The two leading brainwave entrainment products sold worldwide are LifeFlow™ created by Michael Mackenzie from Project Meditation™ and Holosync® created by William (Bill) Harris, the Director of Centerpointe Research Institute. Together, both programs seem to dominate market share, however the reason has less to do with efficacy and more to do with massive sums of money given to advertising these programs. Michael and Bill are gifted internet marketeers. You can read more about Michael Mackenzie's LifeFlow™ meditation program here and Bill Harris' Holosync® program here.
We cannot comment on the effectiveness of either product other than to say that we are familiar with both products and we understand the technology used to manufacture each. The reality is that everyone’s experience is likely to be different. Some people rave about the virtues of entrainment from one company versus another. Some people actively defend their chosen product brand over another and seek to sway the opinions of others. Our comments are therefore limited to technical matters of difference but we hope that they may serve to help people who are confused by the hype.
Holosync® uses 13 levels beginning with Awakening Prologue. Following Awakening Prologue there are 4 Awakening Levels, 4 Purification Levels, and 4 Flowering Levels. Each level comprises 4 discs which includes a repetitive track that ramps from alpha to delta called The Dive. Holosync® products exclusively employ binaural tones and ramp the frequency up and down within each level. The only difference between the Holosync® levels is the carrier frequency that is used to entrain binaural beats, which gradually reduces across each level. The tones are embedded in a mix of other relaxing sounds including rain and chimes. The program encourages one hour of meditation each day and it is designed to be undertaken over 10 years.
Centerpointe claims that what makes their Holosync® approach uniquely effective is that they decrease the binaural carrier frequency with each successive level of the program. They argue that reducing the carrier frequency places a temporary "stress" on the brain which causes it to “grow,” much like a muscle would strengthen with repeated stress. While this hypothesis sounds pretty neat, there is no peer reviewed support for this claim. However, studies do show that the carrier frequency is important in binaural beats but not in the way Centerpointe claim. Because of the manner in which the human brain processes sound, optimal carrier frequencies have been identified for each binaural pulse rate and curves are available that plot carrier frequency against pulse rate. Deviating from identified optimal frequencies does not so much "stress" the brain but simply renders the entrainment less effective.
It is hard to ascertain the exact pricing for the different levels of Holosync® because each level cannot be ordered up front and instead is available sequentially. Users of Holosync®products claim each level costs between $140-$240.00 and that the entire program costs about $2000.00. That works out to be about $154.00 per level.
The marketing of LifeFlow™ is more transparent than the marketing of Holosync®. LifeFlow™ comprises 10 levels and is only available as MP3 downloads. The cost of the 10 levels is about $700.00 or $70.00 per downloadable level. LifeFlow™ can be purchased as a set.
The LifeFlow™ meditation program commences with 10 Hz (alpha) entrainment and finishes at 1 Hz (delta) and is designed to be undertaken over some months or a few years depending on the listener’s needs and fluency as they move from one level to the next. The idea is that practice with entraining to lower and lower frequencies not only permits the positive experiences that come with that frequency but also enhances ones ability to enter these brain states more rapidly and at will.
Where LifeFlow™ excels over Holosync is in its use of a mix of waveforms. Isochronic pulses produce the strongest entrainment effect available. The next most effective pulse for entrainment is monaural beats, while the least effective is binaural beats. LifeFlow™ uses all three tones and the pulses are clearly evident in their products. Additionally, LifeFlow™ does not ramp tones within each audio session on the basis that changing the pulse rate makes entrainment more difficult. There does appear to be some logic behind this rationale and various people have made claims that it takes 6-8 minutes of a consistent tone in order for entrainment to occur, at least for novices. For more experienced practitioners, entrainment may occur much more rapidly.
In 1973 Gerald Oster first popularised binaural beats, although they were not intended for entrainment purposes. Binaural tones are generated inside the olivary body within the brain as a consequence of a tone of a different pitch being played to each ear. The frequency of the pulse is the difference in frequency between the two auditory tones. For instance if a carrier tone of 175 Hz is presented to the left ear and a tone of 185 Hz presented to the right ear, the resulting experienced auditory pulse would be 10 Hz (185 – 175 = 10), which is in the alpha range. Unfortunately, the pulse is not the only sound that is heard with binaural beats as remnants of the individual tones are also heard as a tone.
Because both brain hemispheres are used to process the tones and generate the internal pulse, proponents of binaural beats claim that they produce "hemispheric synchronisation" and whole brain functioning. While this sounds quite interesting, there is also little evidence for this or for the claimed benefits of such whole brain functioning.
The most significant downside to using binaural beats is that the volume depth of binaural beats is very low. In fact, it is only about three decibels, which equates to about one tenth the volume of a whisper, resulting in a very weak neural response. Because of the low volume depth it is quite difficult to detect binaural beats unless they are presented via headphones completely isolated from any other sound. Holosync® audio present their binaural tones embedded within a matrix of nature and other sounds which renders them virtually undetectable. This is a problem because the beat must be detectable to the ears in order for entrainment to occur.
The Deep Mind Brain Evolution Series uses isochronic, monaural, and binaural tones. The isochronic and monaural tones provide a firm and audible beat, particularly obvious as a low frequency thump when using noise isolating in-ear headphones. The binaural waveform is added at increased volume to assist hemispheric synchronisation, in the event that this proves to be useful. In the Deep Mind Brain Evolution System there is no ramping of tones so that entrainment can proceed quickly and can be maintained for as long as the audio duration.
Based on the technology used by Holosync® and LifeFlow™ we believe that our entrainment CDs should be at least as effective in entraining to the frequencies provided. We do not claim that our products are superior because we have no grounds for making such a claim. We have pointed out the various merits and shortcomings of various pulse types and tried to cut though some of the advertising hype that readers are likely to come across. In the end we must leave it up to the reader to make a call on which product, if any, they choose to use. But also bear in mind that anything that assists a person to sit quietly for half to an hour per day over several weeks, months or years is likely to be beneficial for health and wellbeing. Removing entrainment altogether, if listening to a CD provides the structure and impetus for such a dedicated practice, it may be well worth purchasing.
What we at Deep Mind do feel really strongly about is the ethics of pricing products in line with the actual costs associated with producing them. The value of a CD is given by the experience of the user and is not set by us and accordingly our products are priced so that they are accessible to as many people as possible.