Are isochronic tones better than binaural beats? I get asked this question a lot. And it’s no wonder. Ever since the rise in popularity of isochronic tones (and monaural beats for that matter), one of the largest selling points in advertising for new brainwave entrainment products has been that they use isochronic tones, and that these are “superior” in comparison to binaural beats.
(Note: This is a longer article. If you are in a hurry feel free to skip to the bottom header where the general pro’s and con’s of both isochronic tones and binaural beats are summarized)
Simplified, the advertisement goes like this: “Isochronic tones are better than binaural beats. Our competitor uses binaural beats; we use isochronic tones. Thus, our product is better.”
This has especially been a heavily used strategy for anyone wanting to directly compete with one of the most well-known brainwave entrainment products on the market: Holosync. Holosync primarily uses binaural beats.
You might have noticed that if you check out my products that I do not use this selling point anywhere on the site, even though the majority of my products (excluding The Missing Link) use isochronic tones and/or monaural beats.
There is a reason for this: I don’t necessarily think that isochronic tones are empirically better. I think there are different uses for both kinds.
You might also wonder why such a successful company/product like Holosync would still, after all these years, continue to use binaural beats when they could easily make the switch over to using isochronic tones or monaural beats.
(To read more about how Holosync compares to the competition click here)
So Are Isochronic Tones Better than Binaural Beats?
The answer is not a simple yes or no, and I’d like to clarify the issue a bit, and give a more detailed explanation of why some people say that isochronic tones are better, and also why some people/companies still prefer to use binaural beats.
The main reason that isochronic tones and monaural beats are widely accepted as being “better” than binaural beats is because they evoke a much stronger cortical evoked response in the brain.
So what exactly does that mean?
In simplistic terms, a cortical evoked response is the brain’s reaction to picking up the stimuli of the sound wave of whatever beat you are listening to. As it is picked up through the ear and processed in the brain, there is a reaction, just as there would be a reaction if someone fired a gun in your backyard, or someone shouted unexpectedly (or expectedly) in your close proximity. This response in your brain is easily measurable with an EEG machine.
When your brain begins to have this cortically evoked response repeatedly in a specific frequency (ie: the frequency of the isochronic tones track in a brainwave entrainment audio) the entrainment process, or frequency following response, begins to occur.
So the question is: Does the fact that isochronic tones produce a stronger cortical evoked response in the brain mean that they are superior to binaural beats?
Many people believe the answer is yes. This includes people who I personally trust and respect. However, my opinion is that this is not the entire piece to the puzzle. There are more issues at play than just the cortical evoked response.
The Many Variables of Brainwave Entrainment
It is important to keep in mind at all times that even though we can measure things going on in the brain scientifically while someone listens to a brainwave entrainment audio, there is still a great deal about this technology that is not fully understood, or scientifically explainable. There is still a good amount of theory on the subject, and there is also a huge amount of one’s own subjective experience while using the technology that has yet to be understood. After all, science still has no real means of “measuring” or “explaining” consciousness itself, and consciousness is the largest variable to consider when using brainwave entrainment.
In many ways, brainwave entrainment is still a somewhat esoteric thing; a spiritual technology if you will. We can measure that an audio gets your brain producing 8hz alpha waves in both hemispheres, but we can’t explain why you may have visions, see colors, or gain spiritual/emotional insight while listening (at least not in a cold, hard, scientific kind of way.)
Why Binaural Beats Are Still Important
So back to binaural beats and isochronic tones. There are a few different reasons why someone would still want to use binaural beats. They may not produce as strong a cortical evoked response, but they have been shown to have a much more hypnotic effect, and also seem to have more of a tendency to put one in an altered state of consciousness. This can be useful in certain scenarios (like in a meditation program where one is exploring their own consciousness.)
Also, the way binaural beats work is quite unique from isochronic tones. When listening to a binaural beats audio, the frequency that the brain begins to follow is being produced by the brain itself. The way binaural beats work is one frequency is played in one ear, and another different frequency is played in the other. The brain, in order to reconcile these two frequencies, created its own “phantom” frequency and this is what it entrains to. (To learn more about this click here.)
One theory, or opinion, that has come from this is that binaural beats elicit greater communication between the two hemispheres of the brain than isochronic tones, as they have to work together to create this phantom frequency. As whole-brain functioning, and more exchange of information between the two hemispheres of the brain is desirable for many different reasons, this may be another selling point for binaural beats.
The Carrier Frequency Approach
But the most important consideration when comparing both methods of brainwave entrainment is the approach that was pioneered by Bill Harris of Holosync, and is still used in their products at present. In this approach, the frequency of the sound wave used for the beats is just as important as the frequency of the rhythm of the beat.
Remember that binaural beats work by playing one frequency in one ear, and another in the other. The brain then reconciled the difference, and this is what it entrains to. So for example, if we play 440Hz in one ear and 430Hz in another, the brain will entrain to 10Hz. However if we take 220Hz in one ear, and 210Hz in the other ear, the brain will still entrain to 10Hz.
But the idea behind Holosync (and this approach is also utilized in a slightly different way in my product, The Missing Link) is that as you lower the carrier frequency, it has a more profound effect on the brain, adding more stimulation and input to it, and pushing it to evolve to a higher level of processing.
I do not know that this concept has had much scientific verification at this point (or how it could be scientifically verified), as this deals so much in the realm of subjective experience, but there are thousands of Holosync users, including myself, that will vouch for the power of this method.
So to sum it all up, here are some of the pros and cons of using binaural beats, compared to isochronic tones:
- Stronger cortical evoked response
- Faster at producing the frequency following response (the brain synchronizes with it more quickly)
- More effective entrainment and consistent brainwave states
- Effective at entraining the brain to gamma frequencies
- Not as effective at producing “altered states of consciousness”
- Not useful in using the carrier frequency approach (as used by Holosync and The Missing Link)
- Theoretically not as effective in producing whole-brain communication
- Not as effective at entraining the brain to slower frequencies (like low delta)
- More hypnotic and able to produce mystic and “altered” states of consciousness
- More effective at slower frequencies like low delta and the epsilon range
- Useful in the approach of lowering the carrier frequencies to propel the brain forward in evolution
- Theoretically elicit more communication and neural pathways between the left and right hemispheres of the brain
- Weaker cortical evoked response
- Frequency following response takes longer
- Not able to lead the brain into gamma brainwave range
In considering all of this information, and also in considering my 10+ years of both creating and using my own audios along with many of the most popular programs on the market, I came to the conclusion that both isochronic tones AND binaural beats are effective, useful, and even important components of a meditation program. In weighing all the pro’s and con’s, my personal opinion is that neither is empirically better or worse, but both are different and unique. And both have their own benefits and effects to bring to the table.
This is why each month of The Missing Link meditation program has one isochronic tones track, and one binaural beats track. You are encouraged to alternate between the two. This is the only program on the market (that I know of) that uses brainwave entrainment in this way.
When we move through the program in this way, it enables us to use the same method of lowering the carrier frequencies of the binaural beats tracks to better elicit an approach similar to the Holosync program. However the difference is that because you are alternating between the isochronic tones audio and the binaural beats audio, we are able to lower the carrier frequencies much faster, without pushing the mind and brain too hard.
By using both methods regularly you are also giving the brain a more wide range of stimulation. Aside from the known (and even the theoretically known) effects of both methods, there are also still many unknown and yet-to-be-discovered effects, benefits, etc. of both isochronic tones and binaural beats, and when you use both, you are enabling the brain to truly benefit from an entire spectrum of input, stimulation, and “exercise”.
Try it yourself!
You can read or discuss information like this until your head is crammed, but the only real way to find the answer to a question like this is to try it for yourself and have the experience. You may already have your hands on Month 1 of The Missing Link. If you do I would encourage you to give it a real test run by listening to the audios daily, and practicing the other techniques shared.
If you don’t already have a free copy of Month 1, download it now by filling out the form below:
That’s it for now, as always don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. And please feel free to leave a comment below if there is anything you would like to add to this discussion.
Wishing you the best in life,