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. home theatre kit