Help & Support
Best Sound Machines
How to Choose a Sound Machine
We spent more than 40 hours in our lab testing 10 different sound machines. We evaluated their sound quality and how well each one masked outside noise. The HoMedics Deep Sleep excelled in both of those tests, and we believe it is the overall best sound machine for most people. The Deep Sleep masked external noise, such as traffic and music, so well that our reviewers occasionally couldn't hear them at all. In addition, you can adjust the tone and volume of all the machine’s sound profiles to suit your preference. It is also the only sound machine we reviewed that comes with a remote control.
The Lectro Fan also performed well in our sound masking test, concealing noises, including a running blender, television and traffic, better than most of its competition. In addition, this model has 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.
If you are unsure whether a sound machine will actually help you sleep and nervous about making a significant initial investment, consider the HoMedics SoundSpa SS-2000. It costs less than $20 and has a good selection of sound profiles. It’s also portable, which makes it a good option if you plan to travel with your sound machine.
White Noise Machines vs. Sound Machines
We reviewed two main types of sleep machines: white noise machines and sound machines. A white noise machine makes a sound similar to TV static or a fan. These sounds aren’t soothing in and of themselves; instead, they are engineered to create a soft blend of frequencies that span the entire audio spectrum. This masks external noise and creates a quiet environment that’s conducive to sleep.
On the other hand, sound machines play comforting sounds like ocean waves or a crackling campfire to soothe you to sleep. While these sounds may also help to mask external noise, they aren't specifically designed to do so.
So, which is best for you? It depends on what is keeping you awake.
If stress keeps your mind racing while you should be settling down for the evening, you should look for a sound machine to distract you with comforting sounds. Keep in mind that machines with short, obvious sound loops can make falling asleep more difficult because you may focus on the loop instead of letting it be background noise.
Graveyard-shift workers and people who live in loud, urban locations will benefit most from a white noise machine. This is because they are specifically designed to mask daytime noises in homes, such as kids, doors and blenders, as well as sounds like traffic.
Sound Machines: What We Tested, What We Found
The two most important considerations when buying a sound machine are sound quality and sound masking abilities. We tested both by surveying a panel of evaluators. We then assigned each machine grades based on the evaluators’ cumulative impressions.
Sound Masking Test
Our reviewers took one sound machine or white noise maker at a time into our test lab. While the machine ran, another reviewer stationed outside the test lab created noise; for example, they turned on a vacuum or blender or played music through a stereo. The reviewer inside the room with the machine listed the sounds they heard and how loud they were. The noises were made at random, and the reviewers inside the test room had no warning before each occurred.
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 critically listened to each sound machine we reviewed, evaluating its overall quality and looping as well as how realistic the machine’s common profiles sound, for example, the rainfall 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.
What Else Is Important?
Sound machines are designed to help you fall asleep, but some do more. The Marpac Dohm white noise generator ranked among the best 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 & Alarms
Some people struggle to fall asleep at night, but once they do, they prefer complete silence without ocean sounds or white noise. If you fall under this category, you should invest in a sound machine that has a timer. A timer shuts off the machine after a specified amount of time, so you’re lulled to sleep by soothing sounds or white noise and then can enjoy complete silence after.
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 lets you choose to wake up to an alarm sound or the radio.
If you have a bedmate who doesn’t like listening to white noise or calming sounds as they fall asleep, you should look for a machine with a headphone output. When you plug headphones in, the speaker turns off so only you can hear the sounds.
Sound machines that have Bluetooth can play white noise and nature sounds from a mobile device. This gives you access to a nearly infinite library of sounds on the internet, in addition to the sound profiles that come with the device. You can also use the Bluetooth connection to stream music or podcasts while you fall asleep.
Contributing Reviewer: Billy Bommer