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Thunderspace for iPhone review: A realistic storm simulator for relaxation

There are a number of storm and white noise simulators in the App Store, but Thunderspace takes it to the next level with 3D stereoscopic sound and lightning flashes.

Jason Parker Senior Editor / Reviews - Software
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Jason Parker
3 min read

Thunderspace is an audio thunderstorm simulator with 3D stereoscopic sound that's perfect for relaxing with headphones, and it has one especially cool feature.


Thunderspace for iPhone

The Good

<b>Thunderspace</b> gives you a realistic thunderstorm experience, with 3D stereoscopic sound and simulated lightning.

The Bad

You only get a couple of storm types with your purchase. There is no sleep timer.

The Bottom Line

Though it's a niche product, Thunderspace is a worthwhile download, with realistic-sounding storms that make for a relaxing experience.

Unlike other audio storm generators, Thunderspace adds synchronized simulated lightning. Even further, the 3D stereoscopic sound makes the storm seem as if it's all around you. You're not going to get this experience simply by playing the audio through your iPhone, so you should plug in some earphones. I tried with both earbuds and headphones, and the latter definitely brought out more of the bass, which is especially cool when there's a lot of thunder.

A thunderstorm simulator with a great interface (pictures)

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Thunderbolts and lightning
The feature that sets Thunderspace apart from other apps is the capability to simulate lightning. It uses the flash on your iPhone to send one or more light pulses and soon after you'll hear the thunder that matches the lightning strikes. The idea is that you'll start a "storm," then place your iPhone face-down on something so it's out of your direct view. This way the lightning seems more realistic than actually seeing the flash on your iPhone go off. It's not perfect, and I noticed some lightning flashes that weren't followed by thunder, but most of the time it's quite realistic. Don't worry about the screen staying on either; Thunderspace uses your front-facing camera to detect when your iPhone is face-down and turns off the screen immediately.

The two storm types that come with the app are Roof Garden, giving you strong winds and heavy rain like in a summer storm, and Waterscape, a lighter rain falling into water, with thunder from farther away. There are six additional storm types and you can demo each one, but you'll have to pay 99 cents each to add new storms to your library.

A visually calming interface
To go with the great audio and visual elements, the app itself has a colorfully calming and intuitive interface. From the storm screen, which consists of a pause button and toggle for the flash (lightning), you can swipe to the right to get a list of thunderstorm types depending on your mood. The storm types are listed on the left, with storm descriptions on the right to set the scene. A swipe down brings up buttons for sharing the app, sending a message to support, and other common app options.

Part of what makes the sounds so realistic aside from the stereoscopic 3D audio, says developer Franz Bruckhoff, is that the nature sounds are from Emmy-award-winning nature sound recordist Gordon Hempton. I'm frankly not familiar with his work, but I can tell you all of the storms sound very realistic in Thunderspace.

One issue I noticed immediately is that you can't set a sleep timer. But Bruckhoff says the feature is coming soon and will be available in a future update.

While this niche app is likely not one you'll use on a daily basis, Thunderspace is great for a little relaxation in the dark with headphones, and the lightning that's timed to precede the thunderclaps makes for a great thunderstorm experience.


Thunderspace for iPhone

Score Breakdown

Setup 9Features 7Interface 9Performance 8