We’ve owned a few copies of the Marpac Dohm Serious Sleep SS Sound Conditioner for several years, and have run them most every night in bedrooms and guest rooms without noticeable harm or any unpleasant side effects whatsoever; either to ourselves, or to the machines.
They work well at the office too, to reduce the impact of unexpected noises often heard in close quartered cubicles. People report having used these truly fan-based sleep machines for forty years, with significant health improvements noted (they sleep sounder with them, and are consequently more eager and applied at work, experience improved mood, are less grumpy, able to focus more, and are generally more healthy overall). Indeed, we’ve found the Marpac SS highly effective at, “cancelling,” or at least, covering up disturbing noises such as Alexa playing in the next room, laughing and conversations, the cats jumping from furniture to furniture and thumping around, and traffic noises outside.
This Marpac Dohm SS indeed enhances sleep, and fits into most any room décor, with its available neutral color choices (ours is black here). Thus, it can compliment any color scheme.
Indeed, we wish we would have learned about these white noise sleep aids years ago, when we relied on much bigger table fans to generate enough white noise to sleep by. The fans, while creating plenty of white noise, also generated much unwanted air currents and drafts. This Dohm SS sleep conditioner however, which itself contains a genuine fan, creates all the white noise but none of the draft. Any generated wind, is contained inside the unit.
The Dohm Serious Sleep offers about the best white noise sound of any white noise devices we’ve tried. The electro-mechanical fan sound is preferred over the more modern, digital sound conditioners, because the SS creates a fuller, virtually non repetitive whirring noise, whereas the digital ones of the past generally have a “tinny” sound that lacks low-frequency content. Those “bassy” low frequencies are an essential component of effective white noise; particularly when needed to block the lower frequency sounds of traffic and footfalls.
The Marpac SS machine contains a real motor and fan blades inside, that create a very steady, non-varying white noise that features low hum and vibration sound, and has no “loop effect.” Often the digital sound conditioners play a three or five second long sample over and over again. Call us eccentric, but we definitely hear that looping when trying to sleep, which subsequently agitates, irritates, and denies sleep. Those digital units end up keeping us awake; having the opposite of their intended effect.
The Dohm on the other hand, just emits a gentle air-blowing sound that blocks external mid-range and high-frequency noises very well, and it does a pretty good job masking the lower frequency sounds (bumps in the night, slamming doors, television bass, cars going over rumble strips outside, and so on).
We found very little to complain about in the Dohm SS sound conditioner. Even the $49.99 price per unit seemed reasonable. Hard to find these units used for much cheaper. It seems that once people buy them, they rarely sell them, running them until they completely wear out. Scarcity on eBay probably means an excellent quality device. Plus, the mechanical simplicity of this fan-in-a-box, means that it can run and run, for decades, without failing.
Benefits, Pros, Advantages, and Features of the Marpac Dohm Serious Sleep Sound Conditioner
Simple to operate. It has a three-position OFF, LOW, and HIGH rocker switch, a top disc adjustment that rotates, and a side ring adjustment that also turns. The latter two settings alter the characteristics of the produced noise to tailor the sound output to most any sleeping situation, room acoustics, types of surrounding noise being blocked, and so on. You just plug in the 980A, turn it on, and rotate the adjustments.
Versatile. Works very well in dorm rooms, nurseries, hotels, and offices. Enhances daytime sleep for those in shift work, who must get uninterrupted sleep during the day when birds, traffic, and kids at play can be more distracting.
Dual speeds. It has a low speed and high speed setting built into the three-position power switch. The high speed works best for the noisiest slumber environments.
Vibration suppression. The Dohm SS features a foam rubber pad on its bottom to provide some isolation from the surface that you place it on. This limits the 120 Hz. humming noise and vibration from the AC motor inside.
Compact. Much smaller and lighter than the fans we used before purchasing the SS. So it’s much easier to find room for it close to the bed. Its modest size also makes the SS quite portable, so you can benefit from its calming white sound while traveling as well as at home.
Does not collect much dirt and dust. Unlike the fans that attracted much dust over time, the Serious Sleep machine does not collect much dirt, as there’s effectively no air movement through the unit. The light metal blades inside are tailored to generate white noise alone, not to move a lot of air (and dust) around.
Neutral colors. Its light ivory, black, white or gray color (comes in these colors) makes the SS machine go well with most any room color scheme.
Several units together strengthen the effect. The SS blocks otherwise intruding noise pretty well for moderately quiet environments. However, we have unusually sensitive ears. For us, just one Marpac Dohm unit therefore, was insufficient. So we bought several more, to place around the bed for a quadraphonic white noise, which created a much more effective sound screen.
Plays all night long. The unit consists of a simple motor inside that never overheats in our experience. We’ve run these for days on end without problems.
The Marpac SleepMate tradition lives on in this Dohm SS sleep sound generator. This sleep aid device virtually duplicates the performance and function of the Marpac 980A SleepMate of years ago.
Disadvantages, Problems, Cons, and Limitations
As mentioned, we found none too much to legitimately gripe about in the SS. But here are several minor issues we found.
Not loud enough at times; particularly in close living quarters with neighbors, where very thin walls are the order of the day. Thus, we had to buy three of them; not just one.
Insufficient bass frequencies. It does not block very low frequency thud style noises very well. We wish Dohm would consider designing a much bigger unit that generates a much louder low-frequency component in the white noise. This would better cover the jolting thumps of footfalls above, and door slams below.
Hum is often heard. This model provides insufficient vibration isolation; We can hear the motor humming unless we fold an undershirt and put that between the DSand the supporting table.
Not maintenance free. The motor bearings inside require occasional lubrication; particularly when used every night for several years as we use ours. No big deal however, as a motor disassembly is not too challenging, and the bearings (both top and bottom) can be cleaned and lubricated with a few drops of silicone machine oil.
No sleep timer. You cannot set the SS to shut off after 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes. Some folks may wish to do this, to limit unnecessary white noise exposure in their ears once they’ve fallen asleep.
The Dohm White Noise Sound Machine, model “Serious Sleep (SS)”, is a decent value. It omits none of the important features or simplicity expected from a truly well-engineered, easy to use white noise machine, though perhaps some of them could be improved a scant bit. So we would again buy the SS, and would therefore rate this unit at 99 out of 100.
Where to Buy the Dohm SS White Noise Machine
These devices are available online at Amazon, eBay, and other Internet vendors. Some retail brick-and-mortar places carry them too, although we’ve not seen them sold locally.
- Dohm’s Web Site
- White Noise on Wikipedia
- What are White Noise Machines? on Wikipedia
- Where to buy the Dohm DS White Noise Sound Machine
- 2017-02-05: Originally published.