The Pros and Cons of 4 Meditation Gadgets

Woman meditating with Muse meditation gadget

Meditation has historically required a place to sit, a little time, and perhaps a good teacher to help you get started. However, that perfect formula has evolved with the increasing popularity of meditation. These days, it can be a little more complicated.

Different devices and gadgets have flooded the marketplace all aimed at helping people meditate. The list of devices focused on meditation can be overwhelming. Before you buy, check out this review on four devices—Spire, Thync, Muse, and Melomind—that should help you figure out if it’s worth the investment.

Spire Tracking Device

Price:  $129.95

The Skinny: A small, fitness-tracking device that is designed to monitor your mental state. The device clips onto your pant waistband or to a bra.

How It Works: Spire is designed to track your breathing and your steps. Users can set a goal of 5,000, 10,000, or 15,000 steps. Users can also set calm and focus goals for 30, 60 and 120 minutes. Notifications on your breathing and mental state are signaled by vibrations from the device.

Shortfalls: It can be difficult deciphering the different vibrations to signal a change in breathing or mental state. To interpret what it means, you have to open up the app and look at your phone to tell if you’re stressed.

Unlike a Fitbit or Garmin tracker, Spire is not designed to track your sleep. Spire connects to its app on your iPhone via Bluetooth. Users have reported that because of the constant feedback to the app on your phone, the Spire device has a tendency to drain the phone battery.

Critics say that there is no smart tracker function on the Spire device to help you improve as you go. They also say that it’s stressful to have the device buzz at you and then have to take the extra step of looking at your phone to find out why. Lastly, without the app and your phone, the Spire device is nothing but a pretty pedometer.

Where It Shines: Spire has a sleek design and users say it’s comfortable to wear and the clip is tight so the device won’t fall off. The device also charges quickly.

Thync

Price: $200 plus $20 for a 5 pack of disposable strips

The Skinny: The Thync system is designed to deliver pulsed neurostimulation waveforms to modify your mental and physical state. It’s a wearable device that attaches to your forehead with flexible circuits that hook to the back of your ear or the back of your neck. The Thync app connects to your phone via Bluetooth on both iPhone and Andriod smartphones.

How It Works: There are two programs to choose from: calm and energy. The calm program is designed to help you sleep or relax. The energy program works by stimulating the fight-flight response to help the body produce adrenaline.

Thync says the device helps you get calm or energized without the use of drugs or pills. The company says it’s safe because the low-grade electrical impulses did not have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The company also claims that the “Vibe Strips” (which attach to the back of the ear or the neck) are designed to chemically change during the use to make it safe and comfortable.

Shortfalls: The website contains a list of warnings about those who should not use Thync. While the company claims that it’s safe, it’s not recommended for people who faint, have been treated for anxiety, have a cardiac pacemaker or implanted defibrillator, have seizures or epilepsy, have joint disorders, Bell’s Palsy, impaired cranial nerve function, or are pregnant or nursing. It’s also not recommended for children under the age of 18 years old.

Reviewers say that while customer service is excellent and videos explaining how to attach Thync are thorough, the device is difficult to attach. The device looks rather space age and might prevent you from wearing it in public, unlike other devices.

Users have reported that the sticky pad on the forehead piece is sometimes difficult to stick and feels as if it might fall off. The biggest red flag is that some users have experienced burns from the circuit pads on the neck and back of the ear. In addition, Thync only works in about 80 percent of users.

Another downside to Thync is the ongoing cost. The circuit strips are only designed for one use. While the website claims that the strips evolve and get smarter with use, you are supposed to throw them away after one use. A package of five strips costs about $20.

Where It Shines: Even with the high cost and difficulty in putting on the device, happy users claim that it has helped reduce the need for certain medications such as anxiety and sleep medications.

Muse

Price: $249

The Skinny: Muse is a wearable headband that uses electroencephalography—or EEG—to detect electrical activity in your brain.

EEG machines are traditionally used in hospitals to determine brain disorders such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and sleep disorders. The goal of Muse is to make you aware of your brain activity and to train your brain via audio and visual cues such as the sound of waves.

How It Works: Muse has seven EEG sensors that are grouped into five points—three on the front your forehead and one behind each ear.

Through the app, you can assess your progress in remaining calm. The device also records when you move, fidget, or open your eyes. Reviewers of Muse have noted that it’s useful for beginners or those inexperienced with meditation and mindfulness.

Shortfalls: The brain sensing is not 100 percent accurate, it doesn’t offer all the benefits of meditation, it’s expensive and it has to be worn very tightly.

Where It Shines: The benefits of Muse are that you will genuinely feel calm after using it, the app is very detailed, it pairs with any iPhone or Android, and charges quickly.

Melomind  

Price: $287

The Skinny: Melomind is a newer device that is similar to Muse. Like the Muse device, Melomind also uses EEG sensors.

How It Works: Melomind has four of EEG sensors that are used to track your brain activity. The difference is Melomind actually looks like a pair of headphones. Melomind works by providing you with ambient music and white noise that changes in real time with your brain waves.

Like the other devices, Melomind also syncs with your smart phone and sends information via the app. The app brings you challenges so that you use Melomind daily.

Shortfalls: The Melomind is pricy. And even if you’re willing to shell out nearly $300 for it, you’ll have to wait months for it to arrive. The company just finished a campaign with Kickstarter and will have the headsets available mid-2017.

Where It Shines: Out of all the devices presented here, this one is the nicest looking. Reviewers have also commented that it’s extremely comfortable to wear. The ear cups are made of memory foam and the rest of the headset is made of soft fabric.

Meditation and relaxation devices might appeal to those who love gadgets. If you feel you need a device to help you get started with your meditation practice, my recommendation goes to Melomind.

If you’re undecided, consider putting that money towards some coaching instead. Find a good meditation teacher who can help you learn how to meditate without devices.  

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