It’s no secret that poor quality sleep impacts our wellbeing and contributes to a whole variety of health problems, but our hectic lifestyles, congested towns and cities, and noisy neighborhoods have made restful sleep elusive for many of us at bedtime.

Using a white noise machine can be a simple yet effective way to help you fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. While it may sound counterintuitive to make extra noise while you’re trying to sleep, white noise has been proven to block out surrounding sounds at a consistent tone to help you drift off.

If you’re new to the world of white noise machines, take a look at our buying guide and FAQ section including in this article. Here we also review five of the best-selling white noise machines so you can pick the perfect model to help you sleep like a baby.

  • Dual speed motor
  • Adjustable noise tone
  • Compact design
  • One-button operation
  • Contains real fan
  • One-year warranty

  • Six sound options
  • Battery or AC power
  • Compact and portable
  • Auto-off timer
  • Adjustable volume
  • One-year warranty

  • Choice of six sounds
  • Auto-off timer
  • Battery or AC powered
  • Travel-friendly
  • Adjustable volume
  • One-year warranty

  • Comes with a lanyard
  • Rechargeable via USB or wall socket
  • Three different sound options
  • Compact and portable
  • Adjustable volume levels
  • One-year warranty

  • 20 sound variations
  • Precision volume adjustment
  • Non-looping sounds
  • Powered by AC or USB
  • High-fidelity speaker
  • One-year warranty


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Marpac Dohm Classic

The Dohm Classic is one of white noise experts Marpac’s original models. Unlike digital white noise machines, it uses a real fan contained within an acoustic housing. The mechanical whirring is truly random and, unlike most digital models, has no loop. This means your brain won’t keep you awake figuring out patterns or stop and start sequences.

If you are looking for true fan white noise, then this really is the best choice. What’s more, you can adjust the volume between high and low and also twist to adjust the tone. This makes the Dohm truly customizable, allowing you to get the sound to just the right frequency to help you to sleep better. The dual speed motor is operated by a simple button, making this compact model extremely simple to use. It’s also compact, easy to pack, and complete with a one-year warranty. The only drawbacks are that there’s no auto-off timer or additional nature sounds that might be soothing for some people.

Pros

  • Dual speed motor
  • Fully adjustable tone
  • Compact
  • Simple one-button operation
  • One-year warranty

Cons

  • No timer
  • Durability issues
  • No nature sounds

This white noise machine by Big Red Rooster provides a choice of six sounds, giving you plenty of options to try when you’re looking to get some good quality shut-eye. Used can choose from white noise alongside brook, thunder, ocean, rain and summer night sounds. This model also has the advantageous option of running off battery power or outlet power, so it makes a good traveling companion. It’s also nice and compact, taking up minimal space in your luggage.

The auto-off timer is a useful feature because it allows you to save battery power by setting the machine to switch itself off in 15, 30, or 60 minutes. You can also adjust the volume, which is especially useful when travelling to noisy areas or city centers. The interface is simple and effective with an individual button for each sound effect. Unfortunately, the speaker quality doesn’t match this unit’s fantastic design and can result in fairly high-pitched sounds on certain settings that may not be to everyone’s liking.

Pros

  • Six sounds
  • Battery or AC power
  • Compact
  • Auto-off timer
  • Adjustable volume

Cons

  • Poor speaker quality
  • High-pitched sounds


The HoMedics Sleep Sound Machine is a popular model that comes with a choice of six sleep sounds including white noise, summer night, rain, ocean, thunder, and brook. If traditional white noise doesn’t work for you, then one of the others probably will.

This white sound machine is a good choice for traveling as it can run off both battery and AC power. While there’s a handy auto-off timer function to help save power, you may find using this as a battery-powered white noise machine a bit off a challenge due to the loose, ill-fitting battery compartment door.  

One of the main advantages of this model is its volume adjustment dial that allows you to set the volume level with extra precision. If you’re very sensitive, this can make all of the difference. It can also be useful if you are using this white noise machine in work or another crowded area to drown out background noise and improve confidentiality by turning up the volume to the maximum.

On the whole this is a good model, however it is not built to last and has a poor track record when it comes to reliability over time. In spite of this, it remains an extremely popular budget white noise machine that is inexpensive to replace.

Pros

  • Choice of six sounds
  • Auto-off timer
  • Battery or AC power
  • Adjustable volume dial

Cons

  • Loose battery compartment door
  • Poor reliability over time

The Marpac Rohm is possibly the best white noise machine designed especially for travel. Either plug it into an outlet or recharge via USB along with your other travel gadgets. It even features a handy lanyard for hanging it up, so you can handle and hang it with ease wherever your travels take you. Extremely compact and portable, the Rohm takes up a minimal amount of space to make it the perfect choice for traveling light.

Unfortunately, it does not have a shut-off timer, so if you’re not using outlet power you’ll need to remember to charge it up every day. Fortunately, there is a charge indicator light to let you know when it’s fully charged or running low.  The Rohm comes with a choice of three sound options: bright white, deep white, and gentle surf, a slight variation on the traditional fan-like sound that the brand is synonymous with. The volume is adjustable so you can alter it to match both your sleeping location and your personal preferences. While there is no volume indicator, you can use the buttons to slowly decrease or increase the volume by small increments; you can also press down hard for a rapid change, giving you greater control over your white noise levels.  

Pros

  • Lanyard for hanging
  • Rechargeable via USB or plug in
  • Three sound options
  • Compact and portable
  • Adjustable volume

Cons

  • No timer
  • No volume indicator

If you’re looking for a non-looping, digital white noise machine that can make a lot of noise, then check out the Lectrofan by Adaptive Sound Industries. It provides 10 different fan sounds and 10 different noise frequencies, including white noise and others such as pink noise and brown noise.

If you are looking to block out the sound of heavy traffic or noisy neighbors, or if you want to ensure confidentiality in your workplace, then this white noise machine makes the best choice. Thanks to its precision volume adjustment, you can increase the volume by one dB increments, allowing you to find the perfect noise masking level for your surroundings.

The digital Lectrofan is non-looping, so it won’t distract you with set sequences. Thanks to its large, high-fidelity speaker, you won’t have any overly high, squeaky sounds as provided by some cheap white noise machines. While this is an excellent white noise machine for when you really need to drown out the rest of the world, it is less suitable for using outside of your home or office as it does not take batteries. It can be powered by USB as well as AC, but unfortunately both the plug and cord are flimsy and don’t match this unit’s generally high standards.

Pros

  • 20 unique sound variations
  • Precision volume adjustment
  • Non-looping
  • Powered by AC or USB
  • Large high-fidelity speaker

Cons

  • No rechargeable/battery option
  • Flimsy cord and plug

Comparison Chart

FEATURESMarpac Dohm ClassicBig Red Rooster White Noise MachineHoMedics Sleep Sound MachineMarpac Rohm White Noise MachineAdaptive Sound Technologies Lectrofan
Dimensions (inches)5.8 x 5.8 x 3.8 4 x 4.4 x 2.66.5 x 6 x 23.5 x 1.8 x 3.84.4 x 4.4 x 2.2
Extra Pink or Brown Noise optionsXXXX
Additional Natural SoundsXX
TimerXXX
Volume Adjustment
Non-LoopingX
Battery Power OptionXXX
Adjustable ToneXXX
Weight (ounces)0.160.583.8420.16
Warranty1-year1-year1-year1-year1-year

Buyer’s Guide:

White Noise Machines

Need some help choosing the best white noise machine? Check out our related buying guide below to get the lowdown on what you really need to know.

 

We all probably have an idea of what white noise sounds like: the whirring of a fan on a summer night, the hum of your AC, or any background noise you only notice once it has stopped. What is white noise, though, and how does it compare to pink or brown noise?

White noise is so named because of white light: just as white light contains all of the visible frequencies of light in one beam, engineers identify the noise created by all audible frequencies combined as white noise. It contains so many different tones all at the same time that it tends to resemble a “shhhh” or hissing sound whose individual tones we cannot identify.

Pink and brown noise is still technically white noise, but they have slightly different frequencies. Both pink and brown noise has fewer high frequencies than white noise, with brown noise having the least of them all. This means that brown noise sounds a little harsher, like a strong gale blowing through the trees.

The idea behind using white noise to aid sleep is that it raises the level of background noise without distracting your attention. When a noise that would typically disturb you occurs, the contrast between the background level of noise and the nuisance noise is greatly reduced thanks to the white noise. This not only makes it easier to fall asleep, but it also prevents you from waking up as often due to noise-related issues such as traffic, neighbors, and nature.

When we sleep, or are feeling sleepy, our minds react to certain loud and unexpected noises as threats to our safety and can force us to wake up. When we’re sleeping or drowsy, we’re in a naturally vulnerable state. By raising the threshold of our regular background noise using a white noise machine, other noises are less likely to be classed as threats as they don’t stand out as much as they would do without white noise playing. In other words, with your white noise machine on, your brain won’t perceive the same noise as adequately threatening to wake you up.

Imagine listening to one person talking: in a small group of friends, it can be easy to follow along with what they add to the conversation. Expand that small group into a thousand friends, though, and you will no longer be able to focus on that one particular voice. This is kind of how white noise works: in providing a combination of all of the audible frequencies, white noise is particularly effective at masking noises, reducing the impact that they would otherwise have and thus enabling you to get to sleep faster with better-quality, deeper sleep and fewer interruptions.

There are a large number of white noise machines on the market, so it can be tricky finding one that really stands out to provide you with the particular tone that you’re looking for. Here’s some of the most important features of white noise machines to consider.

Size

When you’re shopping for a white noise machine, size is probably not the first thing you consider. Stop for a minute and think of some of the places where you tend to sleep pretty poorly. You’ll probably find that a compact, travel-sized white noise machine will be the best choice, allowing you to get a good night’s sleep at home as well as on vacation or when visiting family and friends. It will also save you some space on your nightstand.

Non-Looping

Some digital white noise machines don’t have properly randomized sounds but rather loop a repetitive audio track. Loops take away some of the efficacy of white noise because your brain can start to find patterns and sequences. Look for a non-looping digital model or go for a traditional mechanical white noise machine to ensure that you’re getting the best quality, non-looping white noise.

Battery Powered/Rechargeable

It makes sense to look for a battery powered white noise machine or one that is rechargeable. Even if you intend to mainly run it on AC power, it’s nice to know you can use it to help you nod off when traveling. Choosing a rechargeable white noise machine or battery-powered model is also great if you struggle to plug in all your power-hungry appliances in your hotel room.

Auto-off Timer

If you’re using a battery-powered white noise machine, you’re probably going to appreciate an auto-off timer function. This key feature turns off your white noise machine after a set amount of time to save you power while also leaving you more likely to be woken up by any loud or unusual noises.

Sound Selection

Some white noise machines provide a variety of sounds as well as traditional white noise. These sounds are often water-related and designed to soothe and relax, while providing auditory masking properties similar to white noise. Some people enjoy listening and subsequently falling asleep to these sounds, while others simply use them for relaxation.

Adjustable Volume

If you travel a lot, have noisy neighbors, or live in a built-up area where noise levels vary substantially, then it can be essential to have an adjustable volume white noise machine. While you’ll want to keep your nightly noise level to a minimum while allowing yourself to get a good night’s rest, there’ll always cases where you’ll need to crank up the sound every now and then. Whether the neighbors upstairs are having a party or you’re on a city trip, it makes sense to be able to adjust the volume of your white noise machine in order to effectively raise the background noise level and thereby reduce the impact of louder disturbances.

Ease of Use

If you have difficulty falling asleep, the last thing you want to be doing before bedtime is fighting with your white noise machine to achieve the right setting. Sometimes simpler is better: look for a white noise machine with simple, easy-to-use controls. Some also have indicator lights, although some people find these off-putting when trying to drift off.

Mechanical Parts

Some people prefer traditional mechanical white noise machines for their genuine fan sound. Their inconsistencies and authenticity make mechanical models a popular choice. It is worth noting, though, that where there are moving parts there is an increased chance of things breaking over time. Regardless, if you easily get to sleep with your fan or AC on in the summer, a mechanical white noise machine could be just what you need, giving you that very same sound, but without the ventilation.

PROS:
  • Choice of Sounds: Many white noise machines offer a variety of ambient sounds in addition to white noise. These are usually nature sounds such as waves breaking, rivers running, or bird song. Many people find the combination of white noise and ambient sounds to be very effective for relaxation and sleep.
  • Block Out Ambient Noise: White noise machines are perfect if you live in a busy area or have noisy neighbors. White noise drowns out background sounds which can disturb your sleep, helping you to switch off and fall asleep.
  • Simple to Use: White noise machines are generally simple to use. Most models have a small selection of buttons and settings that are easy to understand and adjust without any hassle.
  • Portability: Most white noise machines are small enough to be travel-friendly. Some also offer the option of being powered by batteries as well as being plugged into a power outlet, which makes them great for encouraging restful sleep when on the road and in unusual surroundings.
CONS:
  • Looping: Some white noise machines play a digitally recorded sound rather than generating noise using a built in fan. In these cases, the recording “loops” to begin again once it reaches the end. Sometimes, this transition is noticeable and may be distracting when trying to fall asleep.
  • Audio Quality: Not all white noise machines emit high-quality audio. Some models may sound harsher or more high-pitched than others.
Best White Noise Machines For Sleep

Pros

  • Help to block out ambient noise distractions
  • Often include soothing nature sounds
  • Easy to use
  • Many models are portable

Cons

  • Some model have audible looping that can be distracting
  • Quality of audio may vary

Here’s a selection of some of the most frequently asked questions on white noise. Wondering if it can help your tinnitus or if there are any ill effects of white noise? Read on and find out.

  • Is white noise good for tinnitus?
  • White noise can help tinnitus sufferers and is used in sound therapy treatment to help reduce distress from tinnitus. Due to its sound-masking nature, white noise reduces the sufferer’s perception of the noises they hear by reducing the contrast of the sounds produced by tinnitus against the background noise levels. As the majority of tinnitus sufferers have diminished hearing, white noise can be successfully used as part of a multidisciplinary treatment including counselling and hearing aids. White noise can also provide acoustic stimulation to help you to deal with hearing loss while easing some of the day-to-day distress, making it an essential part of a combined treatment approach.
  • Can I use a white noise sound machine in my baby’s room?
  • Using a white noise machine in your baby’s room is a great way to lull your baby to sleep. It will also prevent them from being abruptly woken up by household or exterior noises. Just remember to keep the volume at a low level appropriate for small ones. You’ll also want to restrict its usage to bedtime time only to ensure that your baby’s sense of hearing develops to its full potential.
  • Can white noise make you sick?
  • White noise does not make you sick, but not everyone finds it soothing. For some people, white noise can be off-putting or even irritating. Regardless, when used responsibly by those who enjoy it, white noise can aid sleep that in turn improves your general health, your immune system, and concentration, among countless other benefits. Remember, though, to keep your volume down to a comfortable level, and don’t leave your white noise machine on 24/7.
  • Is white noise suitable for everyone?
  • Yes, white noise is suitable for everyone, although this doesn’t mean that everyone can benefit from its sleep-inducing effects. Some people can only fall asleep with a specific frequency of white noise. If you want to find out whether white noise could help improve your sleep quality, the only real way to know is to try out a white sound machine for a few weeks. Try different types of white noise until you find the one that helps you to drift off and stay asleep for longer.

Final Thoughts

White noise machines are an essential part of many people’s everyday sleep routine. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, especially after changes to your living/sleeping situation, a white noise machine could help provide you with a much needed good night’s sleep. They are also an invaluable sleep aid for babies and young children.

Each of the machines we have reviewed should help you get a good night’s rest. If you’re still hesitating over which model to choose, however, we recommend the original Marpac Dohm Classic. It doesn’t have all of the fancy features of other digital models, but the authentic fan-based drone really does help you fall into slumber. Aside from the adjustable volume, it’s the adjustable tone that impressed us the most. Simply turn to get your white noise just how you like it for even better results and a more relaxing night’s sleep.

Not sure if white noise is really your thing? You can test it out with our budget choice of white noise machine: the HoMedics Sleep Sound Machine. Admittedly it does have a few quality issues, but this low price white sound machine is a great choice for testing the water to see how much better you’ll sleep with a white noise machine. If you don’t enjoy white noise, it also has a choice of five other sounds as well as an auto-off timer and volume adjustment dial, and it can be easily battery powered to help you sleep when on trips away.

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