Perhaps you’ve seen pictures of people lying in giant machines that record brain activity, or a man running on a treadmill with dozens of little wires attached to his muscles.
These devices are usually big, expensive, and operated by people that have been taught how to use them. That could be a thing of the past.
We can now record the same activity using much smaller, inexpensive, and easy-to-use wearable technology that can easily use at home.
You attach these wearable devices to your body in order to measure physiological activity–heart rate, body temperature, respiratory rate, muscle tension, and brain waves.
This is called biofeedback. Having immediate feedback from your body can allow you to better understand and react to different mental states.
When it comes to monitoring your brain waves, this form of biofeedback is known as neurofeedback.
Imagine seeing your brainwave activity in real-time, while meditating or while feeling stressed at work, and being able to adapt what you’re doing to get better results. That’s the promise of neurofeedback.
The possibilities are endless, it’s putting our mental health and brain fitness in our own hands, where we can now see and interact with our body and mind in new and exciting ways.
The Wearable EEG Meditation Headset
Affiliate disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means we get a small commission if you purchase. There is no cost to you and in some cases you get a discount. Thank you for your support.
Neurofeedback headsets measure your brain waves using a technology called EEG. They’re small bands that sit easily on your head and measure brainwave activity through small sensors.
EEG stands for Electroencephalography, but you’ll be forgiven for not remembering that. It measures voltage fluctuations from ionic current flows within the neurons of the brain.
The activity measured using EEG can be very detailed and complex, and dependent on the area of the brain, but a great place to start is the different levels of activity we can find:
- Gamma Waves – (31 Hz+) — Hyper alert, good for insights and higher learning.
- Beta Waves – (14 – 30 Hz) — The awake state. Engaged in activities and conversation.
- Alpha Waves – (8 – 13.9 Hz) — Relaxed, daydreaming, and meditation.
Theta Waves – (4 – 7.9 Hz) — Dreaming sleep (REM), this is the goal for meditation or self-hypnosis.
- Delta Waves – (0.1 – 3.9 Hz) — When in a deep, dreamless sleep. Newborns sleep in this stage, adults less so.
Learn how to recognize these different brain wave states so you can identify different states of consciousness when you’re in meditation.
Discover the key differences between Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta brainwave patterns and the relationship between brain waves and meditation in this overview video:
Brain science is complex stuff, but interesting and well worth investigating further, of course, that’s made all the easier with the wearable EEG headsets available today, so let’s examine them:
1. Muse: The Brain Sensing Headband
The Muse 2 was originally released in 2016 and it quickly become the leading wearable EEG meditation headset for home use.
In addition to real-time monitoring of your brainwaves, the Muse also tracks your heart rate and respiration. Their iPhone and Android apps are the best in class with lots of options to choose from for guided meditation experiences.
The latest version called the Muse S was released in 2020 with additional features for tracking sleep and it is much more comfortable to wear.
A Muse premium subscription costs $99/year ($11.99/month in the app). They are always adding new content and have a thriving community of brainwave hackers.
Additional third-party apps like Mind Monitor allow you to use the Muse to get live EEG brainwave data and there are also additional tools available for home-based neurofeedback.
✅ Muse helps you meditate with brainwave-enhanced audio meditation sessions
✅ They have by far the best app, guided meditations library and online community
✅ The Muse S is the most comfortable wearable meditation headband
❌ The Muse 2 is a little clunky and needs to be wiped down on occasion to get a reliable connection
❌ Some head movements such as yawning or sudden turning of the head can loosen the sensors
2. Flowtime: Biosensing Meditation Headband
Flowtime is a biosensing meditation headband that first came out in 2018. It looks like it was modeled after the successful Muse Headband and it can also track heart rate, brainwaves, and respiration.
It doesn’t feel as sturdy as the Muse 2 headband and its biggest limitation is the app offers much less functionality and guided meditations than Muse.
The advantage of Flowtime over the Muse is the app makes it easier to see how your brainwaves, heart rate variability (HRV), and respiration rate change during your session and it does a slightly better job of helping you track your improvements over time than the Muse.
They offer 3 months of free meditation training in the app then charge $69/year for the guided meditation programs or you can buy monthly for $9.99/month.
✅ Slightly cheaper and similar design to the Muse 2 headband
✅ Get useful reports about your brainwaves and HRV for each session
✅ Track your improvements over time
❌ Also a little clunky, sensors are finicky and need to be wiped down on occasion
❌ Less guided audio meditations and neurofeedback training in the app than Muse
Available for $199 on the Flowtime website (get a 10% off with our link).
3. Enophone: EEG Monitoring Headphones
I’ve been waiting for a long time for a pair of noise-cancelling headphones that combined EEG activity monitoring to improve your focus and productivity. That’s the promise of Enophone.
Dubbed the “Fitbit For The Brain” by its Montreal-based founders Jacob Flood and David Doyon, the Enophones started as a promising crowdfunded wearable EEG headphones and I was rather disappointed when I heard the startup ran out of funding in the fall of 2022.
Fortunately, that wasn’t the end of the Enophone story. In the summer of 2023, this product was back to life when Moonshot.la scooped up the remaining assets and technology patents from the bankruptcy sale.
That’s means there is finally have a well-funded startup that is making wearable EEG headphones that can help knowledge workers get more focused and access more flow in their work.
They have excellent sound quality powered by Onkyo and a great design and build quality that makes them feel like premium active noise cancellation (ANC) headphones but there’s still a lot of work to be done to fully tap into the potential of the EEG technology built into these headphones.
In the meantime, they have a nice integration of brainwave entrainment music to access states of focus, flow, calm and sleep. I’m excited to see what the new developers add to these headphones.
✅ Premium active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones with sound by Onkyo
✅ Comfortable and easy to wear for long periods of time spent at work
✅ Integration of brainwave entrainment music in the new iPhone app
❌ Over 7 years since the original Kickstarter campaign and still haven’t lived up to their promise
❌ The new iPhone app has just been released and they are no longer supporting the desktop productivity tracker
Price: $399 on their website (Get 20% off with discount code 20OFFENO2024)
Want to track your mental performance in real-time while you work or learn? That’s what the Pylot is capable of doing.
Think of accessing a flow state at work as a form of active meditation where you bring your attention to a single-pointed focus on a meaningful and challenging task. The Pylot may help you get in this transformative mental state.
This wearable headband combines electroencephalogram (EEG) and heart rate variability (HRV) sensors allowing it to track mental fatigue and optimal states like flow and focused deep work.
It’s the most inexpensive option on the list at $149 and it possibly offers the most value if it’s able to improve your attention and productivity at work.
It gives you real-time feedback on your flow and your fatigue. While this tracking of your cognitive performance can help you better plan your day, it’s not clear how it will transform your productivity.
✅ The cheapest option available
✅ Helped you track your mental performance in real-time
✅ Could be helpful for improving deep work and flow states
❌ Under development since 2019 and will finally be released in November
❌ It’s not clear how it improves productivity and accessing flow states
Price:Pre-order for $149
5. BrainTap: The Brain Fitness Headset
The BrainTap headset uses guided visualization along with LED light therapy and brainwave entrainment frequencies to shift your mind into a mental state where you feel energized, focused, and relaxed.
Launched in 2014 after decades of clinical neuropsychology research by its creator Patrick K. Porter, Ph.D. it includes over 1,800 guided audio programs that use binaural beats, isochronic tones, and 3D soundscapes.
The most interesting thing about this wearable EEG headset is that it helps you to retrain your brain to improve your body’s natural sleep pattern so you wake up feeling more refreshed each day. There have been a number of studies showing that using it can reduce jetlag and improve time spent in deep sleep.
This EEG headset seems a little expensive to me at $647 given the cheap plastic built quality and the fact that you need to pay an additional $10-30/month for the different subscriptions in their app.
✅ If you’re suffering from insomnia, this might be the best option for you.
✅ Excellent selection of 3D soundscapes and brainwave entrainment music.
❌ Cheap plastic built quality that feels a little fragile.
❌ Expensive and you have to pay an additional $12/month for the app.
Available for $647 on the BrainTap website.
The Future of Wearable Meditation Technology
It’s clear that we’re entering a new age of insight into ourselves, wearable technology and biofeedback are only going to continue to grow as new technology comes along.
Simply consider that while EEG has been around since the early 1900s, we’re at a point now where we can purchase our own devices, measure our brainwaves, and adjust our lives more effectively to deal with stress and improve our focus.
Whatever your choice of meditation headset, make sure you take full advantage of it. Life is full of stress and anxiety these days, so learning about yourself and how to overcome those problems better is going to make a huge impact on your health and happiness.