Entertainment

Where to Find the Best ASMR Videos on YouTube

asmr slime
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

ASMR videos -- videos that trigger the tingle-inducing sensation of ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) -- have gone from a relatively unknown, small corner of YouTube to appearing in Super Bowl commercials and interviews with major celebrities. Naturally, this sort of rise in popularity makes it feel trendy, very within the bizarre 2019 zeitgeist where teens are making TikToks about their mom taking away their Juuls. But the reality is that the ASMR sensation -- the relaxation, the “tingles,” the sleepiness -- is something that has been around long before the internet and YouTube. 

Not everyone experiences ASMR, and even those who do experience it differently and as a result of different triggers. But many people of all ages can remember times in their life where they had their back tickled, or hair brushed, or sat on the ground as a child while a sweet-voiced librarian softly read a story out loud and experienced what is now called ASMR. It’s only in the past seven or so years that it has been identified, popularized, and commodified. 

ASMR is no longer only a sensation felt only in the wild, unpredictably triggered by random surveys, doctor appointments, or haircuts. Now you can get your kicks by watching ASMR videos online, which cover a wide variety of different content: relaxing role plays of haircuts or doctor visits, whispered speech, kinetic sand, tapping sounds, eating sounds -- there’s something for everyone. But who are the ASMRtists (yes, that’s what they’re called) you should know about, and how did this all start?

Early Beginnings of ASMR

Bob Ross
Soft speaking, tutorials, meditation and Bob Ross videos were the original ASMR.
This first entry is not a specific channel, but perhaps one of the best ways to understand ASMR is to see the triggers popping up unintentionally in other videos -- dubbed “Unintentional ASMR” online. People often refer to PBS host Bob Ross as the “godfather of ASMR” because his soft instructions and gentle, scratchy brush sounds in Ross’ show, The Joy of Painting, were many people’s first conscious ASMR triggers. Meditation videos are a perfect example of unintentional ASMR, even if they are intentionally relaxing. But ASMR can also be triggered by beauty tutorials, another huge YouTube subculture, or any other instructional videos, with their soothing step-by-step instructions and whispered voiceovers. Before there were dedicated channels to ASMR and relaxation, many people would stumble across videos like these and revisit them again and again just to feel the tingles. 

WhisperingLife
2009: The first real ASMR video on YouTube
Cited by reddit users as the first ever intentional ASMR, before that was even an agreed-upon name, YouTube creator WhisperingLife uploaded this video (or rather, audio), of her rambling in a soft whisper in 2009. At first she jokes that it might be a fetish, but goes on to explain that she just finds it very soothing and hopes other people will enjoy it. It does not have a lot of views or comments, but it inspired other early ASMR channels, including Gentle Whispering ASMR, which in turn inspired more and more in what eventually became YouTube’s ASMR community. This is ground zero for ASMR on YouTube.

ASMRtists Emerge

Gentle Whispering ASMR
The first ASMR star 
Maria, also known as Gentle Whispering ASMR, is a Russian-born American who has been making ASMR videos since before they were even called ASMR. Maria is often cited by other content creators as the best and most influential ASMRtists on YouTube and one of the first to consistently put out well-crafted videos, always improving the production quality. She has helped pioneer role playing based on mundane experiences that “trigger” an ASMR response, like visiting a doctor or getting a suit fitted, that have become such a staple of the ASMR community. 

As her channel has grown since launching eight years ago, Maria has also become the de facto public face of ASMR and a major advocate and spokesperson for its community. She has been profiled by many major media outlets like The New Yorker, and has done TV interviews on shows like Ellen.

ASMRrequests
Pushing technological developments in ASMR
Another ASMRtist who has been making videos since the “early days” (that's still just a few years ago), Ally can be credited with raising the bar on the production quality of ASMR videos by incorporating custom props, elaborate green screen editing, sound design, and different character's she'll play. The video above is part of a series of sci-fi roleplays with an entire constructed universe. Several years ago, Ally worked with Maria GentleWhispering and Heather Feather (see below), on developing virtual reality and 360 degree content, which hasn't quite taken off, but it showed the creative promise and scope of the ASMR community.

Heather Feather ASMR
A giant on hiatus
Heather Feather was one of the original, big ASMRtists on YouTube. She is considered the inventor of “sksksk” sounds (seen here) and popularized a style of layering binaural mic sounds. She hasn’t posted a video in over a year, after having taken breaks in the past due to health issues, and her radio silence has caused unrest in the ASMR community, with some even releasing their own videos speculating “what happened to Heather Feather?” 

It's not unusual for any YouTube creator to stop posting or take long breaks from their public life. If the incentive to make money is gone, a creator is otherwise busy in their personal life, or the passion for making videos has fizzled, lots of YouTubers upload less and less until they just stop. On Twitter, Heather Feather still engages with fans, who still devour her large archive of existing content.

WhispersRed ASMR
Bringing ASMR to real life
Commenters frequently claim (anecdotally) that ASMR videos cure their insomnia, help them feel less alone, relax them when they are anxious, or help them treat issues like PTSD and depression. Emma (aka Whisper Red ASMR) is a major proponent of the therapeutic applications of ASMR and her focus on mental health and meditation with her channel has helped her amass one of the largest followings on YouTube. Offline, Whispers Red is perhaps the most prominent ASMRtist to publicly branch into the in-person, immersive experiences offered by groups like NYC-based Whisperlodge. These experiences, which are still in their creative infancy, include intimate, one-on-one “ASMR Spa” experiences, group meditations led by popular ASMRtists, and in-person versions of popular video role plays. Emma, who is from the UK, has appeared all over American and Europe for various events and, though she remains one of the most active and popular ASMRtists on YouTube, her efforts to give the ASMR community touchpoints in the analog world make her a pioneer.

Gibi ASMR 
Fandom mashups through ASMR
There are so many different subcultures on YouTube, and Gibi has her hands in two of the most niche and popular pots: gaming and ASMR. She posts many roleplaying videos, often putting characters from different fandoms together -- Harry Potter and classic Nickelodeon characters, for example. Gibi, who has over 2 million YouTube subscribers despite having launched just three years ago, is part of ASMR’s evolution from somewhat arbitrarily soothing videos into compelling story-building with creators writing, acting out, and developing their own characters.

Creators Buck Trends

ASMR Zeitgeist 
Deep voices trigger ASMR too
The only male ASMRtist included on this list because, well, there’s so few of them! While ASMR content is seemingly consumed equally by all genders (based on comments and subscriptions), young women tend to be the most popular creators. Many people claim that higher pitched, feminine whispers are just more soothing, but fans of ASMR Zeitgeist find his deep voice to have a commanding, calming presence. 

The video above also highlights the emergence of binaural microphones, which are shaped like ears and designed to replicate the depth of field of an analog audio experience. Using these stereo microphones, creators can choose which of a viewer’s ears to whisper into at different moments and surround viewers with more layered, textured soundscapes. Microphones like this aren’t cheap, but most serious ASMRtists consider them a must-have to deliver the production quality viewers demand. 

FrivolousFox ASMR
Lo-fi ASMR
On the other end of the audio spectrum is “lo-fi microphone” videos, like this one that uses the iPhone earbuds mic. Some find the white noise and “old school” style of audio more soothing than the crystal clear sounds that a binaural mic picks up. Lauren, or “Frivvi” makes many videos where she eats and licks this microphone, which is a disgusting sound to some, but to her many subscribers, is soothing and delightful. And no, this is still not sexual or sensual ASMR.

Angelica
ASMR that’s uniquely tongue-in-cheek
This video became a meme on Twitter in 2018. The title and concept -- a role play of a nun nursing you through the plague -- is utterly ridiculous and does not seem like it would be particularly soothing. But no matter how bizarre, videos with whispers or soft speaking will inevitably trigger people sensitive to ASMR and Angelica’s brand is a uniquely entertaining one. Her channel consists of tons of obscure historical role plays and esoteric makeup videos, like this makeup tutorial from the devil.

ASMR PPOMO
A million subscribers without a face reveal
Ppomo is a Korean ASMRtist who rarely talks in her videos and has never shown her face. Most ASMRtists who don’t show their face (understandably, people want to have privacy and maybe wouldn’t want their boss or mother-in-law to discover their videos) rarely achieve such huge levels of success. In addition to making hours-long videos, she also has a 24/7 livestream of soft sounds and triggers (it is all pre-recorded, but she does change it up). Accents and languages you can’t understand are common, popular triggers, and ppomo’s channel has millions of subscribers from all over the world.

Cardi B
A celebrity endorsement for ASMR
Cardi B is one of the few celebrities who has spoken publicly about her love of ASMR and how much time she spends watching videos. Doing so has led more people to become aware of the phenomenon. W Magazine does ASMR interviews with many celebrities, but Cardi’s is notable because she’s clearly a genuine fan and actually understands the intent of the videos (and her acrylic nails make beautiful tapping sounds). While ASMR still suffers from the idea that it is creepy, sexual, or should be kept secret, Cardi B’s openness helps people feel more comfortable and less shameful about enjoying the videos.

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Ella Downs is a contributor to Thrillist.