Here’s what we thought after 340 minutes of meditation with the Muse.
Verdict: 7 out of 10 stars
The Muse is a decent meditation tool but has some flaws when it comes to accuracy.
What I liked
- Makes you focus on your breathing much more
- Meditating with the Muse headband is easy
What I didn’t like
- Didn’t feel very accurate
- Sounds can be distracting at times
- Included exercises are too brief/uninvolving
Meditation and mindfulness has flavoured the self-improvement space over the last few years. Everywhere you turn, it seems the greatest minds in self-help, business and sports performance are advocating us to be more mindful.
Table of contents
Alongside this boom in popularity, meditation technology and products like the Muse Headband have enjoyed success. The Muse was originally developed and released in 2014, so it’s not exactly new. On the other hand, it’s still one of the more affordable headsets in the market, so it might be the first step someone makes when deciding to invest in their meditation practice. It was for me, hence this review.
As a side note, the new and improved Muse 2 was recently released at the time of writing. The Muse 2 packs additional sensors to measure breath, heart rate and posture to give a more complete picture of your meditation session.
The Muse headband works by using its seven brain sensors and included mobile app to analyse your brain waves during meditation. If your mind is wandering, you’ll hear a chaotic soundscape, and if your mind is calm, the soundscape will become more gentle. You’ll even hear birds chirping if you’re doing particularly well.
Materials and design
The headband and sensors are made from a combination of plastic, silicone-rubber and silver. The unit isn’t very sturdy, but is more than adequate for sitting down in a quiet, cool place and meditating.
It’s comfortable to wear, and in the 20 minute sessions I used it for each day I was never dying to take it off.
The design is sleek, minimalist, and had some nice details like the power button.
Using the Muse app
The Muse requires you to install an app, which is available for both Apple and Android devices.
The app is simple and works well. The main “Me” tab lists your current meditation streak, along with a graph showing the results of recent meditation sessions. You can also see a cumulative display of your progress using the app and headband, the total number of calm points you’ve earned and how many minutes you’ve been meditating for.
The only piece of data missing from this tab is a relative comparison to other users using the app and headband. Am I meditating more or less than others? Are my sessions more or less active or calm? A comparison like this could help users become more motivated to meditate more effectively.
When you’re ready to meditate, the “Meditate” tab is where you begin your session. You can select from the length, soundscape and even add in “exercise packages” to help you get more out of each meditation.
There are exercises from Deepak Chopra and Dr. Joel and Michelle Levey, but these are more like short pre- and post-meditation pep talks. They can be useful for getting into the right mindset before starting the meditation, but overall I found them too short to have a meaningful impact on my meditation.
A great way to use these meditation leaders could be to integrate them into the meditation itself. Maybe when your thoughts stray too much Deepak’s voice could remind you to focus on your breath?
My other criticism of the app is that it crashed regularly when opening it on my Samsung Galaxy S8.
My experience meditating with the Muse headband
After you pair the headband with the app and connect your headphones, you’re ready to start meditating.
The Muse headband works as Muse says it does. When your mind is calm, the soundscape becomes calm and you might even hear birds chirping. When your mind wanders, a storm kicks up.
It does this using the seven sensors attached to the headband which analyse your brainwaves. Before each meditation you go through a short calibration phase to make sure the sensors are getting a good signal.
It worked for me…most of the time. In some meditations the headband claimed I had an unbelievably low amount of “active” mind time. As soothing as this was to my ego, I know from my own mental chatter that I didn’t have only 1 second of active time in this particular meditation.
To me it also felt like there was a few seconds of delay between my thoughts and the soundscape I was hearing. This was a little jarring at times, because I felt like the soundscape wasn’t accurately reflecting my current mindstate.
I also learned the hard way that having the volume turned up too loud made it very distracting and hard to refocus on my breath everytime my mind wandered.
Another issue with the Muse is more of a philosophical one. The Muse brought out my streak of perfectionism. I wanted to be able to improve and beat my previous calm times. At times I felt like the headband and sound feedback was causing me to focus on beating my previous results rather than gently focusing on being mindful and aware.
The biggest benefit with the Muse headband, regardless of whether the brainwave sound feedback works, is that it makes you much more aware of your meditation. In a regular meditation I find it easy to wander off. This is much harder when you’re hearing a whole rainforest change in response to your brain waves. For me, this one benefit trumped many of the negatives and kept me using the headband.
There are a number of other soundscapes that you can also download through the app. My favourite was the rainforest, but I also liked the beach soundscape, which sounds like a strong windstorm when intense, and a calm trickle of water when calm.
The desert and city park soundscape were much weaker options. The desert sounded more like wind of varying intensity with a distracting ambient background track. The city park option was a little too distracting with the sounds of high heels hitting the pavement and the murmurs of voices in the distance.
The Muse battery life and charging
The Muse headband has a 10 hour battery life, and in our 340 minutes of testing over a number of weeks, the battery was half drained, so I agree with this claim. Once you’re ready to charge it, it has a simple micro-usb charging cable that you can connect to a computer. Charging time varies between 1.5 and 2.5 hours depending on if you have fast or slow charging.
|EEG Channels||4 – 5 channels, 256 GHz, 12 bits / sample|
|Battery life||10 hours continuous use|
|Charging time||1.5 hours (fast charge), 2.5 hours (slow charge)|
|Wireless connection||Bluetooth 4.0 BTLE|
|Electrode materials||Silver (front), conductive silicone-rubber (temporal)|
|Muse app compatibility||iOS, Android|
|Price||Approx. $230 AUD shipped|
Verdict: 7 out of 10 stars
The Muse headband is a decent device that could increase the quality of your meditation sessions. The idea of using soundscapes to help you refocus during meditation has a lot of promise, and I found it made me focus much more closely on my breath than I normally would. The Muse uses this technology in an intelligent way, although I was skeptical about how accurate it really was.
The sounds might also be too distracting for some, defeating the purpose of meditating in the first place.
For the price (we paid approx $230 AUD after shipped) some may be better served by simply using a free or cheap meditation app, or even using the cash for a few sessions with a meditation teacher. Those that enjoy the latest gadgets and want something that will force them to pay more attention to their breath may want to give the Muse a try.