Picture of the Model 980A SleepMate Noise Machine, showing the power / speed switch.

Marpac Dohm SleepMate 980A Sound Conditioner Review

We’ve owned several copies of the  Marpac Dohm SleepMate 980A Sound Conditioner  for roughly half a decade, and have run them close to every night in bedrooms and guest rooms without noticeable harm or any ill effects whatsoever; either to ourselves, or to these sound conditioners.

Some friends report having used the SleepMates for twenty-five years with health improvements noted (they sleep better with them, and are consequently more alert at work, and more healthy overall).  Indeed, we’ve found them highly effective at, “cancelling,” or covering up distracting noises such as televisions playing in nearby locations, the cats jumping from high places and thumping around, and traffic noises outside.

Picture of the top view of the Marpac 980A White Noise Machine.
Top view of the Marpac 980A White Noise Machine.

The Marpac SleepMate 980A sound conditioner indeed helps enhance sleep, and fits into most any room decor.  The unit comes in an ivory, off-white color.  Thus, it can compliment any color scheme.  Indeed, I wish I would have known about thes SleepMate years ago, when I’d use much bigger table fans to generate enough white noise to sleep by.  The fans, while creating a great white noise, had the disadvantage that they also generated much unwanted drafts.  This sleep conditioner however, creates all the noise but none of the draft.  Nice.  Thus, the following:

The 980A offers probably the best white noise sound of any of the sound conditioning devices I’ve tried.  I prefer its electro-mechanical sound over the more modern, digital sound conditioners because the 980A creates a fuller, less repetitive whirring noise, whereas the digital ones generally have a “tinny” sound that lacks low-frequency content; an essential component of effective white noise; particularly when needed to combat the lower frequency sounds of traffic and footfalls.

The SleepMate line contains a real motor and blades inside that create a very steady, non-varying white noise that has no “loop effect.”  Often the digital sound conditioners play a three or five second long sample over and over again.  Call us strange, but we hear that looping when trying to sleep, and so, it agitates and distracts.  Thus the digital units end up keeping us awake; having the opposite of their intended effect.  The SleepMate 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 criticize about this Marpac conditioner.  Even the $49.99 price per unit seemed pretty reasonable.  Hard to find these units used for a very much cheaper price.  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.

Benefits, Pros, Advantages, and Features

Simple to operate.  It has an on-off 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.

Two 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 isolation.  The 980A comes with a foam rubber pad on its bottom to provide some isolation from the surface that you sit it on.  This keeps humming noise from the AC motor inside pretty low.

Compact.  Much smaller and lighter than the fans I was using before purchasing the 980A SleepMate.  So it’s much easier to find room for it close to my bed.  Its modest size also makes the SleepMate quite portable, so you can benefit from its calming sound while traveling as well as in your bedroom at home.

Does not collect much dirt and dust.  Unlike the fans that became quite encrusted with dust over time, the 980A does not collect much dirt as there’s effectively no air movement through the unit.  The blades inside are fashioned to make noise, not to move air (and dust) around.

Neutral in color.  Its light ivory color makes it go well with most any room color scheme.

Several units together strengthen the effect.  The SleepMate blocks otherwise intruding noise pretty well for moderately quiet environments. However, we have extremely sensitive ears.  For us,  just one 980A therefore, was insufficient.  So we bought several others to place around the bed for a stereo white noise effect that worked much better.

Picture of the Model 980A SleepMate Noise Machine, showing the power / speed switch.
Model 980A SleepMate Noise Machine, showing the power / speed switch.

Disadvantages and Limitations

As mentioned, I found none too much to legitimately gripe about in the 980A SleepMate.  But here are several complaints I did come up with:

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 Marpac 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 980A and the supporting table.

More choices in colors.  We’d prefer that the 980A came in a bright white, gray, or slate blue color, to the brown-based ivory beige color.

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.

Our  Rating

The   Marpac Dohm SleepMate 980A Sound Conditioner   is a good value for the dollars. It lacks none of the features  anticipated from a truly great white noise machine, though perhaps some of them could be improved a little.  Nonetheless however, we would again buy the 980A, and would therefore rate this unit at 97 out of 100.

Picture of the Dohm SleepMate Machine 980a, showing its underside and its foam rubber footing for better vibration isolation.
Dohm SleepMate Machine 980a, showing its underside and its foam rubber footing for better vibration isolation.

Where to Buy the Marpac Dohm SleepMate 980A Sound Conditioner

These devices are available online at Amazon, eBay, and other Internet vendors.  Some retail brick-and-mortar places carry them as well, although I’ve not seen them sold locally.

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Revision History

  • 2017-02-06: Added the Related Posts section.
  • 2015-12-17: Added more appropriate tags.
  • 2015-09-23: Added numerous “white noise” tags.
  • 2015-01-21: Tweaked content, added whitespace, and adjusted ad placement.
  • 2014-10-11: Added pictures, added the Dohm name,  expanded the References section, and tightened up the prose.
  • 2011-05-25: First published.