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Published Mar. 29, 2022

Waking up from a particularly restful sleep is one of the sublime joys of the human experience. But for so many of us, turning off the traffic noise outside our homes (or the traffic noise inside our heads) is a daily struggle. People try all sorts of tricks to get to sleep, such as counting imaginary sheep as they retrace the cracks in the ceiling, or concocting valerian and chamomile teas. For many however, the most reliable method comes in the form of a white noise machine. 

The best white noise machines are equipped to deliver uninterrupted relaxation through multiple noise patterns. Some use internal fans, which create a field of white noise via the acoustic motion of fan blades. Others use long, pre-recorded noise tracks delivered through a speaker, which are usually themed to fit with various relaxing environments. These can include such sounds as the patter of rain on leaves, waterfalls, birds chirping, or the ocean. Still others come stacked with special features such as nightlights or internal alarm clocks that allow you to turn your phone off and truly disconnect. 

If you suffer from constant nightly restlessness, a white noise machine might be the perfect tool to help you come down from the insanity of your day-to-day life and reliably drift off into the enfolding arms of sleep. Here are our favorites.

How We Picked The Best White Noise Machines

To create this list, we researched many white noise machines of various designs from multiple manufacturers. We used our knowledge as tech reviewers (and occasional insomniacs) to evaluate the competition and weigh the best of the best among sleep machines. Many of the decisions we made came down to a few specific criteria.

Sound quality was an all important characteristic of the noise machines we examined, whether they used recorded tracks and speakers, or acoustic fans. In machines that use recorded tracks, we looked for those that come with more than a few different types of tracks. We also looked for machines with tracks that go on for a considerable amount of time without repeating, so that your mind doesn’t focus on pinpointing the seams between repeats. In reviewing machines that use acoustic fans, we looked for those that create a pleasing and relaxing tone.

Volume control can be very important to anyone who has an overactive mind when they’re trying to induce sleep. White noise machines that allow more volume control options were deemed better than those that don’t.

Special features occasionally make or break a white noise machine. These can include mixer controls that allow you to mix sounds together, such as birds plus ocean, or city plus waterfall. While this might seem like a gimmick, for certain people who respond particularly strongly to one or two sound palettes, it could prove especially useful. Other features may include nightlights or built-in alarm clocks. A built-in alarm clock can eliminate your need to use your phone as an alarm clock near your bed, and allow you to further disconnect from the world. 

Portability can also be an important factor. For those on the move, a white noise machine can allow you to establish a space for sleep that feels instantaneously familiar and comfortable no matter what hotel bed you find yourself in. 

The Best White Noise Machines: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: LectroFan Classic

Why It Made The Cut: With great noise interruption, 20 non-repeating patterns, and a sleep timer, this white noise machine is sure to please almost anyone.

Specs:

  • Digital or Acoustic: Digital
  • Sound Pattern Options: 20
  • Charge: AC or USB, no wireless
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds

Pros:

  • Wide set of non-repeating sounds including multiple fan and white noise tones
  • Low frequency tones do a better than average job of blocking footsteps and noises from other rooms
  • Somewhat portable
  • Sleep timer

Cons:

  • No environmental simulation sounds
  • Decibels are higher than you would think

Sleep machines don’t get much better than the LectroFan Classic. This white noise machine contains a digital library of 20 non-repeating noise tracks. Unlike lots of white noise machines that emulate bird sounds, waterfalls, or rain, the LectroFan doesn’t try to take you out of your immediate environment. Instead it focuses on blocking intrusive sound from the outdoors, using relaxing noise that’s generated with enough depth to interfere with some of the deeper bumping and knocking sounds you’ll get from upstairs neighbors or the garbage truck outside.

While the LectroFan Classic is limited to white noise and fan sounds only, it does give you some options. The tracks can all be volume adjusted, and can supply you with enough variation to meet different needs. One thing to note is that though this machine doesn’t sound especially loud, its decibel count is higher than you might think, even at low volumes, if you’re worried about hearing damage in a baby or young child (or yourself), the LectroFan’s high settings could be too much for prolonged exposure. 

At just over a pound and under 5 inches square, the LectroFan is also viable as a travel machine. We think that its travel capabilities, along with its noise canceling abilities, make for a truly compelling noise machine.

Best Budget: hOmeLabs Portable

Why It Made The Cut: With eight sounds and a super portable build that can run on batteries, the hOmeLabs Portable is a great buy.

Specs:

  • Digital or Acoustic: Digital
  • Sound Pattern Options: 8
  • Charge: AC or built-in battery
  • Weight: .49 pounds

Pros:

  • Highly portable
  • Automatic shutoff function can be set to turn off at 15, 30, or 60 minutes
  • White noise and nature sounds

Cons: 

  • White noise sound is harsh

The hOmeLabs Portable is a solid sleep aid that you can bring with you anywhere. With a built-in battery that charges in three hours, and a weight of under half a pound, this is a sleep tool that your kid can even take to summer camp. A library of eight digital sleep aids sounds provides nature sounds and white noise that scale in volume using a simple interface. A memory function ensures that the machine always starts up as you last had it configured. An internal timer lets you set the machine to turn off at the 15-, 30-, or 60-minute mark, so that it doesn’t run all night.

All in all, the hOmeLabs Portable is a great option for anyone on the move. However, it does have an issue with its white noise sound. Many find the device’s tone too shrill and high-pitched to help them fall asleep. If you’re looking for a machine that delivers the best of white noise tone specifically, and you don’t sleep well to natural sounds like a heartbeat or rolling thunder, then you may want to look elsewhere. 

Best Fan: Marpac Dohm Classic

Why It Made The Cut: With two speed options and simple acoustic tone controls, this fan creates white noise without digital speakers.

Specs:

  • Digital or Acoustic: Acoustic
  • Sound Pattern Options: 2 speeds, adjustable acoustic controls
  • Charge: AC
  • Weight: 1.6 pounds

Pros: 

  • Sound is adjustable with two speeds and simple twists of the casing
  • No repeating digital sound patterns

Cons: 

  • Some build issues compared to older Dohm models

Marpac Dohm has been in the white-noise-machine game for years. Their noise machines use simple fans encased in a molded exterior. The exterior is rotated by the user to bring out different acoustic properties. 

The Marpac Dohm Classic comes with two fan speeds and an adjustable outer shell. While the Dohm has two volumes, neither is fully quiet, and anyone looking for an extra subtle white noise machine will need to strategically place their Dohm so that the volume level isn’t too high for sleep. However, that volume also does a great job at blocking external noise. If you find the sound of a fan running at night to be comforting, then you’ll love the Dohm. There’s also a certain subtle something about the acoustic tone this white noise machine makes that’s a little more comforting than a digital speaker playing white noise. It’s a formulation that has accrued a host of loyal buyers, and guarantees Dohm a place in any “Best Of” list.

Sadly, while Dohm has been around for decades, they seem to be outsourcing more of their components than they used to. Once known for delivering highly reliable products, the longevity of Dohm’s white noise machines has decreased somewhat in recent years. Still, a Dohm will likely outlast many of the cheap digital, speaker-based noise machines on the market. The brand also delivers a few variants, including one designed for travel.

Best for Children: Hatch Rest+ Baby Sound Machine

Why It Made The Cut: A feature-packed product, the Hatch Rest+ delivers soothing white noise and natural sounds combined with a nightlight and two-way talk audio monitor.

Specs:

  • Digital or Acoustic: Digital
  • Sound Pattern Options: 12 sounds
  • Charge: Corded 
  • Weight: 1.12 pounds

Pros: 

  • Versatile sound options with 12 sounds
  • Doubles as a multi-color LED nightlight
  • Two-way talk is available via your phone
  • Helps establish your child’s sleep schedule

Cons:

  • Two-way talk has delay issues
  • Hard to control without the app
  • Super bright clock can’t be turned off

White noise machines can be powerful conditioning tools for teaching your child to develop a sleep schedule. The Hatch Rest+ Baby Sound Machine capitalizes on this by delivering an all-in-one child’s sleep station. This single device brings together so many of the devices that might otherwise fill your child’s bedroom, including a white noise machine to help them fall asleep, a programmable alarm clock, a colored LED night light to bring them comfort, and a two-way talk voice system that allows them to communicate with you through your cell phone.

The programmable sleep times help your child to establish a napping and bedtime schedule, without them feeling like you’re the bad guy sending them straight to bed. Instead they’ll hear the peaceful sleep tracks come on and head to their bedroom, which will be illuminated in whatever hue you choose. With 12 tracks including nature sounds and white noise, there’s something for every child. When you’re ready for a check-in, simply tune into your kid through the app. However, the device regrettably doesn’t eliminate the sounds around it, so you may want to set this up near your child’s bed to ensure that you can hear what your kid is doing. 

While the app does have some issues with occasional lag in voice chat, it’s otherwise excellently designed. Its colorful glow will be an immediate hit with your kid, while the naptime conditioning will be a hit with you. 

Best With Alarm Clock: HoMedics SoundSpa Dual Alarm

Why It Made The Cut: An all-in-one sleep center, HoMedics includes an all-night white noise machine and time projector in an alarm clock so that you can turn your phone (and your day) off.

Specs:

  • Digital or Acoustic: Digital
  • Sound Pattern Options: 8 sounds
  • Charge: Corded
  • Weight: .92 pounds

Pros:

  • Multiple functions in one
  • Ceiling time projection can be turned on or off
  • Alarm clock allows you to put your phone away for the night for better sleep and better wake ups

Cons:

  • White noise sound library not as broad as some

For most of us, our smart phone has replaced our alarm clock. While that trend simplifies some of our technological reliance, in the bedroom it also leads to a few bad habits. If you find yourself thumbing through apps just before it’s time to fall asleep, or again immediately upon waking, then you might benefit from giving an alarm clock another try. It’s the built-in alarm clock paired with a nice library of sleep tones that makes the HoMedics SoundSpa Dual Alarm so great. 

At such an affordable price point, the Dual Alarm might not seem so special, but look again. The device includes eight rich noise tones, including nature sounds and white noise. Unlike some white noise machines, HoMedics doesn’t require that you set noise to a timer, and will run all night long if it’s helpful. It pairs this feature with a nice alarm clock that’s simple to use, and a clock projector that displays the time on the ceiling. The ceiling projector can be turned on or off, allowing you to use it on stressful days in the middle of the week and disable it for the weekend.

For insomniacs whose sleep issues stem from the constant connectivity of the digital age, the Dual Alarm is a simple all-in-one device that can drastically improve sleep habits.

Things You Should Consider Before Buying A White Noise Machine

White noise machines are valuable sleep aids that can drastically improve your sleep health. However, before you buy one you should consider the benefits of some of the options.

Acoustic or Digital

The vast majority of white noise machines use digitally recorded noise tracks played back over simple speakers. Many of these repeat looped noise phrases over time. Acoustic white noise machines, on the other hand, use a mechanical device which creates white noise as it runs. Often these devices use fans which are encased in an external shell of plastic that can be adjusted to acoustically alter the fan’s tone. 

While the choice between acoustic sound and digital sound may come down to personal preference, there are a few other aspects to consider. Digital speakers may be louder than they seem to be, and extra loud ones can theoretically be bad for hearing, especially in small children. Also, the lack of any inherent recorded repetition in acoustic fan-based devices means you’ll never find yourself sleepless in bed listening for subtle pattern repetitions.

Sound Safety

Some digital speakers deliver a higher decibel volume than you would expect. Sound above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss with constant exposure. Any device you sleep with will expose you to sound for long stretches of time. This means that when you use a loud white noise machine, you can run the risk of hearing damage. However, anything under 70 decibels is safe. So consider how loud a system actually is before purchasing.

Sound Options

While systems with lots of sound options are better if you’re not sure what relaxes you, some systems that put the emphasis on just a few sound palettes do a better job overall. It may be worth deciding whether you want a specific type of white noise before you buy. Systems that deliver great bird or water sounds may not offer the best seamless fan or white noise tone. Doing this research early could save you annoyance and money later.

FAQs

Q: Can white noise damage your ears?

Any long-term sound exposure over a certain threshold can cause hearing damage. White noise below the 70-decibel level is safe, however all night exposure to white noise over 85 decibels can hurt your ears. It’s especially important to make sure babies are only exposed to safe levels, as their ears are still in development.

Q: What is the purpose of a white noise machine?

White noise machines help you fall asleep by creating a constant background tone. This tone helps lull you to sleep and also interferes with outdoor noise breaking into your sleep space. These devices can also be used during waking hours, and allow you to prevent little ears from hearing a sensitive conversation.

Q: Is white noise good for sleeping?

While white noise is an extremely useful sleep tool for many people across the world, but it’s not for everyone, as different people sleep differently. Still, for those that like it, it can be invaluable.

Q: Can white noise cause tinnitus?

Any loud noise over a certain threshold can cause tinnitus, and white noise is no different. If you’re using a sound device for hours it’s important to be careful not to exceed safe decibel levels.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a tool to help you access the world of dreaming, a white noise machine may be just what you need. These machines play soothing sounds that serve the dual purpose of masking exterior noises which might intrude on your sleep,  and lulling you to sleep with calming constancy. Some of these machines wash you in rocking waves crashing on lonely midnight shores, others envelop you in the soft gray of fog, still others use an acoustic fan that can be tuned to your personal preference. 

The Marpac Dohm Classic is a fan-based acoustic machine that sets a standard in white noise and allows you to tweak its sound to your liking. If you’re looking for something portable, you can’t go wrong with the capable hOmeLabs Portable. The LectroFan Classic, on the other hand, is a digital machine that gets our vote for the best overall for its reliability and perfect sleep tones.

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