amazingly impactful,” and the wrong ones… well… sound like a flop when they don’t perform as expected. 

Being tasked with the responsibility of finding the right sound effects and background music comes with a lot of pressure. This post will relieve some of that pressure by outlining the top five sound effect websites out there, and when to use sound effects.

When Should You Use Sound Effects?

Jump-to Section:

  1. To Draw Out a Physiological Response 
  2. To Bring About a Psychological Response

Want to skip right to the five sound effect websites that have our stamp of approval? Click here.

Noise pollution is filling our bodies with less-than-enjoyable sounds all day long. Creating an audio experience that gives your audience a space to settle into a moment of pleasant sound comes with many benefits, and goes beyond your project’s success. Pleasant sounds, as you’ll read in a moment, put us in a state of openness to the messages coming to us. But sound can evoke any number of responses, all of which can be harnessed to make an impactful piece of content. 

Julian Treasure, an international speaker and authority on the impact of sound on a company’s ROI, released this TED Talk a few years ago. It’s still very relevant today!

If you have five minutes, give it a watch. If not, here are the highlights including exactly when to use sound effects.

Physiological Responses from Sound Effects 

A physiological response to sound happens to us all day, every day. It’s the body’s physical reaction to what we hear.

Most of the time we don’t realize that the high pitch humming of the refrigerator is making us hold a wincing face as we struggle to concentrate, for instance. 

Another example would be the way our breathing changes when we listen to the breathing of a nearby sleeping loved one. We begin to mirror their breathing as we’re washed with vicarious relaxation. 

The use of sound effects can purposely call upon a physiological response to make it memorable and impactful. Producers are using sound to get a physiological reaction in a few different ways:

Sounds Effects As a ‘Fight or Flight’ Tactic

The startling sound of a siren or fire alarm, or the ringing of a classic alarm clock kicks our bodies into a high gear by flooding us with cortisol that makes us very aware of what we’re listening to. A brief use of this startle-me-into-paying-attention sound effect can make for a humorous moment when well timed in your projects.

This tactic can also be used for more serious campaigns like fire alarm safety, cigarette smoking prevention, distracted driving campaigns, and more. 

Sounds Effects for a Calming Effect

The sounds of waves on the shoreline, the sound of birds singing softly, the cooing of a content baby. These sounds and many others transport us to a calm frame of mind where the doors to the heart and imagination swing wide open and invite the messaging of your project in. 

Access to these serene moments are hard to come by these days. Even with productivity stats proving that there is a real power behind what we hear while we work to keep us motivated, the same can’t be said about our moments of rest. The sounds we hear after we sign off for the day and turn to our phones, TVs, and other devices are proving to be not so great! Content creators have an opportunity to serve sound effects and music tracks that provide their audiences with the hard-to-come-by calming sound effects.

Knowing when to incorporate sounds that bring the audience a moment of inner peace will bolster the KPIs of your project to new heights because when our bodies physically calm from the sounds we hear, we are automatically more receptive to what we are hearing or watching. 

Psychological Responses from Sound Effects

The Familiar Human Experience

What about when you want to make a project feel more human? Everyone’s experiences in life come with a full spectrum of emotion. It is hilarious and draining, spontaneous and monotonous, adorably sweet and scary, and everything else in between. There’s an art to evoking those experiences and emotions using sound. 

Think about a diaper ad: The baby cries, the mom soothes, the diaper gets changed, and the baby drifts off into a cooing peaceful sleep. 

The sound effects of this commercial encapsulate the rollercoaster of emotions parents everywhere experience on a nightly basis. They rang a bell of psychological familiarity within its target audience and made for a very effective advertisement.

Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a psychological effect that we’ve written about before. It’s a sentimental affection for a moment of your past. And it’s an effective marketing technique used often during the holiday season

But sound has a special way of burrowing into our memory bank and bringing out a strong sense of nostalgia, with or without the visual of happy children making snow angels.

Think of the sound of dial-up Internet, or the 30 second timer on Jeopardy. Or the well known “Duh-nuh” from JAWS.

These are just three of literally thousands of sound effects that draw upon nostalgia marketing. They have a psychological effect on your audience, as Julian Treasure refers to it—so long as they’re from the time and place where the memorable sound was made popular, of course. 

Spotify tapped into the power of nostalgia to showcase the depth and breadth of their available music. Also, if you ever need to find this awesome tune, they’ve got you covered:

Now that we’ve gone over when to use sound effects, here’s where you can find them.

5 Best Websites for Sound Effects

In-house Recommendations on Sound Effect Libraries

The Voices content team has had great success with a couple sound effect websites, so these made our list simply because we’ve had good experiences with them.

  1. EpidemicSound

They come in at our number one spot for a few reasons: 

  • Epidemic Sound, at the time this was written, offers a free month’s trial and then subscriptions as low as $12 per month afterwards. 
  • Their sound library is home to more than 120,000 music tracks and sound effects, the uses of which depend on the subscription you choose. 
  • Their licensing is unique in that they offer their members a direct licence since all of the sound effects and music tracks are owned by Epidemic Sound. This means no royalties for you to pay. Don’t worry, creators are still being compensated as Epidemic Sound pays the creators’ royalty fees for you.
  1. AudioJungle

AudioJungle sells individual sound effect tracks for as little as $1. No subscription costs, which makes this an affordable option for creators who may not need sound effects often. 

They’re also a part of an online marketplace, much like Voices, in that you can hire freelancers from multiple specialties ranging from graphic design to coding on top of sound effects and music tracks.

  1. StoryBlocks

This sound effect library is an all-in-one stock library that offers access to stock images, sound effects, and b-roll footage, and an easy-to-use interface to pull it all together.

This is another subscription based option, with packages designed to give members access to the stock libraries they will need the most, rather than by intended distribution (like through social media, or a national TV spot) or a monthly download limit (like a maximum of 10 sound effect downloads.)

When it comes to licencing, they offer royalty-free licencing as well, but the specific terms of licencing are tied to your membership type so keep that in mind when purchasing a membership. 

Sound Effect Libraries with Popular Reviews

You’ll find these two sound effect websites in many other curated lists when searching for the best sound effect library online. We include them here because they’re the only two that are consistently recommended by the 30+ articles we used to make this blog.

  1. RØDE Ambisonic Library

RØDE comes up a lot in the voice over industry, as the maker of a wide range of audio gear including popular microphones used by voice actors on the Voices platform. It makes perfect sense that RØDE created a sound effect library. 

They found a unique way to do it, too. RØDE’s sound effect website is actually an Ambisonic library filled with natural ambience from all over the world. These sound effects, unlike conventional stereo or surround sound, are recorded from a 360° mic, offering detailed audio and opportunities for unconventional uses of sound effects like 3D digital audio advertising for example.

The best part—it’s free. Making an account is so simple, as has the ability to download the music and make custom collections to keep your files organized. They also provide a plugin that’s compatible with the following DAWs:

  • Windows & MacOS
    • Avid ProTools 12.8, 
    • Steinberg Cubase 9 
    • Steinberg Nuendo 8
    • Cockos Reaper 5 
  • MacOS only
    • Apple Logic Pro X 10.4
    • Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.4 
  1. SoundBible

Another free option! SoundBible explains that their sound effects are free because of who they serve—content creators on very limited budgets. There are the odd sound effects that fall outside the Creative Commons and Public Domain space, which means there will be some fine print on how it can be used. 

SoundBible also provides every sound effect in their library as a .mp3 or .wav file! This is a consideration we didn’t find on other sound effect websites. 

They have a separate section of the site called “Premium Sounds” which is a directory of sound effects available for purchase. But even those sound clips are reasonably priced if you don’t find what you need within the free sound effect library.  

Finding your sound effects is just one piece of the content production puzzle. If you find yourself in need of voice over, or a helping hand with audio production, Voices can connect you with freelance talent as easily as these sound libraries connected with your ears with the perfect tracks!

Create a Voices account today to see how we can help with the rest of your project.

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