Published on December 11, 2018

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Illustration by Phuong Nguyen

The joy of moving into my own apartment in Chinatown was dashed when I awoke at 2 a.m. on the first night from loud jackhammering and screaming construction equipment on the street six floors down. NYC: If you can sleep here, you can sleep anywhere. The situation has convinced me that hell has no fury like a woman scorned by sleeplessness.

Every night since then, I’ve been obsessed with silence. My initial solution was to use the earplugs I had near my nightstand. While they work fairly well, sleeping in your one-bedroom apartment alone with earplugs every single night is just annoying. The solution must be a sound machine, I thought. While I’ve never owned or needed one previously, I was desperate for an answer immediately. One quick Google search brought me to Amazon, natch, and into the arms of one very beloved OG sound machine brand. Allow me to intro you to Marpac, the most undiscovered sound machine company out there.

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Courtesy of Marpac

The Product

An estimated 4.5 million Marpac sound machines have been sold since 1962. Partly because the brand is so deeply beloved for its no-nonsense, OG approach. Firstly, the headquarters, production, and assembly are still in North Carolina, where the company signs the bottom of each machine by hand. Secondly, it gives a 101-night trial. If you don’t like it before then, you can return it for a full refund. Also, the machines haven’t altered much since their original creation. There aren’t any fancy bells or whistles or iPhone hook-up capabilities. All five iterations of the device still accomplish the same thing: the soothing sound of a fan without the actual blast of air.

The Dohm Classic, $44.95, is the original, with just two speeds (low and high—simple as that) and pretty much the same beloved clunky packaging since its creation. This is the highest-rated version on Amazon, which currently has 13,522 positive reviews (and climbing every time the page is refreshed).

The Dohm, $49.95, is still the same technology but with a major facelift, thanks to the brilliant minds at Michael Graves Design & Architecture. The streamlined, modernized version has the same two speeds with a gorgeous new facade.

They also have three multi-sound machines that offer a more diverse range of noises, from the OG white noise sound to the gentle sound of rain falling to even a setting called “meditate,” which transports you to the generic elevator-music tones of a spa in the best way possible.

Marpac just soft-launched its newest creation and a first of its kind: The Marpac Purest, $44.73, a scent diffuser designed entirely for sleep. 

The Review

Over 13,000 people can’t be wrong, right? Reviewers on Amazon have called it “a mini lifesaver” and said it has “the perfect tone/noise/sound” and even “I would give this product 16 stars if I could.” The winning reviews made me decide to give it a chance.

When they arrived at Domino HQ, we diligently all sat in front of The Dohm and firstly admired the sleek design, but turning it on was where the magic happened. For several editors, the “faux fan” noise was off-putting and made it sound like it was dirty or broken. We then sat around the multi-sound Whish, $39.95, with its 16 sound options and listened to each and every one of them (the things we do in the name of journalism). The rain was a favorite of most, and the calm and meditate settings sounded more ideal for a nighttime relaxation session before bedtime. The Whish is purposely designed to be a bit louder than the other machines, too, just in case you really have some loud disturbances outside your bedroom. The brand is kind enough to provide a sound clip of each and every product and setting on its site, too, should you want to sample before you purchase.

When we went back to the original Dohm, something odd happened: All the individuals who initially had a negative reaction to it suddenly enjoyed the fan-esque tone of the device (I kid you not). I personally find the noise sounds like nothing—silence, white noise, static—exactly what I want my bedroom to sound like all night long. Do I still hear the construction downstairs at night? Sometimes, but oddly, The Dohm puts me right back to sleep with a steady, reliable tone of nothingness.

The Brand

It’s a rather romantic origin story, actually. Founded in 1962 when Jim Buckwalter, a traveling salesman, was looking for a viable solution for his insomniac wife, Trudy. They discovered that the soothing white noise of the hotel room air conditioners on the road helped Trudy easily fall to sleep. Jim worked tirelessly in his garage to create a machine that could replicate the constant noise of an air conditioner to mask outside noises but without any of the air movement. He dubbed his simple device a “sound conditioner,” and the rest is history.

The product and machinery behind that 1962 device have practically remained unchanged, which is a testament to the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage.