The crying baby, loud TV or constantly-arguing couple upstairs. Traffic on a busy street. Incessantly-barking dogs. The hustle and bustle of an urban neighbourhood!
Any of those nighttime annoyances – if they don’t drive you to drink – can drive you to explore the benefits of sound machines. And as you’ll quickly discover the best white noise machine bought to meet your specific needs is a marvelous invention that can be invaluable when it’s time to hit the pillow.
The Best White Noise Machine Can Enhance Normal Sleep
They’re not just great at blocking out extraneous noise, though. Research has repeatedly shown that sound machines are extremely effective at inducing and enhancing normal sleep, even if they’re not needed to cover unwanted noises. That’s because the sounds emitted by the best white noise machines are designed to match the alpha, theta and delta brain wave frequencies that correlate to various stages of sleep. They first help the brain relax, and then encourage the healthy stages of the human sleep cycle.
Even an old, noisy fan set close to the bed (you don’t want one of these high quality portable fans because they won’t make the right noise), or a clock radio playing static from an unused frequency, can aid in sleep. But carefully-designed and engineered white noise machines promote and enhance a good night’s sleep in ways nothing else can. And many are portable enough to easily slip into an overnight bag to be used when sleeping in uncomfortable beds in “foreign” environments, where restful sleep can be nearly impossible to enjoy.
Different Types of White Noise Machines
There are two basic types of sound machines.
- The first simply plays “white noise”, created by blending a number of varying frequencies to sound like a fan or the radio “hiss” we mentioned earlier.
- Most of today’s best sound machines, still commonly referred to as white noise machines, do more. They provide a variety of different audio tracks ranging from simulated white noise to calming nature sounds and even the sounds of city traffic (which can be calming to those who grew up in that environment). The wider the choice, the easier it is to find the sounds which will lull you into a deep sleep.
Features to Consider When Buying a Sound Machine
White noise is often generated randomly by a machine, but the calming sounds of a waterfall or chirping birds must, of course, can be recorded and played back in a loop. So one important factor in choosing the best white noise machine is whether it’s obvious that the same recording is playing every 20 or 30 seconds; that can become a distraction instead of a sleep aid.
Other questions to ask are how the machine is powered (some are anchored to the wall by a power cord and others are battery-powered for portability), if there’s a sleep timer to save battery power, and naturally, the variety of sounds that are available. The quality of the sound produced is also crucial.
The G+ S review team enjoyed creating this best white noise machine review because we’ve used these sleep aids for years and understand how valuable they can be. Before we doze off, here are our findings.
1. Adaptive Sound Technologies Sound+Sleep
The good news: this company’s top-of-the-line machines (which also go by the name Ecotones) used to sell for hundred’s of dollars, while this latest version of the Sound+Sleep costs a lot less. The better news: this is one fabulous white noise machine.
This is one of the more expensive sound machines but there are features on the Sound+Sleep you won’t find on any other unit, and the most compelling is the adaptive technology featured in the company name. The machine is able to detect unwanted background noise in the room and automatically adjust the audio it’s playing in order to cancel out unexpected ambient noise. It’s amazing, and it works.
There’s also a “richness” control on this white noise machine, so you have the option of adding layers of sound and are not limited to simply turning up the volume. Finally, the excellent speakers on the Ecotones are on the top of the machine so the sound is projected to the ceiling and reflected throughout the room, providing an immersive experience – unlike audio played from small speakers aimed at your head or the wall.
There’s a selection of ten “sound profiles” ranging from white noise and meditation to ocean and rainfall. But by using the richness function you can expand that choice to thirty distinct sound patterns (for example, it can add more birds, ships and other ambient noises to standard ocean sounds each time you press “richness”).
The audio is recorded in high definition (at a bitrate of over 1400 kbps) and played in a thirty-minute loop with random samples added in, so it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll ever be able to detect a pattern even if you’re an insomniac who’s awake for hours. There’s a timer that will turn off the machine after 30, 60, 90 or 120 minutes, a headphone jack, and a button to turn off the unit’s lights.
This is a fabulous white noise machine, designed impeccably – and it will help you sleep. If you’ve ever lain awake thinking “I’d give my right arm for a good night’s sleep,” it won’t cost you any body parts.
Facts and figures for the Adaptive Sound Technologies Sound+Sleep:
2. Marpac Dohm-SS All-Natural White Noise Sound Machine
The one objection some people have to sound machines is that they sound “artificial,” even if used on the white noise setting. That’s because most modern machines use audio recordings to create simulated white noise. The Dohm-SS (which is the “official sound conditioner of the national sleep foundation”) has been around for more than 50 years and is in its fourth generation. It’s the perfect alternative for those folks who hate recorded sounds because it creates organic white noise that blocks sounds at a wide variation of frequencies, and it interacts naturally with the brain to create the waves which encourage sleep. In other words, it’s not digital – it’s completely analog.
The method Marpac uses to generate sound is ingenious. There’s an electric motor and an asymmetrical fan inside, surrounded by a plastic, acoustically-designed housing with tiny slits. The housing amplifies the sound of the fan and by turning the housing, you can vary the amount of air that escapes. The end result is a controllable volume and pitch of natural white noise, and since the slits are so small you won’t feel any air blowing on you. There are high and low fan settings, but that’s the only control you have to worry about. It’s very simple, and it works.
Does it have the “calming” sounds of a waterfall or city traffic? No. Does it have a timer or remote control? No. Is it attractive? Not really; it looks like a white plastic cylinder. Will it put you to sleep and keep you asleep, if you respond well to white noise? Absolutely, and that is why it’s #2 on our best white noise machine list.
In-depth on the Marpac Dohm-SS All-Natural White Noise Sound Machine:
3. Sound Oasis Natural Sounds Therapy System
As you may have guessed, our preference is for white noise. Many other people, however, need a variety of different sound programs to lull them to sleep. The Natural Sounds system meets those needs extremely well.
This Sound Oasis machine comes with 12 sounds common to noise machines like white noise, rain, surf, thunderstorms and chimes. But then there’s the feature unique to the Natural Sounds: there are 12 more sounds on an included and removable sound card – and you can purchase additional cards with even more choices. Currently four cards are available. The extra card that comes with your initial purchase has “Spa Retreat” programs like Hawaiian Surf, Asian Garden and Easy Days, which aren’t easily describable (and some seem rather odd) but each one is different. Many of the sound profiles are quite “gentle” so they don’t sound particularly sleep-inducing to us and aren’t very effective at blocking out loud noises. But everyone has their own preferences, and the customizability of the Natural Sounds system will be a welcome feature for many who respond best to calming sounds.
The sounds are digitally recorded, sound good and are looped well; the speaker placement and quality, unfortunately, isn’t optimal for immersive sound so some of those benefits are somewhat lost. The Sound Oasis machine has a shut-off timer you can set for 30, 60 or 90 minutes, a “sleep enhancement” function which slows down the recorded sound after you fall asleep, variable light control, and an alarm clock that’s difficult to set. One very nice feature is that it can operate on either AC or battery power, unlike the first two white noise machines the review team looked at.
The Sounds Therapy system isn’t our cup of tea, particularly for the price. But it’s a good product for what it’s meant to do, and might be exactly what you’re looking for.
More details on the Sound Oasis Natural Sounds Therapy System:
4. LectroFan White Noise Machine
Until recently, a portable noise machine meant the unit was small and lightweight but also battery-powered, so it was likely to run out of juice before the night was over. Meet the LectroFan, which is truly a 21st-century white noise machine because it can be powered via USB. Just plug the machine into your laptop or another device with a USB port and you’re good to go. You can also plug it into the wall with an AC adapter if you prefer.
This is another model without bells and whistles – or “sound profiles.” There are ten different white noise sounds and ten more unique fan sounds, with no babbling brooks or flocks of seagulls (yes, that was an 80s music reference). But the noises are non-repeating and very good at covering up unwanted noise. Your House Garden really liked the wide selection of non-distracting white noises.
The timer can only be set for 60 minutes, and there are no other special features. But the LectroFan is a great noise generator for the price. It’s #4 on our best white noise machine list, but we consider it #1 if you need a unit that you can easily take on the road or on vacation.
Digging deeper on the LectroFan White Noise Machine:
5. HoMedics SS-2000 Sound Spa Relaxation Sound Machine
Here’s our budget option. It can’t compete with the high-end white noise machines we’ve already listed, but it does a decent job of playing six standard sounds (white noise, ocean, thunder, rain, summer night and brook), it’s lightweight, and is very inexpensive.
The HoMedics unit only weighs eight ounces and can run on 4 AA batteries, so it’s a good option for travel. The actual sounds aren’t powerful enough to drown out loud noises, they’re not overly realistic, and they loop several times per minute. So this machine is best for those who want white noise, are in a relatively quiet environment, or are too busy falling asleep to notice potential annoyances like repetitive audio.
It will work just fine for many people and situations, though, and it’s great for traveling. You can’t beat the price, either.
Specifications for the HoMedics SS-2000 Sound Spa Relaxation Sound Machine: