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The 9 Very Best Sound Machines

Photo: Retailer

If you find yourself tossing and turning for hours or waking up easily after finally drifting to sleep, consider buying a sound machine. While they’ve long been a trusted tool of sleep-deprived new parents trying to soothe fussy babies to sleep — and then to ensure said babies stay that way — sound machines, or white-noise machines, can help you sleep better at any age by working to mask a variety of background noises, from conversation in an adjoining room to sirens racing by or garbage trucks clanking cans around outside. Here are the best sound machines and white-noise machines you can buy online.

Best overall electronic | Best (less expensive) electronic | Best basic electronic | Best overall mechanical | Best (less expensive) mechanical | Best adaptive | Best for babies and kids | Best (less expensive) for babies and kids | Best for travel 

What we’re looking for

Sound type and variety: A sound machine can generate sound either mechanically, via physical components moving inside it, or electronically. At their absolute simplest, sound machines typically make a consistent and even-toned whirring fan or static-y radio sound that’s intended to mask more disruptive and specific noises like people talking or a dog barking. As such, sleeping with a sound machine turned on can be akin to having a box fan blowing in your bedroom — and indeed, people who run hot and don’t need any frills may prefer an actual fan to a more specialized sound-focused device. But some modern sound machines offer white noise as well as a wider array of aural delights, like the sound of ocean waves crashing or crickets chirping.

Size and style: Ideally, a sound machine that takes up space in your bedroom will be, at the very least, somewhat compact and unobtrusive, and easy to fit onto a dresser or nightstand. Some are much more aesthetically pleasing than others, though, and we’ve taken that into account too.

Power source: Some sound machines have an internal rechargeable battery or will run on standard AA batteries. That makes them much more portable for travel or convenient to move to different spaces throughout your home (though you can also often plug them in on your nightstand or dresser for more stationary use). Others are more old-school and must be plugged in at all times. We’ve indicated whether each machine below has a rechargeable battery or an option to use standard AA batteries, and what type of plugged-in power it can use (typically AC and/or USB).

Additional features: If a sound machine offers any extras like a timer or nightlight, we’ve noted it below.

Best overall electronic sound machine

Electronic noise | 10 fan sounds, 10 white noise variations, 2 ocean sounds | AC or USB power | Timer and headphone jack

The LectroFan Evo offers 10 non-looping fan sounds and 10 non-looping white noise variations, as well as two ocean sounds — “calm” and “surf.” Reviewers on Amazon rave about its noise-blocking abilities, with one writing that the noise from their neighbors was so loud at night, “I almost considered moving out or at least switching to an upstairs unit … That is, until I happened upon this amazing little device.” Its white noise and fan sounds “can get loud enough to mask anything,” they write, rejoicing that they “can now peacefully snooze through not only my neighbors’ stomping kitchen antics, but also the 8 A.M. garbage truck arriving bright and early every Wednesday.”

The LectroFan Evo does not have an internal battery, so stationary use is ideal, though it’s small enough to travel with if you choose. It is similar in size to an overturned cereal bowl, with a fluid hexagonal shape and button controls located on the machine’s angled top; its aesthetic is neither overly sleek and modern nor clunky and offensive. The power cord has a USB-A connector, so you can plug it into any USB power source, or use a standard outlet with the included USB wall adapter. It comes in two colors, charcoal or white, and it has a wired headphone jack that may come in handy if you like to use white noise during your waking hours, say, while working from home.

Best (less expensive) electronic sound machine

Electronic noise | 6 sounds including white noise, rain, and ocean | AA batteries or AC or USB power | Timer

With more than 30,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, this budget-friendly sound machine is a popular purchase for kids’ bedrooms. Since it can be used with four AA batteries, it doesn’t need to be near an outlet, though if you want to plug it in it’s just like our two LectroFan picks on this list: The power cord has a USB-A connector, or you can use it with a standard outlet thanks to the included USB wall adapter. The machine can produce six different sounds, though some reviewers have mentioned becoming distracted by loops in the recordings; “If you have any neurologic issues where patterns drive you nuts, get a more expensive machine,” one writes. “It takes my brain roughly 5 minutes on the rain pattern to find the loop and after that hits, I hear it every time.” Size-wise, the Homedics sound machine is lower-profile — but with a larger diameter — than either of the LectroFans on this list; it comes in three colors and looks a bit like a UFO, complete with a couple small lights on top (albeit ones that could potentially disrupt photosensitive sleepers). If you’re not especially picky about the nuances or sound quality of your white noise, or if you or your child prefers nature sounds, this machine is a decent budget pick.

Best basic electronic sound machine

Electronic noise | 10 fan sounds and 10 white noise variations | AC or USB power | Timer

Strategist senior editor Jen Trolio was inspired to pounce on this LectroFan High-Fidelity White-Noise Machine during an Amazon Prime Day sale, because the physical fan in the Marpac Dohm Classic that she’d bought when her first child was born had started to sputter after three years of use. Trolio has since purchased a second LectroFan for herself and her husband. “I like that it gets a lot louder and has a much larger volume range than the Marpac Dohm ever did,” Trolio says, a function of its electronic rather than mechanical noise.

The LectroFan offers 10 non-looping fan sounds and 10 non-looping white noise variations. It also has a timer option. Functionally it is extremely similar to our top pick, the LectroFan Evo, but it doesn’t have any ocean sounds or a headphone jack. It also has a more retro, sharper-edged hexagonal design, with buttons on the front instead of on the top. Trolio notes that the toggle style of the combined power-slash-timer button can cause accidental presses of one or the other — the buttons on the Evo are more separated — but doesn’t find it to be a dealbreaker. Like the Evo, this sound machine does not have an internal battery, so stationary use is ideal, though also like the Evo, it’s small enough to fit into a suitcase if you want to travel with it. The power cord has a USB-A connector, so you can plug it into a USB power source, or use a standard outlet with the included USB wall adapter. It fits easily on a nightstand or dresser, and it comes in black or white.

Best overall mechanical sound machine

Mechanical noise | 1 sound (with adjustable tone) | AC power only | Timer, smartphone app

If you are a loyalist to the sound of a real fan, but you want a noise machine that doesn’t blow air around your bedroom, has features like a timer, and is more aesthetically pleasing than most, the Snooz is the option for you. It looks more like a small and sleek wireless Bluetooth speaker with minimalist volume controls than a sound machine, and like the much more basic and homely Marpac Dohm Classic below, produces mechanical noise by way of a real whirring fan inside. It has 10 volume settings, runs on AC power, and you can adjust the tone of the fan by rotating the machine’s casing. It comes in two colors, charcoal or black, and has a timer as well as a smartphone app that functions as a remote control, letting you program the timer, set a schedule for the machine, or turn the machine on and off.

Best (less expensive) mechanical sound machine

Mechanical noise | 1 sound (with 2 fan speeds and adjustable tone) | AC power only | No timer

Long before the pandemic upended our collective ability to sleep through the night, this one-button sound machine was the only thing that helped New York Magazine deputy editor Alexis Swerdloff drift off in an apartment with paper-thin walls. Since then, the “Stormtrooper-helmet-like gadget” has earned a place among our 100 all-time greatest hits and has garnered over 12,000 five-star reviews from Amazon customers — many of which specifically describe it as “easy” to use. That’s because the Marpac Dohm Classic is a mechanical noise machine that offers just one sound: the whir of the actual fan inside. It has two speed settings for that fan, and you can twist the outer housing to adjust the tone, and that’s about it; “The genius lies in its simplicity,” says Swerdloff, noting that it “can be operated while you’re basically still asleep.” She’s not alone in her appreciation; the machine has actually been in production since 1962 and has a devoted cult following. You do need to turn it on before going to sleep and off once you’re awake, but it’s a good option for sleepers who prefer the sound of a real fan without the temperature changes or draftiness. It also comes in black, pink, tan, gray, or RealTree camouflage print.

Best adaptive sound machine

Electronic noise | 10 white noise and environmental sounds with three “richness” layers for each | AC power only | Timer, headphone jack, and adaptive sound technology 

Many Amazon reviewers call out this sound machine’s “adaptive” feature that automatically raises the volume of the machine’s noise when it hears other noises that may disrupt your sleep — but that feature also makes it one of the most expensive options on the market. If you decide to pony up, you’ll get the adaptive technology on top of 10 different non-looping sound options that were recorded in real environments, including white noise, fireplace, ocean, meadow, and rainfall. It also has a “richness” button that Sound+Sleep says will enhance any of the machine’s 10 sounds by layering different recordings to create a more complex and immersive soundscape (so with three richness layers for each sound, you technically have 30 total sound variations on this machine). It’s a little larger than other sound machines on this list, runs on AC power, and thanks to the dial on the front, looks a bit like a piece of vintage stereo equipment. It also comes in a “mini” travel version that is slightly cheaper and can run on AC power, USB power, or AA batteries.

Best sound machine for babies and kids

Electronic noise | 11 sounds including white noise, ocean, and three lullabies | AC power only | Timer, customizable color-changing night light, okay-to-wake setting, and smartphone app

This all-in-one nightlight, sound machine, and “OK-to-wake” device is popular among parents with kids of all ages, thanks to its good looks, dimmable night light (which you can customize to shine in nearly every color of the rainbow), and smartphone app for programming a variety of settings, from on and off times to sleep training light signals for toddlers who tend to rise while it’s still dark out.

The Hatch is AC power only, and its tapered cylindrical shape brings to mind an oversized soda can. Button controls are concealed on the bottom of the device, a touch ring on the top allows you to cycle through colors and sounds, or you can program it and change settings through the companion smartphone app. It’s one of the most aesthetically pleasing sound machines on this list — for kids or adults — and for about $20 more, you can get an upgraded version, the Hatch Rest+, which displays a digital clock, has a battery backup, wifi connectivity (over the original Hatch’s Bluetooth), and contains a two-way audio monitor.