Electroencephalography (EEG) is a technique with over a hundred years of history, and while it was originally used more strictly in the fields of psychology, medicine, and neuroscience, it is widely used today in gaming, human-computer-interaction, neuromarketing, simulations, and beyond.
Due to this increased use and demand of high-quality EEG devices, there are now numerous companies that are able to cater to the specific needs of EEG users. Each offers something unique for the consumer – whether it’s the number of channels, a stationary or portable device, the predefined metrics offered, or of course the price.
As with many devices (and most things in life): you get what you pay for. Many of the devices at the upper ends of the pricing range are particularly advanced, research-grade devices that provide incredible sensitivity, with a large number of sensors too. Part of the trade-off is that it takes longer to collect and analyze the data, but whatever your need is – it’s always good to talk to the experts first.
This is why we have set out the range of prices you are likely to find when searching for the EEG headset that is perfectly suited to your needs. The specific prices can be hard to pin down, as some are not public, or can be subject to academic discounts, and can fluctuate with changing currency prices, amongst other reasons.
What is an EEG Headset?
An EEG (Electroencephalogram) headset is a device designed to measure and record the electrical activity of the brain. By capturing the electrical impulses generated by brain cells, or neurons, EEG headsets provide insights into various cognitive and neural processes.
Principle of Operation Brain neurons communicate with each other through electrical impulses. Electrodes in EEG headsets are positioned on the scalp to detect these impulses, enabling the device to capture a representation of brain activity.
- Electrodes: Small, round sensors placed on the scalp, responsible for capturing the minute electrical changes stemming from brain activity.
- Amplifier: Given that the electrical signals from the brain are incredibly faint, the amplifier boosts these signals, making them suitable for further processing and analysis.
- Recording Device: This component stores or displays the amplified brainwave data. In many contemporary EEG headsets, this can be integrated with a computer, smartphone, or specialized hardware.
- Clinical EEG Headsets: Primarily found in medical settings like hospitals and clinics, these devices usually boast a more significant number of electrodes, delivering comprehensive information about brain activity. They often serve diagnostic purposes, like identifying epileptic seizures.
- Consumer EEG Headsets: More accessible to the general public, these headsets typically feature fewer electrodes and are designed for various purposes, ranging from meditation guidance to video game control.
iMotions and EEG Headsets iMotions is a biometric research platform known for integrating various sensors, including EEG headsets, to analyze human physiological and emotional responses. By incorporating EEG data, iMotions can provide deeper insights into areas like cognitive workload, engagement, and emotional states. Whether for academic research, marketing studies, or clinical applications, the combination of iMotions with EEG technology offers a powerful tool for understanding the intricacies of the human brain.
Best EEG Headsets by Price Range and Features
Making a choice between devices is of course best done with an expert at hand, and we are always available if you want to discuss your needs. Below you will find the price range of headsets from some of the leading manufacturers.
Lower Price Range ($99 – $1,000)
The lower end of this list also, unsurprisingly, starts with the lowest amount of electrodes. Companies like NeuroSky and Muse promise neurofeedback solutions to help improve meditation and sleep, although the research potential of such devices is ultimately limited by this.
Emotiv offers 5 and 14 channel solutions, with built-in metrics to enhance understanding of the respondent’s mental state. Currently, research with Emotiv comes with an additional cost-per-usage, which can add to the total price of use. Emotiv’s devices are also wireless, giving the possibility of more free movement to the respondent.
The OpenBCI device can be ordered as “print-it-yourself” – allowing you to 3D print the headset (and is also compatible with regular headcaps too). The organisation is committed to open-access and cost-effective solutions to EEG, giving expanded options for how to approach investigations of the brain.
- NeuroSky (1 channel)
- Muse (4 channels)
- Emotiv (pay-per-use + 5 or 14 channels)
- OpenBCI (8 – 16 channels)
Middle Price Range ($1,000 – $25,000)
As we move up the price range, so too does the number of available electrodes for each device, and other perks to the hardware units. All of the systems within this range are research-grade, although the exact nature of your research will determine which unit is best for you.
Several of the companies (ABM, ANT Neuro, Cognionics, G.tec, mBrainTrain, Neuroelectrics, and Wearable Sensing) offer wireless solutions at this range, enabling data collection to occur with increased mobility (and increased comfort too). Additionally, the ability to collect EEG data without conductive gel is offered by ANT Neuro, Cognionics, G.tec, Neuroelectrics, and Wearable Sensing, meaning that the time to data collection is reduced.
There are a wide range of options at this price range, with up to 64 channels offered, partial or fully flexible systems, headcaps, and fixed units. In ABM’s case, the unit comes with well-researched and widely validated metrics that can provide quick and valuable insight into the cognitive function and mental state of the respondent.
The depth of information required, flexibility, and comfort of the respondent are all part of the equation that can be solved by these headsets, but of course individual needs will dictate the exact choice.
- Wearable Sensing (7 – 24 channels)
- ANT Neuro – eego rt / eego sports (8 – 32 channels)
- Neuroelectrics (8 – 32 channels)
- G.tec nautilus wireless / nautilus PRO wireless (8 – 64 channel)
- ABM B-Alert (10-24 channel)
- BioSemi (16 channel)
- Cognionics (20-30 channel)
- mBrainTrain (24 channel)
- Brain Products LiveAmp (32 channels)
Upper Price Range ($25,000+)
A huge number of electrode channels are available at this price range, starting at 32 with Brain Product’s ActiCHamp, and continuing up to 160, or even 256 channels with BioSemi. This quantity of electrodes allows an extremely high resolution when detecting brain signals.
ANT Neuro offers wireless solutions up to 64 channels, and can work without conductive gel up to 256 electrodes. At such a high density, the channel number can be split, allowing up to four mobile systems with 256 channels.
These systems represent the highest-grade EEG devices currently available, and a price tag inevitably comes with this. Again, the aims of your research or work may or may not require such a system – if you are unsure, it is always recommended to speak with colleagues in the field, other experts, or the manufacturers themselves in order to get the full picture about what exactly their systems offer.
- ANT Neuro – eego rt / eego sports (64 channels)
- ANT Neuro – eego mylab (32 – 256 channels)
- Brain Products ActiCHamp (32 – 160 channels)
- BioSemi (32 – 256 channels)
There are of course other EEG hardware companies that are not featured on this list. We have also reached out to EGI, Compumedics Neuroscan, and Mitsar, and will update if and when we receive information about their pricing.
iMotions natively integrates several of the above devices into a platform that can synchronize EEG data with a plentiful amount of other sensors, from eye tracking, to facial expression analysis, to GSR and beyond. This makes it the ideal platform for collecting and analyzing data from multiple sources.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of the different types of EEG hardware that are available and feel inspired to use EEG in your own research or work. If you’d like to learn more about EEG, then download our free guide below, or contact us to get more detailed information about purchasing an EEG headset.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are EEG headsets Safe to use?
Yes, EEG headsets are generally safe to use. They are non-invasive devices that measure the electrical activity of the brain without emitting any radiation or electrical currents back to the brain. In clinical settings, EEGs have been used for decades to diagnose and monitor neurological conditions. When using consumer-grade EEG headsets, it’s essential to ensure they are used as directed by the manufacturer and to keep them clean to avoid potential skin irritations or infections.
How accurate are EEG headsets?
The accuracy of EEG headsets varies based on their design, quality, and purpose:
Clinical EEG systems used in medical settings tend to be highly accurate. They feature many electrodes (often 32 or more) and are used in controlled environments, ensuring detailed and precise recordings of brain activity.
Consumer-grade EEG headsets usually have fewer electrodes and can be used in various environments, potentially introducing more noise or artifacts into the recordings. While they can provide valuable insights into brain activity, they might not be as accurate as their clinical counterparts.
Can EEG devices read thoughts or emotions?
EEG devices can measure brain activity patterns associated with certain thoughts or emotions, but they cannot “read” thoughts or emotions in the way one might imagine from science fiction:
- Thoughts: While EEG can detect patterns related to specific cognitive tasks (like attention or memory processes), it cannot decipher the content of one’s thoughts or translate them into words or images.
- Emotions: EEG can identify patterns consistent with particular emotional states (e.g., excitement, relaxation, or stress) by analyzing the frequency, amplitude, and locations of brainwave activity. In conjunction with other biometric tools and careful experimental design, it’s possible to get a better understanding of an individual’s emotional response to certain stimuli. However, pinpointing precise emotions purely based on EEG remains a complex task.
In essence, while EEG provides insights into brain function and patterns, it does not offer direct access to the specifics of one’s thoughts or emotions.