I received my Muse S yesterday and would like to share some initial impressions and suggestions for improvement.
First, the un-boxing was a really nice experience. It was like un-boxing an Apple product. The packaging was very premium quality and much smaller than I anticipated. The box was literally smaller than the box my Apple watch came in.You can tell they put a lot of effort into making a good first impression
The device itself looks and feels super-premium. The power source and CPU attach to the center of the headband using a strong magnet that snaps into place with a satisfying click. Likewise, the clasp that holds the band in place also uses a strong magnet, rather than a conventional plastic snap connector. It’s also very stylish. You could wear this in public without attracting much attention. It might even make a good conversation starter! Most importantly, it’s super comfortable to wear. It feels like you’re wearing a normal headband I’ve been wearing it for two days straight now, without any problem, no headaches or anything. I slept with it on last night and wasn’t bothered by it at all.
I’ve never meditated before and didn’t buy it for that purpose, though now that I have it, I’m excited to try out different meditations. I bought the Muse S for two reasons:
I have high blood pressure and there’s a lot of scientific evidence suggesting the technique used in the Muse breathing meditation can lower blood pressure significantly.I previously purchased and subsequently returned a $300 Resperate unit that’s FDA approved to lower blood pressure using a breathing meditation. While the Muse S is not FDA approved for anything, after using both devices, I can say the Muse S breathing meditation is pretty much the same thing as the Resperate’s, plus the Muse S does a lot more than just breathing meditations. Also, the Resperate uses a wired band with a pressure sensor to detect your breathing and wired ear buds; very inconvenient to use.
I often have trouble falling asleep and the Muse S is specifically designed as a sleep aid. I previously purchased and returned the $500 Dreem headband, which is a dedicated sleep aid and sleep tracker. Not only did the Dreem look completely ridiculous, but it was uncomfortable to sleep with it on, which pretty much defeated the purpose of all its advanced sensors and technology.
So, the theoretical appeal of the Muse S for me, was that it replaced the functionality of two other devices, while offering much additional functionality and being more comfortable and stylish than either of those devices.
I tried the breathing meditation yesterday and it works as advertised. As I mentioned, it’s pretty much the same thing that the Resperate does as a dedicated device. I did a 15-minute session and it accurately tracked my breathing, using audio cues to help me keep in sync. Afterwards, I was able to review the session using detailed graphs. I haven’t tried any of the other meditations yet, but I intend to try them out soon.
Last night, I tried a sleep journey. This is where I discovered the Muse S leaves much room for improvement:
The Muse S has no built-in speakers. I knew this when I bought it, but still, it was a bit of a “duh” moment when I was getting ready for bed and realized I’d have to either use my iPhone speaker or my Airpods, neither of which seemed ideal for sleeping. I opted for the Airpods and it was fine when I sleeping on my back, but it prevented me from being able to sleep on my side. I’ve now ordered a Dreampad sleep pillow to try out. This is a pillow that delivers sound via bone induction rather than conventional speakers, so when your head is on the pillow, you’re immersed in the sound. While I think it would be more convenient if the Muse S had built-in speakers, I realize it might be difficult to add this feature without compromising comfort.
The Muse S does NOT support sleep tracking! What the actual hell??? How can a company release an EEG headband, with a 10-hour battery life, specifically advertised as a sleep device and not include sleep tracking? It seems like the device hardware was engineered specifically for sleep tracking, but the app doesn’t support it. I was so shocked by this that I went back and re-read the Muse website to make sure I wasn’t missing something. Sure enough, there’s no mention of sleep tracking on the website. I just assumed it would support it, since every similar device I’ve looked at and tried, supports sleep tracking.
The “Sleep Journeys” are just meh. There’s maybe a dozen to choose from and they only last for 10 - 20 minutes, which is not enough time for me to fall asleep. Supposedly, they adapt to your brainwaves to play different sounds depending on your mental state, but I didn’t notice this happening. The big problem is, after the Sleep Journey ends, the device shuts off and that’s it! If you haven’t yet fallen asleep, you have to open the app and manually start another Sleep Journey. From such a hi-tech device, I’d expect that it would continue playing the Journey at least until it detects that you’ve fallen asleep. It would be nice if you could play audio from another app, but since the Muse S does not support sleep tracking, I don’t even know what the point of using it for sleep is? I can just use an app like Soundly with my Dreampad pillow to help me fall asleep. Since it’s not doing much with the sensors, the Muse S isn’t really offering any additional value over a typical iOS sleep app.
After the Sleep Journey ended and I was still wide awake, I tried one of the Soundscapes, which uses a timer, so you can play it for up to four hours. This is better than a 20-minute Sleep Journey, but still seems arbitrary. What if you want the sound to play all night, to prevent you from waking up in the middle of the night? What if you want it to play until you fall asleep? What if you want it to play until it’s time to wake up, then use a smart alarm to wake you when you’re not in a REM state? The whole point of an EEG headband is to be able to detect what’s going on in your brain and adapt accordingly. In its present form, the sleep features are actually worse than those offered by numerous iOS apps.
It’s also disappointing that the standard Muse app doesn’t support viewing and streaming raw EEG data. For that, you have to buy the Muse Direct app, which presently doesn’t support the Muse S. I ended up buying the Mind Monitor third-party app, which works great, but the UI is not very polished, so it feels like a hobbyist app, not in keeping with the premium feel of the Muse device. For $350, I think Muse should make Muse Direct a free download and add support for the Muse S.
Overall, I’m very happy with my Muse S and I intend to keep it. Even if the sleep features are junk, it’s worth it to me for the meditations. I’ve read in some other forum postings that Muse is working on adding sleep tracking and I hope that happens soon. It seems like they rushed the Muse S to market before the software was ready.