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Sound Machine Review
Why Use a Sound Machine?
The top performers in our review are HoMedics Deep Sleep, the Gold Award winner; Lectro Fan, the Silver Award winner; and Adaptive Sound Sleep + Sound, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 sound machines.
Millions of people a year don’t get the recommended amount of sleep they need to perform at an optimal level. Starting your day off without getting enough sleep is like driving your car with a flat tire. The car is still technically operational, but its performance will suffer.
People with sleep disorders and those who work graveyards know how detrimental sleep deprivation can be to one's overall health and daily performance. A common misconception is that sleep issues are more about your body's inability to fall asleep as opposed to the environment where you fall asleep. Because of this, people often turn to over-the-counter sleep aids or prescription medications to fall asleep at night, but these can do more damage than good to your body.
A sound machine is a healthy and inexpensive alternative for getting a good night's sleep. Sleep machines use soothing sounds such as white noise and ocean sounds to lull you to dreamland. All of the machines in our review range from $20 to $100. This is much less than the cost of prescriptions and even over-the-counter medications over an extended period of time.
There are two main types of sleep machines in our lineup – white noise machines and sound machines. A white noise machine makes a sound often associated with TV static or the sound of a fan. You might be wondering how television static is soothing. It's not. White noise machines differ in that they are engineered to create a soft blend of audio frequencies that span the entire audio spectrum. This creates a masking effect for external noise and promotes a quiet environment more conducive to sleep.
Sound machines use comforting sounds such as ocean waves lightly crashing onto the beach or the sounds of a crackling campfire to calm you to sleep. While these sounds also help to mask external noise, they aren't specifically designed to do so.
Sound Machines or White Noise Machines: What's Best for You
So, which is best for you: a sound machine or a white noise machine? It depends on what is keeping you from getting enough sleep.
Graveyard workers often catch their Zs while the rest of their household is awake, so they suffer from the not-so-quiet environment problem. It can be difficult to stay asleep with the constant interruption of external noises such as doors opening and closing, kids running up and down stairs, blenders buzzing and microwaves beeping. A white noise generator is a good solution to mask external noises and help you stay asleep in a loud environment.
One of the most common reasons people can't fall asleep at night is stress. Stress can cause the mind to run while you should be shutting down for the evening. These types of non-sleepers benefit from a sound machine for sleep because they help you concentrate on soothing noises and forget about the stresses of life. Many of these sleep machines have features like timers to turn the sounds off after an allotted amount of time. Others also feature volume controls and built-in alarm clock settings for the morning.
The best white noise machines mask external noise to keep your environment quiet while the best sound machines have non-repetitive sounds that are soothing and lull you to sleep. Keep in mind that sound machines with short or obvious sound loops make it harder to fall asleep, because it becomes easy to focus on the loop instead of letting the sound be a soothing background noise. Whether you prefer a sound machine or a white noise generator, the best ones create an environment favorable for sleep. For more information on this subject, visit our learning center for articles on sound machines.
Sound Machines: What We Tested, What We Found
Our aim is to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate the experiences of a typical consumer. We tested all of the sound machines in our comparison. Some were provided on loans from the manufacturer, and others we purchased retail, just like you would.. Note that the manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, and details about testing or results were not provided to the companies prior to publication.
Sound Masking Test
We had our reviewers take one sound machine or white noise maker at a time into our test lab. The reviewers would listen to the sound machine or white noise maker and observe what they heard. While they sat inside the room, a reviewer outside the test lab would play various sounds or create noises by, for example, turning on a vacuum or blender or playing music through a stereo. The reviewers inside the room listed the occurrence and volume level of any outside noises they heard. The sounds outside of the room happened at random, and the reviewers inside the test room had no warning when each occurrence was going to take place.
We took the scores from our test to determine the best sound machine for masking noise. The white noise and sound machines with the highest grades created the quietest environment conducive for sleep. We used only the white noise setting on the sound machines for this test.
Sound Quality Test
Our reviewers listened in-depth to each sound machine in our review. They listened for overall quality, audible looping and realism in a common sound profile between all sound machines. This was often the rainfall sound profile. White noise generators were judged based on their white noise profile. Our reviewers took detailed notes and scored each sleep machine based on these criteria. From the scores, we were able to determine the overall sound quality and effectiveness of each sleep machine.
What Else Is Important?
Sound machines are designed to help you fall asleep, but some offer other features outside of the sound profiles and white noise generating. For instance, The Marpac Dohm white noise generator ranked among the best in the category for sound quality and sound masking, but it doesn’t offer any extra features. Since these extra features might affect your buying decision, we factored them into our comparison.
Timers and Alarms
Some people may struggle to fall asleep at night, but once they fall asleep, they enjoy silence. Those who fall under this category should invest in a sound machine that features a timer. A timer will shut off the sound machine after a specified amount of time. You can be lulled to sleep by the sound machine then enjoy silence after you fall asleep.
For those who have an equally hard time waking up as falling asleep, some sound machines come with built-in alarm clocks. For example, the Sharper Image Sound Soother allows you to wake up to the alarm sound or radio depending on what you choose.
Sound Machines: Our Verdict and Recommendations
The HoMedics Deep Sleep is our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award winner. This sound machine excelled in both our noise masking testing and sound quality testing. The Deep Sleep often masked external noise such as traffic and music so well that our reviewers sometimes couldn't hear any outside noises. Beyond our test results, the sound profiles within the Deep Sleep are completely adjustable – the tone and volume of all the sound profiles can be adjusted to your preference. It is also the only sound machine in our lineup that comes with its own remote control. This is the best sound machine by a wide margin.
The Lectro Fan earns our Top Ten Reviews Silver Award. Along with the Deep Sleep, the Lectro Fan also excelled in our sound masking test by masking external noises, including sounds of a running blender, television and traffic, better than the rest of the competition. The Lectro Fan has up to 20 different white noise and fan sounds. You can also adjust the volume of the sounds and set a timer that shuts the noisemaker off automatically. This sound machine is a great choice to help create a quite environment for concentration and relaxation.
The Adaptive Sound Sleep + Sound is our Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award winner. This sound machine features 10 different sound profiles. The Richness button adds more depth and sound qualities to the profile, such as adding rolling thunder to the quiet rainstorm setting. Our testers were unable to hear any audible looping within the sound profiles, which helps create a restful environment. It didn't mask external noise as well as the Lectro Fan or the Deep Sleep, but it is right behind them in terms of sound quality and noise masking ability.