With a wide range to choose from, it’s important to find one which strikes the right balance between sound quality and fitting your budget.
In this review, I’ll be giving you my opinion of the best white noise machines in three categories: recorded sounds, natural white noise generators and low cost machines.
Why use a white noise machine?
If you can’t sleep because of noise coming from inside or outside of your house, you have 3 main ways to deal with the problematic sound:
- Try and stop it at the source – you can ask someone to turn the television down, but you can’t stop traffic though.
- Wear earplugs – an effective option, but not advisable to do every night.
- Mask the noise by creating a stable and relaxing ambient sound – this is where white noise machines can work wonders.
Who will benefit from using one?
- If you can’t sleep or work due to noise beyond your control – such as a neighbor’s television or music, traffic or barking dogs.
- Shift or night workers who struggle to sleep in the daytime because of noise.
- If you find that white noise or nature sounds help you relax and sleep better.
- People with tinnitus.
- Babies and small children sometimes fall asleep quicker with white noise. Babies are accustomed to noise from being in the womb, so white noise helps prevent them waking up due to sudden sounds like a doorbell or phone.
Which style to choose?
There are 2 main options to choose from:
- A pure white noise machine that generates the sound naturally with air.
- A machine which has recordings of white noise, sometimes also with soundscapes like ocean, rain, river or forest.
And in the age of modern technology, you can get a lot more than a simple white noise generator if you like your gadgets with extra features.
As you’ll see with one or two of the models below, you can find some nifty features like responsive volume control and realistic nature soundscapes.
So with those points in mind, here are my recommended white noise machines in 2017.
Best range of white noise and fan sounds
The Lectrofan is my top pick due to its sleek design and high quality white noise production. It may not have a vast range of features, but what it does do, it does very well.
It has a simple, clean design which is streamlined to do its job rather than have lots of buttons to play with. And because it’s so compact and lightweight, it takes up very little space on a bedside table.
The aim of the Lectrofan is to give you two main choices. You have the standard sound of white noise or the sound of a fan, which some people find more relaxing than static white noise.
And for both the fan and white noise options you have 10 different settings, so you can find a pitch and volume which suits your ear and mind.
Add to that the fact that the sound is dynamically generated to avoid any looping, and you should be able to block a lot of intrusive external noise, and hopefully fall asleep easier.
Here are the key points to consider:
- A range of 10 fan sounds and 10 white noise sounds, with some deeper white noise than other machines provide.
- The wide range of different white noise makes it possible to effectively mask most external sound.
- The volume can be turned up surprisingly high. So if you have a large bedroom, the sound won’t get lost in the corner.
- No sound looping.
- There’s a timer feature, but if you don’t want to use that, it will run all night.
- Lightweight and compact, so it’s great for travelling.
- You can plug it into the mains or a computer with a USB cable.
The downside is that it lacks additional soundscapes like some other machines do. So if you like birdsong and oceans, you might prefer the Cherry Koala or Adaptive Sound Technologies below.
But if you find white noise or fan sounds soothing and good sound blockers, and appreciate minimalist design, the Lectrofan could be ideal.
2) Marpac Dohm
No recordings – produces sound naturally with an internal fan.
There are no extra features and hardly any buttons even. It was designed with a single job in mind, and designed to do that job as effectively as possible without giving space to features you may never use.
The Marpac Dohm creates white noise internally by literally pushing air through the machine, and the resulting sound is natural and calming to listen to.
Despite looking like it doesn’t have many settings, you can control the sound in two ways. First, you choose one of two speed settings. Then you twist the collar to alter the space the air comes through. This allows you to refine the exact volume and pitch that you like.
Here are the key points to note:
- It’s the only white noise machine that produces the sound naturally.
- There’s no looping, as the sound is produced by a fan.
- It can be customized to find a sound you like.
- You have a choice of 3 colors – white, beige or black.
- It has a sleek and unobtrusive design.
- It’s lightweight and easily transportable.
The potential downsides are the lack of a range of different sounds, a lack of lower pitch white noise and no auto-off timer. It’s also a considerably larger machine than some of the compact devices like the Lectrofan.
But if you do have some space on your bedside table, and like the idea of having the most authentic white noise, then the Marpac Dohm is the best choice.
3) Cherry Koala Sleep Tones Sound Therapy Machine
White noise and a range natural sounds with a clock
Having looked at machines which focus specifically on white noise, it’s time to look at some that include nature sounds.
Of those, the Cherry Koala is my favorite, with both white noise and a great variety of nature sounds. And it has a good enough speaker to play at a high volume without compromising sound quality.
It might not have as many features as the more advanced Adaptive Sounds Technology below, but at less than half the price those features might not feel so necessary.
And considering your white noise machine will probably sit on the bedside table, it makes sense for it to have a clock. Very few machines do though, so the Cherry Koala picks up points for including one.
Here’s why it’s my top pick of the nature sound machines:
- It’s well built, small and compact, taking up less space on the bedside table.
- Can be used with batteries (4 x AA) or a mains USB adapter power plug, making it very portable.
- 10 different sounds to choose from, most of which are good quality and relaxing.
- Easy to use, with a turn dial to select the sound you want.
- 4 auto-off timer settings (15/30/60/90 mins) or continuous play throughout the night.
- It reaches a good high volume, helping block more sound.
- LCD clock display.
My main complaint is that despite having a clock, surprisingly there’s no alarm function, which seems like the manufacturer missed a trick.
And as with most sound machines, there is some looping. Whether you notice or not depends on the specific sound choice and how much attention you’re paying. The waves, for example, are repetitive anyway so it doesn’t matter, but the thunder pattern is more noticeable.
Overall, the Cherry Koala doesn’t have the same level of control over the white noise as the Marpac Dohm and Lectrofan, but it’s one of the best when it comes to playing natural sounds, especially for the comparatively low price.
4) Sound+Sleep High Fidelity Sleep Sound Machine
Responsive features and high quality sound recordings
The Sound+Sleep is one of the more expensive white noise machines, providing a variety of nature sounds and extra features. In particular, it has one excellent feature which sets it above many other white noise machines.
That feature is what the manufacturer calls ‘adaptive sound technology’. The machine actively detects the volume of external noise and changes its own volume to match it.
If the traffic noise increases while you sleep, it will automatically turn the volume up to prevent you being woken up; if all is quiet outside, it reduces the volume. A genius idea in my opinion, and it works with surprising accuracy.
Let’s take a look at the main features:
- 10 different soundscapes, all of which sound realistic.
- A series of different recordings are randomly generated to prevent looping.
- Clever external sound monitoring and automatic volume control.
- Richness settings that add extra details like birdsong to make the soundscapes more realistic and random.
- A stylish design that won’t look out of place in the modern home.
- Range of timers so you can fall asleep without having it on all night.
Most importantly, you can play with the settings until you find the right sound and volume to mask the noise you’re hearing. And the speakers and volume are definitely good enough to block out most external noise so you can sleep better at night.
The main downside is that it’s more expensive than most other brands. But if you don’t mind paying a bit more, with the Sound+Sleep you’ll find one of the best white noise machines I’ve seen and heard.
5) Avantek white noise machine
Easy to use with a wide range of sounds
The Avantek white noise machine, like the Lectrofan, is a very compact and lightweight device which takes up little space on a bedside table or desk.
It offers a couple of useful features which make using it extremely simple. First, there are very few buttons – just the power, volume up and down, next and previous tracks and a button to adjust the timer. So it’s easy to change settings in the dark if you need to.
Secondly, there’s a handy memory function, so the next time you turn it on it will automatically resume your last chosen track and volume level, along with the same auto-off timer for the previous night.
Avantec say there are ’20 soothing sounds’, though I have to disagree that they are all soothing. Along with a range of white noise and fan sounds, there are some calming nature sounds such as rain and waves.
However, there are also a couple of not particularly soothing sounds, such as the howling wind and ticking clock.
Here are the key points to consider:
- It’s small, compact and very easy to use.
- There are 20 sounds to choose from, so you should be able to find one you like.
- With 30 volume levels, you should be able to mask most external noise.
- Choice of continuous play all night, or an auto-off timer ranging from 1 to 7 hours, with gradual volume reduction.
- Use with a USB or mains adapter.
My main complaint is that some of the nature tracks have obviously short looping, such as the sound of birds and crickets.
And some of the sounds are just a bit unusable – perhaps their idea to provide 20 different sounds was a little ambitious, and they run out of ideas for calming ones.
Overall though, there are some relaxing nature sounds and the white noise is good quality. And perhaps if you’re not a fan of the usual soothing sounds, you might like the variety that the Avantec offers.
6) HoMedics Sound Spa Relaxation Machine
A lower priced option
The Homedics Sound Spa is my top choice in the lower price range. There are many different makes for this kind of price, but if you don’t choose carefully you’ll be wasting your money.
What I liked about the HoMedics sound machine is that the sound quality is surprisingly good for the price. If you compare a $20 with a $95 machine doing the same basic thing, then of course there’s no comparison.
But the machine does produce good enough sound to mask low to mid volume external noise, and hopefully help you sleep better.
These are the key points to consider:
- It has 6 different soundscapes to choose from, including white noise and ocean.
- It has 3 different auto-off times to choose from, or will run all night if you need it to.
- You can choose to plug it into the mains or use batteries.
- It’s lightweight and can be tucked inside a suitcase easily.
The main downside is the fairly obvious looping of the soundscapes and predictable patterns, which is the major reason to consider one of the other machines in this review.
But overall, if you don’t want to spend too much, and just want something that will play relaxing sounds to help you sleep, it’s probably the best white noise machine in its price bracket.