When most people consider sex toys, they immediately think of vibrators. For good reason: their low cost, versatility and powerful vibrating sensations make them real crowd-pleasers. But picking out a vibrator can be more difficult than you might think. Did you know there were hundreds of different kinds? Whew! Sex toys are supposed to be recreational, not analytical. Don't worry - we'll break it down for you.

Before we get started, you should know a few things about vibrators. Most of them are designed as "novelties," which means they can have a very unpredictable lifespan - anywhere from days to months. A few (usually the more expensive "personal massager" types) have warranties, but for the most part, don't expect miracles from your vibrating pal. But good care and careful use will usually prolong the life of your toy, as will careful storage in a dust-free place. It's also a good idea to take out the batteries after each use and store them separately - batteries can leak, which makes a big mess and ruins your toy.

Vibrators : Powering Up

Vibrators are for fun, right? So what does it matter how it's powered? Believe it or not, it matters more that you think! Do you like to turn on your vibrator and just let it go? Or do you prefer to vary the speed and intensity of the vibe? Have you thought about getting a remote-controlled model so your partner can partake in the fun? How about an electric model for supreme power? If you're looking for something specific, you might want to take a moment to consider some of the following.

Simple Base Controller

Straightforward, classic vibrators, such as rockets and slimlines, have very simple "on/off" controls on the base of the vibrator. The benefit to this is that you don't have to think too much while using your toy: you turn it on and away you go! However, if you like to vary speed or intensity during play, this might not be the unit for you.

Complex Base Controller

Vibrators that offer a ton of features, such as dual clitoral and internal stimulation, will have multi-toggle control packs on the base of the vibrator, offering separate switches for each function. While the benefit is no cord or wire to get in the way, some people report that it can be difficult to use a vibrator during solo play when you have to stretch your hand all the way to the base to change intensity or movement while you're using it.

Hand-Pack Controller

The hand-held control pack, connected to the vibrator by a cord, enables the user to easily control the speed of the vibe during play. Some people dislike this type of power control because there's a wire or cord involved that can get in the way during partner play. However, the benefit of the hand pack is that during solo play with your vibrating toy there's no awkward reaching involved if you want to change the vibration level or other functions.

Wireless or Remote-Control Pack

Wireless vibes are great for partner play because most of these toys travel well and can be used in a wild variety of settings. They're also great for solo use because there's no reaching or stretching involved when controlling your vibrator. The downside to this type of control pack is the cost: they tend to be pricey. Also, many models of vibrators don't offer a remote-controlled version.


Electric vibrators, usually designed to look like massagers and used primarily for external stimulation, are extremely powerful and often thought of as the vibrator for the true connoisseur. While electric vibes don't require batteries, making them convenient to use if you happen to be near an electrical outlet, some people don't like the "travel restrictions" imposed by needing to rely on electricity. However, if you like a strong vibe and plan to use your toy in a static location, an electric vibrator may be the way to go.

A Word About Batteries

Before you use your battery-powered toy, make sure the batteries are inserted correctly. Ensure your battery contacts are shiny and making firm contact with the batteries. If contacts are not shiny try gently rubbing them with a pencil eraser until contacts are clean, and then firmly re-insert batteries so they are making contact. After checking the batteries, turn or push speed controls slowly and gently. Never force the controls on your products.

Vibrator Noise Levels

If you live alone, on a farm, in the middle of a desert or on an island, then the noise level of your vibrator isn't a concern. However people with roommates, children or thin walls may consider the amount of noise their vibrating pal emits to be a real issue. While no vibrator is going to be perfectly silent, we ranked ours to help you figure out exactly what's best for you. For more information, visit our Bulletins from the Bedroom feature.


If you take your vibrator into your bedroom and close the door, "quiet" means that people outside shouldn't hear it. A few products in this category, particularly the remote-controlled ones, will be so quiet that you can run them in a public place without anybody hearing, as long as there's some level of background noise, such as people talking or the dialogue in an action-adventure movie. Don't expect miracles though! Vibrators are powered by electric motors and do make some noise, regardless of how "whisper quiet" they claim to be.


Your next-door neighbor won't hear an "average" vibrator , but somebody outside your closed bedroom door might hear a sound not unlike an electric razor. This isn't the kind of toy you'd be able to hide from your lover or housemates while you're using it, but it also won't be like a siren to announce you're having an evening of pleasure.

Loud, but Worth It!

The more powerful vibrators come with a downside - don't expect people not to hear you using them! If you want the most power, often times you'll be sacrificing discretion. But aren't those orgasms worth it?

Finding the Right Level of Vibration

It's true that the intensity of modern day vibrators can range from very gentle and designed purely for relaxation to a vibration that's absolutely overpowering and, quite frankly, uncomfortable. The level of vibration that will please any individual is completely variable, but we can offer some tips. Always start with your vibrator on its lowest intensity setting and then experiment with the higher settings to see what feels most comfortable for you. If your vibrator is simply too powerful, don't despair! Many women enjoy diffusing the vibrations from their vibrator by placing a towel or piece of cloth over any external vibrating units. This trick has been raved about for years.

Traditional Vibrators

By far the most popular and versatile category of sex toys, traditional vibrators are shaped like a phallus, which means they all vaguely resemble a penis. Some can be quite realistic, especially if they're made from silicone. Others look nothing like the male member. They come in all sizes, shapes, textures and colors, from the smallest insertable vibe to the (laughably) huge twelve-incher. However, they all have one thing in common: they were made to vibrate and penetrate.

When considering a traditional vibrator, think about what you want. Some people (especially newcomers) prefer the simple sleekness of the frictionless silver bullet vibrator. Others enjoy a more realistic shape and texture. Some people like small traditional vibrators and others like obscenely large ones. It's really up to you. You might try experimenting with different vegetables to determine what size works best for you; however, please thoroughly wash your veggie of choice before inserting it anywhere! When you find a veggie that fits just right, hunt for a traditional vibe of approximate size and shape. If you're not comfortable with the vegetarian approach, you may have to let trial and error determine your acceptable girth. As for texture, stroke a few floor models if you're shopping live. Pick the material that appeals to you most. If you don't find it potentially erotic, it's a colossal waste of time.

Traditional vibes are available in a variety of different styles, most of which can be categorized into the following groups:

  • Slimline Vibrators Also called "smoothies," these more traditional units are usually made from plastic. A favorite with novices, slimline vibes can induce powerful orgasms from both internal and clitoral stimulation. Their frictionless exterior makes slimline vibes a poor choice for thrusting movements, but the gentle internal pressure can be quite nice.
  • Realistic Vibrators Some of these look just like the real thing: veins, testicles and all, others leave a little to your imagination. Internally powered by batteries, these vibes are perfect for people who love intercourse with a powerful twist.
  • Personal Massagers These discreet units resemble anything but the male member. Ergonomically designed to fit the female body, these discreet vibrators have a slightly hourglass shape.
  • Vibrator Sleeves Made to slip over slimline vibrators, sleeves are made from silicone, Cyberskin TM, jelly or rubber. Sleeves can resemble anything from penises to knob-studded cucumbers to cute little bunnies, and produce an enticing and versatile array of sensations.

Traditional vibrators can be used a number of different ways. The most obvious method is an "in-out" motion resembling intercourse. But don't let the shape of the vibe program you into using it just one way! Many people enjoy several different kinds of stimulation, or a combination of internal and external strokes. Both men and women can enjoy traditional vibrators externally.

Some women prefer traditional vibes because using them seems more like traditional intercourse, with a big, pulsating bonus. In fact, some men have been known to become jealous of their partner's vibrating buddy - why would any woman with a vibrating penis at her disposal want a big, messy man around the house? Never fear, guys. A traditional vibe can provide crashing orgasms, but it can't provide the intimacy and touch that you can.

Anal Vibrators

Although some people aren't comfortable with the idea of anal play or penetration, an increasingly large number of people enjoy the intense stimulation afforded by the sensitive nerve endings found in the anus. Whether you enjoy light or deep penetration, slim or thick girth, or a nice, vibrating buzz, remember to select a smooth, seamless toy for anal play, one with a flared or larger base. You don't want your toy to get lost in your rectum!

Three additional things are critical for safe anal play: communication, relaxation, and lots and lots of lubrication. Unlike a woman's vagina, the anal canal doesn't produce any sort of lubrication. The last thing you want to experience during anal play is the sharp, shooting pains that can accompany the insertion of a dry vibrator. Take it slow, be gentle, and respect your partner's boundaries.

Possibly the weirdest looking of all sex toys, anal vibrators closely resemble sea cucumbers: they're oblong, knobby, spiky and pliant. A titillating combination of vibrator and butt plug, anal vibrators can have variable speeds, internal or external power supplies, and fancy features - just like other vibrators. Use an anal vibrator if you enjoy the sensation of fullness and pulsation - a wickedly delicious duo!

Vibrating Beads and Balls

Usually small, egg-shaped and attached to a multi-speed battery pack by a long cord, these vibrating toys can work wonders on the clitoris, labia or anus. Variations on the basic design include more narrow, bullet-shaped vibes, and vibrators shaped like cats, bunnies, bears, dewdrops, miniature rocket vibrators and large human tongues. Whichever design you choose, basic operation is the same - focused vibrations at varying speeds and intensities. The best thing about these handy little vibes is their level of control: all the fancy bells and whistles ensure you get precisely the pulse you require for a mind-shattering orgasm.

Many of these designs are usually for external use only - as these "novelty" vibrators are sometimes of specious design, it's entirely possible for the vibrating unit to become detached from the cord and lodge itself somewhere you can't quite reach. While this kind of situation is hilarious for emergency room personnel, it's probably not something you want to experience. So unless the unit is specifically designed for internal use, play it safe and only use it externally.

G-Spot Vibrators

Usually long and slim with a curved end, G-Spot vibrators are designed to reach that elusive zone on a woman's interior. Guys will also love what these vibes do for their prostates.

Most women use these toys as they would a traditional vibrator - as a vibrating penetration tool. However, the G-Spot vibrator's curved end or knobby middle hits in just the right spot, providing the added pressure that many women enjoy.

Clitoral-Stimulating Vibrators

While any kind of vibrator can be used on the clitoris, certain vibrators were specifically designed to tease your love bud. Useful for solo or partner sex, many clitoral vibrators can be used during intercourse, providing a vibrating buzz just where and when you need it most.

Clitoral Vibrating Eggs

The most common type of clitoral vibe is small, egg-shaped and attached to a multi-speed battery pack by a long cord. Variations on the basic design include more narrow, bullet-shaped vibes, and vibrators shaped like cats, bunnies, bears, dewdrops, miniature rocket vibrators and large human tongues. Whichever design you choose, basic operation is the same - focused vibrations at varying speeds and intensities. The best thing about these handy little vibes is their level of control: all the fancy bells and whistles ensure you get precisely the clitoral pulse you require for a mind-shattering orgasm.

Insertable Clitoral Vibrators

These insertable vibrators often have a small animal, such as a rabbit, bear, dolphin or beaver, perched near the base of the vibrator and facing forward. In addition to making you giggle, your animal friend will provide clitoral vibrations while you insert the shaft into your vagina. Fancy models also come equipped with a rotating band of beads or "pearls," which can provide G-Spot stimulation. Before you go out and purchase one of these fabulous (and expensive) tools, consider what you're buying. Can you handle simultaneous clitoral, vaginal and G-Spot stimulation? You betcha!

Hands-Free Clitoral Stimulators

Designed to resemble a harness or pair of G-string panties, the hands-free clitoral stimulators (also called a "butterfly" vibe) is a small, intense vibrator held fast to a woman's clitoris for an intense, localized vibration. The miniature motor is housed in a plastic casing resembling a butterfly, dragonfly or some other kind of cute forest creature.

The sensations produced by these happy little critters can be incredibly strong - too strong for some women's tastes. If you enjoy a deep, intense vibration, the butterfly vibe might be a great option for you, especially if you fancy wearing it out of the house. Yes, it's true: some women really get a kick out of wearing their vibrating panties to work. And why not? A quick rush of blood to the groin area might be just what you need to get through the day if you have a boring job. For added excitement, try a remote-controlled panty. Your significant other will enjoy randomly turning you on and off during a movie, grocery shopping trip, bowling game, etc. Warning: these vibes do make noise, so only use it if you're relatively alone, there's plenty of background noise or if you don't care if people know your little secret.

While many butterfly vibrators have larger harnesses that make them only good for solo use, a number of newer models have been designed with less obtrusive harnesses and smaller units so that they can be worn during intercourse, adding clitoral vibrations to the excitement of penetration.

Electric Vibrators

Large, obtrusive and ostensibly intended for body massage, electric vibrators provide an incredibly powerful genital buzz. The Hitachi Magic Wand is the longtime favorite of electric vibe enthusiasts, but many other brands of wand will suffice quite nicely. Usually about a foot long, these vibes plug into a wall socket and usually have variable-speed controls. The unit consists of a long handle topped with a soft, vibrating head approximately the size and shape of a tennis ball. While you can, technically, use these vibrators for back and body massage, we highly recommend squeezing them between your thighs for an intense rush of electricity. Not for the timid.

A variation on the standard electric wand, the coil vibrator is reminiscent of the battery-operated manicure sets popular in the 1980s. About the size and shape of a handheld electric mixer, the coil vibrator is topped with an interchangeable set of heads, which can include soft, round, bumpy and textured tips. This vibe produces an incredibly intense sensation and is almost noise-free. Some women find the sensation too intense; others just can't get enough.

Numerous attachments are available for both wand and coil-style electric vibrators. Ranging from the tame to the utterly wacky, these attachments can include suction cups, G-Spot wands, dual penetrators, cups, bulbs and soft rubber rings. We recommend trying the wand or coil alone, then adding attachments as your sense of adventure dictates.

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