White Noise Sound Machine Features

A white noise sound machine can cost up to $200, depending on the quality and features it has. Here's what to look for, so you pay for only the options you want.

If you're having a hard time getting to sleep because of disturbing noises, a white noise sound machine is a good solution. The white noise will mask the intrusive sounds so that they aren't as noticeable, and will provide a steady background sound that many people find soothing. Most babies and young children like the soft "shushing" sound too; it makes them feel relaxed and drowsy. Office environments use white noise too, so that you don't have to hear the details of every conversation going on around you.

There are many brands and models of white noise maker to pick from, ranging in price from $15 to $200 (US dollars). How do you choose? Here are some tips and things to look for.

Mechanical or Electronic?

The most basic white noise machine is a simple electro-mechanical sound maker, like a specially-made electric fan whose sole purpose is to make that pleasant white noise sound. If you don't need any of the additional optional features listed below, a mechanical white noise generator is great. They are easy to operate and tend to last a long time. The Marpac Dohm Sound Conditioner is the classic mechanical white noise maker, a timeless bestseller. It has basic volume and tone adjustments.

Electronic white noise generators usually offer more options, such as those listed in the section below. Electronic models have a couple of drawbacks, however:

  • They tend to be less reliable than the mechanical units.
  • Most of them (not all) use recorded segments of sound that repeat, or "loop," over and over. After a while, sometimes your brain will begin to notice the repeating pattern, and for some people the repetition becomes an annoyance in itself. One reliable electronic generator that does not have the looping problem is the Marsona TSCI-330 Travel Sound Conditioner.

Optional Features of White Noise Sound Machines

Here are options that you can find on some white noise machines:

  • A timer, allowing automatic shut-off after a given length of time.
  • A clock function, with alarms. With these features, the white noise machine can not only help you go to sleep but wake you up as well, replacing your alarm clock.
  • A variety of different sounds to choose from, including nature sounds, rhythms, and tones. These kinds of sounds can be better at masking certain types of noise. Also, some people just find them more comforting than the standard white noise sound.
  • Smaller size, convenient for traveling.
  • The ability to operate on batteries instead of an AC plug.
  • Special "kid-friendly" features, such as coming in the form of a plush stuffed toy.

Another feature you might see is a port to allow you to play the sounds through your own stereo speakers. This lets you increase the bass component, which helps cover lower frequency noise. You can also get more volume this way, in case the machine itself is not loud enough. However, be careful — if you increase the volume much above what the unit itself can produce, you can risk damaging your hearing, especially if you plan to have it on for hours at a time. If the sounds you need to mask are so loud that you need to boost the machine's volume by putting it through your speakers, it's safest to wear earplugs at the same time. Besides protecting your hearing, this way you will also avoid having to hear a loud roar for hours on end, which can be stressful and fatiguing in itself.

Recommended White Noise Sound Machines

To find the right machine for your purpose or to fit your budget, read on to view recommended brands and models:

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