Muse S Headband Review
I struggle to find calm in my everyday life. Its something thats always been an issue for me, from being a kid with an anxiety disorder to being a full-fledged adult juggling writing contracts, coursework, and doctors appointments. So, when I was offered the chance to review the Muse S Headband, I jumped at the opportunity: finally! A product that isnt just fun to try, but could seriously improve my life!
I like to think that Im pretty decent at self-soothing techniques, but I came at this review with a cheat code: my partner, whos been a serious meditator since 2011. I meanserious! The summer after I met him, he disappeared into the open prairies for a week and a half to go to a silent meditation retreat. Id like to think that that was the first warning sign that he was just as much of an oddball as I am, but lets be honest I knew immediately.
So, instead of just approaching the Muse with an open mind and an eager heart, I was able to tackle this review from two perspectives. First, youll see how I did with the headband as a novice meditator. Then, Ill move on to his experiences with it.
Whats in the Box of the Muse S Headband
In the box of the Muse S Headband, youll find three simple components: a dark grey headband, the mind of the muse, and a micro USB charging cord. Youll note that the headband and the device are separate, which I appreciate. It makes it easy to fit the headband on comfortably and then pop the device into place when youre ready. The two connect using four rounded magnets.
To use the Muse, youll need a little bit more than what comes out of the box. The device links easily to your smartphone via a Bluetooth connection, and Im happy to report that the connection is seamless. (Honestly, if companies like Muse do it so easily, why do others struggleso much?)
In the Muse app, youll find a few basics that are offered for all of their biofeedback devices. These exercises walk you through brain, heart, body, and breath meditation. Each one has its own soundscapes and exercises. Then, as you continue to swipe through the app, youll find guided meditation sessionscollections and courses that you access through a paid subscription model. Most sessions are about five minutes long, and cover topics like mindful relationships, changing habits, and meditation essentials.
Finally, youre able to access Muses Go-to-Sleep sessions. These are guidances and soundscapes that help you focus on quieting your mind to fall asleep. When you complete one of these sessions, the Muse automatically turns off.
The Muse App & Headband Fit
Okay: Im of two minds on this front. The Muse headband itself is great. Its comfortable, adjustable, and sits well on both my partner and I. The ear connections are fussy with long hair, but manageablethe original design may be better in this respect.
But the app?
Well I dont care for the Muse app. I practice many meditation basics in my daily life to manage sleep and chronic pain, but Ive always struggled with formalizing that practice. While its easy to engage with simple habits like breathwork and mindfulness, its harder for me to confront some of my more deeply-rooted anxiety triggers: things like frustration and impatience, which flare-up in your stereotypically slow meditation instructions.
Unfortunately, the Muse app embodies a lot of the things that I dislike about meditation classes. Its very rigid, with unskippable instructions and quirks that actively limit what you can do with the headband. There are a few screens in the app that make me think it might be slightly inflating your results, like how its calibration screens only appear during Mind sessions, even though the app tracks the same mechanics for Go-to-Sleep sessions without any calibration.
When I buy a new piece of tech, I want to feel like Im in control. I dont want to be forced to listen to instructions that cant be sped up, and I dont want to offer a biofeedback device my location info. (Im mad about this a lot.) If Im going to make mistakes and lose my concentration, I want to know about them so that I can better fix them going forward!
My Experience with the Muse System
My experiences with the Muse S Headband have been mixed. The headband itself is excellent; its plush and comforting. And the Muse itself can do a lot. It offers all of the benefits of the Muse 2, plus responsive sleep journeys and double the battery life. Its connectivity is seamless and stellar, even with multiple users.
After a week of regular use, I find that Im really eager to meditate with the Muse. My anxiety makes me a little (a lot) unsure of myself, and knowing that Im meditating right makes me a lot more eager to do it on a regular basis. Muses biofeedback has had a huge impact on my meditation length and frequency, and now that it exists, I cant ever imagine trying to learn how to meditate without it.
For me, the trick to the Muse app is to use it in a way that puts me back into control. I use the Go-to-Sleep monitors almost exclusively, as these sessions monitor mind, heart, and body at the same time. My best sessions are always with the Stillness soundscape, with the volume toggled down. It keeps the app just on the periphery of my hearing, so that Im only roused when each session ends.
With the birds, sounds, feedback, and instructions turned up, I consistently find that I end my sessionsmore agitated than I started, and I have the biofeedback to prove it. But everyones meditation experiences are different, and I like that Muse has found a way to make their app work for both kinds of people!
The Muse App from the Perspective of a Serious Meditator
I finished this review with my partner, who is a long-time meditator and tech geek. He was the one who noted that location services are required for the app to work on Android (I didnt have the same experience on iOS), and he had the same issues with the Muse app as I did: the headband is great, but the instruction videos are irritating because of their unskippable nature.
Funnily enough, we also had the same reaction to Muses bird sounds, which chirp in the app whenever your mind is calm. They were a cause of frustration for both of us at the beginningbut after a few sessions (and volume adjustments), we both came to view them as a helpful tool for staying in the moment. For him, what made the Muse S Headband technology stand out was that it could measure heart rate and brain activity at the same time, which are his two primary biofeedback indicators.
His final words on the device? I found an active change in my meditating because I was trying to achieve a calm state And it was a big ego boost.
I walked into this review expecting to love the Muse S Headband, and then quickly changed my mind about it. But I think I spoke too soon, because, after a few sessions, I had come right back around. The Muse S seriously enriched my meditation sessions, and its ability to confirm for me that I have been doing it right all along was invaluable.
I taught myself to meditate in order to fall asleep quickly, and was able to modify my technique over the years to help deal with the emotional impacts of being in pain all the time. (Fibromyalgia group, say hey!) So, if you struggle to fall asleep, I think the Muse is worth trying in its headband format. Though I cant promise that itll work for you; learning to meditate helped me turn my entire sleep schedule aroundand the Muse confirmed my progress in a way that I think could be very reliable for those who want to do the same.