Whether you're trying to catch up on your sleep at odd hours or simply tired of your next door neighbors keeping you up at night, a sound machine—like our favorite, the Sound + Sleep by Adaptive Sound(available at Amazon for $74.95)—is the perfect way to drown out the outside world.
But with thousands of these machines on the market—not to mention the countless smartphone apps available for download—how can you tell which one is right for you? No need to fret: We’ve done all the hard work for you. After hours of exhaustive research into the best sound machines on the market, followed by thorough hands-on testing and scientific sound quality comparisons, we've uncovered the seven best sound machines money can (currently) buy.
We love the Sound + Sleep because of its volume range, sound quality, and intuitive extra features. However, there are plenty of other great options at all price ranges.
Here are the best sound machines, in order:
Adaptive Sound Sound + Sleep
Adaptive Sound LectroFan
Big Red Rooster BRRC107 Sound Machine
Homedics MyBaby Deep Sleep SoundSpa
Homedics MyBaby SoundSpa Portable
Marpac Dohm Classic
Pictek White Noise Machine
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While some may shudder at the thought of spending around $100 for a sound machine, there's simply no better option than the Sound + Sleep by Adaptive Sound.
First and foremost, this machine did its main job better than the rest—it completely blocked out the sound it was put up against. If you need sheer volume, no other white noise machine in our testing reached the decibel level that the Sound + Sleep did. And not only did it block out competing noise, but it sounded fantastic doing it. At every volume level, the speaker produced clear highs and soothing bass, without distortions. The Sound + Sleep also has a useful "adaptive" mode, in which the internal microphone monitors your room's ambient noise level and adjusts volume accordingly. Neat.
This noise maker offers 10 distinct sound categories, with three different "richness" settings for each. That gives you a total of 30 sounds to choose from. The richness setting allows you to tweak the variables that get layered into the sound. For example, on the machine's ocean setting, the standard sound is crashing waves. Tap the richness button once and it adds the sound of seagulls and seals. Tap again to add bells and faraway foghorns. The result is a vibrant soundscape that's less monotonous than what you get from other machines.
The Sound + Sleep is the biggest of all the units we compared, although that isn't saying much. At just over 2 pounds, it's still totally portable for anyone who needs help catching Z's on the road. It's also a beautiful device, with a sleek, modern front panel and a flat speaker grille at the top.
Honestly, the only thing we didn't like about the Sound + Sleep is its higher price tag, compared to the competition. If that's not an issue for you, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better sound machine than this one. If it is, consider the far less costly, slightly simpler LectroFan, also from Adaptive Sound.
Putting a baby to sleep can be a monumental task, and finding the right sound machine can be a big help. The MyBaby Deep Sleep SoundSpa by Homedics is tailor-made for restless babies (and their restless parents).
This machine's most impressive features are definitely baby-specific. They include a lullaby function, which plays the childhood classic "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star," a heartbeat setting that replicates the sound they heard in the womb, and a 30/60/90-minute sleep timer. The white noise is also tonally customizable so you can find the tone your baby likes best, and the one that most effectively filters out the noise you want to block. There's also an ocean setting, if your baby prefers to drift off to sleep on the waves.
For a baby-oriented machine, the sound quality is surprisingly solid. No matter which tone you select, the MyBaby Deep Sleep produces a soothing sound that won't be too shrill for a young child. It's the third-loudest machine we tested, and was almost always capable of drowning out the competing noises we threw at it. The machine itself is lightweight and doesn't have the most luxurious feel, but it'll fit in just fine on the changing table beside your baby's crib.
All in all, the MyBaby Deep Sleep shows that a few thoughtful features—combined with respectable sound quality—can make nap time much easier.
Who am I?: I'm Kevin Oliver. I’m a reviewer for sites like Reviewed, BGR, Freshome, and TechRadar. For six years, I’ve also had success in the professional audio world as both a touring musician and a sound engineer. That means I can delve into the nitty-gritty of products—like sound machines—that only an audiophile can appreciate. When I’m not working, my wife and I love to travel, where we like to use white noise machines to keep us on a consistent schedule.
The tests: First, we spent days conducting extensive research, searching for the sound machines most highly rated by expert reviewers and users alike. In addition to ratings, we considered factors like decibel levels, sound settings, size, weight, and extra features.
Upon unboxing, we inspected each device thoroughly and took note of build quality. Over the course of the next week, we set up each sound machine in the same environment and measured the ambient decibel reading to get a baseline. We then played a recorded conversation in an adjacent room, using three volume levels: quiet, normal, and loud. After measuring the decibels each volume level produced in the testing room, we set every machine to their "white noise" setting. Using a decibel reader, we carefully measured and took note of the volume of each machine, and took detailed notes on the overall sound quality they produced.
We tried out each machine's entire feature list to compare any special or unique qualities. We also took ease of setup and portability into consideration.
Sound Machines vs. White Noise Apps
There are dozens of noise-generating apps available for both iOS and Android. While many of these apps—including our favorite, Relax Melodies—offer an affordable way to drown out some unwanted noise, a phone speaker can't get anywhere near the decibel level of an external speaker. For those who want more volume, more features, and richer sound, a dedicated sound machine is a better option.
Other Sound Machines We Tested
Adaptive Sound LectroFan
The LectroFan is humble, practical, and undoubtedly the best bang for your sound machine buck.
Unlike our top pick (also from Adaptive Sound), the LectroFan is a streamlined noise maker for those who simply want to plug in and sleep. While the LectroFan only offers two sound settings—fan and white noise—there are 10 selectable options for each setting. The machine's high-fidelity speaker replicates each sound beautifully, producing a surprisingly warm, bass-heavy profile. In fact, its "fan setting" sounds exactly like there's an actual box fan sitting beside you, albeit one with more tonal and volume control.
In terms of decibels, this machine held its own against our top pick, successfully drowning out all three levels of conversation. Most importantly, the machine's output retained its smooth, soothing qualities even when we pushed it to its limits. The LectroFan doesn't have many extra features aside from a 60-minute sleep timer, but for some people, simplicity is the best feature.
Big Red Rooster's BRRC107 is a surprisingly well-built and attractive device, given its low price point. Although it weighs just 8.5 ounces, the materials used are similar to those found in the more expensive Adaptive Sound LectroFan, giving it a better feel than our other cheap options.
Though never uncomfortable to our ears, the BRRC107's noise output sounded distinctly digital, and offered no low-end bass. This sounds pretty disappointing, but it was actually quite soothing compared to some of the other cheap options we tested. We had bigger issues with the Big Red Rooster's volume output. The Big Red Rooster produced the second lowest decibel levels of all the devices we compared, only beating out the Marpac Dohm. It struggled to block the loud conversation playback, making it more of a distraction than an asset in that setting.
If you don’t need extreme volume output and you’re looking for an affordable noise maker that produces decent sound, the BRRC107 could be a decent choice. But if you’re looking for something louder to drown out serious noise, consider one of our top two choices.
This may have been one of the cheapest sound machines we reviewed, but it held up against the competition surprisingly well.
Weighing only 8 ounces, the SoundSpa Portable lives up to its name—it's ready to be tossed in a suitcase or baby bag at a moment's notice. Despite its lightweight (almost cheap) feel, the SoundSpa Portable offers a solid variety of noises (six in total) that don't sound shrill or mechanical. The SoundSpa Portable's sound quality doesn't hold a candle to what you get from either Adaptive Sound model, but for around $25, this machine sounded just fine.
It performed acceptably in our volume test, effectively drowning out the first two conversation levels, but—like the Big Red Rooster—struggling with the loudest. Features are few, but a 15/30/60 minute timer could be useful for putting baby down for a nap.
The Marpac Dohm Classic is as simple—and, yeah, classic—as sound machines get. Unlike the other devices we tested, the Dohm is an actual fan whose sound can be manipulated by rotating its casing.
But while this device makes pleasant sounds, it can't crank out much volume. In our tests, it failed to block out the recorded conversation at any sound level. Volume issues aside, this machine does exactly what it was designed to, producing a soothing, easily customizable sound. Most users will be able to use this one right out of the box with no questions asked. Still, we can't recommend it for anyone who has to contend with even the lightest competing noise.
The Pictek White Noise Machine is cheap and loud, but in this case that's not enough to earn our recommendation.
The low-profile device tips the scales at just 12 ounces, making it travel-ready. Unfortunately, it also feels cheap, like you're liable to break it if you're not careful. Though it offers eight different sounds with three variants each, there are very few settings that are actually comfortable to listen to. And while the machine technically performed well in our decibel output tests, drowning out noise from the other room, its small speaker produced shrill noise that was noticeably harsher than even a phone speaker.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.