Q: I read your recent column about the LectroSound sleep sound machine and have a question. Why recommend a $20 device when you can set your smartphone to play one of the many apps that produce sleep sounds? As I recall, even Pandora has a sleep sound station.
A: That is an excellent point, and many people might be satisfied using a phone app to play sleep sounds. But there are reasons why a dedicated sleep sound machine can provide a better overall experience, and I think they remain a worthwhile investment.
To get the best results, you need to do more than play sounds or white noise. Besides their soothing effect, the sounds also mask outside noise from disturbing your sleep. That requires volume and a wide coverage area. The speaker on the LectroSound is large and pointed upward, allowing it to spread sound widely and effortlessly through the room. This is much better than the speaker in a smartphone. Plus, the tonal quality and physical dimensions of the speaker are designed to work together for optimum performance.
There are other options besides a phone app or sleep sound machine. For example, if you have Amazon Alexa, you can say, “Alexa, play sleep sounds.” With Google Home, you can use the command, “Hey, Google, play white noise.”
While these will sound much better than a smartphone speaker, I still prefer using the sleep sound machine. I tried the Alexa sleep sounds with the UPstage 360 speaker I wrote about last week, as well as with my Amazon Echo 2nd Gen, and did not care for it because the sound quality actually was too good. The fidelity of the raindrops was actually distracting because they sound almost real, but your brain knows they are not. The white noise also had a clarity to it that was kind of unnatural once I was used to the softer sound of the LectroSound.
Finally, I also like the simplicity of the LectroSound. Because I have the dials adjusted just the way I want, all I need to do is push the button to turn it on. I don’t have to reset anything.
And, I admit, I’m not always at my sharpest when I’m half asleep. A few years ago I was testing a smart home system that included a home security system. I meant to say, “Alexa, cancel alarm,” but instead said, “Alexa, alarm.” A piercing wail suitable for NORAD during an all-out nuclear attack immediately filled the house. Covering my ears with a nearby pair of headphones, with my hands cupped over them for even better hearing protection, I hurried into the room with the control hub. The keypad was not responsive, so I finally had to unplug it and remove the battery to stop the alarm, worrying the whole time that a police SWAT team would come bursting through the front door.
The moral of this story is that you have other options for sleep sounds, some of which may be free or in your home already. Try them, and you might find that they suit you fine. Or they might whet your appetite for a dedicated sleep sound machine.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.