BrickTest: A white noise machine that hears too

By Kelly Kreth  |
March 16, 2011 - 12:56PM

The Product:

The Sound+Sleep Sleep Therapy System is advertised as the only sound machine on the market that automatically moderates the volume to drown out traffic, a hallway argument or the loud lovemaking next door—that is, virtually any sound invasion to which city apartments are prone.

The Test:

My rental apartment bedroom faces noisy York Avenue with a nightclub across the street and a taxi stand in front. Weekends can be insomnia city for me, as late-night revelers noisily smoke outside and wait for friends. (FYI, the company’s president said he began work on the machine and its patented adaptive sound technology in 1995 to help his wife cope with a different kind of streetnoise--that of a highway being built near their California home.)  Several times a month there’s a loud fist fight that brings the police complete with sirens. In the winter my heat clanks on and off, sometimes shocking me awake, and my dachshund barks incessantly day and night.

The $99.95 device (provided to me free of charge by the company) was easy to set up and the instructions were clear and concise, even for someone like me who tends to get overwhelmed by electronic equipment. It was small enough to sit atop my bedside table and had one-touch power and volume control with a lighted display for easy night operation. I could see all the buttons without wearing my contacts.

There are 10 different so-called sound environments to choose among, including the standard White Noise and variations on an aquatic theme, such as Waterfall, Rainfall and Ocean. Except for the White Noise and Meditation tracks, all are recorded by the company’s in-house musicians. The oddball for me was the sound of the city, which is what I’m trying to remedy, not reinforce. (I figure that one’s designed for city people who, visiting or vacationing in the countryside, yearn for the sounds of New York to lull them to sleep.)

I used the sound machine for a week--day and night--relying most often on the Ocean and Meadow tracks. (I found the Train sound displeasing, and that White Noise made me tense, as if I left the TV on and woke to static.)  It was the most effective at preventing street noises from infiltrating the apartment, even with the window open halfway. I could still vaguely hear the cars drive by, but horns were dulled significantly as were voices from people below.

One night my newlywed neighbors had a fight that included yelling and door slamming—the perfect opportunity to test the machine. I set it to Fireplace and in minutes was focused on crackling sounds. Then their dog began barking and the machine’s adaptive quality came into play. If set correctly, the unit is supposed to increase its sound in volume and richness, based on how loud it senses your environment is getting. Mine did just that.

The sound machine was much less effective at blocking out my own dog’s barking. Even when he was in the kitchen, several rooms away, I could hear him regardless of the unit’s setting. The same was true of my noisy radiators, whose sound seemed to arm wrestle with that of the machine. I especially liked the Timer feature, which allowed me to program a shutoff time, since I didn’t want the unit playing after I was asleep. I set it to 60 minutes and drifted off to the sound of waves rolling ashore, then awakened to the regular sounds of my apartment life. 

The Verdict:

For $99.95, which includes free shipping, a 1-year warranty and a 30-day money-back guarantee, this is a better alternative to a year’s supply of earplugs (and the danger of sleeping through your morning alarm) or keeping the air conditioner on even in winter to drown out loud noise. If you have trouble falling asleep, it's definitely worth a try before spending more money on soundproof windows, medication or other kinds of sleep therapy.



Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

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