Having the best white noise machine can make a real difference to your life. White noise can help you focus if you're trying to work somewhere with a lot of distracting background noise going on, and many tinnitus sufferers find it helpful too. They can also be useful mindfulness aid, but perhaps their most essential service is that they're often the best way to help restless infants – not to mention adults – get to sleep when nothing else helps.
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.
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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 (check out our tips for how to stop snoring, if that's the issue). 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.
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.
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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.
Marpac's Dohm is a little different from the rest of the white noise machines featured here. Rather than generating its sounds digitally, it instead does it mechanically, with a fan creating a natural ambient sound of rushing air; like having a fan going, but without it blowing cold air all over you. The tried and tested design dates back to 1962, and although it may seem a little primitive compared to modern digital machines, it's actually pretty versatile with a volume control and adjustable tone so that you can easily create the perfect amount of noise for your own tastes.
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.
This white noise machine from Pure strikes the perfect balance of versatility and value. It comes with a set of six high-fidelity sound options – white noise, fan, ocean, rain, stream, and summer night – and there are timer settings for however long it takes you to drop off at night, from 15 to 60 minutes. It also features a USB port so you don't need to be kept awake worrying about whether you plugged your phone in to charge, and for added peace of mind there's a five-year warranty. And at under $30, it's a really attractive prospect price-wise.
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.
Another white noise machine from Marpac, this compact unit's aimed at getting little ones off to sleep with three sound options: bright white noise (similar to the drone of an aeroplane), deep white noise (the closest sound to a fan), or gentle surf (the soothing sound of crashing waves). There's a wide volume range so you can find the right level for your baby, and it features a flexible clip and child-proof lock so you can easily and securely attach it to a cot, a pram or anywhere else. It has a lithium-ion battery and will happily keep going all night, so not only will it help baby get to sleep, it should also help them stay asleep all night.
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.
This is hands-down the most adorable white noise machine for babies we've ever come across. The Snüzcloud Sleep Aid comes in the form of a little fluffy cloud that attaches to your crib, cot, pram or car seat via a handy Velcro strap, and it'll help settle your baby to sleep with a choice of four soothing sounds – heartbeat, pink noise, lullaby and waterfall – and it also has two soft light settings: a calming pink glow and a white night light, ideal for feeding in the dark. Unlike the Marpac Hushh above, the Snüzcloud will only play for 20 minutes before gently fading out; hopefully long enough for junior to drop off, but if you have a more resolutely awake baby then you might prefer a less plush but longer-playing option.
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.
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.