Made in Japan or America or China – a valuable insight

luraco made in the usa
luraco made in the usa

As you may or may not know, I have spoken out a number of times about what it really means for a chair to be “Made in Japan” or “Made in Korea” or anywhere else in the world, other than China, since pretty much all the components of massage chairs come from China anyways. In summary, it doesn’t really mean much nowadays. I spoke about this topic in my May 31, 2019 edition of the Massage Chair Industry Update. I was pleasantly surprised to see a lengthy opinion written in the comments section by Dr. Kevin Le of Luraco in response to that very subject. It was so good that I thought I would post it here as well for more of you to read. It offers some great insights from one of the principals of a company that claims that their chairs are “Made in the USA”. It sheds some interesting light on the topic that is pertinent. Here are his remarks…

This is Dr. Kevin Le, Chief Technology Officer at Luraco Technologies. I noticed you have a new blog that discusses the topic of “Made in…” and that you also periodically mentioned Luraco. We appreciate you trying to clear up some of the confusion for your followers. I agree that other country’s do not define or authorize the use of “Made in…” but in the United States, it is VERY WELL DEFINED for product labeling. This link provides details about it that may be of use to your followers https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/complying-made-usa-standard

As you know, false or intentionally mis-leading advertising is a HUGE ISSUE in the U.S. (something that the Federal Trade Commission oversees). Unfortunately, in the massage chair category, there is a lot of intentionally confusing marketing that is done by some companies to try to get customers to buy from them instead of their competitors. Twelve years ago, when Luraco released the iRobotics 1 (the First Made in USA Massage Chair), we had a Distributor that sells Chinese-made massage chairs, report us to the FTC claiming that Luraco chairs were not Made in the USA. Since they sold Chinese chairs, they spread lies that ours weren’t made in the US (a selling fact that they couldn’t compete with). We actually had government agents come and audit our company and our production lines. They inspected our operation, manufacturing processes, Bill of Materials and manufacturing costs and then deemed us qualified to use the Made in USA mark. It was a huge victory for Luraco since there was (and still is) no other massage chair that can be proud to make the “Made in USA” claim.

As you mentioned in your video, Luraco uses non-critical parts in our chairs that are made in Taiwan, but the critical parts are made here in the USA. We appreciate you for being honest with your reporting on our products. We too are now seeing many chairs advertised with “Made in Japan” which we feel is misleading to American consumers. As defined by U.S. laws, these are untrue claims. Most massage chairs are 100% made in China (ironically, they come from only a few factories in China and are labeled with different brand names). We agree with you that as the Chinese reputation for lower quality products grows, eventually most chairs will try to be marketed with a “Made in Japan” mark. Within the industry, we are already seeing Chinese chairs shipped to Japan, retested and repackaged and labeled “Made in Japan”. With newly imposed Chinese Tariffs there will probably be more of this in an attempt to avoid the new 25% import tax.

However you look at it, it is deceiving to the American consumer who thinks they are getting a Japanese product rather than a Chinese one. According to U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the rules are clearly defined: What is the U.S. Customs Service’s jurisdiction over country-of-origin claims? When an imported product incorporates materials and/or processing from more than one country, Customs considers the country of origin to be the last country in which a “substantial transformation” took place. Customs defines “substantial transformation” as a manufacturing process that results in a new and different product with a new name, character, and use that is different from that which existed before the change. Customs makes country-of-origin determinations using the “substantial transformation” test on a case-by-case basis. In some instances, Customs uses a “tariff shift” analysis, comparable to “substantial transformation,” to determine a product’s country of origin.” Luraco is trying hard to protect the massage chair industry’s image from false claims and misleading marketing. I felt the need to respond to you with my feedback (and the story of what we have had to deal with for defending “Made in the USA”).

At the end of the day, it will be the consumers who lose out and if we don’t clean things up people may lose faith in purchasing massage chairs altogether. You and I understand the need for truth in advertising of quality products and hopefully we will get there soon. We want customers to have confidence in purchasing massage chairs that benefit their bodies and from companies that are not deceptive in their advertising. Since Luraco is an American-based company, we take great pride in qualifying as the only “Made in USA” massage chair manufacturer and take exception to those that challenge our authenticity. Please know that you can continue to share our story as proudly being “Made in the U.S.A.” (from US and Global components).

Thank you, Dr. Le. I do feel, however, that the quality of the Chinese massage chairs coming to America is getting better and better. Companies like Infinity and Human Touch and Panasonic have “feet on the ground” in China overseeing the production of their chairs, including the quality control. Although China has had, and still generally does have, a reputation for lesser quality massage chair products, some of the top factories and distributors are changing that reputation with better quality chair builds.

Dr. Alan Weidner

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Which Massage Chair is the Quietest?

Southern California showroom
Southern California showroom

A few years ago, I downloaded a sound meter app on my phone and took readings from all of the chairs on my Utah showroom floor to determine which one was the quietest. It was an interesting study. It’s been awhile now and we have a whole new crop of massage chairs in that same showroom so I figured it would be a good time to redo this little study to see which of the current line-up is the quietest. Before I go into the results, I want to go over a few pieces of information for greater context of what these numbers are based on.

Ground Rules

  • I used the app “dB Meter” to make the measurements. My phone is an iPhone 6 version.
  • The readings are made in decibels, which are sound measurement units.
  • These measurements were made in my Utah showroom. The store is on a busy street, separated from that street by an easement and a parking lot with 2 sides of parking stalls, so there is some ambient traffic noise which may or may not have come into play within the dB ranges.
  • The measurement range takes into account air bag compressor sounds, air bag inflation and deflation sounds, roller modalities like kneading and tapping, and body sounds created by the chair back and/or ottoman moving or chair body frame sounds. It also takes into account times when the chair is relatively silent without those additional sounds.
  • The measurements began AFTER the body scan feature had completed.
  • The normal dB range, when the chairs were all off with only the ambient sounds of the showroom, was 38-39 dB’s.
  • The measurements were made with the chairs in full recline and the microphone of my cell phone facing the head area, which is location from where the user would be listening when using the massage chair.
  • I removed the highest and lowest figures of each chair.
  • The measurements were made without a body in the chairs so that all the sounds could be picked up by the phone. When an actual body is in the chair, some of those sounds will be muted by the user’s body mass.
  • All the head/neck pads (and cervical massage units, i.e. DreamWave M.8) were removed. Full back pads were also removed.
  • No changes were made to the default roller and air bag settings of each chair.
  • For chairs that had a “Demo” or “Quick” program, that particular program was deployed. For those that didn’t, the first program on the auto program list was chosen. The program for each chair is listed next to the chair model and dB range.

Chair Models & dB Ranges

  1. Luraco iRobotics 7 Plus: 46-51 dB (Demo program)
  2. Luraco Legend Plus: 48-51 dB (Demo program)
  3. DreamWave Classic: 50-53 dB (Quick program)
  4. DreamWave M.8: 48-60 dB (Quick program)
  5. Positive Posture Brio: 48-54 dB (Quick program)
  6. Human Touch Novo XT2: 50-60 dB (Demo program)
  7. Infinity Riage x3: 48-54 dB (Working Relief program)
  8. Infinity Overture: 47-60 dB (Demo program)
  9. Infinity Genesis: 48-55 dB (Sport Refresh program)
  10. Osaki Maestro: 49-54 dB (Demo program)
  11. Osaki Ekon: 51-63 dB (Sports Refresh program)
  12. Titan Jupiter: 49-63 dB (Power program)
  13. Panasonic MA73: 50-61 dB (Deep program)

Notes & Observations

The ranges are attributed to the fact that at some moments during the chair programs the air bags are being deployed or the chair back and/or ottoman are moving. During the lower end of the ranges, it was typically just the rollers that were in play. Conversely, the air bags and chair movements could be attributed to the numbers at the higher end of the ranges.

Luraco Massage ChairsOnce again, the Luraco chairs have proven to be the quietest. That didn’t completely surprise me since they are noticeably quieter than the others to everyone who sits in them. Though quieter, they were not that far ahead of some of the other models. The Brio and DreamWave Classic were very close at the higher end of their ranges.

Although some chairs were quieter than others, it surprised me how close they really all were when looking at the objective dB results. For example, I had expected the Infinity Genesis and Osaki Maestro to be quite a bit louder than the Luraco chairs since they sounded louder to my ears when I sat in them. However, they were only a few dB’s higher than the Luraco chairs.

Among the “loudest” were the Osaki Ekon and the Titan Jupiter. The Ekon’s high end can be attributed to the “creaking” of the plastic body shell of the shoulder airbags. When those air bags deploy with the body of the user offering resistance, the creaking becomes obvious. To replicate that during the testing, I used my hands to push against the shoulder airbags to mimic that resistance. Since the shoulder air bags are near the ears of the user, this was a measurement that needed to be considered when assessing sound levels. The Jupiter’s air bag deployment was the cause of it’s higher dB measurement.

I was surprised that the DreamWave M.8, Infinity Overture, and Human Touch Novo XT2 were as “loud” as they were. I had pre-supposed that they would have measured quieter at the high end.

In closing, I will say that as the massage chair user, you will be more acutely aware of the sounds of your new chair during the honeymoon phase of your chair ownership. After a short time, you will become oblivious to those sounds and the chair will be just “normal” and “perfect” for your home or business.

Dr. Alan Weidner

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Mail Bag – Poor Posture; Stretch; Zero Gravity

Mail
Mail

Here are some great email questions with my responses. I hope this helps someone out there!

Customer Question #1

We are in the market for a chair. Which chair would be best for counteracting [my wife’s] poor posture once she’s home and able to use the massage chair? Specifically Dowager’s hump.

My Response #1

Infinity IT-8500X3
Infinity Smart Chair x3

Pretty much all massage chairs will work on the Dowager Hump (accentuated mid back spinal curve) because the thoracic spine curves INTO the roller track. As a matter of fact, I’d say I’ve never heard of a chair that didn’t work the thoracic spine well! But, if you want to work on reversing a forward head carriage in conjunction with a Dowager Hump, the full-body stretch programs are typically better. The greater the recline of the chair back, the greater the pull on the stretch and, in my opinion, the greater the effect on reversing a slumping posture. So, that is why the Infinity Smart Chair x3 offers such a great stretch program (arguably the best stretch program in the industry). But, after having said all that, any massage chair will work on the Dowager Hump and, to some degree, the forward head carriage and slumping shoulders. An effective stretch program just accentuates the correction. Other chairs that offer good full body stretches include the Ogawa Touch 3D, the DreamWave Classic, the Luraco iRobotics 7 Plus,  the Infinity IT-8500×3, and the Titan Executive, to name a few.

Customer Question #2

My new massage chair does not have any memory function which means that I have to change the settings every time I use the chair. I thought memory function was found on every chair. I was also told that L-track chairs don’t have zero gravity. Is that true?

My Response #2

The memory function is not on many chairs. Most of the chinese-made chairs don’t have it. I think it will become more common in the future, but for now there isn’t much in that department.
Strictly speaking, zero gravity is a 30 degree tilt of the seat with an approximate 120 degree articulation between the seat and the chair back. So, in those terms, the L-tracks are not true zero gravity chairs. Having said that, the L-shape of the track comes close to a zero gravity position but the seat tilts higher and the articulation between seat and chair back is typically less than 120 degrees. The S-track chairs are not limited by the L-track configuration, so they can offer you a more true zero gravity position. Most chairs have a zero gravity option, whether it’s S-track or L-track, and whether it is truly zero gravity, but by the above definition the zero gravity option is not exact. The J-track chairs, i.e. Infinity Presidential and Infinity Overture, have a different L-track configuration that is perhaps more closely configured to a true zero gravity position.

Also, the S-track allows for a far better stretch program than any L-track or J-track can offer. So, there is a trade-off. You can have true zero gravity positioning and an excellent stretch program of the S-track chairs or have the butt rollers of the L-track without the benefit of an optimal stretch or a true zero gravity positioning.

Customer Question #3

I broke my L4 into 3 pieces years ago and am now suffer with degenerative discs and sciatic problems. Would an L track be better than one that lays down 180 degrees? Which would give the most stretch?

My Response #3

Any chair will massage the L4 area. The L-track will reach beyond that and massage the sacrum area as well as the glutes and piriformis muscles, but that won’t have a lot to do with your L4 area. The stretch program of some S-track chairs may feel wonderful for you, but the stretch of an L-track chair is typically weaker and may leave you wanting.
L-track
L-track

So, for your situation, a regular S-track or an L-track would be fine for massaging the L4 area, but the stretch program would be superior on an S-track, which I think you will more fully appreciate (see My Response #1 above for S-track chairs with good stretch programs).

Dr. Alan Weidner

P.S. Give us a “Like”, “Share”, or “+1” and leave me a comment or question below to share what you learned or ask any questions, so other folks can benefit from this material.