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.
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.