The Canadian company InteraXon is widely regarded as the market leader for accessible brainwave-reading meditation devices. Their innovative headbands have made meditation, a once mysterious practice, readily available to all. Its two current meditation headbands are the MUSE 2 and MUSE S Gen 2. In this feature, we’ll discuss the merits of each version and which is the best one for you.
Over recent years, our lives have been dominated by the “C Word”, which has included Covid, the Cost of living Crisis, Climate Change, Conflict, and so on. In 2023, we need to change that letter to “M”, spearheaded by the words Me (meaning you), Microbiota, Microbiome, Mindfulness and Meditation.
We are all currently living in a stress-filled world where there is a constant bombardment of information, propaganda and unnecessary sensationalism, creating confusion and worry. Improving your mind and body is the best way to shield yourself from any adverse effects.
It is often said that the body has two brains, one in your head and the other in your gut. By coincidence, when writing this piece, a new study was published in BMJ General Psychiatry, which showed that Tibetan monks who regularly meditate have a better gut microbiome than those who do not. The study concluded that long-term Tibetan Buddhist meditation could positively impact physical and mental health, and I am very confident this would extend across all forms of meditation.
Meditation has become an essential component of my life. I meticulously work on my work schedule to allow for at least one hour of meditation each day, which has resulted in noticeable improvements in my mind and body. Another product of my frequent meditation is it has also made me a little more annoying to my close friends, as I must sound like a stuck record when constantly reiterating its benefits during conversations.
Both of InteraXon’s current headbands are brilliant, and choosing which one is the best option comes down to certain factors; personal comfort, needs and, as there is a price difference, budget. I currently have multiple MUSE headbands in our house, and for my daily meditation sessions, I frequently switch between both models. If you’re wondering why I have so many headbands, it is because I purchase them to gift to friends who are going through difficult times.
A brief overview of the MUSE 2 headband
The MUSE 2 is the more rigid of the two headbands. It is made using a type of plastic and has a thin band that goes across your forehead with two larger pieces which sit behind the ears. The headband has multiple sensors, which track the mind (EEG), heart rate (PPG + Pulse Oximetry), movement (accelerometer) and breath (PPG + Gyroscope), and it has a battery life of five hours.
I like many things about the MUSE S headband, including its robust feel. It also seems to be better at connecting to the app, particularly in areas of the house where we struggle to connect with the MUSE S.
Another thing I like is the set-up of the sensors, which are rigid on the headband, unlike those in the fabric band of the MUSE, which I sometimes feel needs to be treated with ‘Kid gloves’ for fear of damaging them.
The MUSE S Gen 2 headband
This is my go-to meditation headband for many reasons. Firstly, it is exceptionally comfortable to wear, so much so I have engaged in conversations with people forgetting I still have it on. It is only when I get people talking to me, who are not looking into my eyes but instead talking to my forehead, that I realise something is amiss.
Another reason why I prefer to use the MUSE S Gen 2 is it offers a snug fit. If you’ve ever been into a hospital and had an EEG cap placed on you, you’ll know just how tight they are, and it is for a very good reason; the tighter the fit, the more accurate the data. The layout of the sensors on the MUSE S is also different. Its sensors are considerably larger, which improves data capture and allows more flexibility when positioning it on the head.
Regarding meditation, on a basic level, the MUSE 2 and MUSE S Gen 2 do pretty much the same thing. However, the MUSE S has one significant advantage over its lower-priced sibling: advanced sleep-tracking capability. I am quite sure that some reading this will be thinking, “My smartwatch does that”, and yes, your smartwatch will be doing some form of tracking. However, the MUSE S Gen 2 is able to do things that are leaps and bounds ahead of what a smartwatch is capable of doing.
For example, using its lab-grade EEG and PPG sensors, the MUSE S allows users to monitor how long they have spent in light, REM and deep sleep states. In addition, it provides data on the number of times your sleep was interrupted, sleep quantity and how much your brain rested during each stage. And one final advantage of having the sleep monitoring function on this headband is the vast improvement in battery life, which is ten hours compared to the MUSE 2’s five.
So, MUSE 2 or MUSE S Gen 2? Which should you buy?
If you are new to meditation, sleep is not an issue, and the price is a consideration; my suggestion would be to go for the MUSE 2.
The MUSE 2 headband will help you with your practice and provides all the feedback and encouragement you need to keep you on your meditation journey.
With regards to the MUSE S Gen 2, it needs to be looked at as more than a meditation device, as it is really two devices in one. It is not only an extremely capable meditation aid widely utilised by researchers, but it is also equally capable when it comes to assisting with sleep. When you factor in what you would pay for a standalone sleep monitoring system with a similar capability, the one-third extra you are paying over the MUSE 2 does make the MUSE S Gen 2 somewhat of a bargain.
As someone who uses both headbands, my view is to always go for the more capable option. To answer the question I posed in the title, MUSE 2 or MUSE S Gen 2? If you can afford it, go for the latter.
For more information on the MUSE headbands and their accessories, pricing, and to learn more about Interaxon, visit choosemuse.com.
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