As any of you who have asked me which is the best device will know, I invariably give a highly qualified “depends”. Each device has its own point(s) of difference based on which it may be the only suitable device or may be excluded from consideration.
The Psio has two clear distinctions.
First, it is completely cable free (notwithstanding the couple of inches of earphone cable each side). This is good – in many ways a grail, if not holy, of AVS design. As long as you are sitting straight up or with head back, the Psio provides the ultimate in AVS comfort. Lean forward and the Psio will slide off your nose. Lie down and the arms will probably lift the visor off your face. You will have noticed on psiousa.com that many of the images show young people gazing skyward – I’ll get back to this later.
The next distinction is that it is a PsioPlanet Session Player. Underlying is an MP3 player, but with no way for the user to create or modify sessions it might as well be dedicated hardware. As it says on the box… “More programmes – http://www.psioplanet.com”. I am awaiting comment from Psio on this – as far as I’m concerned a closed system ends my interest in a product. Of course, there is a market for pure content, and packaging that content in a dedicated player is certainly one way of maintaining copy rights and future income. Some of the included sessions apply the Dr Milton Erickson theory. These start with a complex audio segment with vigorous light show followed by a period of simple flash and beep. Some include verbal guidance/suggestion. I have used and read about so many single-doctor breakthroughs in AVS that Dr Erickson’s idea really is just one more. There’s no reason why the sessions shouldn’t be effective as they contain the essential stimuli but whether this strategy appeals or is particularly effective will be a very individual thing. A few pieces of illuminated music from Buddha Bar round out the package.
The Psio is equipped with 512Mb session memory, three quarters of which is used by the standard content (by file name as opposed to promotional or display name): AntiStress, Carmenita, DataProcessing, Eureka, FocusAttention, HypnoSleep, Jenousaime, JoieDeVivre, Joy of Life, MemoBooster, Siesta, Survival and the Psio Intro in three languages. I gather that if one purchases additional content from PsioPlanet one will have to load and unload sessions as required.
The Psio uses a standard USB connection with an ordinary mini-USB socket. It appears to the PC as a disk drive. Standard MP3 tracks can be loaded and played (without lights, of course). The integral battery is charged via the USB cable, either from PC or the supplied AC adapter.
The unit is well constructed, avoiding the problems of cable crush/breakage found with the MBM side arms and the Laxman nose-bridge by making the entire unit softly rigid. Obviously there has been quite an investment in tooling – lots of tricky moldings. The panel behind which the electronics lives is not intended to be removed – melt-sealed on each side.
Many-LED edgelit frosted, silvered “lenses” provide superbly even open-eye illumination – arguably the best overall, certainly the best in a compact package. The colors are crisp and brilliant. Left and right are controlled independently. I mentioned before that many of the promotional images show the Psio in use under a clear blue sky – this is unrealistic as the light becomes washed out in full daylight although better than most devices in open shade. The manual makes it clear that the Psio is for open or closed eye use. Closed-eye, red dominates, with blues and greens apparent only in low light conditions.
But then I run into something odd. There doesn’t appear to be any smooth color gradients in the sessions, and having noted this, there seems to be a very small palette of colors in use, possibly as few as six colors. Few colors does tend to lead to striking visuals – lots of contrast, rapid changing and with lots of emergent complexity.
And then I notice something else about the visuals – they are only loosely related to the audio. Some obvious audio elements are ignored in the lightscape, while synchronization with larger musical elements is often mistimed.
The audio quality with the supplied earphones and musical content is perfectly adequate. Standard headphones can be plugged into the right hand earphone socket. The sound used for the “beep/flash” segments is either an unusual sound or one poorly rendered – can’t say it really matters, it does the job just fine. Controls are clear and easy to use, controlling on/off/start/pause, session select <>, brightness and volume. There is also a recessed reset button. The display is necessarily small but the backlit high-contrast blue/white makes for easy reading.
The presentation of the package is excellent. A full color sleeve contains a robust cardboard box with cutout insert holding the Psio and accessories. The main accessories are matching white… ear buds, universal transformer and USB cable. There are a couple of strange little gray gizmos of different lengths – these fit into a little slot above the nose, between the eyes to adjust to different noses.
I like the Psio. I would like to like it more than I do. It comes so close to being the ideal device, and then falls short in ways that I think matter. To be viable in my world it must be user programmable – even Audiostrobe compatibility would make a big difference. The color model is entirely fit-for-purpose – it is only when compared to full-color devices, especially the latest 6-channel devices, that the deficiencies I have noted might be observed. The supplied sessions cover the essentials and additional content is priced similarly to other AVS content (USD 4.00 – 20.00).
I hope you will have the opportunity to try a Psio.
P.S. I have had a reply from Psio regarding some of my questions. Here’s the Q&A so far…
The unit has 512Mb storage, most used by the standard programs. Is this expandable?
Not now, but working on that for future models
Is there a means by which users can light encode their own music?
No, but we will be expanding the library to over 1000 programs in the coming years. Again, PSiO is for the 99% that don’t want to or know how to do that.
Is there an editor available for this purpose?
There are a couple more questions that will take a little more time to answer.
I suspect that my readership lies mainly in the 1% that tends to push the limits. I also suspect that this 1% has disproportionate influence over people’s opinions of a technology or product. The Psio is a superb package for anyone who likes the PsioPlanet sessions. For those who like to pull things to pieces and make them do things on command, the Psio offers little. The psychonaut will enjoy the lightshows – maybe sans audio.
Latest info on color model – 2-bits per channel, giving bright and half right for 3 primary (RGB) plus 3 secondary (CMY) colors, giving 12 colors in all.