We think the LectroFan by ASTI is the white noise machine you’ll want on your nightstand. Our testing showed that the LectroFan’s random, nonrepeating white noise settings allowed it to mask intruding noises as well as or better than the other machines in the group. It’s the second-smallest machine we tested, too, so you can pack it for travel in addition to using it at home. The LectroFan is also one of the easiest models to use, with a simple three-button interface to toggle among 10 random, nonrepeating white noise offerings and 30 volume settings in one of the widest volume ranges we found.
To be honest, all the machines we tried sounded more or less alike (except the Dohm DS, which had a more complex, layered sound). The LectroFan didn’t sound better than the other machines, but it was just as capable or slightly better at masking sound during our noise tests. It generates white noise electronically using algorithms, so the sounds it produces are truly random and won’t repeat, something that Michael Perlis, director of the behavioral sleep medicine program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, told me is a good feature of a white noise machine for sleep. The LectroFan’s 10 white noise settings, ranging from “dark noise” (low frequency) to “white noise” (high frequency), sounded like variations of low rumbles, rushing wind, or static—neither pleasant nor unpleasant, and definitely random and meaningless.
According to our sound-level tests, the LectroFan’s 30 volume settings ranged from a whisper-quiet 31 dBa to a thoroughly loud 80 dBa (about as loud as a garbage disposal). All the machines we tested measured under 85 dBa at their max setting (when we measured sound from 18 inches away). A machine that allows for fine volume control, like the LectroFan, can be at its lowest possible setting yet still block noise. By comparison, some of the other machines we tried had a narrower volume range that we found more difficult to adjust. To be clear, we didn’t notice a huge variation in the sound-blocking performance among the machines, and they were typically within a few decibels of one another for the minimum volume required to mask the offending noise.
Measuring just 4 inches in diameter and 2 inches high, the LectroFan is the second-smallest machine in our test group. It takes up little room on a nightstand, and it’s small enough to go into your luggage for travel. (It conveniently uses a USB cord and wall-power adapter, which you could swap for your USB wall charger to save more space when you’re packing.)
With its minimalist, three-button interface, we found changing noise settings and volume on the LectroFan easier than on the other white noise machines, which had more-complicated controls. The LectroFan was the only white noise machine we tested that was easy to adjust or turn off in the dark, without our needing to see or pick up the device. This model also has a 60-minute timer, a useful feature if you want to set the machine to run as you fall asleep and then turn off.
The LectroFan features 10 “fan sounds,” including “box fan,” “attic fan,” and “industrial fan.” Unless you particularly like fan sounds, we’re not sure why you would need or use these settings, so we ignored them, since the white noise settings worked better at masking sounds.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Since the LectroFan is so small, we wish it had a built-in battery, which would be helpful for travel or if you don’t have an outlet nearby.
After more than a year of long-term testing the LectroFan, one of our editors has found that because the buttons each share two functions, he sometimes accidentally turns on the wrong one. This sometimes results in the machine going into the timer mode, thus turning off the machine in the middle of the night, or starting different sounds that wake his kids. He’s also used our runner-up, the Marpac Dohm and says that model is a little easier to turn on and off without accidentally starting another function.