The best white noise machine 2020: For tinnitus, insomnia, restless babies and more

Sleep sounder or power up your productivity with one of the best white noise machines

The best white noise machine

A white noise machine can turn the outside world down. If you live in a busy place with a lot of noise, a white noise machine is a great way to help your mind focus and to minimise distractions. The best white noise machine can help soothe young children, and some tinnitus sufferers find them helpful too. They can minimise distractions at work, they can help with mindfulness and they can make snoring spouses less stress-inducing.

It's actually quite an old idea: in the days before digital TVs and DAB radio, you could tune between stations to get static that would help minimise ambient noise. We can't be the only parents who've used white noise to help soothe a fractious baby, or who've fallen asleep in front of a TV tuned to Channel Zero. 

In this article we'll round up the best white noise machines to buy right now. But first, let's take a closer look at how these machines work, and what to look for. If you're here because you have trouble sleeping, you might also want to consider a weighted blanket – head to our guide to the best weighted blanket for more information on how these work, plus our top picks.

What is a white noise machine?

White noise is a special kind of sound that's designed to be boring. That's a good thing, because if you're trying to concentrate, relax or get to sleep then variety is not necessarily what you want. 

Right now we're enjoying the white noise of a river near us: its constant motion creates a kind of white noise that means we don't notice the sounds of nearby traffic even though we're right in the middle of a city. If you look at the sound wave of that river you'll see it's fairly consistent, and that consistency is much more soothing than the big peaks and troughs of a car alarm or our upstairs neighbour's dubious music choices.

White noise machines bring the same soothing sound to wherever you need it. That means you can use them to reduce the sound of things that might distract you, such as traffic, co-workers or a sleeping spouse. It's a kind of blanket over the sounds of the world around you: it doesn't drown them out, but it makes them less distracting.

The best white noise machines: What to look for?

The best white noise machine won't simply blast out static. They're smarter than that. What they do is emit a consistent, subtle sound of equal volume across every frequency that your ears can hear. The result is rather similar to what babies experience in the womb and what prospective parents hear in ultrasound scans: it's a constant, reassuring sound. We're wired to find such sounds relaxing and sudden sounds distracting or even dismaying. 

Many white noise machines also offer lower or higher frequencies – brown or pink noise – that you may find more agreeable; if you're not sure what you need, the best white noise machine is likely to be one that offers a choice of colours. Many white noise machines also offer a selection of soothing sounds such as birdsong or weather noises.

When we set out to find the best white noise machine we didn't just look at the volume, although the ability to adjust the volume is essential. We also considered whether each model could generate different frequencies such as pink noise, which is centred at higher pitches, and Brownian / brown / red noise, which is centred at lower pitches. We also looked at whether they could double as alarm clocks and considered whether they were portable and rechargeable so you could use them as travel companions for yourself or for when you're travelling with babies or young children. 

best white noise machine: Pictek White Noise Machine

(Image credit: Pictek )

1. Pictek White Noise Machine

The Swiss Army knife of white noise machines

Power type: USB
Sound settings: 11
Timer: Custom
Reasons to buy
+Very flexible+Digital assistant support
Reasons to avoid
-Older Wi-Fi only-Relatively expensive

Also known as the Cherub Baby Machine, Pictek's USB-powered offering is the best white noise machine right now thanks mainly to its impressive flexibility, useful features, smartphone app and portability. You can set the time from 1 minute to 24 hours and choose from 11 natural sounds including white noise; it can go up to a whopping 100dB and works with Google Assistant and Alexa, but only on 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. It also includes a nightlight that you can adjust for colour and brightness. 

This is a rebranded device from Meross – which is why the app you need to install is by Meross, not Pictek. You might not know the name but Meross was founded by people from well known tech firms including TP-Link, MediaTek and Cisco. The Pictek isn't the cheapest white noise machine with integrated light, but its conical shape means it's less of a surface hog than some others, and at roughly 4.5 inches square it's very portable.

best white noise machines: Avantek Sleep White Noise Machine

2. Avantek Sleep White Noise Machine

A variety of soothing sounds for all environments

Power Type: Main & USB
Sound settings: 20
Timer: 1-7 hours
Reasons to buy
+White noise, nature fan and scene sounds+Saves your last used setting 
Reasons to avoid
- Doesn’t quite stay on all night  

The Avantek Sleep White Noise Machine is an Amazon best-seller, and offers a variety of sounds including those of nature and fan sounds which can cater to a wide range of sleepers and those who wish to settle their mind. It can run for a maximum of seven hours, which some have found doesn’t last a whole night for a baby and this can be frustrating. However, customers who have this white noise machine have found it works well for concentration in the office or at home, especially those who have tinnitus. This machine has a memory function so you can set your last used setting at just the touch of a button.

best white noise machine: HoMedics Deep Sleep

3. HoMedics Deep Sleep White Noise Sound Machine

The best white noise machine for tinnitus

Power type: 4 x AA Batteries
Sound settings: 4
Timer: 30, 60, 90 minutes
Reasons to buy
+4 distinct tones+Portable for home and away
Reasons to avoid
-Sounds not always completely smooth 

If you suffer with tinnitus or insomnia, then this deep sleep inducing machine is a great way to help relax the mind. It comes with four different sound settings and you can set it on a timer for anywhere between half an hour and 90 minutes. Those who live near busy roads or work night shifts found this machine particularly good at settling them when sleeping at odd times. Some users have even found it good for calming their pets when there are fireworks going off. The machine itself is lightweight and portable and operates on batteries so you can easily take this away with you so you never have trouble sleeping again. 

best white noise machines: LectroFan White Noise Machine

4. LectroFan White Noise Machine

A great source of sleep therapy for those who struggle to get in their kip

Power Type: USB
Sound settings: 10
Timer: 60 mins/whole night
Reasons to buy
+Personalised sleep timer+Lots of different sounds 
Reasons to avoid
- Volume is a little quiet 

For those who can’t remember the last time they had a decent night’s sleep, this personalised sleep therapy fan could work for you. It has 10 different sound settings which aren’t too high pitched, so you can find one that works well for you. The machine is able to be set for an hour to help you get off to sleep or for the whole night if you are a light sleeper who tends to get woken up easily. Some found the volume to be a little low, but most customers found that some settings are naturally louder than others so you can try all of them until you find the one most suited to you. 

best white noise machine: Homedics Deep Sleep Mini Sound Machine

(Image credit: Homedics)

5. Homedics Deep Sleep Mini Sound Machine

The best white noise machine for travellers or parents going on trips

Power Type: 6
Sound settings: Rechargeable
Timer: 30, 60 or 90 mins auto-off
Reasons to buy
+Small footprint+12-hour battery

It looks like someone hit a Google Home Mini with a hammer but inside there's a typically impressive Homedics device with the kind of design even the most sleep-deprived parent won't find challenging: simply press Sound or Therapy to choose between soothing sounds or sound therapy, and tap the clock button to set the auto-off for 30,60 or 90 minutes. The sound choices include natural sounds as well as white, pink and brown noise; brown noise (short for Brownian noise) is unusual in this sector and is the opposite of pink noise, with its frequency range occurring lower than white noise.

It's worth shopping around for this one, as we've seen the prices vary quite dramatically: some retailers will happily take around 20% off the RRP, but others add 20% instead. Some colours, such as the blue model, tend to cost a little more than the standard white/grey one.

best white noise machines: Sound Oasis

6. Sound Oasis S-650-01 Sleep Sound Therapy System

A versatile alarm clock that can be personalised

Power Type: Mains or battery
Sound settings: 24
Timer: 30, 60, 90 mins
Reasons to buy
+Add own sounds +Features a backlight/alarm clock
Reasons to avoid
-A little fiddly 

The Sound Oasis Sleep Sound Therapy white noise machine doubles up as a bedside alarm clock and also has a soothing backlight feature if you don't like sleeping in total darkness. You are able to add additional sounds via an SD card if the 24 different sounds aren’t enough for you, and can set the timer up to 90 minutes to help you drift off at night. Users found the clock a little bit fiddly to set, but said as a white noise machine this one gets the job done nicely.

best white noise machine: Homedics Sound Spa

7. Homedics Sound Spa

The best white noise machine for meditation

Power Type: Mains or batteries
Sound settings: 6
Timer: 15,30 & 60 mins
Reasons to buy
+Compact and lightweight+Soothing sounds
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life not that great

If you practice meditation or mindfulness but struggle to find a time or space where it’s quiet enough to do so, then this Homedics Sound Spa is a great idea. The white noise machine has a variety of soothing sounds which last either 15, 30 or 60 minutes which is perfect for a quick relaxation session. Users have said the batteries don’t last very long, so investing in rechargeable batteries or using the mains is advised, but it’s helpful if you want to take it away with you as it’s small and compact. The nature sounds are also great for falling asleep to and you can adjust the volume to suit your preference. 

best white noise machine: Gro-Hush White Noise Baby Calmer

8. Gro-Hush White Noise Baby Calmer

The best white noise machine for babies

Power Type: 3 x AAA batteries
Sound settings: 3
Timer: 10 mins
Reasons to buy
+Portable +Emulates sound of heartbeat
Reasons to avoid
-Turns off after 10 minutes

The Gro-Hush White Noise portable baby calmer is great for soothing your little one wherever you are. It plays white noise that only the baby can hear which means it can be used out and about without disruption. You can choose from white noise, heartbeat, waves or rain all at a safe volume for your child. The only downside to this is that it switches off automatically after 10 minutes so it’s not meant to be used when sleeping, but rather when out and about to soothe the baby quickly and easily. At time of writing, there were some huge discounts on this machine, which suggests it might not be sticking around much longer.