Review: Shush the world with these affordable white noise machines

I blame summer for my box fan addiction. My parents started it – rather than run the air conditioning, they’d stick a box fan in my bedroom window. The first night with the fan was noisy, but then I’d get used to it. Come September I’d turn the fan off and be instantly reminded of all the noise around me: cars starting, lawns getting mowed at 7am, the TV in the living room below me, someone snoring in the other bedroom. I started running the fan year-round. (The Lasko Wind Machine was my fan of choice for many years.)

A year ago, I finally decided to get civilized retire my box fan and invest in a white noise machine. No more big fan eating up precious space in my bedroom, no more blades to clean, no more clickety-click sound after a couple years, and – best of all – I could take the machine with me when I traveled.

My three white noise machines: a HoMedics Sound Spa, a LectroFan Jr., and a LectroFan (full model)

I’ve now got three white noise machines: a HoMedics Sound Spa (my first white noise machine), a Lectro Fan, and a Lectro Fan Jr. How do they stack up? Which white noise machine is best? Read on to find out!

Why use a noise machine?

During the week, we live in a city apartment. Our friends and family from suburbia are always like, isn’t it loud there? We don’t live over a nightclub or anything ridiculous, but there is a hotel across the street, and that street is a flat stretch of road that attracts loud cars with loud stereos. There’s a construction site adjacent to my building that fires up at 7:30 on the dot six days a week, and a whole lot of random neighbor noises.

But… it’s easy to forget all of that when my white noise machines are running.

Most people probably discover white noise machines while searching for help with insomnia or sleep quality, but they’re useful all day long. It might seem counter-intuitive that adding sound makes it easier to relax and sleep when all you want is some peace and quiet, but the brain is quick to adapt to the steady whooooosh.

The white noise becomes the “new quiet”and irritating noises fade away.

What’s great about a white noise machine: 

  • It covers up intermittent sounds. Neighbors starting cars, snoring from the other room, electric heater cycling on/off, people in the unit above you stomping around – these things get lost in the white noise.
  • Better sleep. I definitely sleep deeper and wake fewer times with mine running (it also works on babies).
  • No fan blades to clean! Or I suppose you could just never clean them, and live with the knowledge that your dirty fan blades are disgusting. Or you could buy a new fan every so often, but those costs add up.
  • It’s compact and portable, so you can bring your whooosh with you and enjoy the same sound in every hotel bed and guest room you travel to.
  • Get some daytime peace and quiet. Even if you aren’t sleeping, a white noise machine is good at covering up conversations, TVs, music, etc. coming from nearby areas or adjacent rooms so you can work, read, or have a semi-private conversation with someone near you. My baby is napping on the other side of the room as I write this, unbothered by my quiet conversation and typing.

There are virtually no drawbacks. The only times I turn my white noise machine off are to watch TV in the same room, have ordinary-volume conversations, or for the benefit of my father, who has enough trouble hearing even without the white noise.

Overall best white noise machine: LectroFan Jr.

4.5 / 5 stars

The LectroFan Jr. is my favorite white noise machine. If you’re not sure which one to get, get this one. It’s the jack of all trades white noise machine, reasonably priced, and durable.

A fantastic white noise machine in a compact package.

It makes a pleasing white noise, gets more than loud enough, offers a variety of “whooshing” sound options, and can be found at a surprisingly reasonable price. It’s also small – a bit larger than the palm of my hand – so it travels well.

But wait! Isn’t this the “junior” version? What do you miss out on if you go with this model instead of the full version – the one simply called “LectroFan”?

LectroFan Jr. vs. LectroFan

Bizarrely, there’s a lot of misinformation about the LectroFan Jr. vs. the LectroFan out there on the interwebs and Amazon reviews. (I’m guessing most people don’t own both and are speculating as to what the differences are.)

So let’s set a few things straight:

  • neither one plays “ocean” or “nature” sounds
  • neither one has a battery
  • neither one offers a headphone jack

(If you do want these features, check out the LectroFan Micro which has a battery, ocean sound, and doubles as a Bluetooth speaker. If you want lots of nature sounds and a headphone jack, check out the Sound+Sleep.)

The LectroFan Jr and LectroFan have exactly the same body design and number of buttons. 

They weigh the same, feel the same, smell the same, taste the same – and do pretty much the same thing except the LectroFan Jr. has 18 lullaby songs plus 12 fan / white noise sounds and the LectroFan has 20 fan / white noise sounds to pick from. Playing the lullabies is completely optional.

On the Jr. model, the horizontal button does lullaby songs (left) and white noise + fan sounds (right). On the LectroFan, the horizontal button does fans (left) and white noises (right).

LectroFan Jr. lullaby demo

LectroFan Jr. comes with 18 songs and you can set it to play all the songs in shuffled order or play one song on repeat. Here’s a 1-minute video previewing some of the LectroFan’s 18 lullabies (as best my iPhone can capture them).

If you leave it playing lullabies, it will play them in random order and then shuffle them once it’s played them all. You can use the 60 min timer with them (press the 60 min timer multiple times to “stack” the timers, creating a 2-, 3-, 4-, etc. hour-long timer). The machine remembers what lullaby you left it on, even after you turn it off and back on. Note that you can’t play lullabies and white noise at the same time from the same machine.

For whatever it’s worth, my 3 month old baby doesn’t particularly care for the lullabies (or lullabies in general), so I don’t know if the songs are that big a selling point.

But that’s okay – the songs are kind of a side dish to the meat function of this white noise machine, which is the fan and white noise sounds.

LectroFan Jr. fan and white noise sound demo

The LectroFan Jr. puts “fans” and “white noises” on the same button. That’s fine – most people can’t tell a “fan” from a “white noise” anyway, and it’s not some huge loss that you have to step through fans to get to white noises. The machine remembers what you left it on, even if you turn it off and unplug it, so it’s pretty much “set it and forget it” once you pick a favorite.

The first couple “fan noises” sound great to me and I just leave it on one of them all the time (maybe I’m just not much of a noise connoisseur). Some of the higher pitched fan noises are kind of annoying, to be honest. But with 12 to pick from, I’m sure there’s one for everyone.

The LectroFan (full model), by comparison, has 10 white noises and 10 fan sounds to pick from. But do you really need 8 extra? They’re even the same sounds across both models – it’s not like the Jr model got the recording of the squeaky fan and the full model got the good fan.

LectroFan Jr. color options

Here’s a fun extra: the Jr. comes in three color options. You can get it with a white, pink, or blue speaker grille (it’s hard plastic, not cloth).

They also make one that’s black with grey buttons, but only for the full model: here’s the LectroFan in black.

I bought all of mine in white because I’m boring.

LectroFan Jr. / LectroFan USB power adapter

Both the Jr. and not-Jr. have the exact same USB / AC adapter plug. You can power the white noise machine via USB (ie: plug it into your computer or laptop and it pulls power from there – seems useful for travel, maybe) or plug that USB plug into the AC adapter and power it from a wall outlet.

Here’s the other end of the power cord. Note that it’s removable, suggesting that you could replace the cord without replacing the entire unit, if needed.

To recap:

LectroFan Jr. Pros

  • Cheaper than the LectroFan with no real drawbacks
  • 18 lullabies
  • 3 colors: white, pink, blue
  • Compact design and it travels well
  • You can stack the 60 min timers to make a 1-, 2-, 3-, etc. hour timer
  • It remembers your sound choices when you turn it off and back on
  • No LEDs to cover up or be annoyed by
  • No discernible loop

LectroFan Jr. Cons

  • Can’t play lullabies and white noise at the same time
  • A couple of the higher-pitched white noise options are unpleasant to the point that I wonder why they even exist

LectroFan (full version)

4/ 5 stars

More sounds, no lullabies: the original LectroFan offers more sounds but is it worth the higher price?

Just like a Jr. but without the lullabies and 8 more noise options.

The LectroFan (full version) is pricier than the Jr. with 4 more “fan sounds” and 4 more “white noises”. As a slight convenience, the sideways button in the middle separates the “fans” (on left) from the “whites” (on right). Still, I’d argue that once you’ve found your favorite whoooooosh, you won’t be toggling it much (if ever).

The only reason to get the full version LectroFan is if you’re convinced you need 20 sounds to pick from instead of 12.

That’s not to say I don’t like it. The LectroFan is fantastic machine and I use mine every single night and often leave it running for days, so maybe I’m just cheesed that I found the LectroFan before I found the Jr.

When I bought my first one, I incorrectly assumed the Jr. wouldn’t be nearly as good a machine, but the Jr. model really does everything I need (generate white noise) at a significantly lower price.

LectroFan white noise machine demo

Watch me click through the various fan sounds and white noise options on the LectroFan!

LectroFan Pros

  • 10 fan loops/ 10 white noise
  • There’s a black version!
  • Compact design and it travels well
  • You can stack the 60 min timers to make a 1-, 2-, 3-, etc. hour timer
  • It remembers your sound choices when you turn it off and back on
  • No LEDs to cover up or be annoyed by
  • No discernible loop

LectroFan Cons

  • Nothing special about it vs. the Jr. model

HoMedics Sound Spa Relaxation Machine

3 / 5 stars

It’s inexpensive, I’ll give it that.

The HoMedics Sound Spa was my very first white noise machine. It’s cheap (you can usually find it for under $25) but its cheap construction is readily apparent, especially once you’ve traveled with it a bit and it starts to wear out. The volume knob is fiddly – it works, but sometimes it defaults to REALLY LOUD until you spin it around, which seems to reset it.

“Rain” and “white noise” are my favorite settings on this machine, and I used them for months until one night I was laying awake and realized I could hear the rain sound looping. It’s a short loop, like 3 seconds long, which is ridiculous – and I can’t unhear the loop. Picking up on the repetitive sounds kind of ruined the machine for me but my infant daughter doesn’t seem to be bothered by it, so sometimes I use it for her.

The HoMedics Sound Spa is kind of junky and I don’t recommend it when you can get a sweet LectroFan Jr. for not much more.

But, if you really want a cheap rainstorm generator, this is the machine for you. After all, it took me a long time to identify the loop, and people I’ve pointed it out to don’t really pick up on the loop so maybe it’s not as apparent as I think it is. The white noise option is good, too, and doesn’t have as easily a discernible loop.

Here’s a demo of its various sounds, as best my iPhone can capture them (they sound better in person):

HoMedics Sound Spa Pros

  • Probably the cheapest sound machine on the market
  • 5 realistic soundscapes (thunder, ocean, brook, etc) are great until you find the loop
  • Three timer options

HoMedics Sound Spa Cons

  • The sound loops are literally three seconds long and if you’re laying awake long enough, you can pick up on the loop pretty easily
  • Flimsy volume knob
  • Even on its lowest volume, it can be too loud – we sometimes throw a shirt over its speaker
  • Bright green LED has to be covered if you’re bothered by lights in the dark

If your budget is really tight and you really want the soundscapes, go for it – otherwise, you’ll probably be happier with a LectroFan Jr for whoooshy white noise or an Adaptive Sound Technologies – Sound+Sleep, which is pricier but higher quality and also does soundscapes.

More white noise machine options

There’s more than just LectroFans and Sound Spas out there. Here’s a quick rundown of some other white noise machines.

Marpac Dohm-DS All Natural Sound Machine

Marpac has a 50+ year history in sound machines

Unlike many sound machines (including the LectroFans), the Marpac Dohm-DS sound machine is mechanical. There’s an actual spinning fan inside and you can adjust its volume and pitch by turning the chassis. (And even though it’s a fan, it doesn’t generate a breeze. Such witchcraft.)

Marpac, the company behind it, has been making sound machines for over 50 years and this particular machine was chosen as the Official Sound Conditioner by the National Sleep Foundation.

Reviewers from around the web compare its sound to that of a bathroom fan or a computer tower fan. I don’t own this machine so I can’t comment on its sound myself, but here’s a video review that demos what it sounds like running:

The most common complaints I see about the Marpac Dohm-DS are about mechanical failure (the fan starts clicking or stops running altogether) and about the volume (hard to be more specific, though – one person’s jet engine is another’s too-quiet hum).

I debated this machine vs. the LectroFan for a while and ultimately went with the LectroFan because I’m somewhat susceptible to hearing the “mechanics” (clicking, whirring) of mechanical things and prefer an electronically generated sound.

Marpac Dohm-DS Pros

  • Mechanical fan sounds more realistic to some listeners
  • Hands-on control of pitch and volume
  • Small size, so it travels well
  • 7.5 foot long cord
  • Three color options: white, black, tan

Marpac Dohm-DS Cons

  • Some users compare unfavorably to bad PC fans and the like
  • Mechanical fan can develop clicks or whines more readily than an electronic sound

Adaptive Sound Technologies – Sound+Sleep Sleep Therapy System

I don’t have one of these, but I wish I did! This is one deluxe noise machine.

The Sound+Sleep machine is made by ASTI, the same Silicon Valley-based startup that makes LectroFan. The big difference (aside from price) is the variety of “sound stories”, such as “meadow” or “ocean”. With this little machine, you can fall asleep to the sound of rain instead of just a white noise whoooosh.

If you want more than white noise, check out the Sound+Sleep’s 10 soundscapes

Adjustable richness adds layers, variety

Like LectroFan, this machine can be used to play white noise. However, the Sound+Sleep also plays a variety of “sound stories” such as ocean, meadow, rainfall, and more. Some are a little odd, like the train option. (I grew up near a train station and I can’t imagine who would want to listen to trains at night, but there you go.) You can hear samples here on Sound+Sleep’s website (with some dude yapping over them).

This chart from the manufacturer explains it:

Click to enlarge

Adaptive feature adjusts to your environment

The Sound+Sleep’s Adaptive feature uses the unit’s built-in microphone to listen to your environment and dynamically adjust the volume based on how noisy it perceives your environment to be. (Note that this isn’t like the technology inside noise-canceling headphones, it’s not working to “cancel out” audio from your environment, it’s just adjusting the volume to suit the environment you’re using it in.) You can toggle this feature on or off.

White noise machine with a headphone jack

Everyone’s asking for it – this machine’s got it. You can also use an aux cable to hook the Sound+Sleep up to the “line in” on an external audio system. This might be useful if you’ve got a sweet multi-speaker setup or just want to pipe the sound to both sides of your bed.

4 white noise options

For white noise, use the three richness settings of the “white noise” sound story and the lowest setting of the waterfall sound story.

Sound+Sleep Pros

  • 10 unique “sound stories”
  • Richness feature adds optional additional sounds to the “stories”, such as seagulls to the ocean
  • No detectible looping – the soundscapes are 30+ mins long and “evolve”
  • 3″ high fidelity speaker
  • 4 timer options if you don’t want it to run all night
  • Adaptive feature (toggle on/off) to adjust volume to suit your environment
  • Headphone jack for private listening
  • Can connect to an external audio system’s “line in” using the headphone jack
  • Turn off LEDs by toggling Display button (so you don’t have to throw a towel over it at night)

Sound+Sleep Cons

  • One of the priciest sound machines out there
  • Not a lot of white noise variety – this machine is more of a sound machine than a white noise machine
  • LEDs come back on for 15 seconds if you adjust a setting while Display is turned off

They also make a “mini” version with fewer sound stories and an overall smaller body design.

LectroFan Micro

Finally, there’s the LectroFan Micro – an ultra portable version of the LectroFan that sacrifices very little and adds Bluetooth pairing capabilities.

The LectroFan Micro packs in 5 fan sounds, 4 white noise sounds, and 1 ocean sound.

Battery-powered white noise machine lasts through the night

Playing its own sounds, the battery lasts about 16 hours. Streaming music or sounds over Bluetooth, the battery lasts about 6 hours. (Or you can just keep it plugged in via its USB charge cord and run it indefinitely.)

Smallest white noise machine

It’s ridiculously tiny – like, I think makeup comes in bigger containers. Reviewers say it has a lot of oomph despite its small size, and the manufacturer says it gets just as loud as the full LectroFan models. I’ve never seen a smaller white noise machine.

Another interesting feature: the speaker can twist up and point anywhere you want.

You can angle the speaker!

LectroFan Micro vs. LectroFan Jr.

They’re similarly priced, so why not get the Micro instead of the Jr.?

Well, they’re not similarly priced once you account for the possibility of having to buy a longer USB charge cable and USB/AC adapter so you can run it overnight. I don’t like to fiddle with battery charging except for when I travel, so I’d want to just leave it plugged in 24/7.

The Micro adds Bluetooth speaker capabilities, but your mileage will vary on how useful that is to you. Personally, I already have a few Bluetooth speakers, so for me the Bluetooth functionality is not a huge selling point for day-to-day use. For travel, there’s some appeal in having a combo white noise machine / Bluetooth device, but I only travel a couple times a year and it’s not a big deal to go without a speaker. For home use, I’ve come to prefer WiFi enabled speakers over Bluetooth because I don’t like my phone’s audio capabilities being tied up the way they are when paired to Bluetooth.

The LectroFan Jr.’s buttons are simpler, easier to understand than the Micro’s. On the Micro, all the buttons serve multiple functions and they’re very small with tiny non-text labels. On the Jr., they’re plainly labeled and every button does just one thing. This sort of usability and accessibility is more important to some users than others, of course, but I think the Jr. comes out ahead in terms of how easy it is to operate the device.

The Micro does have something else the Jr. does not: an ocean sound! 

LectroFan Micro Pros

  • 10 built-in sounds: 5 fans, 4 white noises, 1 ocean
  • Seriously tiny
  • Battery powered for extra portability
  • Angle the speaker out towards you
  • Just as loud as full-size LectroFan models

LectroFan Micro Cons

  • No USB to AC wall adapter included, so you’ll have to use one you already have or buy one
  • Comes with a short USB cable – to keep it plugged in 24/7, you might have to get a longer one
  • No headphone jack, so you must use it with the speaker attached to it

The bottom line

If you’re not sure which white noise machine to get, go with the LectroFan Jr. It’s got “set it and forget it” simplicity and a sturdy, easy-to-use design.

If you’d rather fall asleep to the sound of ocean waves, skip the cheap HoMedics and go straight for the Sound+Sleep machine.

Happy sleeping!


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