Noise can affect sleep for better or worse. White noise machines that emit just that — consistent noise — fall squarely in the “better” category. Constant white noise, like the kind produced by a white noise machine, has been shown to improve sleep quality because it helps mask sudden bursts of noise that may help some people more easily fall and stay asleep.
“White noise machine” is a blanket term that consists of basic machines that do the bare minimum (that is, emit white noise at varying volumes) to high-end pieces of tech that feature lights, automations and more. We tested eight top-rated machines, aiming for devices with a variety of sound options and great volume control for heavy and light sleepers alike. After two months, two stood above the rest:
Best white noise machine overall
The Sound+Sleep Mini contains 48 different sounds, like rain, brooks, fans, ocean sounds, white noise, and many more. The other devices we tested feature some of these soundscapes, but the Mini is one of the only one that has them all. .
The upgrade pick
While our overall pick is a classic sound machine, the Hatch Restore resides packs extra features like a large color-changing light on the front, a digital clock display and routines to help you wind down and fall asleep easier.
If you’re looking for a plethora of sounds to soothe you into sleep, the Sound+Sleep Mini will fit the bill with more than 48 tracks across 12 categories that range from the standard (white and pink noise) to the environmental (rain or ocean).
It would be a lot to list out 48 individual sounds, but here are a few highlights: Fireplace inspired the same warm, cozy vibe you get from a nearby crackling fireplace. Crickets with light rain filled the space with a medley of natural sounds, transporting us to a relaxing night outdoors (without any of the actual bugs and rain). All of the soundscapes under the “Crowd” category reminded us of when we could go out to a cafe with a laptop. With such an array of sounds — more than any other we tested — it prevented the mundanity that we experienced hearing the same sounds over and over with most of the other machines.
Speaking of mundanity, some sound machines, like the SoundSpa Portable and the Hatch Rest, have somewhat short soundtracks where you can recognize where the loop restarts. Sometimes, heating that tiny glitch hearing when a soundscape has restarted made it more difficult for us to relax. With the Sound+Sleep Mini, we never recognized those repeats.
Of course, if you can’t set the volume just right, you’ll be adjusting it all night. And few devices offered as many gradations between whisper quiet and booming loud as the Mini. You can thank the high-fidelity 2.5-inch speakers for the latter. It’s not necessarily room filing, but it does pack a punch on the audio scale and can sound bigger than it appears — helping to better mask ambient noises that could disturb sleep. The Sound+Sleep Mini features an upfiring speaker on the top, so it’s directionally pushing the sound upward. Thanks to its comparatively wider volume gradient, we were easily able to pick out a precise volume that we preferred.
The device also features an adaptive sound mode, wherein a built-in microphone detects environmental sounds and increases the volume in an attempt to cover them up. We tested this by clapping near the machine, then farther away, and finally, while having people converse loudly in the next room. We only noticed a significant volume change when the sounds originated in the same room as the machine. So if you have a noisy roommate, it could help, but with loud neighbors, you may have to change the volume yourself.
The sound quality is decent. The Mini is more than capable of reaching high and low notes, which greatly helped our immersion once we closed our eyes and listened to each track. It handled the tracks better than most of the others we tested, and there wasn’t a tinny quality to the sound, even when the pitches rose. Still, the Hatch Restore, which is nearly double the price, bested the Sound+Sleep Mini in this regard. The sound it puts out has more depth, and is produced with a much higher level of clarity, whereas the Sound+Sleep Mini is less crisp overall.
The Sound+Sleep Mini, as the name may suggest, is a compact device, with an asymmetrical teardrop shape and a flat top, upon which the speaker resides. Like most of the sound machines we tested, it’s a cinch to set up. All you have to do is plug the included power cable into the bottom of the Mini and then plug that into the wall. Alternatively, you can insert 4 AA batteries beneath a bottom panel.
The device’s controls are laid over a flat surface on the side. They may look complex, but they’re not. A central circular button cycles through each category while another button, labeled “selection”, controls which track is playing within that category. LED lights inside this panel intuitively indicate exactly which selection is currently playing. There’s even a snooze timer with 30-, 60- and 90-minute options. This particular timer is unique, lowering the volume gradually as it nears its end. It’s not a feature we often noticed, as we were asleep before it kicked in. The LED lights fade out, too, so as not to distract you — although, they didn’t distract us at their full brightness, either.
On the side near the controls are two audio ports: one is for audio input if you want to use the Mini as a speaker. The other is a headphone jack, a feature we wish more machines included. Using this option, you can become even more immersed in your selection of choice. The sound quality is even a little better with headphones on if you have a half-decent pair.
Overall, the Sound+Sleep Mini has everything you’d want in a sound machine. It comes with a multitude of soundtracks, expansive volume control and a timer for dozing off. In terms of design, it’s a sleek piece that will go well on your nightstand with controls that you’ll learn in a flash. At $65.63, it isn’t the cheapest option out there, but its multitude of features can appease any sleeper.
Boasting a companion app, class-leading soundscapes, routines that help you fall asleep and wake up easier, along with several lighting options (to, again, lull you to sleep or gently wake you up), the Hatch Restore is the ultimate sleep gadget. It also comes at a premium price — $129.99. But when you put all its functionalities together, that cost is justified.
We were blown away by the Restore’s 31 sound choices, consisting of soundscapes, music and narrated selections for meditation and rest. The tracks are high-quality in both fidelity and composition. Ocean Sounds in Maine, for example, consists of waves that you can hear splashing underfoot, with overtones of oceanic bird calls and an implacable yet soothing hum. If you close your eyes, then any one of the Restore’s soundscapes can whisk you away to another place. Even better, the tracks were long enough for us to fall to sleep before they ended and started over the loop, lasting longer than those of any other machine we tested. Oceans of Maine is a whopping 45 minutes in duration.
And while its maximum volume is a smidge lower than that of the Sound+Sleep Mini, the volume control is even more precise with 100 levels of volume to choose from, which is easily adjusted in the app or on the side of the device.
The Hatch Restore has a very pleasing design, resembling a semi-circular dome with a woven strip along the bottom to house an LED dot display and a sizable light above. Then there’s the large light on the front of the Hatch Restore. Using the companion app, you can change this light to any color or brightness you want. You can go for a bright light for reading before bed, a dull warm light to simulate a sunrise or anywhere in between. The color can’t be controlled on-device (only through the app), but at the brightness can.
In addition to sounds of rain, waterfalls, whale calls and other beautiful soundscapes, you can also select relaxing music and narrations. The music is primarily composed to induce feelings, and the tracks are named accordingly. Acceptance contains hopeful string instruments and synth notes, making you feel like you’re floating on a cloud. A Stormy Cabin, on the other hand, has a lower, more somber tone with a deep violin. The narrated segments have mindfulness training on being aware of your breathing and muscles, as well as techniques for clearing your head after the day and many more options. You can even listen to stories, like readings from famous novels or calming tales about fictional events. We, for one, enjoyed one about taking a vacation to a warmer place; it helped us escape the winter under some cozy sheets.
We tested white noise machines for two months. Sleep like a baby with these two
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