A quick look at the Procyon

Over time I’ll provide reviews in greater detail, but to get the ball rolling, I’ll start with a series of ‘Quick Looks’.

Procyon-03-LR

The Procyon was the first AVS machine I purchased. I made the purchase after spending weeks obsessively comparing specifications, reading user forums and trying to work out just what I might expect from such a machine.

As I was already an avid user of Neuroprogrammer, a primary requirement was the device be Audiostrobe compatible. This created something of a quandary. According to the specifications the Procyon was AS compatible, but it didn’t bear the AS logo, and it wasn’t listed as a compatible device on any of the sites that supplied AS content. Okay, thought I, it says it’s AS compatible, it must be. It even said “enhanced AS”, so what problem could there be?

In due course the Procyon arrived. It’s a nice package. The headphones are perfectly adequate and the MindPlace glasses are the best around. The preset sessions are beyond awesome! Apart from being an audio-visual treat, they also work.

Some may be critical of the 7-segment LED display and arcane patterns of button-pressing to reach all the functions via the three-button interface. I thought it was pretty crude too – surely an LCD panel and menu navigation wouldn’t be too much to ask these days? Having now used a number of other machines, including ones with LCDs and menus and so on, I would now rate the Procyon user interface “best of breed”. The great joy is that most things can be done by touch, without having to remove glasses to look at the screen. Even session selection isn’t the drag I thought it was – the machines with menus use relatively unhelpful names and you still have to refer to their manuals or keep cheat sheets at hand (unless you decide to memorise all the sessions) so keeping a simple list of sessions alongside the Procyon is not such a big deal.

There’s a few quirks in the driver installation if you want to hook the Procyon up to a PC, but if you follow the instructions to the letter, it works just fine.

The Procyon runs off three AA cells, and it’s important to use fresh, good quality alkaline cells for best performance. It can also be powered via the USB connection, and it works well with standard AC adapters with the mini-USB plug, such as those included with some models of Motorola cellphone.

The session editor isn’t exactly the epitome of user-friendliness, but when you get your head around the incredible amount of control it offers, and the fact that it’s included free (some vendors offer an editor only at additional cost), it’s easy to forgive its shortcomings.

It wasn’t long before I realised that something was amiss with the Audiostrobe. The LEDs were either on or they were off. I was under the impression that they were meant to vary in brightness. It wasn’t easy to find information on the AS standard, but a quick post on the Transparent forum elicited the very clear reply from Adam – the AS standard includes brightness control. After a series of queries on the MindPlace forum it became clear that the Procyon was using a simple threshold detection system to turn the LEDs on and off and that was it. I managed to get myself banned from the MP forum and went off in a filthy sulk. A couple of others who had taken interest in this matter persisted and much to everyone’s surprise, MindPlace did a major rewrite/upgrade of the Procyon firmware and it is now it’s not only extremely Audiostrobe compatible in the new “analog AS mode”, the original “digital AS mode” has been retained and you can click back and forth between the two at the touch of a button. Along with the addition of the analog mode, a heap of volume and noise threshold settings arrived, making the Procyon the most controllable AS decoder on the market. The editor has an AS configuration option where default colours, balance and relative brightness can be set.  All this leaves only one incredibly minor point against the Procyon AS implementation – the programmable digital filters aren’t as fast as the analog or simpler digital filters of some other devices and if you’re working with extremely short pulses, the AS is blurred a little – this won’t affect any ‘normal’ session, but it does mean I tend to use a Proteus or L&S Synergizer for some of my experimental sessions.

So, the team at MindPlace completely exceeded my expectations for support and shown that they really know their business. I’m pleased and proud to be involved with them.

Procyon-Glasses-Back-LR

A question often asked is whether the three-colour closed-eye glasses are worthwhile. The jury is out on significance of colour in terms of entrainment or other direct effects, but there’s no doubt that colour sets mood. At low flash rates (<7Hz) the blue and green are quite vivid. At higher flash rates the red will dominate. For AS you can use the editor to change from the default red/green to red/blue or green/blue and reduce the red’s brightness to suit. I’m currently experimenting with sessions using the human visual system’s distinction between high priority long-wavelength (red/green) light and low priority short-wavelength (blue) to deliver two separate frequencies, but it’s too soon to say if this is useful. I would say the tricolour system has much to recommend it. It certainly provides some truly mind-bending visuals, especially with the preset sessions (there’s a lot of things AS just can’t do!).

MindPlace does one thing I really respect. They have an open user forum. It is moderated, but posts are not held for approval. It is possible to get yourself banned by launching into blunt criticism (I learned that there are better ways of getting things done), but as long as you play nicely it’s a great place to share ideas, discuss all manner of mind-related subjects, and get answers to whatever questions may arise. Kudos to Andy for his consistent attention to every request for help. Marisa, MindPlace’s Canadian distributor, is an absolute goldmine when it comes to making the best use of sessions.

Overall, I would rate the Procyon “Top Choice” in the “Experimenter” and “Altered States” categories, first equal with the Laxman in the “Relaxation Machine” category, and second behind the Proteus and L&S Synergiser in the “AS Decoder” category. If I could have only one machine it would be the Procyon.

[Important note: The Procyon has a true audio synthesiser – the power of it’s audio capabilities is not immediately evident, but once appreciated, this in itself places the Procyon in a class of its own (along with the Proteus which also has an audio synthesiser).]

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Comments

  • Max  On August 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Finally found a blog about mind machine! Thanks a lot for your sharing, it’s so informative. I am thinking whether to buy Procyon or Laxman. I think Laxman is like a cool device, Procyon is rather professional. May I ask you how you define “Experimenter category”? If I use the machine mainly for Meditation, good sleeping and job focus, am I belong to the “Experimenter category”?

    Another thing that I worry about is, Laxman seems don’t got a lot of preset program. Is it mean I need to do it all by myself? Will it affect the effectiveness?

    • craigtavs  On August 10, 2009 at 2:14 pm

      Hi Max,

      Thanks for the great feedback!

      The Procyon has a great deal of programmable control – virtually every parameter of light and sound can be manipulated, hence a great experimenter’s machine. The Laxman has a much simpler programming model – capable, but not so nuts-and-bolts.

      For meditation, sleep and focus, either will fit the bill beautifully, it’s just a matter of how you value the particular features.

      The thing with the Laxman sessions is that they come in two parts, an MP3 audio file and a beat/lights session file. You can load any audio you wish and design your own beats/lights, or you can simply use the manual mode or random sessions for accompaniment. For example, for a meditation session you might load a Brian Eno track and accompany it with a random theta session. With the Procyon sessions, many are very similar but of different duration.

      Hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Craig

    • Ray  On March 19, 2011 at 1:39 am

      hey craig,

      I’ve seen you all over the place as I did my mind machine searching..I mean like you were everywehere!:-)…Anyways Just wanted to let you know that ordered the procyon and the laxman from your over view of the machines…both arrive today and i can’t wait to try them out with wifey:-)…I didnt get the laxman avs unit however and actually got a procyon rev2 unit from mindplace for a awesome deal.Anyways just wanted to say thanks for posting these blogs;they really helped:-)

  • Max  On August 10, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Hi Craig,

    Thanks a lot for the reply. I might get a Laxman to give a try, because it looks nice and cool :-). I will share my experiences here after I get it. Thanks.

    • craigtavs  On August 11, 2009 at 7:18 am

      Awesome, Max. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Beware, though, that a few of us have become thoroughly ‘addicted’ to AVS – just one more machine, please, just one 🙂

      Cheers,
      Craig

  • Max  On August 11, 2009 at 7:23 am

    Hi Craig,

    I finally ordered both of them :-). I want to compare which one is better for me. I will post more info once I get them. Thanks.

  • craigtavs  On August 11, 2009 at 7:31 am

    Well done! The only ‘compromise’ I’m ever satisfied with – both. Simple fact is that neither is better than the other – they are fundamentally different.

  • Reb  On October 12, 2009 at 12:00 am

    Hi Craig,
    Thanks for all the helpful information on your blog! I’m also looking to buy my first AVS machine and your blog has been very helpful in learning about this area. Right now, I am stuck between getting the Procyon and Sirius. Below are my interpretations on the pros and cons of each – wondering if you could offer any additional insight or corrections to my thoughts – – – (sorry for the long message!)

    SIRIUS
    PROs
    – Colorpulse & Audiopulse
    Colorpulse will synchronize a light show to any external audio that is plugged in, and Audiopulse will synch a light show to anything that is picked up by the microphone. These features seems like they would be awesome, but my understanding is that Procyon doesn’t have either of these features.

    – Pure white light
    I recall reading one of your posts where you said that pure white is best for seeing visions. I want to “trip out” with AVS and really go into places that are hypnotic, hallucinogenic, etc. From your comment, I wonder if this would make Sirius the best for that purpose since it comes with white-only glasses?

    CONs
    – just one color – white. I wonder if this would get boring or monotonous after a while. (However, I read on the Mindplace forum that Sirius does support 2-color glasses also. Does this mean that if I buy a Sirius with an extra pair of red-green glasses that I could have a multicolor experience similar to the Proteus?)

    – Small number of programs
    I understand that the other machines have more programs and are programmable, but I am guessing that the Colorpulse/Audiopulse features would make up for that because I could have unlimited light shows based on external audio that I provide. Would you agree with this guess, or are the pre-made programs just going to be more elaborate than anything Colorpulse/Audiopulse could provide?

    – No PC interface
    Is this correct? If so, i’m guessing that means the Sirius will not be able to be upgradable in any way.

    PROCYON
    PROs
    – 3 color glasses provide the most diverse multicolor experience (but not pure white?)

    – fully programmable & upgradeable via USB interface

    CONs
    – I’ve seen some reviews that said that the Procyon lights are not as vivid or sharp as the other units, and that the audio quality is not as good as the other units. Can you provide any insight on this?

    ONE THAT I CANT FIGURE OUT WHETHER IT IS PRO OR CON –
    Synchromuse
    All I’ve read about Synchromuse confuses me. Can Synchromuse just pick up audio from a CD and synchronize a light show to it, like ColorPulse on the Sirius – or do you have to do some sort of pre-manipulation to the music files?

    THREE LAST QUESTIONS
    1. Wondering if you could explain something I haven’t seen addressed on any website – when listening to the built-in programs, it seems like the audio comes from built-in synthesizers in each unit (Sirius, Procyon or Proteus). What kind of sounds do these produce? Are they just simple sine waves, etc, or do they produce rich, professional sounding multitimbre sounds like expensive music synths do? Is the Procyon synth better sounding than the Sirius synth?

    2. I haven’t been able to understand how any of these units treat binaural beat audio. If I listen to a binaural CD through the Sirius or the Procyon, will the lights react to both binaural beats?

    3. I read that the Procyon produces a “true Ganzfield effect.” Does the Sirius do this also?

    Sorry again for the long message! Hoping that you can shed some light on these for me.
    Regards.
    Reb

    • craigtavs  On October 12, 2009 at 6:37 am

      Hi Reb,
      You can get an adapter cable for the Procyon that will allow you to use any of the bicolour or monocolour glasses, so there’s no real colour limitation to the Procyon. It can also produce a quite passable white by adjusting the Audiostrobe colour mapping.
      The Sirius can also use other glasses, including bicolour, so only limit to Sirius is that it doesn’t do tricolour. Colorpulse/Audiopulse are kind of cool, but more novelty than anything that’s likely to have long-term value.
      The synthesizers are relatively simple tone generators with a variety of waveforms and mixing/modulation options – no clever filters, effects or noise such as you may be thinking of from soft-synths, etc.
      I haven’t had any problems with audio quality with any of the units. It seems to me most issues arise from low batteries or noise/earth loop problems with connected laptops/PCs. None of the units I’ve used are real high-fliers in the high-fidelity department, but they are all more than adequate for their intended purpose.
      Programmability is a huge plus, but surprisinbgly few people make extensive use of it, so it’s going to be up to you to decide if you’re the kind of person who will get into the nuts and bolts. While it doesn’t make use of the full tricolour capabilities of the Procyon, NP2 or Mind Workstation provide an easier way to create your own sessions, using Audiostrobe to control the lights. NP2 or MWS can provide the “rich” sounds that you may be looking for.
      If you listen to a binaural CD the lights will do nothing (or very little) unless the CD is Audiostrobe encoded, in which case it will use the AS info, not the binaurals.
      Synchromuse works well if you have the time and inclination to write sessions to go along with your own music. I really don’t know why it hasn’t caught on.
      Ganzfeld is a multifacted subject. The Procyon specifically has programming functions to create a stable light of any colour. From there you need to consider the open-eye vs closed-eye interpretation of ganzfeld. Open-eye can be quite an exciting experience, but I rarely use open-eye now that the novelty has worn off.
      I’ve found that everyone has their own opinion on all these things, so ultimately you’re just going to have to grab a machine and see how it goes for you. I doubt you’d be disappointed with the Procyon – it remains my favourite and most used machine. The Sirius is just plain awesome for its price.
      Cheers,
      Craig

  • Reb  On October 17, 2009 at 3:37 am

    Thanks very much for the answers, Craig! Based on what you said, I’m thinking that I’ll just spend the extra money and go with the Procyon for all of the extra features & flexibility. Can’t wait to get started experimenting with AVS…

    • craigtavs  On October 17, 2009 at 7:58 am

      Hi Reb,
      Great stuff! Take the time to get famililiar with the Procyon Editor too – just being able to mix-and-match Audiostrobe colours is worth the effort.
      Cheers,
      Craig

  • Kevin  On June 9, 2011 at 12:05 am

    I have just discovered that I prefer the Procyon without sounds – well for now, anyway. I took the headphones off and could hear the peace and quite all around me, with just an occassional train, or car, in the distance, and also the sound of the beautiful wind blowing and the occassional bird singing somewhere.

    Viewing the visuals in silence was truly stunnning as well as being very relaxing.

    • CraigT  On June 9, 2011 at 7:32 am

      Nice!

      The various combinations of light and sound that variety, and lights only in a natural setting is particularly pleasant. You may have noticed that the audio also affects how you see the visuals – if you’ve got a constant visual, you will see flickers and changes corresponding to noises/sounds that you hear.

      Cheers,
      Craig

  • Divani  On August 10, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    Hi Craig –
    Have you used this one –
    http://www.microbeatmini.com

    How would it compare to say the Laxman – I’m still undecided between the various machines available.

    • CraigT  On August 11, 2011 at 5:52 am

      Hi Divani,

      No, I haven’t met the new machine in person. It appears to be a very nice integrated Audiostrobe Decoder device, meaning that it expects session content to be supplied by a PC or audio player with Audiostrobe encoded content.

      It looks like a great option if Audiostrobe is your preferred seesion type. It should work well with NP3/MWS.

      I’ll look forward to hearing about it if you end up with one.

      Cheers,
      Craig

  • Divani  On August 12, 2011 at 3:56 am

    Hi Craig, I’m a total newbie and slowly gathering info by reading all the sites, your blog etc. Could you point me to some comparison between the pro’s & cons of audiostrobe v/s other methods (I’m not very sure what these are )…pulse? binaural? My interest is in deep meditation and at times energizing myself. What is the AVS that suits this purpose best. Pls share as possible. Thanks.

    • CraigT  On August 12, 2011 at 7:35 am

      Hi Divani,

      If you compare the Quick Looks for the Procyon, Synergiser and Laxman you’ll have a mind machine with audiostrobe (my favourite), an Audiostrobe only device, and an MP3 based device without direct Audiostrobe support.

      Have you visited the Transparent Corp community? It’s a great place to get some great perspectives.

      Cheers,
      Craig

  • Ritvik Shankar  On January 27, 2013 at 12:43 am

    Hi Craig,
    how are you doing?
    From a long time i have this doubt about audio brainwave entrainment Vs Mind machines. My goal is to practice meditation consciously in delta brainwave range. Due to some reasons, i have not been able to purchase a mind machine. So i want to start with audio brainwave entrainment like isochronic tones/ binaural beats/ monaural tones, etc. I want to give my mediation 3 hours daily and want to start with meditating in alpha range and then moving on to theta and then finally delta. I can give any amount of time to each stage…i just want to achieve my goal..i.e., consciously meditating in delta.
    I know the progress will be slow compared to using a mind machine like procyon…but is it really possible that these audio tones can be a success in brainwave entrainment, if given 3-4 hours daily.. consistently ? As i said, time isnt a constraint for me.
    Thanks
    Ritvik Shankar

    • CraigT  On January 27, 2013 at 7:51 am

      Hi Ritvik,

      Audio-only works particularly well with lower frequency rhythms. A program like Neuroprogrammer, or the free ones like Gnaural or SBaGen or the shareware BWGen will provide tones entirely suitable for your purposes. Gnaural is the more comprehensive program but doesn’t have many sessions readily available, but they are certainly easy enough to write, and if sufficient interest were expressed I may consider providing some support for this product by writing a few basic sessions. There is a vast library of user-created sessions for BWGen, but its not easy to distinguish good from not-so-good.

      A mind machine can be used audio-only but the real strength is that visual stimulation, at least down to theta, is more persuasive than audio. Below theta many people find the lights too “lumpy” – I use a number of tricks to work around this in the sessions I write. For serious meditation I believe that “equipment” distracts and detracts from the practice – as binaural beats require headphones, isochronic or audio-embedded beats, playable through speakers, are a better option.

      Whatever you use it is only an aid and possibly an element to your practice that will keep it fresh and interesting. “Conscious delta” is technically a contradiction – not having had access to the monks who have supposedly been shown to exhibit elevated delta or the actual data, I am not wholly convinced that the popular understanding of meditation/delta is entirely correct. I think the reality lies in the very important understanding that in a healthy, awake brain all rhythms will be present all of the time, with there being only a change in proportions with the mental activity being undertaken and AVS merely assisting in elevating the level of the desired frequency.

      With the amount of time you are willing to invest in attaining your goal I suspect that AVS would be of limited benefit. AVS is ideal for those with little time who want to get to a particular state quickly, and like any shortcut, it is not always of the same quality as that which is attained by sustained effort.

      Whatever you decide, I hope you enjoy the journey. It is easy to name a state, but it is only when it is experienced that its reality is truly known.

      Cheers,
      Craig

    • CraigT  On January 27, 2013 at 7:51 am

      Hi Ritvik,

      Audio-only works particularly well with lower frequency rhythms. A program like Neuroprogrammer, or the free ones like Gnaural or SBaGen or the shareware BWGen will provide tones entirely suitable for your purposes. Gnaural is the more comprehensive program but doesn’t have many sessions readily available, but they are certainly easy enough to write, and if sufficient interest were expressed I may consider providing some support for this product by writing a few basic sessions. There is a vast library of user-created sessions for BWGen, but its not easy to distinguish good from not-so-good.

      A mind machine can be used audio-only but the real strength is that visual stimulation, at least down to theta, is more persuasive than audio. Below theta many people find the lights too “lumpy” – I use a number of tricks to work around this in the sessions I write. For serious meditation I believe that “equipment” distracts and detracts from the practice – as binaural beats require headphones, isochronic or audio-embedded beats, playable through speakers, are a better option.

      Whatever you use it is only an aid and possibly an element to your practice that will keep it fresh and interesting. “Conscious delta” is technically a contradiction – not having had access to the monks who have supposedly been shown to exhibit elevated delta or the actual data, I am not wholly convinced that the popular understanding of meditation/delta is entirely correct. I think the reality lies in the very important understanding that in a healthy, awake brain all rhythms will be present all of the time, with there being only a change in proportions with the mental activity being undertaken and AVS merely assisting in elevating the level of the desired frequency.

      With the amount of time you are willing to invest in attaining your goal I suspect that AVS would be of limited benefit. AVS is ideal for those with little time who want to get to a particular state quickly, and like any shortcut, it is not always of the same quality as that which is attained by sustained effort.

      Whatever you decide, I hope you enjoy the journey. It is easy to name a state, but it is only when it is experienced that its reality is truly known.

      Cheers,
      Craig

  • Anonymous  On September 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Hi Craig,

    I am new to this field, and would like your opinion as to what you think may be best choices for me.

    I am looking to add a Light and Sound Machine for patients. I prefer to use a machine that is connected to or runs cables from my computer. I wish for the sound to include music.

    The sessions would last around 8 minutes, less than optimal but I assume better than none at all. Some would be tailored for the low-energy, depressed and anxious, others for those too wound up. Programs that seem to aid in cellular/neural issues would be a plus.

    Suggestions?

    Thanks
    L.

    • CraigT  On September 13, 2013 at 10:08 am

      Hi,

      Any of the Audisostrobe devices, such as Procyon, Proteus or Microbeat would serve your needs in conjunction with the likes of NP3 or MWS. The MindLights or Laxman would be fine if you’re happy to create sessions using their editors. There is another device soon to be released that will also be worth considering.

      Eight minutes is at the bare minimum of usefulness for therapeutic applications, however, particularly for anxiety and energy, it will be better than nothing.

      Cheers,
      Craig

  • Anonymous  On January 21, 2015 at 2:56 am

    hi craig well i have been using the procyon since 1 month but on me i observed no effects no visuals nothing what to do now because i am highly dissapointed with the product and everyone talking abt it is praising it i m felling sad that the product is not working on me should i give it some more time……….

    • CraigT  On January 21, 2015 at 9:20 am

      Hi,

      Sorry to hear you’re not getting the results you were hoping for.

      AVS is kind of strange – there’s several things going on with it. Psychedelic visuals should just happen – it’s the nature of vision and flashing lights – I wonder what your expectations are? As for “not working”, AVS is a subtle stimulus and, used passively, will tend to have only limited results, with relaxation being one of the very few effects that can be pretty much relied on. More complex outcomes require a plan and regular, disciplined use. In many cases it is the practice of taking time out and focusing on an intent that brings results every bit as much as it is the AVS technique. Even if there is no clearly evident results (and after only one month it would be unlikely to be anything too outstanding) it’s worth just enjoying the time out from the ordinary world.

      I hope you persevere and find pleasure with your Procyon.

      Cheers,
      Craig

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