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A sound machine

Whether they’re emitting natural white noise, the sound of a gently flowing brook, or bird song, sound machines can offer a calming effect and help many people drop off to sleep.

Sound machines are great for babies and children, too, especially those who have trouble with falling asleep or staying asleep.

You can find a huge number of sound machines on the market, however, so how do you know which is best?

We’ve looked at the latest technology in the field to bring you the best sound machines of 2020. On our short list, we’ve got one completely new model to show you, plus a couple of long-standing favorites.

Best sound machines in 2021

1. Adaptive Sound Technologies’ Sound+Sleep Sound Machine: This returning top pick is easy to use with excellent features. The timer option gradually reduces the volume over a set time, while the adaptive sound technology adjusts itself according to background noise.

2. Conair’s Sound Therapy Sound Machine: An affordable sound machine that’s a returning favorite of ours, as we believe it’s a great intro-level model for those on the fence. It offers a range of 10 sounds.

3. Hatch’s Baby Rest Sound Machine: Primarily geared toward kids, this sound machine is a new favorite of ours. We love the fact that it doubles as a night-light and can indicate that it’s time to get up for older kids.

For full reviews of these products, scroll to the bottom.

What to consider before buying a sound machine

One of the main considerations when choosing a sound machine is the number and types of sounds it offers. Some people only want white noise or a small selection of sounds, whereas others prefer to have a wide variety of sounds, either because they don’t yet know what they like or because they like to mix it up. The noises on a sound machine are created digitally or are recordings of real noises. The latter sound more realistic but tend to be found on pricier machines. To create white noise, some machines have fans inside rather than using recorded or synthesized white noise.

Sound looping is often found on lower-quality sound machines and is where the same segment of sound is looped over and over. This can be quite obvious and repetitive, and it puts some people on edge instead of relaxing them. Higher-end machines have recordings long enough that they don’t need to be looped, or they automatically mix different layers of sound so that it’s different each time.

If you like to fall asleep to your sound machine but don’t want to leave it running all night, choose one with a timer function. It will switch itself off after a set amount of time, by which point you should hopefully be asleep.

Budget sound machines can cost as little as $15 to $25, while high-end models with all the extra features can cost over $100.

Best sound machine FAQ

Will a sound machine help me sleep better?

A. Nobody can guarantee that a sound machine will help you to sleep better, but many people find them beneficial, so it’s certainly worth a shot if you’re struggling to drift off. Sound machines are especially helpful when you live somewhere you can’t necessarily control the degree of ambient noise, such as when living in a city center or with loud roommates. However, some people find sound machines encourage sleep even in quiet environments, since the included sounds can be soothing.

Can sound machines improve tinnitus?

A. For some tinnitus sufferers, sound therapy can make a huge difference to their condition and overall quality of life. Different people find different noises beneficial — some are helped by white noise or nature sounds, whereas others find road sounds and distant chatter better alleviates their symptoms. You can also find specialist notched music and modified sound devices that are specifically designed for people with tinnitus.

In-depth reviews for best sound machines

Best of the best

Adaptive Sound Technologies’ Sound+Sleep Sound Machine

Adaptive Sound Technologies’ Sound+Sleep Sound Machine

What we like: Offers non-repeating sound that’s rich and immersive. A choice of 30 sound environments in 10 categories. Uses natural sound recordings.

What we dislike: Can wear out over time with regular use.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best bang for your buck

Conair’s Sound Therapy Sound Machine

Conair’s Sound Therapy Sound Machine

What we like: Choice of battery power or DC adapter. Affordably priced. Simple to use. Option to set a 60-minute timer if you don’t want the unit to run all night.

What we dislike: The sound looping can be distracting.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Hatch’s Baby Rest Sound Machine

Hatch’s Baby Rest Sound Machine

What we like: Simple to control via an app. Offers a range of sounds to help babies and kids sleep, plus it functions as a nightlight and offers a time to rise alert to use as kids grow.

What we dislike: Designed for kids only, though adults could conceivably use it if they want.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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