In this Sound Conditioner Buying Guide, we will review mid-level and high-end sound conditioners available on the market today. We will cover the key features of various units, and help you decide which sound conditioner (or “white noise machine”) is right for you.
Sound conditioners (or “white noise machines”) were traditionally designed to create white noise – similar to TV static. The purpose was (and still is, in many cases) to mask background noises that interfere with sleep or that create distractions in an office environment. Newer, more advanced models digitally create white noise plus other sounds that help one sleep and/or create a spa-like or meditative atmosphere (e.g., rain, crickets, bamboo wind chimes, night train, heartbeat, “delta sleep signals,” and even lullabies).
Sound conditioners come in two basic designs, with Marpac (www.marpac.com) dominating the first and Sound Oasis (www.sound-oasis.com) the second:
Electro-mechanical. Here, an electro-mechanical motor creates white noise by sucking air through narrow holes in the unit’s shell. These units are valued because of the “pure” or “natural” white noise they create. The most popular models are the Marpac 980A and 580A Sleepmate (also called the Sound Screen), which were first invented in the 1960’s. The Marpac 980A is, in fact, the most popular sound conditioner overall in the market today.
Digital. Here, digital “sound cards” with infinite sound loops create the sound. The sound cards either installed permanently inside the unit’s circuitry (Marpac DS-600A, TSC-330, 440, 1288A, Sound Oasis S-850, SB-950, S-3000), or can be inserted and swapped from the outside (Sound S-650, S-550-03, S-560-02). A switch or button determines which digital recording is played. Marpac’s 1288A and Sound Oasis’ S-3000 allow additional “layering” or mixing of sounds for further customization. Sound Oasis tends to be more technologically advanced and provides a much broader selection of sounds, partly due to its patent-pending sound card technology. Many of the Sound Oasis sounds are scientifically designed by sleep experts to stimulate ideal sleep patterns.
Which type of model is better for you? It depends on your preferences.
- Electro-mechanical vs. digital: the electro-mechanical models produce richer or “thicker” sound, but the units are not as flexible in terms of volume and sound character. The most popular seller in this category is the Marpac 980A. The digital units are much more flexible, but some people do not like the digital nature of the sound or only want basic white noise. Sound Oasis addresses one drawback of most digital sound conditioners by making extra long soundtracks (25-60 seconds, versus the more common 5-6 second range). In this way, it’s virtually impossible to get distracted by hearing the same pattern repeat over and over (which may keep insomniacs from sleeping). Among digital sound conditioners, the Sound Oasis S-550-03 is the most popular, while the Sound Oasis S-3000 is the most advanced and versatile (it includes 3 speakers, an AM/FM radio, alarm clock, and up to 120 sounds using the sound mixing technology). Marpac’s most advanced model is the Marpac Marsona 1288A.
Besides the type of sound you are seeking, here are a few other features that may help you make up your mind among the growing number of sound conditioner choices:
- Bedside table space-savers: the Sound Oasis S-3000, S-650 and S-850 all incorporate alarm clock features, so you can say goodbye to your alarm clock. Biobrite (www.biobrite.com), a maker of sunrise alarm clocks, also has a unit which includes digital white noise (the “alarm clock” comes in the form of a sunrise simulator, a light bulb that gradually brightens to the point of waking you up). 나트랑 에코걸