Thursday, 15 February 2018

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! - White noise machines are an answer to a noise-obsessive's prayers

Two years ago, one of our neighbours had some building work done. It wasn't all that noisy, but I was in the middle of a particularly disruptive bout of insomnia, which meant I was only finally getting to sleep around 6am most nights/days - and the builders were waking me up at nine every morning: I used to sleep with wax ear-plugs in (my ears are weirdly-shaped, and foam plugs won't stay in place), but the hammering and banging was scything through them, no problem. It also meant I couldn't use my study because they were working the other side of the wall, and even listening to music at full blast on headphones wasn't blocking out the noise. I decided to do what I'd been meaning to do for some time and buy a white noise machine. I was sceptical about their potential effectiveness, but, at £50 or so, it seemed worth a punt. I ordered the heptagonal LectroFan from Amazon, plugged it in - and...

...since then, I've had it on all night, every night, and it's whirring away beside me on my desk as I write. Weight in gold, I tell you.

Because I had to replace my first LectroFan (or the LectroFan White & Pink Noise Machine, to give it its full title) after damaging it en route from the study to the bedroom, I recently decided to buy a second machine: the cheaper - but equally effective - Avantek Sleep White Noise Machine. It has now taken up permanent residence on my bedside table, and I'd fight anyone who tried to take it away from me. Bloody brilliant!

To be honest, the machines don't obliterate all external noise. They probably would if you ran them at full volume, but it would be like trying to get to sleep while lying in a wind tunnel operating at maximum speed. Both devices are just a few inches across, but they can generate an impressive wall of sound: I tend to run them at low-to-medium volume. They both mask most noise - for instance, the night-time yapping of a dog with a spectacularly nerve-shredding bark locked in a room no more than 20 yards from my bedroom window used to hack through my  ear-plugs, but the noise machines simply eat up every maddening yelp. Builders have been extending the kitchen of a house right behind us for the past four months - and, even during the worst of the hammering and crashing phase, I've never woke up once because of it. Neighbours just up the road have been having a basement and a large concrete garden shed built for nearly a year: my study window overlooks both the front and back of their house, and yet, with the noise machine on, I'm barely aware of it. The small amounts of noise that do manage to penetrate the white noise barrier are nowhere near as annoying as they would normally be - presumably on the principle that the sound of a dog barking nearby on a still summer's day is infinitely more distracting than the same animal making the same noise in the middle of a gale.

Both machines are powered by USB - either straight into a computer or using a plug adapter (which you'll have to buy). The LectroFan (currently £43.95) is more industrial and no-nonsense than the Avantek. There are ten sounds to choose from - five fan-style and five white noises - I'm a fan fan. There's a review of the LectroFan on YouTube. The more visually-pleasing Avantek (£29.99) offers 20 sounds - the usual mix of  fans and white noises, plus - among others - heavy rainfall (my current favourite), Wuthering Heights-style howling winds, crashing waves, birdsong, an extremely irritating ticking clock, and a babbling brook. You can hear the Avantek in action in this YouTube review.

Hark! Kiddies have just started playing in a nearby garden - two taps on the LectroFan's volume control, and they've disappeared! I don't really mind the sound of children playing (within reason) - but two years ago, I'd have immediately left my desk, grumbled my way downstairs, and waited until the little darlings were called in for their dinner before resuming this post.

If you're suffering from intrusive external noise, I would strongly recommend trying one of these nifty little machines. I doubt if they'd work for everyone - but, as far as I'm concerned, they're an absolute godsend.


  1. Thanks for the text, Scott. I may have to get myself one soon as Virgin are threatening to dig up my immediate area to lay cable. They call it their "exciting" new project. I'm not excited.

    1. The gas people are busy digging up the next street and heading our way - I may need both noise machines in my study.

  2. What about investing in a "Cone of Silence" which was made famous by Maxwell Smart? It can be lowered electronically from the ceiling. Portable versions are available for outdoor activities such as taking a walk or tube journeys.

    1. Sometimes, SDG, I suspect you don't treat my problems with the seriousness they undoubtedly deserve.