Take a look at this guest post from our friends at Massagers-And-More
Are you interested in buying a massage chair, but confused silly with all the different options out there? Not to worry, I was in your shoes about a year ago. With not enough resources and information, I’d find myself tirelessly scavenging the net comparing one chair to another. Safe to say that all paid off!
Since then my fascination for massage chairs has grown tremendously. I’ve written detailed reviews on 30 odd chairs, and continue to do so as new chairs get released.
The below 6 considerations are what I personally used/followed when I purchased my massage chair. Even though some items on this list may seem subjective, it’s worth paying attention to. Without further ado!
#1 Price $$$$$!
Massage chairs aren’t exactly cheap, and even the cheapest of chairs will run you a solid $400-500 easy. The higher end chairs can go up to the $10K mark!
Which is why it’s so important to get a handle on budget!
You must ask yourself the following questions specifically:
1. How much am I willing to spend in total? Total means everything i.e. shipping, install fees, taxes etc.
2. How do I wish to pay? Typically, you can either finance the chair (most places offer 0% interest) over a period of several months, or you can pay the entire amount in one shot.
It’s important you have a clear understanding of this before even looking at anything else. If you’re having difficulty coming up with a budget, just remember there’s no right or wrong answer. It’s about what you’re most comfortable spending.
If you’re okay spending $3K, fine. If you’re okay spending $6K, awesome. If you’re okay spending $500, swell!
If you have your budget nailed down, that’s it. Many people tend to budge from their set budget. Don’t be one of those people! Set yourself a budget!
#2 Roller System: 2D, 3D, or 4D?
Once you’ve determined your budget, next step is to decide on a roller system. As of present day (2019 April), there are 3 types of roller technologies to choose from:
2D rollers are the oldest technology you can find on a massage chair. They move in 2 dimensions i.e. up and down along the length of the back, and side to side across the width of the back.
Basically, a step up from 2D rollers. In addition to the horizontal and vertical movements, 3D rollers can also protrude in/out. This additional dimension makes 3D rollers capable of performing deep tissue massage.
The most technologically advanced roller system you can find on a massage chair. 4D rollers are the exact same as 3D, but with one major difference: roller speed control is automatic in a 4D system. In a 3D system, roller speed is something you must manually adjust.
So does that mean you should only buy a chair with 4D rollers?
Absolutely not! 4D is the best money can buy, no question, but 3D and 2D chairs are not far behind. What’s more is the incredible industry experience around 2D rollers. Because 2D technology has been around for decades, massage chair manufacturers truly understand how to get the most out of this technology.
What’s the catch?
It’s simple. It all boils down to intensity. If you’re specifically looking for a chair capable of massaging at high intensities, consider a 3D or 4D chair. If intensity isn’t a concern for you, pick a 2D chair!
#3 Roller Track
In #2 we discussed the different roller technologies, that’s only one half of the equation. The other half has to do with roller track. What is roller track anyways?
Roller track talks about the distance a set of rollers will follow.
For example, there are some massage chairs with rollers that can only travel from neck to tailbone (30-32’’), and then there are other chairs whose rollers can travel all the way to the hamstrings (47-52’’).
The longer the track, the better the massage!
If you’re able to afford it, I recommend you always go for a chair with an extended roller track. The extra roller coverage makes a world of difference when it comes to massaging the glutes and hamstrings.
#4 User Flexibility
This is something that often gets overlooked. If people paid more attention to this one thing, they’d end up saving so much time and money!
User flexibility is about how well a massage chair can accommodate users with varying heights and weights.
If you’re buying online, this becomes especially important to consider. If you’re buying offline, it’s still important, but not as much because you would have sat and tried the chair out.
No 2 chairs are the same!
And as such user flexibility can tend to vary from one chair to another. For example, chair X may be designed to fit in small, tight spaces, so as a result, it can only accommodate a height range of 5’0-6’0 ft. Chair Y on the other hand is designed to fit taller folks and has a height range of 5’2-6’4 ft. The same thing applies for weight.
Remember to check the height and weight limits before you buy!
The Novo XT2 is an example of a massage chair that has incredible user flexibility!
#5 Number Of Auto Modes!
Auto modes are preset or preprogrammed massage routines. They’re incredibly important for a few reasons:
1. Auto modes take away the guesswork from the user. In other words, the user doesn’t have to mess around with manual settings trying to figure out the optimum parameters for massage.
2. They keep things fresh. This is especially true for chairs that have 10+ auto modes! Because you have so many choices, massage is never repetitive and boring.
Most massage chairs generally tend to have on average 5 auto modes. Some of the better ones have 7-10, and some of the high-end ones have 30+!
#6 Massage Technology Other Than Rollers
The main roller system is arguably the most critical component to a massage chair, but it doesn't end there. There are several other components that also play a role in determining how good/bad a chair is. These are the airbags, calf rollers, and foot rollers.
Why are each of these components important?
Airbags and calf/foot rollers are important for 2 reasons:
1. They provide a massage technique different from the main roller system. For example, airbags inflate with air to provide a compression style massage.
2. They provide a massage to areas of the body where the main roller system can't reach. For example, the feet is one area where the main back rollers cannot reach.
That being said, one should always consider:
1. The number of airbags in a chair before buying. Look for a good spread across the chair!
2. The presence of calf and foot rollers. Foot rollers are a must have as far as I'm concerned. Calf rollers on the other hand is a feature you won't find in most massage chairs.
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In this segment of Keeping It Real, real-life customer Christopher shares a detailed review of his new Novo XT Massage Chair.
"I purchased this chair to replace an Osim iMedic 380 that was very worn. At almost ten years old it still worked perfectly, but the vinyl covering was ripped from heavy usage. When I started researching a replacement chair, I learned that some of the newer chairs have an L-track which allows the chair to massage the glutes. As a cycling enthusiast, I decided that my new chair should have this feature as I had always wished my old chair could do this.
Although I had read that the Japanese chairs tend to be a bit more sophisticated and of better quality, I had to rule them out as they don't have this feature or foot-rollers—another feature I wanted. Given that my previous Chinese-made chair never had technical issues, I don't consider this overly risky. I settled on the Novo XT as it was the only chair to my knowledge that had a 3D L-track at the time of purchase. I did not try the chair in-person before ordering.
Following are some of my opinions of the Novo XT. Keep in mind that I also get weekly massages from a massage therapist, so my standards for massage are high.
The chair looks good and seems well-built. In my opinion (very subjective) it's the best looking massage chair I've seen. That may not be saying much, though, as I think massage chairs are pretty ugly as a whole. This, at least, is not an ugly chair. The upholstery is tasteful and convincingly leather-like. Definitely a step-up from the vinyl-like material on my previous chair. Hopefully it will be more durable as well.
The L-track does not reach the upper hamstrings, but it does reach the upper to mid-buttocks. You get a decent glute massage with the Novo XT. Additionally, the hip airbags press the IT bands to a certain extent and on some settings can be quite powerful.
Neck, shoulder, back massage is good. It's nice to have the 3D feature which brings the rollers in or out to adjust intensity and as a massage technique. Helpful, because not every user prefers the same level of intensity.
I had initially thought that it was not possible to adjust the intensity for Auto Programs. While this is true for the 3D rollers, I want to mention that adjusting the intensity of the airbags massage (called Cloud Touch on this chair) is possible in all programs, manual or automatic. In fact, Cloud Touch intensity is easily adjusted by pressing the left or right arrow keys on the circular pad of the remote. It's not necessary to enter the settings menu to make an adjustment, although it can be done there as well. In addition, the display does a good job of showing you what the current Cloud Touch intensity setting is.
Although it seems as though the remote allows you to adjust 3D roller intensity with the auto programs, you'll notice in use that after you make a change, the auto program will quickly take over. In other words, if you choose "soft," in the auto program, it won't stay on that level. Now that I've used the chair more, I understand why it's designed this way. When choosing an auto program, the 3D rollers are used at various levels during the massage. At certain times and positions the massage will be deep, and others times it will be soft. This better mimics the techniques of a massage therapist.
In addition to intensity, the 3D feature is used as a massage technique with the automatic and deep tissue programs. The rollers can push into the tissue and not just roll or tap over it to create a stretching or hand-pressing sensation. This chair also has a true 3D mechanism. The effect is not created by simply inflating or deflating the surrounding airbags. Very nice.
Hand/forearm airbags work well. I don't have a lot of experience with these systems, but can't imagine them working much better. They inflate the different zones of the hand, wrist and forearm sequentially which is relaxing and therapeutic.
At first, I did not find the stretch feature to be very useful, but I've been surprised to find that I'm actually using the it. It's not an intense stretch, but I'm starting to like it, nonetheless. The default is to have the leg extension go down when stretching, but I've switched it to go out instead and this seems better to me.
The chair is specified for users up to 6'-9", but at 5'-10", trim and average build, I need to use the second-to-tallest setting for the proper neck height. I'm sure someone taller/heavier can use the machine, but even I find the chair to be a bit more cramped than expected. My understanding is that this is one of the larger chairs, so I'm glad I didn't get one that was smaller.
Calf, leg, foot massage is good. Foot rollers can be a little intense, but adjusting the overall massage intensity in the settings seems to be able to lessen the pressure. This is only possible in the manual program, though. Moving the leg module out with the remote also helps and that's possible at any time with any program.
The chair does not do a body scan before each program. Instead, it allows you to choose your height setting before each program begins. Fortunately, it generally remembers the last setting that was used. I prefer this, as it's faster than having to wait for a body scan simply to figure out your height. You can quickly adjust the back rollers so they don't hit the top of your head or miss your shoulders and you still have the option to change the setting at any time. It takes a little experimenting to figure out your "number," but then it becomes easy.
The chair does self-adjust for leg length which does not take much time and works pretty well. Leg setting is also easily manually adjusted at any time, if necessary. As I wrote above, extending the leg module outward can help if the roller effect is too intense.
To sum up, this chair has the ability to give a very good massage that is relaxing and therapeutic. It is good-looking, sturdily built and the upholstery feels and looks great. The 3D L-track is what separates this chair from most others and it works well to reach the glutes and as an added massage technique. The chair is comfortable while massaging and creates a nice cocoon-like feeling. Used as a lounger, the chair may feel hard and uncomfortable and the cocoon-like design works against it. It's a bit noisy, but not a deal-breaker. Remote control is good when using automatic programs, but just OK when using manual selections. The remote's intensity settings are confusing until you figure out that they're only applicable to the manual program. The remote's display, though, is very good."
-Christopher, Real-Life Cutomer