The Inada DreamWave has been the top luxury massage chair for so long now that most folks don't even realize that there are some competitors out there in the same class. These competing models aren't marketed as aggressively or as well as the DreamWave, but they do have some nice features and are quality models. The Panasonic MA73 is one of those chairs. It is priced at $7999, which is quite close to the DreamWave pricing, but it is quite a different chair. I will compare and contrast the two models in this article.
- Made in Japan vs. Made in China - Although the Panasonic MA73 is designed and engineered in Japan, it is manufactured in China. The DreamWave is not only designed and engineered in Japan, but also manufactured there, although it does have some components that are made in China. Advantage: Inada DreamWave.
- 3D Roller System - both chairs boast the 3D roller technology, but the feel of the roller massage is quite different. The DreamWave has a more gently or sophisticated roller feel, whereas the MA73 has a stronger default massage. The rollers of the MA73 are jade stone and smaller than the hard rubber rollers of the DreamWave, so they tend to dig a little deeper than those of the DreamWave. I describe the roller differences this way...the MA73 feels like knuckles are massaging your back, the DreamWave feels like elbows. Broader roller contact on your back from the DreamWave makes for a more gentle-feeling massage than the smaller roller contact on your back of the MA73. If you like a more vigorous massage that digs a little deeper, the MA73 is for you. If you like a broader, less intense roller massage, the DreamWave is for you. Having said that, though, about the DreamWave, I must say that when your remove the headpiece and attached back pad from the DreamWave (just lift it up and over the back of the chair), the massage is still very intense when you move the 3D rollers all the way forward. Advantage: Draw - Depends on what you like!
- Airbags - the DreamWave is famous for having over 100 air "cells". It is the air cells that make the rest of the chair experience so comfortable. The MA73 has 33 airbags. It's not just that the DreamWave has over 100 air cells, it's how they're used that is unique. Airbags have traditionally been used for just compression, but Inada uses them for trigger point massage in the shoulders, rotating the pelvis and torso, and moving the seat up-and-down and side-to-side with their patented DreamWave technology. Advantage: DreamWave.
- Trapezia Massage - I mentioned how the DreamWave uses air cells for trigger point massage on the shoulders. Well, it's the traps that benefit from those air cells. They inflate from the base of the headpiece down onto both traps and it provides a lovely massage of an oft-neglected muscle by other massage chairs (it is actually intended to be a neck tractioning feature, but it really doubles nicely as a trap point massage). It is a nice feature. However, the MA73 uses its rollers to massage the traps. When the rollers come up the mid back, and before they continue on up the neck muscles, they move forward over the trapezia muscles to give a fantastic shiatsu-like massage to those muscles that are almost always tight on everyone! Advantage: MA73.
- Neck Massage - both chairs use the roller system to massage the neck, however, the DreamWave has more versatility in that area. The headpiece of the DreamWave has an air cell system built into it that offers air massage of the neck muscles. To me, it feels like someone is using their thumb and fore fingers to massage the neck musculature. It feels great. But, if you want a more intense neck massage, remove the headpiece and let the rollers have at it. Along with the 3D technology, the neck massage can be quite intense. Advantage: DreamWave.
- Heat - both chairs have heating elements, but it's the uniqueness of the MA73 heater that impresses. The DreamWave has more traditional heating elements in the seat and low back. The MA73, on the other hand, has little heaters next to each of the 4 jade stone rollers. Those heaters warm up the rollers and, as they roll up and down your spine, they heat up your whole back! It is a very unique technology and one that most folks love when they use the chair. Advantage: MA73.
Body Styling - the MA73 has a more traditional massage chair look, but it can double as a regular recliner. You can rotate the ottoman to hide the foot and calf wells, the arm rests hide the arm massage mechanism, and the attached back pad that has lumbar support, allows you to use this chair as a massage chair or as a regular recliner. Very clever. The DreamWave, on the other hand, is a massage chair, through and through. It can't disguise itself as a regular recliner, but it has an award winning body design that pretty much changed the way all chairs came to be made over the last 8 years. Advantage: For style - DreamWave; for functionality - MA73.
- Seat Massage - the MA73 uses airbags to inflate the seat up and down. That function is used not only as part of a buttock massage, but also in concert with the rollers in the stretch programs. The DreamWave, which gets it's name from the patented DreamWave seat technology, uses aircells to not only inflate the seat, but to move it from side-to-side for pelvis and low back mobilization. As a chiropractor, I saw the benefit of this immediately for patients with a "hot" low back, where passive mobilization was the only thing that could be done to the inflamed area. Both chairs also use thigh airbags/cells that inflate onto the area of the IlioTibial Bands (ITB), but I find that those of the DreamWave work more therapeutically on the ITB region. Advantage: DreamWave.
- Customer Support - not a direct chair feature, but a huge thing for the consumer after the purchase. Inada has a fantastic tech/warranty support team. They will repair or replace faulty parts in your home or business, no matter where you live. Panasonic does not offer in-home support, but they will have a local Panasonic Authorized Service Center come pick up your chair and take it away to repair it. Then they will return it when it is fixed. The only problem with that arrangement is if you don't live anywhere close to a service center. Then you may have some trouble getting your chair fixed. Advantage: DreamWave.
- Chair Size - the Inada is a big chair. It requires packaging in two boxes in order to get the chair into a home. The arm rests and ottoman are in one box, the chair body in another. Once it is set up, it most likely won't fit through a standard door frame in the event that you want to move it to another room. You'll have to remove an arm rest to move it. The Panasonic, on the other hand, is smaller and narrower, and fits in one box. It will fit better in a home that is pressed for space. Once it is set up, it is very easy to move around your home or business. It is also easier to set up than the DreamWave. Advantage: MA73.
- Warranty - both chairs have 3 years parts and labor warranty, but the MA73 has an additional two years of parts coverage. The only problem with the Panasonic warranty, as mentioned in #9 above, is the potential hassle of getting service for your MA73, depending on where you live. Advantage: MA73.
Foot & Calf Massage - both chairs use airbags/cells for their foot & calf massage, as well as a rubber plate under the soles of the feet that have nobules that push up into the bottom of your feet by other airbags/cells. However, the MA73 foot massage is not as comfortable as that of the DreamWave, mostly because of one big nobule that sticks up into the arch of each foot on the MA73 that doesn't feel great to some people. Advantage: DreamWave.
- Hand & Forearm Massage - the Inada has more air cells in the arms and hands region, but the set up on the MA73 feels better. It seems to do a more comprehensive air massage of the hands and forearms than the DreamWave. Advantage: MA73.
- Stretch Program - both chairs have stretch programs, but they are vastly different! The DreamWave employs a reclining chair back and a dropping ottoman to extend the spine out flat. The air cells in the foot and calf sections inflate to grab the feet and calves while the ottoman drops to intensity the low back stretch. The MA73, on the other hand, employs a whole different type of stretch. It has three regional stretches, i.e. neck, upper back, and hips, that are deployed sequentially to stretch out each region more specifically. It uses the rollers in concert with the airbags to create a very unique experience. It is different, but I really like how it works. Advantage: Draw - too different to equally compare.
I like the sacral massage by both chairs. That is the area of the tailbone. The rollers of both chairs reach down low in that region to give a great massage to the SI joints. I think the massage of the DreamWave in that area is superior, although the roller track length is slightly shorter on the DreamWave (28.4" vs. 32").
I might also mention that the DreamWave has upper arm air cells that surround and inflate upon the biceps and triceps. The MA73 has shoulder airbags instead that inflate to the outside of the shoulders to pin the upper torso down while the rollers go up and down the back.
As with all Japanese chairs at the time of this writing, neither chair has zero gravity or foot rollers.
I hope you found this review helpful.
Dr. Alan Weidner
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