Best Sound Machines of 2018

Billy Bommer ·
Audio & Travel Writer
Updated
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We spent more than 30 hours researching and testing the best sound machines under $90 to safely and effectively help you sleep. The Avantek sound machine is our pick for the best overall sound machine because it has a diverse selection of white noise and nature sounds. It performed above average in our sound masking test, and we couldn’t hear any noticeable looping during our audio quality tests. It doesn’t run on batteries, but the compact and durable design makes it a worthy travel companion.

Best Overall
Avantek Sound Machine
The Avantek Sound Machine has a great selection of high quality white noise and nature sounds. It’s twice as expensive as some of the budget-friendly sound machines we tested, but it’s built to last.
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Best Value
HoMedics Sound Spa SS-2000
The HoMedics Sound Spa costs less than $20 and has a good selection of sound profiles, including white noise. The compact design and optional battery operation also make it a good travel companion.
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Best White Noise Machine
LectroFan
The LectroFan only has white noise and fan sounds, but it was one of the best performers in our sound masking test. It is easy to operate and has a sleep timer.
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Product
Price
OVERALL RATING
Sound
Settings
Design
Noise Masking
Sound Quality
Volume (decibels)
Total Number of Sounds
Timer Duration (minutes)
Continuous Play
Headphone Output
LCD Screen
Battery Backup
$34.99 Amazon
8.2 9 10 4
B
A-
40-99
20
1, 2, 4, 7 hours
False
False
0
$44.95 Amazon
8.1 9.5 10 14
A
B+
49-95
20
60
False
False
0
$14.99 Best Buy
8 7.5 8 6
C+
B-
40-97
6
15, 30, 60
False
False
4 AA
$44.17 Wal-Mart
7.9 10 9 6
A
A
45-95
12
30, 60, 90
False
0
$19.99 Amazon
7.8 7.5 8 6
C+
B-
50-96
6
15, 30, 60
False
False
3 AA
$14.99 Appliances Connection
7.7 7 8.5 6
C+
C
47-95
10
60
False
False
4 AA
$79.98 Wal-Mart
7.5 7.3 9 10
B-
C
45-95
12
30, 60, 90
4 AA
$72.53 Wal-Mart
7.4 9 8.5 6
B+
B+
41-97
10
30, 60, 90, 120
False
0
$23.99 zulily
7 7.5 8 4
C+
C+
42-94
6
15, 30, 60
False
False
0
$46.98 Amazon Marketplace
6.8 8.3 2.5 4
B
A-
68-84
2
No Timer
False
False
0
Best Overall
The Avantek Sound Machine has 20 white noise and nature sounds, as well as the most adjustable range of volumes we tested. The buttons and case are durable and compact, making it an appropriate choice if you want to travel with a sound machine.
Its noise masking capabilities aren’t quite on par with the most efficient sound masking machines we tested, but the Avantek is more cost effective. This sleep machine has six white noise options, six fan sounds and eight nature tones to choose from. There isn’t an LCD screen to see which sound and variation you are listening to, but it has a memory function that saves the last volume and tone setting you used. It also has a sleep timer for one, two, four or seven hours, which is a longer timer than on the other sound machines we tested. One hour should be sufficiently brief, but we prefer sound machines with shorter timers as well. We tested the audio quality of each sound machine by intently listening for obvious loops in the sound profiles, and taking note of how realistic the nature sounds are. The Avantek sleep machine was one of the best performers in this test. The nature sounds don’t have any startling noises, and we couldn’t hear any obvious loops. It has 30 volume settings, so you should have no problem finding the perfect sound, and the perfect volume, to help you fall asleep.
Pros
  • Good selection of quality sounds
  • Compact and durable design
  • Great range of volumes
Cons
  • No headphone output
  • No battery backup
  • No short timer options
$37.99Amazon
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Best Value
The HoMedics SoundSpa doesn’t have the noise masking capabilities of the best products we reviewed, but it’s less than $20 and has most of the important sound profiles. The compact design and optional battery operation also make it a good travel companion.
We have some concerns about the durability of this sleep machine compared to others we tested, but in this case the trade-off creates value. We tested the sound masking abilities of sound machines by playing the white noise setting while a reviewer in the adjacent room made normal household noises. The white noise setting on the SoundSpa sounds like a soft television static, which isn't distracting, but our reviewers weren’t impressed with its ability to mask external noises. The other audio performance test we conducted was a sound quality test. We played all the available sounds to see how accurate they were and surveyed a panel of reviewers to assess if they could hear where the audio loop restarts. The SoundSpa’s soothing nature sounds were better than average, and the audio loops were more than 20 seconds long. More than half of our survey panel couldn’t hear any discernible audio looping. We weren’t impressed with its ability to mask external noises though.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Portable
  • Good variety of sounds
Cons
  • Below-average sound masking capabilities
  • Poor bass response
  • Not durable
$18.99Amazon
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Best White Noise Machine
This sound machine only has white noise and fan sounds, but there are a wide variety of tones within those two categories. The LectroFan was one of the best performers in our sound masking test, which is the primary use for the white noise setting on a sound machine.
The compact and simple design is easy to operate and makes a good travel companion for those who have a hard time sleeping with traffic and other external noise. The loudest noises in our sound masking test were from a blender and a vacuum. The LectroFan blocked those noises better than any other sound machine we tested. It masked the high-pitched blender noise well enough that none of our reviewers could hear the initial shock of the blender starting. Instead, they reported hearing it as a gradual increase as the blender ran after a few minutes. There are 10 different fan sounds and 10 different white noise sounds, so you should have no problem finding one that satisfies your particular preference. The downside of this sound machine is the lack of convenience features. It doesn’t have an LCD screen to show which sound profile you are using. It is also missing a headphone output, which can be an important feature for someone with a bedmate who doesn’t enjoy the sound of white noise. The one important feature it does have is a sleep timer. The timer is a useful feature for those who have trouble falling asleep but prefer silence once they do.
Pros
  • Excellent noise masking
  • Wide variety of white noise and fan sounds
  • Portable design
Cons
  • Makes white noise and fan sounds only
  • No battery backup
  • No headphone output
$49.95Amazon
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Best Sound Profiles
The HoMedics Deep Sleep has the most accurate and soothing sound profiles and its white noise tone produced the best results in our sound masking test.
It’s also the only sound machine we tested that comes with a remote control, which allows you to switch between the different sound profiles and control the volume without leaving the comfort of your bed. This sound machine has 12 total sounds in three different categories: white noise, nature and water. The nature and water tones are calming, and change based on the volume you play them. For instance, if you play the thunderstorm profile at a loud volume, the thunder is the most prevalent sound, but as you turn the volume down, the rainfall comes to the forefront and the thunder fades to the background.
Pros
  • Natural and realistic sound profiles
Cons
  • Expensive
Amazon
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Best for Travel
This sound machine costs less than $20 and runs on 3 AA batteries, making it a great option for traveling with a familiar sound to help you fall asleep in unfamiliar surroundings.
It has five nature sounds and a white noise profile. Its noise masking capabilities aren’t on par with the best sound machines we tested, but also we didn’t notice any obvious loops. It also comes with a power adapter if you have access to power outlet. The sleep timer has 15, 30 or 60-minute intervals, and all the controls are clearly marked and easy to toggle from the top panel. The design isn’t as durable as some of the white noise machines we tested, but its low price makes it easy to toss in a carry-on bag or camping pack without feeling guilty about breaking it.
Pros
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Subpar noise masking
Amazon
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Why Trust Us 

We spent more than 30 hours in our testing lab blasting the loudest household devices we could find while our reviewers relaxed behind a door listening to white noise machines to see if they could properly mask external noises. We purchased all 10 sound machines from authorized retailers to see what they look like and make sure they work as described right out of the box.

We evaluated all the sound machines in hands-on tests that simulate the experiences of a typical consumer. Our sound masking and sound quality tests were conducted in a real-world scenario with noises like a vacuum, blender and music playing through a stereo. The final grade for each product was assigned based on the cumulative scores contributed by our panel of evaluators.

I spoke to Dr. Michael Grandner, the Director of Sleep and Health Research at the University of Arizona, about the potential advantages and disadvantages of using a sound machine to help you sleep. He suggests using more constant sound profiles, like white noise and fan sounds, and avoiding profiles that have high-pitched noises. “The more varied the sound, the more likely it will result in shallower sleep.” 

How We Tested 

We performed three audio tests to inform our research: a sound masking test, a sound quality test and a minimum and maximum volume test. We conducted the volume test to make sure you can tailor the volume level to your preference. Products with the widest volume range received higher marks because they are more dynamic. We found that sound machines with built-in fans had less volume variation than those with speakers.

To test the sound masking capabilities of each product, we had our reviewers take one sound machine at a time into our test lab, while another reviewer made various noises, like a vacuum cleaner, blender or music playing on a stereo, in the adjacent room. The sound machines were all set to transmit white noise at 85 dB for this test, which is the proper audio setting and volume for masking external noise. The reviewers inside the test lab then recorded each occurrence and volume level of any outside noises they heard. Our final grades were issued based on how well each sound machine was able to mask those external noises.


We determined a sound quality grade by listening to the rainfall sound profile from every sound machine. The sound machines that only have white noise sound profiles were judged on the same criteria, but while listening to the available white noise profiles. Our survey panel judged the sound quality of each product based on realism, the softness or soothing quality of the profile and whether they could tell the sound profile was a loop. The best ones had realistic sounds that are soothing and didn't have any audible looping.

How Much Does a Sound Machine Cost? 

The sound machines we tested range in price from $20 to $50. There are a wide range of free white noise apps available for smart phones, but you’d have to connect your phone to a $30 Bluetooth speaker to get the same volume range as the machines in our comparison. You can also use a sleep machine as a supplement or replacement for expensive sleep medications, which could save you hundreds of dollars annually.

Key Features to Look For When Buying a Sound Machine  

Sleep Timer
Sound machines are designed to help you fall asleep, but once you are asleep, sleep timers turn the sound off so you can slumber in silence. The best sound machines give you multiple timer options. Some have options ranging from 15 to 90 minutes, and the best ones we tested have timers that last up to seven hours. We recommend using the continuous setting for masking noise, rather than allowing the machine to turn off while you’re asleep.

Headphone Output
When you plug headphones into a sound machine that has this output selection, the speaker turns off. That is a helpful feature if you have a bedmate who doesn’t share the same need for calming noises. It can also be helpful for someone who works in a noisy environment and doesn’t want to bother other employees.

Battery Backup
All the sound machines we tested plug into a wall socket, but some use batteries as a secondary power source. Battery operation is handy if you want to travel with your sound machine, especially somewhere that doesn’t have a readily available wall socket, like a campground. Battery operation also keeps the sound machine running during a power outage.