In the comment section of my 08/12/2013 Massage Chair Industry Update (posted to this blog on 08/16/2013), I was asked to compare these two models by a fellow named Jeff Payne. Here is that comparative review:
Right off the top, I’ll tell you that I’ve never sat on an Ultimate Massage Chair before. It is not a commonly known chair in the industry and appears to be imported by an individual named Scott Philo. I do not know what his resume is in the massage chair industry but I do know that he operates out of his home office in New Hampshire and offers two models, the Ultimate I and II. Based on the information I have gleaned from his site, including the features of his chairs, I can give you a review of the Ultimate I, along with some opinions and comments, while also comparing it to the Infinity Iyashi from Infinite Therapeutics:
1. The warranty appears to be a 5 year limited warranty, with the first year including parts and labor, in-home service. The warranty on their site does not specifically state what is covered for the remaining 4 years of the warranty (at least from what I could find). I have no idea what the reputation is for service and support. I would suggest doing a search online for reviews of the Ultimate massage chair so that you can get an objective opinion of their support, if available.
Infinite Therapeutics offers a 3 year limited warranty, parts and labor in-home for the first year, parts the 2nd year, and structure only for the third year. Pretty typical warranty for a chinese-made chair. I have personal experience with IT and their service department and response is second to none. They have been fabulous.
2. His website states that his chair was voted “Best 3D Zero Gravity Massage Chair in 2012″ and “Best Design in 2012″, however there is no mention of who or what organization voted for his chairs in these categories. I have evaluated his feature set and it mentions a “3D Body Scan”, but not a 3D roller system technology, which is what the industry recognizes and accepts as 3D.
3D rollers mean that the rollers can move forward and back, along with the traditional up and down/side to side motion, to provide a roller intensity adjustment for the user. This is a feature that was pioneered in the massage chair industry by Inada with it’s iconic Sogno chair. Not many chairs have this feature yet, but it is becoming increasingly popular and sought after. I would think that if the Ultimate chair had it, it would have been mentioned and described in greater detail.
The Iyashi does not have a 3D roller system.
3. The Ultimate massage chair is supposed to have 103 airbags, which would rival the Inada Sogno for airbag volume. This chair does not have the same rich feature set of the Sogno, much of which is facilitated by airbags. I have trouble believing that there are 103 airbags in this chair. The website states that there are 40 airbags in the calves and feet, 12 for the head alone, 30 for the arms and shoulders, and 14 for the seat! Sounds grossly exaggerated. A very thorough and objective review on Amazon.com says as much… http://www.amazon.com/review/R3A22W78QYBBHW/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R3A22W78QYBBHW
The Iyashi claims to have 38 airbags.
4. The stated retail price of $9000 for the Ultimate massage chair is nebulous at best. Since Scott is the only fellow who sells his chair he can state whatever suggested retail price he wants to make the actual selling price seem so much more amazing. That is a little overdone and a bit disingenuous, in my opinion. However, his actual selling price of $2899 seems reasonable for a chinese-made chair with the listed feature-set. He IS the logistics chain…the importer, middle man, and retailer, so he has more room to play with the price than a true importer who distributes their chairs through a more typical distribution network of retailers.
Infinity Iyashi MSRP is $5495, but with instant savings goes for $4895. Taking Infinity’s newest offering, the Iyashi, and Osaki’s latest offerings, the OS-7200CR and the OS-3D Pro Dreamer, it seems as though prices of the chinese-made chairs are going up and up. The chasm between the Japanese offerings, i.e. Sogno and Panasonic MA70, and the Chinese chairs used to be quite huge…now it is shrinking considerably. I’m not sure yet if the increase in price is matched with an increase in quality or just a bigger profit margin for the importers.
5. Here are the features which seem to be similar in both the Iyashi and the Ultimate: mechanical foot rollers, heating elements, anterior shoulder airbags, arm and hand airbags, lateral thigh airbags (though the thigh airbags in the Iyashi actually move the pelvis from side to side across the extended seat rollers, while the thigh airbags in the Ultimate are most likely simple compression airbags designed to hold the pelvis in place when the rollers hit the low back…that is a very typical feature of most chinese-made massage chairs), zero gravity, music system, auto leg extension, armrests that recline with the chair so that your arm massage is not compromised, body scan technology.
6. Features which make the Iyashi very unique include a.) the space saving, sliding base feature. With this feature you can put the chair right up against any wall and it will slide forward 12″ before it reclines, thus allowing you to save about 2 feet that would have been wasted in a “normal” chair like the Ultimate; b.) 49″ roller track! This is the deal maker in my opinion. I have this chair in my showroom and, I have to say, this feature is huge for the massage chair user. We’ve never seen this before in any massage chair and it is fabulous. I love it and I think this will make this model very, very successful in the retail world. You really must experience it to appreciate why I am raving about it; c.) airbags in the foot components that move your feet across the nodules of the mechanical foot rollers. It makes for a very intense foot massage, but very unique; d.) sequential inflation of the arm and hand airbags – not just one large bladder than inflates and deflates, but a series of bladders that inflate sequentially to mimic proximal to distal (and vice versa) massage along the length of the arms; e.) Bluetooth connectivity which allows the user to operate the chair and their music right from their cell phone with a free, downloadable app.
7. Features of the Ultimate chair that differentiate it from the Iyashi include a.) up to 1 hour massage sessions. The Iyashi can only go to 30′; b.) a portable back heating pad. The Ultimate also has a heating element in the seat, as well as in the low back; c.) “Hip Twist”. I’m not sure what this is, as the website and videos don’t discuss it, but I suspect it is something similar to the “Twist” feature of the Infinity IT-8500 and IT-8200 where the seat twists to induce a rotational motion to the lower lumbar spine.
Well, that’s about it for a review and comparison. In summary I would have to say that the Ultimate massage chair is a more typical chinese-made chair. In other words, the feature-set is similar to a lot of other massage chairs out there. For me personally, I would take the Iyashi or any product from Infinite Therapeutics all day long over an effectual no-name brand chair. Although they both come from China, I have come to know the IT chairs very well and have sold very many of them, therefore I have a history with them and their company. They have a low failure rate for a chinese-made chair and their customer support is, as I mentioned earlier, second to none. Also, with the innovations that the Iyashi brings to market, you can’t beat this new model.
I would just like to speak for a moment to your comment about “which one is really “the best”.” There are so many models out there that it becomes hard to qualify which one is the best. I have long stated that I feel the Inada Sogno is the best made and most innovative chair out there, but to another person the Iyashi or the Panasonic MA70 or the Osaki OS-7200H or the Human Touch ZeroG 4.0 might be the best FOR THEM. I hate to sound so diplomatic, but it really boils down to what you want in a chair and if the company who imports or makes the chair supports their chairs well. In this discussion about these two models I would pick the Iyashi over the Ultimate all day long. I love the Iyashi. Is it the best chair? Maybe it will be for you.
Dr. Alan Weidner