We’ve owned several copies of the Marpac Dohm SleepMate 980A Sound Conditioner for roughly half a decade. We ran them close to every night in bedrooms and guest rooms. We saw no harm either to our ears, or to these sound conditioners.
Indeed, we’ve found them highly effective. They cancel or cover up distracting noises such as…
- TVs playing nearby.
- Roommates talking in the next room.
- Cats jumping from high places and thumping around.
- Traffic noises outside.
The 980A offers probably the best white noise sound of any of the sound conditioning devices we ever tested.
Benefits, Pros, Advantages, and Features of the Marpac Dohm SleepMate 980A Sound Screen
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 produced noise. They tailor the sound to most any sleeping situation. They adjust for room acoustics, types of noise you want to block, and so on. Just plug in the 980A, turn it on, and rotate the ring settings to best screen distracting noises.
Improves Sleep and Concentration
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, white, or black. Thus, it can compliment any color scheme.
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.
The 980A comes with a foam rubber pad affixed to its bottom. This gives some isolation from the surface that you sit it on. The pad keeps humming noise from the AC motor inside pretty low.
Much smaller and lighter than the fans I was using before buying the 980A SleepMate. So it’s much easier to find room for it close to the bed. Its modest size also makes the SleepMate quite portable. So you can benefit from its calming sound on the road as well as in your bedroom at home. Indeed, we wish we would have known about thes SleepMate years ago. Those big fans, while creating a great white noise, made lots of drafts and dust. This sleep conditioner however, creates all the noise but none of the dust and draft. Nice.
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. There’s very little air movement through the unit. The blades inside are fashioned to make noise, not to move air (and dust) around.
Several Units Together Block More Sound
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.
Non Electronic Sound
We prefer its electro-mechanical sound over the more modern, digital sound conditioners. Why? Because the 980A creates a fuller whirring noise. But the digital ones generally have a “tinny” sound that lacks low-frequency content. You need some low sound for effective white noise, like when combatting the lower frequency sounds of traffic and footfalls.
No Looping Effect
The SleepMate line contains a real motor and blades inside. This creates 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. This white noise blocks external mid-range and high-frequency noises very well. Plus, it does a pretty good job masking the lower frequency sounds too. E.g. Bumps in the night, slamming doors, television bass, cars going over rumble strips outside, and so on.
Some friends report having used the SleepMates for twenty-five years, They noted health improvements. They said that they sleep better with them, and are thus more alert at work.
Disadvantages Cons, Drawbacks, and Limitations of the Marpac Dohm SleepMate 980A Sound Conditioner
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. Still though, we have a few modest gripes that follow.
Not Loud Enough
Sometimes in close quarters, with thin walls, this SleepMate may not cover all noise. Thus, we bought three of them; not just one.
Not Enough Bass
It does not block very low frequency thud style noises very well. We wish Marpac Dohm would build a much bigger unit. This would that create a much louder low-frequency rumble in the white noise. That 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. But you can reduce this hum. Try folding an undershirt and put that between the 980A and the table it sits on.
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.
The Marpac Dohm SleepMate 980A sound screen is a good value for the dollars. It lacks none of the features we want from a truly great white noise machine. True. They could improve on some features a little. Nonetheless, we would again buy the 980A. Thus, we rate this SleepMate at 97 out of 100.
Where to Buy the Marpac Dohm SleepMate 980A Sound Conditioner
Get these online at Amazon, eBay, and other internet vendors. Some retail brick-and-mortar places carry them as well, although we never see them sold locally.
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- 2019-03-23: Added subheadings, tags, and key phrase targeting. Fixed some typos.
- 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.