The new Apex Ultra massage chair is a great L-track offering in the under $3,000 price range. Originally priced at $4395 when it came to market, the competitive landscape for this chair forced the price drop. Osaki/Titan owns the Apex brand and has brought us an L-track chair with a great bang-for-the-buck.
L-track, for those of you who are wondering what I am talking about, is the commonly used term to describe an extended roller track that goes beyond the neck, mid-back, and low back, and extends down to the buttocks and top of the hamstrings. I personally think the L-track is the biggest innovation in our industry in years, perhaps even decades. Yes, bigger than foot rollers, 3D rollers, and zero gravity.
It’s a real winner, because it introduces deep roller massage to muscles that have traditionally been neglected in the past, having been only addressed by airbags. Now, you can get rollers digging into muscles like the gluts, the piriformis muscles, the hamstrings, and the peri-sacral muscles (around the tailbone!).
The first thing I noticed about the Ultra, when it was delivered to our showroom, was the fact that it was fully assembled and the box that housed it was thin and tall. No assembly is always a good thing! So, the bottom line is that if you have help moving the box into the the chair’s final resting place, you won’t need to pay for the white glove service. Tear off the box and you are good to go!
It took me about 5 minutes to figure out how to turn the dang thing on! I couldn’t see a power button on the face of the remote control and, as is typical of a guy, I didn’t look at the owners manual to find out where it is. Well, it is at the top edge of the remote control. Save yourself some time and don’t do as I did.
The remote control is very simple to use. I like it’s layout although there are a few things that you might want to be aware of:
1. The lights on the remote are a little tough to read in the daylight. Because of the relatively small size of the remote control, the display is smaller, too. This, combined with some orange lights that are not very bright, makes reading some of the displays tough in daylight.
2. The 4 main auto programs are all found with one button, labeled “Auto”. Press the button once and you get the “Deep Tissue” program, twice gives you the “Relax” program, 3 times gives you the “Rejuvenate” program and, finally, a 4th push of the Auto button gives you the “Stretching” program. The problem is that the only place where you’ll see the names of each program is in the owner’s manual. You will have to memorize the 4 programs when you use the chair, unless you want to carry the owner’s manual with you every time you sit on the chair, because the only thing that displays on the remote when you push the Auto button each time, is the number 1, 2, 3, or 4.
3. There is not a pedestal or pocket to store the remote control…at least that I could find. When you are using the chair, just rest the remote on your lap. When you are not using the chair, put the remote on the seat or inside the armrest.
The Apex Ultra has a space-saving feature, which means that you can place the chair almost right up against your wall and it will recline without breaking through your drywall. This has happened to us a number of times with other chairs that don’t have the space-saving feature. Trust me when I say this is a good feature. And, as the name implies, you don’t need to use up as much space with your chair when you can position it almost right up against the wall.
I have found that the chair fits people up to 6′ tall quite comfortably, but once someone taller than that gets in the chair, the legs don’t seem to fit as well. Although the chair has an ottoman extension feature, it doesn’t extend as far as some other models. What this means for taller people with longer legs is that you can’t fully extend your legs, which means that your thighs will not be resting completely on the seat and, unless you strategically position the ottoman, your calves will not hit the back of the calf wells, which is where you will find the mechanical calf rollers.
By the way, the mechanical calf rollers are a very cool new feature. At this very moment, I can’t think of another model that has calf rollers. Like most foot rollers, the calf rollers are in one position only and they move in only one direction. The foot rollers on the Ultra are a little more complex and dynamic than the calf rollers, i.e. they change direction and they work in concert with the small airbags that push against the balls of the feet. The foot rollers on this model are quite intense. Other than turning them off altogether if they get to be too much, you can also decrease the intensity of the foot airbags so that they are not pressing your feet so hard onto the foot rollers while they are working.
The problem with both foot and calf rollers is that having them work in only one place on your body they can become irritating after a number of minutes. The foot rollers on this chair, and pretty much all chairs with foot rollers, can be turned off if they get to be too irritating. You cannot turn off these calf rollers if they become too annoying like you can with the foot rollers.
The Ultra comes with an MP3 music system. All you need to do is plug your phone or any MP3 device into the cord located on the right hand side of the chair and your music will play over the stereo speakers located just above the shoulder airbags. I must say that the quality of the sound is better than those of the Osaki Cyber and Dreamer, but it is still not as good as some great earbuds or a stereo system in the same room as the chair. But, having said that, it is certainly better than nothing!
Speaking of the shoulder airbags, the housing of those airbags can actually be adjusted for width so that a person with broad shoulders and a person with narrow shoulders can both be fit just right between the shoulder airbags. It’s a pretty clever idea. One of the problems with chairs that have shoulder airbags is that people, mostly men, who have broad shoulders sometimes have trouble fitting their upper torso between the shoulder airbags. This technology addresses that issue.
The heating feature works the lower thoracic/upper lumbar regions of the spine (that would be the mid to lower back areas). There is a button on the remote that turns the heating feature on and a little wavy image shows up on the remote control down around the legs and feet graphic of the display to tell you if it is on or off. The heat is pretty strong. I found myself turning it off after about 15 minutes to cool things down a bit.
In Part 2 of this review, I’ll go over the actual massage experience of the chair.
Dr. Alan Weidner
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