Everyone deserves a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, if your next-door neighbors are loud or you live in an area where car horns and sirens are normal, counting sheep only gets you so far. Whether you seek nighttime slumber or daytime concentration, a white noise machine may be just what you need to drown out distractions.
A white noise machine is a useful device as it utilizes white noise—a humming sound that includes all audible frequencies—to generate a blanket of consistent sound to encourage sleep and prevent jolting distractions. As with most products, finding the best white noise machine for your needs requires some homework. For smooth shopping, here’s what you need to know about identifying a quality product.
- BEST OVERALL: Douni Sleep Sound Machine
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Homedics Sound Spa White Noise Machine
- BEST FOR BABIES: Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine and Night Light
- BEST PORTABLE: LectroFan Micro2 Sleep Sound Machine
- BEST SMART TECH: SNOOZ White Noise Sound Machine
- BEST BATTERY OPERATED: Big Red Rooster 6 White Noise Machine
What to Consider When Buying a White Noise Machine
The popularity of these handy devices means there are lots of models with a range of features on the market. No need to lose sleep over selecting the best white noise machine for your needs. Keep reading to learn how to navigate the selection.
White noise machines rarely exceed 7 inches in width, length, or height. Heavier models weigh 12 to 15 ounces, while lighter ones weigh 5 to 6 ounces. White noise machines designed for travel are smaller and lighter than models intended for stationary use.
Before buying a white noise machine, decide how and where you are going to use it. If you live a nomadic lifestyle or have a tiny nightstand, a smaller model may be the best white noise machine for you. If your device will never move from your bedroom dresser, size may not matter as much.
The best sound machine for you will be largely based on the different sound modes each unit offers.
Type of Sound
White noise machines differ widely in the types of sounds they offer. Some stick to nondescript white noise. Some machines use pink noise—which is deeper than white noise—or natural sounds like ocean waves, rainfall, rustling leaves, and waterfalls. Some models also offer machine sounds like washers, electric fans, or air conditioning units, and everyday ambient soundscapes like muted chatter or traffic sounds. Before choosing a white noise machine, decide if white noise is what you need to catch some Z’s, or if the lullaby of Mother Nature would do a better job of helping you get to sleep.
Your noise machine shouldn’t be too loud. You want to drown out distractions, but the machine’s white noise shouldn’t go above 50 decibels. Some white noise machines can reach up to 85 decibels, which is over OSHA’s limit for eight hours of safe noise exposure. You can still buy a white noise machine that can be set loud, but be mindful of how long you turn the volume up.
Some white noise machine models put their sounds on a loop for a continuous listening experience. That means they’ll hit the end of a recording and begin again in a smooth transition. Be sure you get a model with a clean loop. On the other hand, if repetitions will distract you, look for a device with a non-looping feature.
Some machines come with an app that lets you add your own sounds or music that you can control with your smartphone. You can adjust the volume, timer, or sound mode with a touch on your screen. Some brands have integrated sensors to detect auditory distractions and automatically adjust the volume accordingly.
Baby-friendly sound machines may also incorporate additional smart features, like a two-way audio monitor and compatibility with Alexa or Google Home for hands-free control.
Smart-tech features can bump up the price, so decide if you need them before paying extra for them.
Some white noise machines double as an alarm clock or light. If you don’t have a bedside lamp, or you need as much help waking up as you do falling asleep, those features might be worth the extra cost.
Other features you can find in white noise machines include headphone ports, Bluetooth accessibility, and a timer for pre-set operation. Devices are powered by batteries, electrical outlets, USB cords, or some combination of those sources.
Our Top Picks
Based on the feature and prices, here are some of the top-rated models.
The Douni Sleep Machine has a lot to offer. It includes 24 different sounds ranging from fans to trains to ocean waves. There’s also a fetal tone suitable for use in a baby nursery. It comes with 32 volume settings that go up to 85 decibels.
Its sleek, contemporary lines and wood-grain finish are attractive. Its size makes it suitable for travel, and its earphone jack enables private listening. You can set a timer for 30, 60, or 90 minutes so it cuts off after you go to sleep. The machine even remembers your last settings, so you can set it and forget it if you are a creature of habit.
With the HoMedics Sound Spa, you don’t have to break the bank to get a good night’s sleep. This product offers six different sounds: white noise, thunder, ocean, rain, summer night, and brook. You can let it play continuously or set a timer for 15, 30, or 60 minutes. If you are easily distracted by repetition, note that this machine’s sounds are on a loop.
Its design and small size mean it will fit in a suitcase or backpack for travel. You can plug it into the wall, or power it with four AA batteries for more freedom of movement. Its natural sound modes and softer volume settings are safe for all ages. Its eight-button design is intuitive and easy to use.
The Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine triples as a noise machine, night light, and time-to-rise alert. The latter feature is a light signal that lets your little one know when it’s time to get up. You can customize the light’s color and brightness, the sound, and the volume of the machine, giving you lots of flexibility. You can also schedule daily programs—with pre-set sounds, run time, and wake-up time—for a healthy sleep routine. The Hatch Baby Rest is controllable using an app on your phone, allowing you to control its settings from the doorway of the nursery, without disturbing your baby. The app is compatible with smartphones or tablets running iOS (11 or higher) or Android (Lollipop or higher).
This product includes a toddler lock and stays cool throughout the night for safety. It is powered by electricity, but can also run on batteries when needed. One rechargeable lithium battery is included with the device. If you travel regularly, note that it weighs one pound, making it one of the heaviest devices on our list.
LectroFan’s Micro2 Sleep Sound Machine has 11 non-looping sounds ranging from white noise to ocean waves to the classic fan sound. It is one of the smallest machines on the market, just 2 inches in diameter, so it is truly portable and a good choice for traveling. You can get a travel case making it easier to pack (sold separately).
It pairs with your smartphone so you can use it as a Bluetooth speaker, and its built-in microphone lets it double as a speakerphone. Its rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasts up to 40 hours on regular sleep-sound mode, and 20 hours on Bluetooth mode. While not the most inexpensive option in its category, this is one of the most versatile of the travel-sized white noise machines.
The SNOOZ White Noise Sound Machine actually has a fan inside, so its fan noise is real, not a digital imitation. The retro vibe ends there because it comes with a companion app that lets you control its settings, volume, and timer. It also has a nightlight.
At 5.4 ounces, this is one of the most lightweight white noise machines available. It comes with 10 volume and tone settings. When adjusting the volume, its nursery calibration displays flashing bars to help you identify safe sound levels for your baby’s ears. It is also efficient, using the energy equivalent of a 6-watt LED bulb. It does not run on batteries and must be plugged into an outlet. With this device, you get fan noise without the heft and the cold air.
If you plan to use your white noise machine in different locations—like your bedroom today, and your office tomorrow—a battery-operated model can be a convenient option. You can plug the Big Red Rooster 6 into the wall with its AC adapter, or power it with three AA batteries. It is also compact and lightweight, so you can take it anywhere.
This budget-friendly machine has six sounds, so you can choose rain, brook, ocean, thunder, summer night, or good old white noise. You can set a timer for 15, 30, or 60 minutes, or turn it off manually.
The Advantages of Owning a White Noise Machine
People buy a white noise machine because they want to sleep better. A white noise machine works by creating a consistent soundscape that blankets the inconsistent sounds that might jar you awake, from snoring to traffic.
But it’s more than a sleep machine. Many people also use white noise machines to enhance their concentration while working. A white noise machine can turn your home office from a den of distractions to an oasis of calm, a must in this era when so many people are working from home. Some travel-sized models have headphone ports so you get the mind-soothing focus of white noise anywhere, any time, without disturbing others.
White noise machines can also help people with tinnitus and ADD/ADHD by improving their sleep and concentration.
FAQs About Your New White Noise Machine
Still have questions? Here are some of the most common inquiries by shoppers when buying a white noise machine.
Q. How does a white noise machine work?
A white noise machine fights noise with noise. It does this by masking distracting sounds with a consistent blanket of what’s known as white noise. White noise is a kind of humming sound that includes all audible frequencies. Some machines also use pink noise—which is deeper than white noise— or nature sounds and ambient soundscapes.
Q. Where is the best place to put a white noise machine?
That’s up to you. Some like it next to their bed, while others prefer it closer to the source of a disruptive noise, like by a window or the door. Your best bet is to experiment with different placements until you find the one that works for you.
Q. Can I use a white noise machine while traveling?
You can. Hotel rooms, guest offices, and other environments you aren’t accustomed to can make it tough to concentrate or sleep. Just make sure your white noise machine is travel-sized, headphone compatible, and either battery-powered or rechargeable.