Muse

Muse S is a soft meditation device that teaches you to hear the birds sing

How to breathe and empty your mind using the latest wearable launching from Muse

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Muse, the company that promised to calm your mind by reading the brain waves in your head, is back with a new device: one that's more comfortable, while rewarding you with singing birds when you've achieved an optimum state of calm. Muse S launches today along with an updated app that includes more than 300 meditations, and connects to your wearable to provide biofeedback.

We've spent the past two weeks with this new Muse S device and the updated app, to see if we think it is a keeper, or just another gadget likely to gather dust in our room.

The Muse S, sensor and charger Muse S works with the app to open up more than 300 meditations to useGearBrain

What is Muse

Muse is a wearable headband you wear that connects to an app on your phone and promises to pick up activity in your brain to help you calm down. The company launched in 2014 and debuted its first product, Muse, which we reviewed, and was made of a hard plastic, that wrapped around the front and side of the head.

The company later released Muse 2, which appeared in 2018, and now has the Muse S, a device made of fabric, that's soft enough to sleep in it, one of the new ways the company is encouraging people to now use Muse.

How does Muse work

Muse works fairly simply, although there are a few caveats to making sure you're getting the best results. The device is actually three parts: a soft headband that wraps around your forehead, touching your head and also the skin behind your earlobes with sensors. There is also the main device, which clips into the headband, and then the Muse app which links them together.

You're also going to need earbuds or a headset as the real feedback you get is through audio playback. You can certainly see the data in the app, and you can use Muse as a data collector, but the audio, which takes you through the meditation is the enjoyment.

You launch Muse by putting it on your head, and then connecting to the app which needs to read and calibrate each of the sensors. This can actually take a few minutes, and if there is a hair tucked behind your ear, and in between your skin and the sensor, you may need to readjust the headband and start over.

The main sensor for the new Muse S The main sensor clips into the headband, and is calibrated through the appMuse

Once the app is calibrate, Muse will start you with short meditation tracks. What you hear depends on the activity the device picks up on while you're wearing it: loud rainfall when your mind is busy, near silence and singing birds when you're calmer.

The device not only picks up your brain's activities, but also your breath, heart and the movement of your body. I started with just a three minute meditation — and you are given a read out at the end that shows you just how well you were able to recover from an active mind to a calmer one, and how long you were able to stay more clear.

Meditation is not just about keeping yourself calm, but actually a process of clearing your mind of distraction. That doesn't mean chilling out from a recent argument with your best friend. Nor does it mean singing a happy tune in your head. It's actually a place where your mind rests — and when you're doing it successfully it's not only calming, it's actually energizing, like waking up from a long nap ready to go. In a very short amount of time, I was able to reach this point using the app.

The app from Muse showing a meditation session The Muse app tracks the state of your brain during a meditation sessionGearBrain

The app

The Muse app is where the device sings —quite literally. Through the app, you select the time you want to meditate. As you sit, as you mind clears, you may hear birds sing. This is a sign that your brain waves are calming, that your brain is calming. The first few times I tried Muse I actually did get to hear the birds, but I found it a struggle because each time they started to warble, my brain would chase their song. And of course, they would disappear. But as I used the app more, I found the birds would sing longer — and the time would, forgive me, fly by as well.

The company has also launched new features called Go-to-Sleep Journeys, which help you fall asleep through different audio playbacks. The new Muse S was redesigned for this feature — to be comfortable enough to wear while sleeping.

Cost

This kind of exercise and feedback, however, does not come freely. You're going to pay $349.99 for the Muse device, and the app is $12.99 a month, or $94.99 a year. That's not inexpensive and a far price jump from the price of the original Muse which you can still pick up for $149. It's certainly a price point that someone needs to consider — you don't want to have a $350 barely used item in your home.

Sensors on the Muse S headband that connect to their skin It's important to make sure the Muse S and its sensors make a clean connection with the skinGearBrain

Verdict

For those looking to jumpstart a meditation routine for the new year, ideally someone who has had some experience with the practice, even a few dabbles, Muse is a solid investment. The gamification of the app — letting you hear birds as a sign you're on the right track — is the key to the success, I found. Keeping the birds singing, finding the right balance to calming the brain waves, was also enjoyable, like finding that point of flow.

The device itself was very comfortable to wear, the app simple to use, the data easy to find and the entire experience enjoyable. If you're not put off by the price, I definitely recommend the new Muse S, certainly as part of any practice someone currently has — or someone wants to launch for this new year.

Pros:

  • Comfortable to wear
  • App is easy to navigate
  • You get to hear birds singing when the mind of clear

Cons:

  • Price
  • Calibration can take a few minutes and is needed each time you use it
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