The two main brainwave entrainment technologies on the market are isochronic tones and binaural beats.
But how do they work and which is better?
Moreover, how can you know which technology is best suited to you?
Okay, well, don't lose your head just yet. Because as always I can help.
In this post I'll also reveal the diffeences between the two technologies, which in turn will help you decide which suits your ears best.
Isochronic Tones vs Binaural Beats
1. Binaural Beats – The People's Favorite
The original and still most popular, binaural beats have had a near strangle-hold on the brainwave entrainment market for years.
Affordable, reliable and proven to work in numerous studies, binaural beats are typically the most preferred form of brainwave entrainment.
Binaural beats work by sending a different frequency to each ear. When hearing the two frequencies simultaneously, the brain effectively creates a third tone at the mathematically difference.
For example, if a 310 Hertz sound frequency is sent to the left ear, and a 315 Hertz to the right ear, the brain will process and interpret the two frequencies as one 5 Hz frequency.
The brain then follows along at the new frequency (5 Hz), producing brainwaves at the same rate of Hertz (Hz). The technical term for this process is ‘frequency following response’. (Source: Binauralbeatsmeditation.com)
- Proven to work in numerous studies
- Technology has been around for dozens of years
- Massively accessible – hundreds of choices
- Affordable – online prices around $9.99-15
- Guaranteed results (in most cases)
- Requires headphones for the full effects
- Lots of poor quality around from amateur producers – be careful what you buy!
3) Isochronic Tones – The Ugly Cousin
I call isochronic tones the “ugly cousin” because of their sound. They sure ain't pretty to listen to, and many people are put off by this fact.
In terms of online popularity, isochronic tones is a newer form of brain wave entrainment but the theory behind how it works is as old as binaural beats.
Whereas binaural beats utilize two tones (one played into each ear), isochronic tones use just one tone. This one tone repeatedly turns on and off in a pattern (more like pulsating), with the speed depending on the frequency(s) used.
This may seem like a minor distinction, but it means that you don't need headphones.
For some this is an exciting development, but are tones better?
There really isn't any scientific evidence to back this up. And actually isochronic tones are not as effective for entrainment in the lower frequency ranges (delta, theta).
Personally, I dig them in the higher beta and gamma ranges, but as mentioned previously, the sound is an acquired taste and not for everyone.
One issue for me is that I find that you need to be near the speakers, otherwise the effects are nowhere near as pronounced. I'll be honest, I end up using my headphones a lot of the time, so the fact that you don't require headphones is a moot point.
Also consider that if you're at work, or at home with a noisy family, you want to block out the sound when doing brainwave entrainment anyway.
- Don't need headphones.
- Listen out loud with friends.
- Some find the initial effect powerful, but the longer term effect not as pronounced.
- More for brainwave entrainment nerds who really want to hear the frequencies pumping in their ears.
- Tones must be very audible in the recording for proper entrainment.
- Sound is not as pleasant as binaural beats.
- Not very good entrainment in the lower frequency ranges like theta and delta.
- No peer-reviewed research studies to back up effectiveness.
So Which is Better – Isochronic Tones or Binaural Beats?
I tend to stick with binaural beats because this is what I've used from the start. I have experimented with isochronic tones and in the gamma range I find them quite good, though friends of mine can't stomach the sound and think I'm a nut for listening.
The thing is, I tend to use music for focus, meditation and stress relief, and binaural beats have a proven track record in this area.
I'm also not that fussed about not wearing headphones. I like to be in my own head space, with headphones on.
I also feel that entrainment is much stronger in headphones even with isochronic tones, because with speakers you need them to be pretty much perfectly aligned with your ears – imagine sitting on a chair with the speakers about half a meter away on either side of your ears.
I mean, it makes sense, right? The concentration of frequencies straight to ears is more likely to have a greater effect that an inconsistent tone coming to your ears from a distance, or from speakers that aren't directly in line with your hearing channel.
Where to Buy Your Beats and Tones
All said and done, brainwave entrainment is about experimentation, and you may come across some recordings that don't work well for you, and others that you couldn't live without.
So work out what's best for you and build a catalogue based on that premise, not on what type of technology was used to create the music.
Some people swear by binaural beats and just can't deal with the sound of isochronic tones, and other people get a real rush out of isochronic tones at the high frequency levels.
So maybe try binaural beats for relaxation, focus, sleep, pain relief etc., and isochronic tones for energy, high-level wakefulness, memory enhancement, etc.
If you're new to all this, you will find binaural beats to be an effective entry point. That said, with any type of music, your experience is related to what you hear – so make sure you buy some professionally produced tracks.
Avoid the crap you get on YouTube, most of it isn't even what it says on the description and it's just people uploading to chase views. Plus the files played back through YouTube are super compressed and the entrainment therefore significantly reduced. I keep meaning to do a post on this. I will soon!
Anyway, check out BBM .com. These guys are awesome. Their music is really well put together. It's high quality, harmonious and made by real musicians with an active interest in this area.
=> Click here to go to BinauralBeatsMeditation.com
For your isochronic tones, Unexplainable Store is a good bet. The store is full of weird and wonderful stuff, and it can be a little hit and miss because of the sheer quantity of music there, but Len has been around a long time and really knows what he's doing with isochronic tones.
I have been trying to find some good binaural beats for focus in house music or something like that — techno, even rock, I just can’t stand the ‘astral’ type for work. I was wondering if you could recommend an artist? Thanks
I don’t, no. That would be interesting though!
George OLeary says
I am aware of Lowery’s quad S patent, so how can I check to see if the audio file has ultra-high frequency sound in it, or not?
Open the file in an audio editing program like Soundforge or Audacity. Then zoom right in on the wave file. You should waveforms when you’ve zoomed in.
i’m definitely not an expert but am a curious onlooker and am wondering if you made an error when talking about binaural beats near the top. if one ear hears 310 Hz and the other ear hears 315 Hz, then wouldn’t the middle interpretation (the effective tone the brain ends up registering) be 312.5 Hz and not 5 Hz as you stated? if this wasn’t an error could you please elaborate on that math for me?
Hi Tommy, it is the mathematical difference between the two, so it would be 5 Hz.
John Keith says
I keep reading about his. A delta wave being 4hz, but how is this possible? Human cannot hear below 20hz. This part has been confusing me.
Hi John, because it is the resulting frequency that the brain perceives, not the frequencies you hear. There’s a deeper explanation here: https://www.binauralbeatsmeditation.com/human-hearing-binaural-beats/
Thanks for a nice article
Aprt from BBs and ITs there are also monaural beats and impulse waves.
The key problem of ITs is that they create subharmonics all over spectrum (e.g. if the pitch is 100 Hz and you will use 10 Hz modulation you will see during spectrum analyses a lot of spikes – not only at 100 Hz)
By impulse waves I mean a wave which like IT turns off and on but without any silence between impulses. This helps to limit subharmonics to 2: 90 Hz and 110 Hz in the example above
So personally I think that monaural beats and impulse waves are way more predictable.
Elliot C says
I personally have tried both binaural and isochronal tones and prefer isochronal for all ranges because it has had a stronger effect on me (particularly the SMR, gamma and hyper-gamma ranges.) However recently I have started to dive into the very extremes of brainwaves, and while I can feel strong effects of lambda (184hz in my entrainment) with isochronal entrainment, I don’t feel the effects of epsilon very much. I know that epsilon and lambda brainwaves are very rarely recognized by the general community, but what would you recommend I try for epsilon (0.3-0.8hz for me)?
That can be the case for some, as I noted above, a general rule is that binaural beats are more effective in the lower frequencies such as delta, theta and alpha, and IT in the higher ranges. That said, binaural beats at 40 Hz (gamma) have been used to measure the impact of gamma on memory (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26410513/), but that’s lower gamma.
Lambda and epsilon is a complicated area. There is some overlap between the two, as I wrote about here: https://www.binauralbeatsfreak.com/brainwave-entrainment/epsilon-waves-lambda-waves There’s no notable research in this area so for, at the moment, it’s really a leap of faith and up to personal experimentation.
Elliot C says
What do you mean by IT? Also, thank you for your insight.
Isochronic Tones 🙂
Your knowledge impressed me, which leads me to asking you a question if I may. Are there any of these tones (BB or iso) that cures neuropathy? Chemotherapy caused mine and, according to my oncologist, won’t be going away. Please help if at all possible.
Hi Brenda, sorry, this type of therapy wouldn’t work for neuropathy. I have a friend who also suffered the same. I hope you are able to get some treatment that will help.
please sir how i can know frequency changes color hair and eyes and our genes
Hi Ahmed, this is not scientifically possible. Some poeple make these claims on the internet but you have to be realistic. This music is best used for decreasing stress and anxiety, improving mental clarity and performance, accessing higher states of consciousness and promoting healing.
I’m interested in the 40 hertz tones that researchers are using to treat Alzheimer’s. I think these are isochronic as they were able to do the treatment without headphones but I would appreciate your take on this.
I believe that they use a simple 40 hertz tone with no music. Do you think adding music might somehow detract from the therapeutic effect? I hope not. I’ve tried listening to the 40 hz tone alone – it’s not a pleasant experience.
Also to make sure I’m understanding- If a piece is advertised as 40hz binaural is the 40 the difference between left and right? It doesn’t necessarily contain an actual 40hz tone? The difference wouldn’t have the same effect as listening to the tone itself – would it?
Thanks for your time.
Yes, 40Hz would be the mathematical difference between the tones sent to the left and right ears. So if they sent 200Hz to the right ear and 240hz to the left ear, 40 Hz is the resulting frequency, the frequency that the brain interprets and subsequently follows along to (is entrained to). Whether it is an isochronic tone, monaural tone or a binaural beat, it is still 40Hz.
The idea behind improving memory and treating Alzheimer’s is based on the effect that gamma waves have on memory. One of the most promising studies to date used a 40 Hz binaural beat (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26410513) and determined that ‘Statistical analysis showed a proportional relationship between long-term memory and gamma activity’.
Thanks for the information. I didn’t know that 40 hz would be the same no matter it’s form. I thought maybe the low rumble of the monaural might what was causing the effect. Glad to know there are options. The research is indeed very promising.
I was curious if the any of the crystal packs from the explainable store actually work other than the Christ consciousness and ESP and spiritual ones, does anyone have any experience?
I ave to say, I don’t have a great knowledge of crystals so I can’t really advise here and I haven’t tried theirs. I’m reading more on this area this year and hope to post on it once I have more experience.
Steve Newton says
Glad I found this site. Can you steer me towards more information on how to properly engineer and record the beats and tones? I don’t have a back ground in this, but have an idea I’d like to explore with a reputable party. Your suggestion about much of the content online being sub-standard quality has my attention, hence the interest in talking to an expert. I’m pretty sure there’s more to it than buying some recording software and trying to figure it out on my own. Thanks.
Hi Steve, like making normal music most producers will use a professional audio program like Logic Pro Audio or Cubase. Not all content is sub-standard but YouTube is very hit and miss and not practical for this type of music. There are a few cowboy vendors but the good guys are proper businesses and do what they do well and it shows. If you want to play around with making tones and beats you can try amateur software like Gnaural. There’s a couple of other tone generators around if you Google about.
John Schumacher says
Grandpa John here, Perhaps I “tried” the wrong Binary Beat for me. I got an immediate headache; though I “tried” to relax, I became nauseous. Any recommendations – I’m trying to turn on alpha wave forms. I’m currently “stuck” in focused attention, Beta, dominantly 15 Hz frequency. As most people, I don’t feel stressed, but hypertension is not a feeling either. Thank you for your time – I appreciate you providing some help.
Hi John, interesting: this can happen with intense high frequency entrainment in high beta or gamma; but is rare. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, amateur productions often contain dissonance, whereby the music/ambience and binaural frequencies lack harmony. Often the tone is so loud and pounding and conflicting with the music that it repels the listener and after listening for sometime causes you to feel nauseous or to have a headache.
Try something like Zen Focus or Anxiety Release, both found here: https://www.binauralbeatsmeditation.com/product-category/alpha-waves/. You might even do well to test some tracks that use theta and alpha frequencies at different points in the composition. This Love Attraction track is very relaxing: https://www.ennora.com/products/love-attraction/
I need something for after surgery nerve pain. Will this work?
Try this one: https://www.binauralbeatsmeditation.com/product/pain-relief/
All the best!
Thanks for your site and your expertise! I just watched a presentation of a package to buy a ‘non program’ that retrains the ‘software’ of the brain through the use of Theta tones and offers a bonus Delta Tones program for sleep. I was concerned about the authenticity of the product even though the offer cost appears fair.
The reviews were interesting and another reviewer from an individual (unassociated) blog mentioned despite having purchased the program the reviews (from the actual site) based on his research at the time of purchase were not authentic. That said I am still considering purchase because the current offer price is reasonable and even the skeptical reviewer shared he had experienced success after use. I wanted to learn more about the techniques the program was using because I found something else in the advertising that didn’t seem to have a basis in accuracy. I understand the world of sales and people say what they believe they have to say to sell.
‘Any-hoo’ the use of the tones made absolute sense to me. There are just ideas and things (chatter) I want to shut off completely. I tried something a few years ago that I believe made a difference and it was sending one tone and affirmations in one ear and another tone and another ear in the other. Fast-forward back to tonight and the desire to check out Theta and Delta tones. Like one of your commenters below I ended up at Youtube looking and listening for just a few minutes to videos labeled Binaural and Isochronic beats. I scrolled through the comments of one video and a commenter’s question said essentially” that one video/tone cannot be both isochronic and binaural, which is it? ‘very important to know’ ” A couple of more searches landed me here.
I AM so GRATEFUL for your clear writings and open threads to discuss the differences, pros and cons of binaural and isochronic beats. I haven’t decided whether to purchase the program i am thinking or not. I do know that I have prayed for a solution to eliminate so much chatter in my brain. As a math teacher and chess teacher who studies Spiritually I adore practical science applications for changes in the mind as hosted by the brain. I am thinking of finding beats on my own. I want to start with Binaural Beats and after 21 days and then try iosocrhonic. Where would you suggest purchase of Good Binaural Beats? Isichronic? Do the type of headphones matter? Brand?
thanks for your awesomeness!
No worries, let me address your points one by one:
1. You are right to be concerned about the authenticity of some programs. I am not such a big fan of “programs or systems”, even though they are most attractive to people because they offer a “quick fix solution” that doesn’t require you to have to do any thinking/research – you just buy the system and wait for the magic to happen. That’s why marketers create them!
Many of these “programs” don’t offer any technical information regarding the music or frequencies used. They also rush you into a purchase with a time sensitive offer, which stops you asking questions and looking around: so I’m glad you ended up here in your search for more information.
2. Regarding the use of binaural beats and isochronic tones simultaneously is experimental at best and there isn’t any research as to whether this would be effective. Are you sure the video wasn’t split into half and half, rather than both at the same time?
The key problem with Youtube recordings is that generally they are heavily compressed files (by nature of YT’s processing), and amateur productions, which poses a number of problems in terms of effectiveness. The music is usually random, and although it may sound nice is generally not tuned to a frequency that complements the intention of the binaural or isochronic frequencies (the state it is seeking to entrain your brain to). There is often conflict between the composition; dissonance that affects the entrainment. Apologies if that is a tad technical for you, but I study music somewhat so this is of interest to me.
They often use third party music too; so they just take a piece of meditation music purchased elsewhere and create a binaural or iso track separately and lay it underneath. That is not a professional way to produce this type of music. Many marketing-based “programs/systems” also adopt this approach. In fact there are only a handful of trustworthy stores around. I tend not to name the bad ones because I don’t think that is fair and after all it is my opinion, but what I try to do here is help people cut through the BS and find good quality stuff from stores that also provide good customer service and don’t ignore emails once a purchase is made.
3. As you may have read in my article, binaural beats are very good for theta and delta (low frequency wave) entrainment. So for what you are trying to achieve, I recommend the following:
If you are interested in guided meditations for relaxation that also contain theta waves, check out Kelly Howell’s catalogue. I am very picky when it comes to guided stuff because the voice really affects me, but She is defo one of the best.
You won’t go wrong with these stores. They also do packs, and multiple purchases work out cheaper; so essentially you can create your own program. You can also just buy 1 or 2 tracks to start with rather than committing a lot of money to a complete program.
4. Headphones wise, you can start with standard ear buds but I do suggest something that offers a little better frequency response and a more “in-head” sound, as will help with your goal of centering your mind and calming that chatter. I have an article on headphones here: https://www.binauralbeatsfreak.com/binaural-beats/what-are-the-best-binaural-beats-headphones
I hope you understand all this and that it helps. Hope you stick around and find some great brainwave music to enjoy.
You are so awesome! I am so glad I found you and your site. I followed everything you said in your reply. I am a creative with heavy background in math and science.
I daily work to clear negative limiting beliefs acquired over time. The program I am reviewing is attractive because quite frankly I believe we all grew up with loving, intentional and some defensive teachings to caution us about the world and its responses to us concerning race, culture, gender and finance (to name a few). It’s clear that some people grow up taking it in with love and a grain of salt and some of us have developed what feels like high level walls to even our own ‘good’ and prosperity in various forms (money, abundance, relationships, career, purpose and even spiritually). While I witness some real and distinct shifts in my life based on meditation, prayer, EFT Tapping and other mindful practices, I did try some binaural recordings a while back without knowing what it was and I truly believe it helped. I just knew so little a bout the science or that it had a name. I Am continuing the work of entraining (and retraining) my brain, because quite frankly that’s the aim of most spiritual practices from ACIM, Christianity, Bhuddism or any other spiritual walk and practice. I was attracted to the program because at its best they want to help people make lasting change. I am looking to overwrite limiting beliefs and programming. I believe the neuroplasticity of the brain can do it. I just want the most effective tools. It sounds like binaural beats and isochronic tones are ah-mazing tools! Thank you again. I will check out the sites you’ve listed. Thanks AGAIN!
No worries Danna. All the best to you.
thanks for the info. would either isochronic or binaural have any effect if played through a mono speaker, like as in a single ceiling speaker in a massage room? it seems that could be beneficial to the person receiving the massage, no?
I think the isochronic tone might as it doesn’t require a left and right signal. That said, the speaker should be quite near for entrainment, which is why headphones are ideal.
hello, I see a lot of free binaural beats on youtube, do you recommend them?
Not really. Many are not produced properly. Also, the compression is a big factor in lowering quality and affecting entrainment. Even if a high bit-rate file is loaded up, YT applies compression, and then compression is applied again through the web streaming. It is always preferable to own the high bit-rate files.
Hey,This is really well reasearched info right here.
I just wanted to ask are there any beats to increase focus and concentration and beats for inspiration or charging up the mind…..???By The Way, This is A Great portal for info on Binaural Beats.
Hey Sam, yes, sure!
Check these out: https://www.binauralbeatsmeditation.com/product/zen-focus/
Firstly your sight is awesome. I just wasted over an hour researching when I came upon you’re sight to learn everything I was seeking to know and understand. So thank you. The next thing I wanted to researches this: Is it safe to listen to binaural beats just before bed or not. If you have any info, ideas or research to back this up that’d be awesome. Thanks again for the awesome info and website.
Hi Christina, glad you found me!
Here’s some general guidelines on this topic.
The answer is yes, but make sure they are theta waves (generally used for relaxation), or delta waves (generally used for inducing sleep). Don’t use alpha or beta wave tracks before bed as these are likely to stimulate your mind for creative thinking and inspiration (alpha) and high level brain activity (beta).
If you want a great sleep track, check out this new Blissful Sleep track.
Hope this helps!
I personally tried both binaural beats and isochronic tones….
binaural beats seem to work better, way better…
Hey Ali, that is my general experience too. What I find strange is that some stores charge like $5 more for isochronic tones! I know from experience that it doesn’t cost any more to make them so why this is I don’t know.
Have a great day!
BB do not work at all without headphones but it’s not fair to compare BB using headphones with isochronic using speakers over in the corner of the room which is I suspect how some people are comparing it’s effectiveness.
That being said some people prefer BB because isochronic tones are displeasing to them . kinda defeats the purpose of meditation if the you find the induction method displeasing.