Our Top Picks
The Dreamegg D1 quickly rose to the top as our favorite sound machine of the test fleet. This machine is easy to use and has sharp sound quality with clarity across its full range, from high-pitch babbling brooks to thunderstorms and crashing ocean waves, as well as classic fan whirring sounds for those who are less nature sound-inclined. The straightforward and easy-to-learn controls give you the ability to select a sound, night light level, volume level, and set a timer to turn it off in 30, 60, or 90-minute intervals (or leave it playing all night if you like). If the timer goes off and you wake up, all you have to do to get another round of sound to play is touch the power button, and another cycle will begin. Additionally, the rubber coating on the exterior gives the machine a high-end look and feel in contrast to all of the other plastic options on the market, a design feature we appreciated.
We had to look hard to find any complaints about this machine. One small gripe was the positioning of the power button. It is smaller and located on the side of the control panel, with the nightlight button being located top-center. This works great for turning on a light in the middle of the night, but if you are trying to start another cycle of sleep sounds after the timer has gone off, you might mistakenly hit the light and interrupt your slumber even further. Overall though, if you need some help falling asleep from a noise machine, this is one of the best we've found.
If you want fantastic sound quality from your noise machine but don't have much money to spare, the Letsfit White Noise is an excellent option. We were pleasantly surprised with the sound it put out during our testing. There's a life-like and soothing amount of rumble from thunderstorms and ocean waves while bird chirps and fan whir sounds come through sharp and clear. The grate on the top is touch-sensitive and gives you the ability to easily turn the nightlight on by tapping or pressing longer to restart the sleep soundtrack without having to fumble for buttons in the dark. There is a specific button that announces the available off-timers to you as you scroll through them. As for looks, the white and gray colors are subtle and work well with most decor.
The Letsfit White Noise has fewer sound options than many other models, but we still feel it covers all the major genres (fan, water, white noise) that most people are seeking. Additionally, you have to press and hold the volume buttons to adjust the volume, which can make it slightly difficult to choose the exact level you want. Otherwise, we think the Letsfit White Noise is a fantastic machine that will serve most people well at a price that most can manage.
If you're seeking the best sound quality and adjustability from your sleep soundtrack, we can't recommend the Sound and Sleep High Fidelity enough. It plays everything in its sound quiver with a level of clarity and realism that is a notch above the rest of the field. It also lets you adjust the intensity of each one of its sounds. For example, the bird sounds can be adjusted from a couple of chickadees casually chatting up to a forest flock singing away. There is also an 'adaptive' mode that adjusts the intensity and/or the volume of your chosen sound based on the ambient noise in your bedroom, allowing the machine to automatically ramp up the volume when that annoying nighttime construction starts up. We also enjoy the retro radio styling as a fun design to add to your bedroom decor.
The cons of the Sound and Sleep High Fidelity are its price and its size. It is twice as large as most comparable devices and often twice as expensive. However, if you place a premium on sound quality and adjustability, we think it is well worth both the extra cost and the extra nightstand real estate.
Sleep can be an even more elusive commodity when you're away from home, making a portable sound machine a great asset. If you want a machine that can run even if you don't have reliable access to an outlet, we recommend the Homedics SoundSpa. It can be used plugged in or run via AA batteries, and its slim profile won't take up much space in your suitcase. Perhaps more importantly, it plays clear babbling brook, rain, and cricket noises that easily lulled us to sleep. The simple interface makes it easy to select your desired soundtrack, volume, and timer settings, and it remembers the last settings you entered the next time you use it.
Offering only six sounds (thunder, ocean, brook, summer nights, rain, and white noise), the Homedics SoundSpa doesn't offer as much versatility as some of the other models we tested. Additionally, the skinny body lends a bit of an echoey and undefined quality to the lower thunder and ocean noises — we always found ourselves migrating towards the high-pitched sounds with this machine. If you can get over these drawbacks, however, we think the SoundSpa provides one of the best portable ambient noise experiences out there and will make those nights away feel like you're still at home.
Much of our modern sleep challenges arise from the demands of the digital world, and no matter how good it sounds, using a digital recording to ward off that digitally-induced insomnia can feel counterintuitive at best. If you fall into this category, the Marpac Dohm Classic was designed with you in mind. It bucks the digital trend by using an actual internal fan to create its white noise. Two sets of slidable vents allow you to finely adjust the pitch and timbre of the noise the fan emits, allowing for a completely customizable experience. The controls couldn't be simpler — just a single switch to select off, low fan speed, or high fan speed.
While the more natural, mechanical sound of the Marpac Dohm Classic can often feel more soothing than digital recordings, it won't help if you're looking to recreate the calming river or ocean wave noises that lulled you to sleep on your summer vacation. Additionally, there is no off-timer, so the fan runs uninterrupted all night. Still, if you find the real-world hum of an airplane or whirr of a fan tranquilizing, the Marpac Dohm Classic is the best way we've found to bring that sound into your bedroom.
If real estate on your nightstand is at a premium, the Magicteam Sound Machine is the model you should turn to. Sporting a 2.7" x 2.7" footprint, it is the smallest of the machines we've tested. Despite its small stature, it manages to produce everything from crashing waves to chirping birds with enough clarity to calm the mind and block out other distracting nighttime noises. It is also cheaper than many competing models, making it a good option for those that don't want to invest too much in an ambient noise machine.
Though the Magicteam device sounds quite good overall, the small size somewhat limits its capabilities. Especially at higher volumes, some of the higher-pitched noises (birdsong, rain) can sound a bit crinkly, and lower-pitched sounds (thunder, waves) can lack a bit of body and feel slightly less engrossing. As long as you're not too picky about sound quality, however, the Magicteam Sound Machine is likely to help you fall asleep without taking up much space on your nightstand.
Though it's geared towards babies, we think the Hatch Baby Rest would serve anyone well who's looking for a sound machine/wake-up light combo. The associated app is intuitive and allows you to easily set a wake-up routine, where progressively louder sounds and brighter lights gently wake you from your slumber. You can also set sleep routines with any combinations of lights and sounds you'd like. If you don't want to mess with the app, a touch-sensitive ring on the cover allows you to quickly turn on your preset favorite settings. We found the light to be soft and warm and the sounds to be reasonably clear and relaxing.
Being a 2-in-1 device, the Hatch Baby Rest is more expensive than most ambient noise machines. It also lacks a little bit of bass power, meaning ocean waves and thunder don't sound quite as realistic as they do with some other machines. Finally, controlling the machine without the app isn't easy as the buttons are on the bottom of the machine (you have to lift it up to access them) and are fairly basic. However, we feel these are minor concerns for those seeking a versatile machine that does more than just make noise.
The LectroFan High Fidelity White Noise sleep sound machine is a classic ambient noise device. Its simple design offers 20 different sounds, all of which we found realistic enough to calm our brains before bed. In particular, it offers a large variety of fan noises for those that prefer the whir of a fan to fill their bedrooms with some simple noise.
The interface of the LectroFan is quite spartan and slightly less intuitive than some others. The controls are on the front of the machine rather than the top. We found this made it less convenient to make adjustments in the middle of the night when reaching over to our bed stands. Additionally, some static is introduced for higher-pitched sounds, particularly if you need to crank the volume higher. While this wouldn't be our top recommendation to anyone, the LectroFan is still a good and capable sleep sound machine.
The Vanzon White Noise offers more sound varieties than most machines on the market, making it great for people that like to switch things up. It also uses a simple series of toggle buttons to scroll through all of those sound options and set off timers. For the most part, the sound quality is good, with some caveats.
Our biggest complaint with the Vanzon is its propensity to sound a bit echoey, especially when playing lower-pitched sounds. This generally caused us to steer clear of its thunder and ocean noises. Different sounds also tend to be played at different volume levels, so selecting a new sound generally means you'll need to make a volume adjustment as well. Still, if you like to have a lot of options, you may like the Vanzon.
The MyBaby SoundSpa On-the-Go offers simple and portable sleep sounds for your baby in a convenient package. The included hook allows it to be easily hung on a stroller or crib, and three AA batteries get you hours of play time.
Our biggest complaint with the MyBaby SoundSpa On-the-Go is its sound quality — everything sounds a bit staticky and echoey. The baby-specific design is nice, but we've seen other battery-powered models that sound much better in a similar price range. Still, if you just want something that blends in with the rest of your baby's accessories, this is a viable option.
Why You Should Trust Us
Senior Editor Max Mutter has personally tested and reviewed more than 200 consumer audio products over the last four years. In this review, he used that wealth of experience to accurately compare the relative sound quality of the top white noise machines on the market. He is also one that finds silence deafening. Ever since spending his formative years trying to learn in the disastrous cacophony that is a high school without walls (no really, his high school was "open concept" and had no walls separating classrooms) he has been unable to concentrate or fall asleep without some sort of background noise. As such, he's spent years using radio, podcasts, and YouTube nature sounds videos to fill in the auditory void, making him the perfect person to test ambient noise machines.
Our sleep sound machine testing began with side-by-side listening tests, ranging from low, rolling thunder to higher-pitched pink noise and babbling water, to compare sound quality throughout each speaker's range. We then assessed each model's user interface, paying attention to things like how easy they are to turn on in a dark room, if any indicator lights can be detrimental to sleep, and how easy it is to cycle through sounds. Finally, we used each one for their intended purposes — to aid in falling asleep and to provide ambient noise for reading and working.
Analysis and Test Results
Our testing results are divided into three categories: sound quality, ease of use, and sound variety. We've detailed the results of each of those tests below.
Sleep sound machines are meant to get you out of your own head so your brain can wind down and relax. Any oddities or imperfections in that sound can instantly snap you out of that stupor, negating the calming effects of the ambient noise. We tested sound quality by listening to a variety of sounds throughout the auditory spectrum, from low rumbling thunder and ocean waves to higher-pitched singing birds and babbling brooks, with each of our sleep sound machines, one right after another. In this way, we could rank the relative attributes of each machine. We also used each machine for at least a full night of sleeping to test the real-world effectiveness of the sound.
Luckily, all of the machines we tested sound pretty good. Sure, some of the smaller/cheaper models lack a little bass definition or sometimes sound a bit crinkly in the higher registers, but across the board, we were able to find sounds from each machine that soothed our racing minds.
There were some significant standouts in our sound quality testing as well. The Sound and Sleep High Fidelity is the best sounding of the machines we tested, relying on a much larger than average stature to produce deep and clear bass tones and crystal high tones. It also offers more adjustability within each one of its sounds, allowing you to choose from a light drizzle all the way up to a downpour, for example.
The Dreamegg D1 also sounded fantastic in our testing. From rumbling waves and thunder to chirping birds and higher-pitched fan noises, everything came through clear and life-like. The Letsfit White Noise turned in a similar performance in our testing, if only slightly less clear at the higher registers.
The Marpac Dohm Classic uses an actual fan to create its noise, which can be adjusted by moving two different sliding vents. While this is clearly less versatile than a machine with a large catalog of digital sounds, for those looking for a more naturalistic white noise, it really can't be beat.
Ease of Use
Sleep sound machines are by their very nature quite simple, and we think their interfaces should be simple as well. In testing the user experience provided by each, we focused on how easy it was to select and change sounds and volume, how convenient it was to turn night lights on and off, and how easily sounds could be turned on in the middle of the night without turning on a light or getting out of bed.
The Dreamegg D1 has possibly the most intuitive interface of any of the tested models, with a simple layout and a differently sized button for the night light, making it easier to find in the dark. Additionally, the buttons are on the top of the machine, which we feel makes it much easier to use when laying in bed.
The Sound and Sleep High Fidelity doesn't have the simplest interface, but it does have an 'adaptive' mode that will automatically raise the volume if your surroundings get louder, reducing the likelihood you'll want to adjust the volume in the middle of the night.
The Marpac Dohm Classic is perhaps the simplest machine we tested, with only a switch that turns its internal fan on low or high speed, and some slidable vents to adjust the sound of that fan.
The best sound quality in the world isn't going to help you fall asleep if your sound machine doesn't play a sound that you like. If you're not sure what kinds of sleep sounds you enjoy, you might want to get a machine that has lots of options to increase the likelihood you'll find one you enjoy. Alternatively, you could try out a basic white noise app on your phone to determine the kinds of sounds that work well for you before committing to a dedicated machine. Below we've listed all of the sounds offered by all the machines we tested so you can make sure you end up with the options you want.
The Vanzon White Noise offers 36 sounds, making it the most versatile on our list. Those sounds include: birds, waves, smaller waves, crickets, campfire, train, ticking clock, rain/thunder, rolling waves, rain, babbling brook 1, babbling brook 2, cicada, leaky faucet, heartbeat, ultrasound, lullaby 1, lullaby 2, 11 different fan noises, and 7 white/pink noises.
The Sound and Sleep High Fidelity has 10 base sounds, each of which can be set to 3 different intensity levels, for a total of 30 possible noises. The base 'sound stories' are: water, fireplace, ocean, meadow, train, city, rainfall, brook, meditation, and white noise.
The Dreamegg D1 offers an impressive 24 distinct sounds, including: bird, sea wave, brook lullaby, music box, cricket, campfire, rain, fetal tone, train sound, 7 fan sounds, and 7 white/pink noise sounds.
The Magicteam Sound Machine boasts 20 different sound options: brown, pink, white, blue, soft fan, household fan, industrial fan, big fan, rain on yard, heavy rain, rain on window, stream in the cave, brook, river, gentle sea wave, mighty sea wave, little sea wave, singing birds, campfire, and train.
The LectroFan High Fidelity White Noise also offers 20 sounds, but limits them to 10 varieties of fan noise and 10 varieties of white/pink noises — no nature sounds here.
Our favorite budget option, the Letsfit White Noise, includes 14 sounds: white noise, pink noise, brown noise, fan noise, clothes dryer 1, clothes dryer 2, crickets, singing birds, ocean waves, thunderstorm, water stream, twinkle twinkle little star, hush little baby, and the classic rock a bye baby.
The Hatch Baby Rest offers 11 sound options: crickets, rain, white noise, birds, wind, waves, babbling brook, washing machine, and 3 lullabies.
The Homedics SoundSpa provides just 6 sounds, but for the most part, they cover all the bases: thunder, ocean, brook, summer night, rain, and white noise.
The MyBaby SoundSpa On-the-Go offers the fewest sound options with only heartbeat, white noise, waves, and lullaby in its catalog.
Sleep sound machines offer a calming auditory veil between yourself and the cacophony of the world. In our experience, they can go a long way towards getting more restful, quality sleep. However, it can be hard to tell the difference between machines, especially if you don't get to try them out for yourself. Our testing results elucidate what you can expect from each machine, so you can pick one you're likely to love right off the bat.
— Max Mutter
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