As seen in:
Ecotones
From Adaptive Sound Technologies
Sound Oasis
Sound Therapy System
LectroSound
White Noise Machine
Marpac
Natural White Noise (Actual Fan Inside)
Conair
Sound Therapy
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Good

Off the charts in terms of quality and featues. Constantly monitors ambient noise levels and automatically adjusts itself to the environment.

Popular with parents of infants. Additional sound cards are available.

Powerful noise blocking. Suitable for larger spaces.

Constant, unobtrusive fan sound. Frequently used in office settings. No audio loops.

Favored by parents of infants and children. Generous battery life. Affordable price.

Bad

On the higher end of the pricing spectrum. An early product from Adaptive Sound Technologies

Some repetitive loops. Several settings can be distracting. Batteries drain quickly.

No pre-recorded nature simulations.

No pre-recorded sounds.

Noticeable audio looping.

Bottom Line

A adaptable sound machine with technically advanced versatility. The best on the market.

A popular sound machine, especially with parents. Several great sound choices.

An effective white/pink/brown noise machine.

An adjustable, effective white noise machine.

A high-quality machine at an entry-level price. The best budget deal on the market.

How we decide
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Products received from manufacturers
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Models Considered
39
Hours Spent
2
Experts Interviewed
224
Consumers Consulted

Best Sound Machines

A sound machine can fill a room with crashing waves, cricket chirps, or even a human heartbeat -- all it takes is the push of a button. Some machines generate various frequencies of white, pink, or brown noise; these frequencies help diminish unpleasant ambient sounds. The best sound machines on today's market include the following:

Products we Considered

Ecotones
From Adaptive Sound Technologies
Sound Oasis
Sound Therapy System
LectroSound
White Noise Machine
Marpac
Natural White Noise (Actual Fan Inside)
Conair
Sound Therapy

Considerations

Sound Library

Some sound machines are designed to be white noise generators, much like the static on a radio or the sound of a moving fan. When it comes to white, pink, or brown noise generation, our ratings take into consideration the number of different frequencies a particular sound machine offers. Other machines produce simulated sound effects such as crashing waves, rain storms, and ambient city sounds. Almost all of our top contenders offer six basic natural sound loops, but we give additional points to those with more built-in options and/or the ability to create enhancements.

Noise Masking

There are two main reasons people buy sound machines: to create a restful environment that is conducive to sleep and to mask unpleasant ambient noise. We rate our contenders on their ability to counteract loud conversations, machinery/construction noises, and other disturbances. Another consideration for natural sound generators is "looping." Some lower-quality models create sound loops that, over time, can become repetitive and tiresome. Better sound machines employ technology that introduces true randomness into the mix, thus enhancing the user's overall experience.

Additional Features

All of our top five contenders offer features that are exceptionally useful. Many include an automatic shut-off function that allows users to select a specific time limit – or no limit at all. Others feature audio outputs that enable connection to external sound systems and/or headphones. Some sound machines offer alternative power sources such as AC/DC adapters, batteries, and USB plugs. This versatility is helpful for those who prefer to travel with noise-cancelling sound machines.

Price

Higher-end sound machines tend to emphasize sound channel options and enhancements. Lower-end sound machines, by contrast, provide good sound but sometimes fall prey to excessive “looping." Consumers should consider their personal needs carefully before purchasing a sound machine.

Considerations

Sound Library

Ecotones Sound + Sleep Machine

The Ecotones Sound + Sleep Machine offers basic sounds like "Rainfall," "Ocean Waves," and "Meadows." It also includes tracks such as "Train," "City," "Meditation," and "Fireplace," all of which are conducive to sleep. "Crackling Fireplace" is an effective option for daytime sound masking. The recordings themselves surpass standard CD quality and are contained on a permanent memory card. One important consideration with any sound machine's library is the length of track recordings, as frequent repetition can disturb the user. The Sound + Sleep Machine uses longer natural recordings and has the ability to mix those individual sounds "on the fly," eliminating the possibility of repetition. Enhancements such as distant music or chirping insects are added organically, not as part of a sound loop.

Sound Oasis S-550-05 Sound Therapy System

The Sound Oasis sound machine's default settings are "Ocean Surf," "Stream," "Rain," "White Noise," "Summer Night," and "Wind." Unlike some other models, the Sound Oasis owner can purchase and install additional sound cards for even more variety. These optional sound cards feature six channels based on a common theme such as oceans, forests, or weather. Among the six original settings, "White Noise" and "Ocean Surf" are two of the most popular settings with users. "Wind" and "Stream" are often described as harsh or distracting. Unlike the sound channels on more expensive contenders like the Ecotones Sound + Sleep, the tracks on the Sound Oasis do have a tendency to form repetitive loops, but the overall effect is not always noticeable. Parents of infants report good sleeping results after investing in an optional "Baby Sounds" memory card.

LectroFan - Fan Sound and White Noise Machine

As a white noise/fan sound generator, the LectroFan does not put forth the "natural" sounds many people associate with sound machines. However, the LectroFan does offer ten different frequencies of fan sounds and white noise. Users can sort through varying levels of brown, pink, and white noise until they find the frequency that successfully masks unpleasant ambient sound. The fan sound setting duplicates everything from a typical box fan to an exceptionally loud industrial ventilation fan. These sounds are not electronic imitations, either; they are digital recordings of actual fans in action. Some users find typical white noise generators to be too high-pitched, but the LectroFan's sound library offers an entire spectrum of white noise frequencies. Due to the nature of this product, repetitive sound loops are never a problem.

Marpac DOHM-DS, Natural White Noise (actual fan inside) Sound Machine

Unlike other sound machine contenders, the Marpac DOHM-DS uses a real fan to generate different frequencies of white, brown, and pink noise. This fan blade is asymmetrical, which allows the two-speed motor and adjustable housing to create numerous fan sounds at any desired pitch and volume. There is no volume control or speaker as such; the user twists both the top and the side housing in order to adjust the settings. Because the Marpac DOHM-DS is strictly a fan sound/white noise generator, it does not contain the pre-recorded nature sounds found on models like the Ecotones and Conair. However, it does provide an authentic analog fan sound that works in real time. Other sound machines with digital fan sounds and white noise settings can develop unpleasant audio loops. The Marpac's background sounds remain constant and unobtrusive.

Conair Sound Therapy Sound Machine

Whereas most of the machines on our shortlist offer six standard sound choices, the Conair Sound Therapy Sound Machine offers ten: "Tropical Forest," "Birdsong," "Running Stream," "Heartbeat," "Summer Night," "White Noise," "Thunderstorm," "Rainfall," "Ocean Waves," and "Waterfall." Many Conair owners report toggling through two or three favorites. The "White Noise" setting on the Conair is closer to TV static than pink or brown noise. Our greatest concern about the Conair's nature sounds is its noticeable audio looping. Some of the generated sounds repeat themselves every 6 to 10 seconds, which can become disturbing to users after a while. The "Heartbeat" sound, rarely found on other machines, duplicates the sound of a fetal heart monitor used in many OB/GYN offices and is very popular with parents looking for a suitable child sleep aid. (Note: some sound machines introduce the sounds of seagulls, crickets, or chirping birds into the natural sound channels. This can be a deal breaker for some people! Fortunately, the Conair's natural sound stories keep these types of distractions to a minimum.)

Many of the Ecotones Sound + Sleep Machine's sounds, contained on a permanent memory card, are soothing and conducive to sleep.
Considerations

Noise Masking

Ecotones Sound + Sleep Machine

Many sound machines are effective either at daytime sound masking or nighttime sleep assistance; rarely do they perform both functions well. However, this is not the case with the Ecotones Sound + Sleep Machine. The model's white noise settings are strong enough to mask unpleasant ambient noise from office machinery, construction equipment, and loud conversations. This is achieved through adaptive technology that constantly monitors ambient noise levels and makes instant volume and sound adjustments to compensate for them. If the user has selected the "Ocean Waves" sound channel, for instance, the Sound + Sleep machine will automatically increase volume and add a more powerful wave sound. Very few sound machines have this adaptive capability, which is why we give additional points to the Ecotones Sound + Sleep machine for effective noise masking.

The Sound Oasis sound machine is designed primarily for "sound conditioning." This means that the unit will fill an otherwise quiet bedroom with enough ambient noise to create a peaceful atmosphere for sleeping, but it won't necessarily mask the sound of a construction crew or a noisy office machine. (However, some satisfied Sound Oasis customers do report success with extraneous noise masking.) Some users who suffer from tinnitus, a persistent ringing in the ears, report improvement after installing a sound conditioning system like the Sound Oasis. The overall volume level of the Sound Oasis may not be as high as other models, but for many customers, the background noise it generates is satisfactory.

LectroFan - Fan Sound and White Noise Machine

A dedicated white noise generator excels at noise masking, and the LectroFan does just that. Its speakers may be compact, but they deliver as much audio power as the more expensive Ecotones Sound + Sleep. This additional amplification is key to sound masking, as white noise volume must equal or exceed unwanted noise volume in order to be effective. Set at a higher volume, an ideally placed LectroFan can successfully block out office sounds, construction noises, and conversations. Some users place their LectroFan units in their offices in order to keep sensitive conversations with clients private. Others use LectroFans to block out city noises while sleeping during the day. A LectroFan does not require as much energy to run as a real fan, and it does not generate a constant breeze during cold weather like a fan would.

Marpac white noise machines have been on the market since 1962, and the noise these machines produce has been officially recognized by the National Sleep Foundation. Owners love the Marpac DOHM-DS because it provides the noise-cancelling benefits of a box fan without excessive wind generation or power usage. It's not unusual to find a Marpac sound machine placed outside an office door in order to mask private or sensitive conversations. At maximum volume, a well-placed DOHM-DS can block the sounds of a neighbor's stereo, construction work, lawnmowers. and other unpleasant ambient noises. Users with snoring partners report getting a much better night's sleep after installing a DOHM-DS unit in their bedroom. Students who seek a quiet place to study or write can use the DOHM-DS sound conditioner to block out loud conversations, television noise, and more. The Marcpac's total volume level is a bit underwhelming compared to other models we've rated, but it's still loud enough to block most low and medium-intensity noises. The Marpac is ideal for anyone who suffers from tinnitus, a constant ringing sound in the ears.

The Conair's dial volume control can get surprisingly loud for an appliance of its size, and it is capable of masking a fair range of typical ambient noises. The white noise and white noise-friendly sound channels ("Ocean Waves," "Running Stream," and "Waterfall") do the best job of noise masking, though not necessarily at full volume. The unit does not adapt automatically to ambient noise levels, so users must make volume adjustments manually as needed. It's important to remember that true noise masking occurs when the sound conditioning unit is placed outside of the room. Placing the Conair next to a desk may block some ambient noises, such as loud equipment or radios, but it won't prevent voices from leaking through the door or walls. The Conair's noise masking ability is helpful for tinnitus sufferers and those with a low threshold for external noise.

The Ecotones Sound's white noise settings are strong enough to mask unpleasant ambient noise from office machinery, construction equipment, and conversing co-workers.
Bill
Expert Consultant
Bill
Engineer, Do-It-Yourself Guru

Bill has been a hardware store owner, locksmith, and general home repair guru for over 40 years. His ability to solve problems and repair every item in every situation is a true gift. In his spare time, you may find Bill working in his garden, tending to his perfectly manicured lawn, or riding his bike.

Considerations

Additional Features

Ecotones Sound + Sleep Machine

The Ecotones Sound + Sleep machine offers users the option of a 30, 60, 90, or 120-minute automatic shutoff time. It can also be set to run continuously. The ten sound settings can be enhanced by selecting one of three "richness" levels; this is a great option for users who dislike standard sound loops. Sonic enhancements such as the sound of birds, thunder, and crickets can be filtered out of the sound story. Customers appreciate the fact that the machine remembers individual settings from session to session. The Sound + Sleep machine also includes a standard headphone jack which can be used as a line-out to other audio systems or for private listening. We do wish the Ecotones Sound + Sleep machine had a battery power option.

Sound Oasis S-550-05 Sound Therapy System

The Sound Oasis uses both battery and AC power, which means it can easily travel from office to home to campground, etc. The included headphone jack allows owners to feed sound into another system or listen privately. Users can choose between a 30, 60, and 90-minute automatic shutoff options – a great benefit to those who use battery power. Some users report a significant battery power drain during use. As such, it may prove helpful to keep a spare set of AA batteries on hand. Those who want to save space can hang the unit on the wall with a keyhole-style mounting bracket. We appreciate the Sound Oasis' ability to remember the last user's personal settings and resume the sound story. The speakers are omni-directional and reflect sound from the back of the unit, resulting in a deeper and more satisfying experience for the user.

LectroFan - Fan Sound and White Noise Machine

The LectroFan Fan Sound and White Noise Machine is designed with simplicity in mind, but that doesn't mean it lacks additional features. The front of the unit includes only a few rocker switches, but those simple controls keep things manageable for users. (For example, one switch allows users to choose between fan sounds and white noise. This switch can also be used to toggle through all available frequencies and styles.) The LectroFan requires no batteries. The package includes a USB power cord that will fit most computers (handy for those who need a white noise machine at work) and, much like a USB phone charger, the USB power supply includes a connecting plug for AC use. There are no headphone jacks, but fan sound and white noise machines are not designed for headphone use, anyway. The LectroFan would be ideal for unobtrusive sound conditioning in larger living and working spaces.

Marpac DOHM-DS, Natural White Noise (actual fan inside) Sound Machine

The Marpac DOHM-DS is a simple machine by design, so it doesn't arrive with many additional features. Owners appreciate the freedom they derive from the Marpac's eight-foot AC power cord. The unit does not include alternative power options such as USB plugs or batteries, and it is not currently rated for European current. There are two motor speed settings (High and Low) and a on/off power switch. The internal fan generates a small breeze during operation, but this slight air current is nothing like the wind generated by a real box fan! The Marpac's housing contains a number of vent holes that allow the user to subtly adjust the fan's sound output. We recommend placing the unit outside a room for sound masking purposes and inside a room for sleep sound conditioning.

Conair Sound Therapy Sound Machine

The Conair Sound Therapy Sound Machine includes a 60-minute shutoff option, but the sound doesn't fade gradually like some of our other contenders; it abruptly shuts off. Some owners tell us that their Conair includes a headphone jack or line-out option, but we were unable to verify that claim with the manufacturer. (The model we examined did not include external audio jacks.) The unit can be powered through batteries or plugged into a wall outlet with an AC adapter. Unlike some other sound machines on the market today, the Conair does not put a serious drain on batteries. A fresh set of batteries should last at least five or six days with moderate use. We do have some concerns about the quality of certain sound channels, especially when they're used at higher volumes. There can be some noticeable distortion -- a serious distraction for people who are trying to sleep. Owners tell us that sound channels like "White Noise" and "Running Stream" generate the least number of issues with looping and distortion.

Unlike some other sound machines on the market today, the Conair Sound Therapy Sound Machine does not put a serious drain on batteries.
Considerations

Price

Ecotones Sound + Sleep Machine

At $97, the Ecotones Sound + Sleep machine is among the most expensive of our contenders. Customers who make this purchase enjoy a bounty of great features, and many feel it is worth the investment. (For example, the unit's memory card replicates natural sounds better than equivalent CDs!) Other sound machines use short, predictable audio loops that can become disruptive over time, but the Ecotones Sound + Sleep Machine generates unique sound stories during every session. The speakers, which point upward for maximum sound distribution, are more powerful than most lower-end models. Users who seek effective daytime sound masking appreciate the Ecotones Sound + Sleep's adaptive sound technology, a feature not found on basic sound machines and white noise generators.

Sound Oasis S-550-05 Sound Therapy System

The Sound Oasis Sound Therapy System costs $31. The unit delivers quality sound at a decent level of amplification and offers both battery and AC power options. However, the six default sounds in its library may not be very satisfying; the “Wind” and “Stream” channels are especially polarizing among users. Potential buyers should note that they do have the option of purchasing additional sound cards for the Sound Oasis. Parents of small children find the baby-friendly sound cards, available for an additional investment, to be particularly worthwhile.

LectroFan - Fan Sound and White Noise Machine

At first glance, the compact LectroFan's retail price of $49 seems a bit steep for a simple noise-generating machine. However, this white noise generator is no toy; the product's beneficial technology is buried inside the unit. (Different fans generate different frequencies. After all, effective "white noise" is more than random static!) The LectroFan's amplification system uses technology that is generally reserved for higher-end sound machines. As such, it is quite powerful. We highly recommend the LectroFan Fan Sound and White Noise Machine for both private and commercial consumers, as it addresses many of the ambient noise issues found in both private homes and public spaces.

Marpac DOHM-DS, Natural White Noise (actual fan inside) Sound Machine

At $40, the Marpac DOHM-DS is a bit of an investment for those who respond better to white noise than chirping birds or crashing waves. The Marpac doesn't have additional features such as timed shutoffs, nature sounds, and amplified speakers, but it does offer an authentic fan sound that many people prefer over digital simulation. This model is the equivalent of a large fan packed inside an appliance no bigger than an alarm clock. It's not the type of machine that will fill a room with prerecorded static or wind storms. Rather, it's the type of machine that will fill a room with real-time brown, pink, or white noise.

Conair Sound Therapy Sound Machine

The entry-level Conair Sound Therapy sound machine is definitely a bargain at $22, but it is should not be confused with cheap alarm clocks that have a few repetitive "nature sounds" on their menus. The Conair offers many options that are generally found on more expensive models. Owners can choose from ten sound channels (instead of the standard six found on other machines at that price point). Its low price makes it easier for consumers to take a risk and experiment with sound conditioning before investing in more complicated systems.

The affordable Conair Sound Therapy Sound Machine offers many options that are generally found on more expensive models.

Best of the Best

While some sound conditioning systems excel at noise masking, others are better at creating a sleep-conducive atmosphere. Our Best of the Best sound machine -- the Ecotones Sound + Sleep Machine -- effectively accomplishes both of these goals.

Other sound conditioning machines offer six basic sound channels, but the Ecotones Sound + Sleep offers ten high quality "sound stories" -- all of which can be enhanced with the touch of a button. Some competitors use short audio tracks to produce loops; these loops quickly become predictable and distracting. The Ecotones Sound + Sleep employs longer tracks that result in seamless, non-repeating soundscapes. Owners can either filter out unwanted enhancements (like chirping birds and crickets) or allow them to augment the sound story. On-board speakers powerfully promote sound, but there is also a line-out/headphone jack available for other audio inputs.

The Ecotones Sound + Sleep Machine employs an adaptive sound system that constantly monitors ambient noise levels and automatically adjusts itself to the environment. For instance, if a nearby phone rings, an enhanced sound will match the noise level and neutralize it. Very few sound machines include this option. Customers love it because it comes in handy in places where ambient noise levels vary.

The same intuitive technology works during sleep conditioning as well. An unwanted noise may be masked by a bird chirp or a sudden wave crash. There are also four auto-shutoff settings, each of which is designed to fade away gradually. (Other sound machines shut off abruptly, which can be jarring to users.) We also like the fact that the unit can remember settings from session to session and return to them instantly.

The Ecotones Sound + Sleep Machine combines all of the soothing and noise-masking qualities found in fans and nature CDs into one compact unit. At $97, it's one of the pricier sound machines on our shortlist, but the high-tech versatility it offers simply cannot be beat.
Best of the Best
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The Ecotones Sound + Sleep Machine employs an adaptive sound system that constantly monitors ambient noise levels and automatically adjusts itself to the environment.

Best Bang for your Buck

The Conair Sound Therapy Sound Machine delivers professional-level sound conditioning at an entry-level price. Instead of investing in an anemic desktop white noise generator or an alarm clock with a repetitive "nature" setting, customers can experience ten different natural and white noise sounds at the touch of a button. For this reason -- and many others -- we declare the Conair Sound Therapy Machine to be the Best Bang for Your Buck.

The Conair may not have some of the audio enhancements found in higher-end models, but it delivers realistic, room-filling sound. The speakers are surprisingly robust for the price, and the volume control is easy to navigate. Owners enjoy the ability to block out ambient noise in the office and create a relaxing atmosphere for sleep.

Some "audio looping" exists on certain Conair channels, but this is an inherent problem with many sound machines. The white noise and white noise-based channels, such as "Ocean Waves" and "Waterfalls," do not seem to suffer from excessive looping. Some distortion is possible at the highest volume levels, but most ambient noises can be successfully masked when the sound machine's volume is set at the mid-range.

The Conair uses both battery and AC adapter power sources, making it an ideal take-along for overnight camping trips where ambient noises can make sleeping difficult. The machine's compact design also makes it ideal for computer desks and nightstands. If you want to upgrade from box fans or recorded nature CDs to a real sound conditioning system, we strongly recommend the affordable and versatile Conair Sound Therapy Sound Machine!
Best Bang for your Buck
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The Conair Sound Therapy Sound Machine delivers professional-level sound conditioning at an entry-level price.
The team that worked on this review
  • Michael
    Michael
    Creative Lead
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Editor
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    Jasmin
    Operations
  • Jimi
    Jimi
    Product Analyst
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    Kriti
    Data Scientist