The Ultimate White Noise Machine Buying Guide And Best Picks
White noise has helped countless people who have sleep disorders, tinnitus or a problem with noisy neighbors or coworkers. For me, getting a white noise machine was the best decision I ever made as I finally started to sleep soundly at night despite the loud upstairs neighbors I had.
There are several ways to create white noise. You can use apps, Youtube videos or even a regular fan. However, the best option is to use a sound machine that’s made specifically for this purpose as most of them do have better quality of white noise and sound. Plus, they usually have a selection of different sounds to choose from and they come with useful features like a timer or an alarm clock.
In this article you’ll find some information about white noise, tips for choosing the right sound machine and an overview of some of the best machines on the market.
- What is white noise
- Different colors of sound
- Who can benefit from white noise
- How to choose the right white noise machine
- Top white noise machine picks
- Best natural white noise generator
- Top white noise machine
- Best sound machine
- Best choice for a baby
- Top cheap white noise machine
- Best white noise machine for traveling
- Is white noise harmful?
- White noise for babies
What is white noise
It’s a unique kind of consistent noise that contains all the different sound frequencies that a human being can hear. A reliable analogy to that would be white light, which has all the colors combined together.
This is why it’s so effective for masking unwanted sounds. White noise creates a background noise that contains different tones and comes across equally among all frequencies, so that the human brain can no longer distinguish disturbing inconsistent sounds like footsteps, tv or barking. Therefore, it is most often used to promote healthy sleep by drowning out sounds which could stop you from falling asleep or wake you up in the middle of the night.
At times, the term white noise is used generally to represent any form of constant, unchanging noise. It has become a broad term for various kinds of sounds such as machinery noise, nature noise as well as ambient soundscapes. Certain people love listening to these kinds of sounds when they want to sleep in preference to the unpleasant sounds of pure white noise.
Different colors of sound
There are numerous types of colored noises such as pink, brown, black, green, grey and blue. Each of these colors describes a particular spectral density of noise and they come with different applications in engineering, acoustics, and physics.
Pink noise is a bit more pleasant to the human ear and is therefore more commonly used in sound machines than actual white noise, which sounds rather harsh. Pink noise also contains all hearable frequencies, but the power between them is not equally divided: as the frequency decreases, the power increases, which makes it sound lower than white noise to humans. While the latter sounds kind of like tv static, pink noise reminds more of the sound of heavy rain.
Brown noise has even more power on lower frequencies and has a much deeper sound than white or pink noise. It’s also called red noise to describe the power spectrum of sound while the name brown noise is actually referring to Brownian motion. Multiple white noise machines include a brown noise option, which is more effective for masking low-frequency sounds such as slamming doors or footsteps coming from upstairs.
Black noise is the most mystical “color” of noise having many definitions, but it’s most often referred to as the sound of silence.
Who can benefit from white noise
Anyone who has trouble falling asleep
Whether you’re suffering from insomnia, stress or tinnitus or you have to deal with noisy neighbors, white noise can help you fall asleep better and faster. It generates a soothing consistent background noise that relaxes the mind and the body for a quality sleep. It helps to stop racing thoughts and most importantly, masks outside noises as well as ringing in the ears and other tinnitus symptoms.
If you’re among those who wake up at the slightest noise, you can easily get a sounder, healthier sleep by adding a white noise machine to your sleeping environment. It generates a background sound of multiple frequencies combined together that distracts the brain and this way prevents it from paying attention to unwanted outside noises. And you won’t be waking up in the middle of the night anymore!
I know from my own experience how challenging it can be to get a good sleep if you’re working rotating shifts or the night shift.
It’s difficult enough to try to fall asleep straight after coming home from work, because even though you may feel really tired, your body and brain are still active. Plus, it’s just not natural for us to sleep in the daytime when it’s light outside. In addition to that, everyone else is getting ready for a (noisy) day and it can be impossible to get some rest if you’re living in an apartment building or near heavy traffic or if you’re not living alone.
I was eventually afraid to even try to relax and fall asleep, because even if it was quiet in the beginning I knew that something was about to happen: someone would come home slamming the door, my neighbor’s dog would go crazy or at least one of my neighbors would decide it’s a nice day for rearranging the furniture. And that’s when I got a white noise machine and it really helped me. My mind concentrated on the consistent fan sound and after a while I fell asleep easily. It also helped me psychologically: I knew that it would make me sleepy and block out the outside noises, so I could relax faster and not worry about the possibility of being brutally woken up.
Parents of a newborn
White noise also has a soothing effect on babies, so it’s quite popular among parents. Using white noise is a quick way to put your baby to sleep and it keeps him or her from waking up. There’s a wide selection of white noise machines made especially for babies. Most of them also include the heartbeat sound that calms babies by mimicking the sounds they heard in mother’s womb. Studies have shown no harmful effects of using white noise on babies, however, you should be careful not to play it too loud, since it can damage the baby’s hearing. People often seem to forget that what’s too quiet for us, is not too quiet for newborns, even if the environment they came from was quite noisy.
Most people find it hard to concentrate on work in an open office. If that’s your problem too then you can solve it by simply taking a white noise machine to your workplace. It generates a constant background noise, so that your brain won’t pay attention to conversations, ringing phones and constantly slamming doors anymore, relieving the stress and allowing you to be more productive. If you place it between you and the source of distracting sounds, it can drown them out quite effectively. White noise can also help you to concentrate better if you’re working from home.
Several studies have shown that white noise and ambient nature sounds like ocean or rain improve concentration and memory by masking disturbing outside noises. Birdsong seems to be the most recommended soundscape for mental work and studying since it calms us down physically while our mind stays alert. Birdsong also usually varies a bit, so it doesn’t have a short repeating monotone pattern that would make you sleepy instead of sharp. A white noise machine may also save you a lot of stress if you have to study in a dorm or some other noisy environment.
How to choose the right white noise machine
If this is your first white noise machine, keep in mind that it may take a couple of days to get used to the sound. When I first turned on white noise for the night, I didn’t find it soothing at all! But it did block the noise coming from my upstairs neighbors and after a while I started to love the sound.
There are several things you need to consider when buying a white noise or sound machine in addition to the obvious factors like price, design and duration of warranty.
How many sounds do you need?
If you need a sound machine to handle some type of problem like tinnitus or loud neighbors, then a pure white noise machine would do the trick. There are several types of them, some generate the noise naturally with a fan while others are playing pre-recorded sounds. Some of the machines also have lots of different white noise sounds to choose from, including pink and brown noise, and have highly customizable tone and frequency of the sound.
However, if you’re struggling with stress or just like listening to relaxing nature sounds, your best choice would be a sound machine that has both the nature tracks and a white noise option.
Where are you going to use it?
If you plan to use it only in your bedroom for better sleep, then any type of machine will probably do. However, if you travel a lot or you intend to transport your machine between home and office for example, then you need a compact, lightweight and portable device.
You may also want it to have a battery backup option that enables you to place it anywhere you’d like. Plus, it can save your night when you’re traveling to a country where the power sockets are of different type. A few white noise machines, like the Lectrofan one, come with an USB-cord in addition to the regular adapter and can be plugged into a computer.
There are also sound machines that come with a headphone jack and those that don’t have the option of plugging in earphones or a speaker pillow. So if you plan to turn your white noise on in a place where it may disturb other people, you should check for the headphone jack before making a purchase.
Should it have a timer?
You can find sound machines that come with both the option of being played for a certain amount of time with a timer and being run continuously. However, some machines don’t have a timer and they stop only when you turn them off while others can be set to play for up to an hour and can’t be run all night.
What about the fancy extras?
A great selection of sound machines come with additional features like a clock, an FM-radio or an alarm-clock. Some of them also have the nightlight feature and there are even sound machines with the aromatherapy option.
Top white noise machine picks
Best natural white noise generator
Marpac Dohm Dual Speed
Marpac Dohm has been around since the 60s and it’s still one of the most popular white noise machines. Dohm-DS has a wide range of usability: it’s equally great for masking sounds when having private conversations, studying, sleeping, working or soothing a baby to sleep. It’s also compact and small enough to take it with you when you’re traveling. It’s a great-quality product that is durable and long-lasting, but it also comes with a 1-year warranty.
It generates a constant sound of rushing air all naturally with a built-in fan instead of playing a pre-recorded sound of white noise. So there are no noticeable loops, which seems to be the problem with quite a few digital sound machines. The white noise that Dohm DS creates is highly effective for masking unwanted sounds and the machine is really easy to use.
You can choose between two speeds that allow you to customize the tone of the sound that Dohm produces. The lower speed, for example, generates a deeper sound that suits better for blocking low-frequency sounds. You can customize the sound even further by twisting the cap of the machine, and little sound holes on the side allow you to set the sound to your preferred volume as you turn the collar of the machine.
So, although it’s a simple machine, it can help you solve any problem you have with unwanted noises. However, it doesn’t have extra features such as a timer or a headphone socket and it’s a pure white noise generator without any additional sounds.
Top white noise machine
Lectrofan White Noise Machine
If you’re a fan of white noise or have a problem with disturbing sounds, then this is the ultimate device for you.
This Lectrofan machine has 20 sound options: 10 white noise settings that vary from low to high pitch and 10 different fan options! It has something for each taste and situation and there’s no disturbing sound that this machine couldn’t mask, which makes it the best sleep aid if you have noisy neighbors. Lectrofan drowns out conversations, TV, household noises, snoring, traffic, barking and footsteps and masks tinnitus sounds like ringing or clicking. It can also be successfully used for better concentration at work and for soothing a baby or even a pet. In addition to the best selection of white noise, the machine stands out by having great sound quality, highly adjustable volume and no noticeable loops.
Lectrofan has a timer of 60 minutes. Each time you press the timer button it adds another 60 minutes, so if you don’t want to run the machine continuously, it’s easy to set it on for just two or three hours. Another great feature of this sound machine is that it comes with an USB cable, so you can plug it into a computer or use it in your car for calming a baby. The USB option, along with Lectrofan’s small size and weight, enables you to use it if you travel a lot, but there is also a travel version of the machine which includes a set of different AC adapters for international usage.
Lectrofan also has a white noise machine made especially for babies and children. It has 6 fan and 6 white noise sounds and 18 lullabies that you can can be play individually or shuffle. You can get the Junior machine in three colors: white, blue and pink.
Best sound machine
Ecotone Sound + Sleep by Adaptive Sound Technologies
Sound + Sleep is one of the best sound machines you can get and it’s not even in the highest price range of sound machines.
First it has the adaptive sound feature: the machine changes its volume accordingly to the extent of loudness of the external noises! For example, if your neighbor’s dog starts barking, the volume of the machine goes up. When the barking stops and it’s more quiet again, the volume goes back down to as you set it. That makes it the perfect machine for sleeping, especially in the daytime when there are lots of possibilities for disruptive noises such as traffic, garbage trucks and other people like your family members, roommates or neighbors. And of course you can turn the adaptive mode off if you prefer a constant level of volume.
The selection of different sound profiles is also impressive. Sound + Sleep has 10 main tracks to choose from: ocean, fireplace, waterfall, train, meadow, city, brook, meditation, rainfall and, of course, the white noise. All of the recordings are natural, realistic and pleasant and don’t have any noticeable repetitive loops. Plus, you can add richness and layers to the basic sounds which makes it in total 30 different sounds on this machine! It has a large speaker and the sound quality is also one of the best among white noise and sound machines. The volume is controllable and the machine can go really loud if needed. This sound machine has white, brown and pink noise options, so it can handle masking different types of sounds, like traffic, snoring or footsteps.
Sound+Sleep comes with multiple additional features. If you don’t want your selected sound to play all night long, you can set the timer for 30, 60, 90 or 120 minutes. It also has a headphone jack and a 1-year warranty. Despite to its multiple settings, the sound machine is really user-friendly.
Best choice for a baby
Cloud B Sleep Sheep
Babies seem to love this adorable sleeping sheep and that’s why it has been one of the most popular baby white noise machines for quite a while.
The sheep is super soft, so it can actually be used as a toy as well as a white noise machine. You can easily remove the sound box and give the sheep to your baby as a cuddly toy. It’s easy to wash and take care of as well. A great feature this white noise machine comes with is that it’s battery-operated, so you can take it with you when going for a visit or for a walk. It also has a velcro strap which makes it easy to attach the sheep to the crib or stroller.
Sleep Sheep has 4 different white noise sounds to choose from: whale song, rain, ocean and mother’s heartbeat. It also comes with 4 melodies that can be used when nursing or playing: Rockabye Baby, Twinkle Twinkle, Classical Lullaby and Tranquil Melody.
The sheep has 4 buttons on the back for choosing different sound options and the volume is also adjustable. It has a timer that you can set for 23 or 45 minutes. Unfortunately, the Sleep Sheep has no option of playing continuous white noise, but it’s still the perfect sound machine for putting a baby to sleep or quickly calming your little one away from home.
Cloud B also has a version of the Sleep Sheep made especially for traveling. It’s called Sleep Sheep On The Go and it’s even smaller and more compact than the full-size machine. Due to it’s smaller size, it’s easier to attach it to the stroller, but there are less sounds to choose from: it only has the 4 basic sounds and no lullabies.
Top cheap white noise machine
HoMedics Sound Spa Relaxation Machine SS-2000G
This Homedics Sound Spa is one of the cheapest sound machines on Amazon and it’s also an Amazon best-seller. You obviously can’t expect exactly the same sound quality as the machines in the highest price range have from such a cheap machine, but it’s the best choice at this price and it does its job well. It comes with a variety of sounds and several extra features, so it’s a great sleep aid as well as a sound machine for relaxing, studying or working. It’s small and lightweight, so you can take it with you when going traveling as well.
Homedics SS-2000G has 6 different sounds: white noise and 5 nature sounds: summer night, rain, ocean, thunder and brook. The nature sounds are natural and rich, the white noise setting is pleasant and successfully drowns out outside noises. The summer night track is great for masking tinnitus as it includes some high-pitched sounds.
A great feature of this product is that it can be run on batteries if needed, so you can place it anywhere in your house or even take it outside. It also has a timer that automatically shuts the machine off in 15, 30 or 60 minutes, but you can let it run all night as well.
Best white noise machine for traveling
Marsona Travel Sound Conditioner TSCI-330 by Marpac
I know how difficult it can be to get a good night’s sleep when you’re traveling. Most hotels aren’t exactly the place to look for some peace and quiet. People keep slamming the doors all night and there’s always a party going on in some room. Besides, hotels are usually located in an area with high traffic or active night life. Even if you’ve had luck with your accommodation, it still may be difficult to fall asleep because of time zone differences. That’s why it’s always a good idea to take a white noise machine with you when going on a trip.
As the name implies, Marsona Travel Sound Conditioner has been designed specifically for traveling. It’s a lot smaller than most sound machines and therefore doesn’t take up much room in the suitcase. It’s also very compact and has a weight of only about 1 pound. It comes with a traveling kit that includes 4 different outlet adapters for plugging the machine into the wall in Europe, US, Australia or UK. It also comes with a dual voltage transformer and a small nylon travel pouch. The power cord is detachable to make packing even more convenient.
Marsona TSCI-330 has a selection of different white noise settings: rain, waterfall, surf and static white noise. You can also customize the tone by mixing the sounds together. The sound quality is remarkably good for such a small machine and the volume goes really loud, which makes it suitable for masking all kinds of disturbing sounds. Like all Marpac sound machines, this travel sound machine is a high-quality product. It’s really durable, so you can use it daily at your home as well as when traveling. Plus, it comes with one year warranty.
Is white noise harmful?
There are no extensive studies on the negative effects of white noise yet, and the research that have been done on white noise have only produced positive results. However, as with any audio device, prolonged usage at high volume could damage your hearing, especially if you’re using earphones.
White noise for babies
Little babies usually begin with an untrained sleep and wake cycle. In the first few months after birth, babies start to adjust and transition naturally to day and night. The main problem is getting your baby to sleep through the night. However, babies are quite different, they all respond differently. In this case, many mothers use white noise as a solution to baby sleep.
Even before a baby is born, it is already used to loud noises. If you did not know, the womb is a very noisy environment.
However, the nervous system of the baby is not mature and this makes it jumpy and flinch when they are affected by a loud noise or lack of support.
Swaddling can help to reduce the physical impacts of this reflex. However, if the problem with sleep persists, white noise can greatly help you.
The best thing about white noise is that it doesn’t make offensive sounds but rather sounds that mask other sounds that may startle your baby. Babies are very sensitive when it comes to hearing, so it is advisable to keep the volume at a conversation level.
In addition, it is also wise to reduce the exposure of your baby to white noise. The brain of a baby requires stimulation so as to develop in the correct manner and too much use of white noise can reduce the range of sounds that the baby hears.