Fisher Wallace Stimulator® vs Alpha Stim

Fisher Wallace and Alpha Stim are two market leading brands in Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES). They both produce devices that aim to relieve anxiety, insomnia, depression and pain. For this review, we will be comparing the Alpha-Stim® AID and the Fisher Wallace Stimulator®.

Fisher Wallace Stimulator® Alpha Stim® AID
Effectiveness
Functionality
Ease of Use
Comfort and Side-effects
Portability and Aesthetics
Replacement Accessories
Cost

 

Effectiveness

Both devices have unique patented waveforms. Alpha Stim uses a bi-polar square wave at around 0.5Hz, with current spikes at every step. The spikes are supposed to break the skin resistance so current can flow more freely and give a greater effect. On the other hand, the Fisher Wallace Stimulator® uses a much higher frequency (15,000Hz), with no spikes.

According to a scientific review*, the Alpha Stim has a larger and more diverse empirical base. The Alpha Stim has been tested on patients including veterans with PTST and a range of psychiatric conditions. The Fisher Wallace Stimulator® has also been used for a variety of conditions. However, the sample size is more limited than required for widespread consensus. Both devices have good anecdotal support from patients and doctors for their effectiveness and are both FDA-cleared for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia and depression.

Fisher Wallace Stimulator®  
Alpha-Stim® AID  

 

Functionality

Earclips

Alpha Stim Earclips, Conducting Solution and Felt Pads

The Alpha-Stim® AID (Anxiety Insomnia Depression) is a digital device, with buttons and an LCD screen. You are able to adjust the current (0-500µA) and duration (20, 40 or 60 minutes) for the treatment. The screen lights up in the dark and has useful stats such as battery strength, timer and current indicator. Another cool feature is the Cumulative Timer, which records the total hours used and is useful for tracking progress. The AID comes with small earclip electrodes that require attaching felt pads and adding a few drops of conductive solution before use.

The Fisher Wallace Stimulator® is a simple, analog device that has no LCD display. A single click wheel controls everything, turning it on/off and adjusting the current (0-4mA). A series of LEDs indicate current level and the duration is fixed at 20 minutes, after which the device automatically beeps and switches off. The device uses large sponge applicators, which are dipped in normal water and fixed to either temple using the headband. The major bonus is that the larger body band allows you to apply these sponges anywhere for the treatment of pain. To have the equivalent functionality for Alpha Stim, you would need upgrade to Alpha-Stim® M, which costs $1,195!

Fisher Wallace Stimulator®
Alpha-Stim® AID

 

Ease of Use

Fisher Wallace Stimulator vs Alpha Stim wearing modes

How the Fisher Wallace Stimulator® (left) and Alpha-Stim® AID (right) are worn

Both devices are incredibly easy to use. The Fisher Wallace Stimulator® is very basic with the one click wheel to operate. The setup is simple and there is a belt clip on the rear to free your hands. There is a slight complication in that if you have thick hair, you may need to ensure that the application area is damp enough for electricity to flow through.

The AID’s digital display is very convenient if you want to see the countdown or know stats. The problem of hair thickness is overcome with the Alpha-Stim® AID’s earclip electrodes. The self-adhesive felt pads are easily applied, however they sometimes fail due to moisture contacting the adhesive. You only need to add a few drops of conductive fluid and you are good to go. The AID is worn around the neck with a lanyard allowing for ease of movement.

Fisher Wallace Stimulator®
Alpha-Stim® AID

 

Comfort and Side-effects

The Alpha Stim’s earclips are may feel uncomfortable initially, as you will notice tingling sensations on your ears. If you have the current too high, you may feel a bit of nausea and should adjust the current down. After several minutes these sensations should diminish.

The Fisher Wallace Stimulator® applies current over a much larger surface area, which reduces any sensations from the treatment. Some electricity hits the optic nerve, which may cause a flashing phenomenon, however this is a normal and safe occurrence. There are very few side-effects and the only discomfort for some is the dampness of the electrodes.

Fisher Wallace Stimulator®
Alpha-Stim® AID

 

Portability and Aesthetics

Both devices are suited for use at home or in a clinic. The Fisher Wallace Stimulator® is not suitable for use outside, as the headband and electrodes will make you pretty self-conscious. The Alpha Stim on the other hand is far more discrete, the earclips are usually not noticed and can be quickly removed. Both systems have carrying cases, which make it easy to transport.

The Fisher Wallace Stimulator® does not look particularly attractive, it was designed years ago for clinical use and is very basic. The Alpha-Stim® AID is sleeker, has fewer components and a smoother finish.

Fisher Wallace Stimulator®
Alpha-Stim® AID

 

Replacement Accessories

Device Fisher Wallace Stimulator® Alpha-Stim® AID
Occasionally replaced Sponge Receptacles $32 Earclip Electrodes $36
Velcro Headband $14
Replacement Wire $24
Annually replaced Pack of 96 Sponges (1 Year Supply) $72 Box of 256 Felt Electrode Pads $15
Alpha Conducting Solution Refill size bottle (250ml) $24
Annual Cost $72 $39

The Fisher Wallace Stimulator® is not cheap for accessories, however the only accessory that you will be replacing frequently are the sponges and these are priced at $72 for a year supply. This suggests that you will get through 4 pairs every month. You will find that after the first month, you may use the device less frequently and therefore a year supply should last a long time.

On the other hand, Alpha Stim charges $15 for 256 small pads. Over a year, this will be roughly 10 pairs a month (or every 3 days). Whilst the pads are not durable, you can replace these quite regularly and cheaply. However, Alpha Stim does require that you use conducting solution on the pads, which is $24 per refill bottle.

Fisher Wallace Stimulator®
Alpha-Stim® AID

 

Cost

Device Fisher Wallace Stimulator® Alpha-Stim® AID
Price $699 $795
CES Device Fisher Wallace Stimulator® x 1 Alpha-Stim® AID x 1
Accessories Headset x 1 (inc. wires and receptacles) Velcro Headband x 1 Velcro Body Strap x 1 Earclip Electrodes x 1 Neck Lanyard
Replaceables Sponges x 6 Felt Electrode Pads x 256 Alpha Conducting Solution 15ml
Batteries AA batteries x 2 AAA batteries x 2
Case Storage case Storage case
Manuals Insomnia, Anxiety and Depression Manual Chronic Pain Manual Owner’s Manual
Warranty 1 Year Warranty 5 Year Warranty
30 Day Guarantee 100% Refund 90% Refund (10% Restocking fee at $79.50)

At $795, the Alpha-Stim® AID includes a few accessories, enough pads to cover a long period of use and a small bottle of conducting solution. The major plus is the included 5-year warranty. You get a 30-day “money back” guarantee, but you must pay 10% if you return it.

The Fisher Wallace Stimulator® is cheaper at $699 and at this price you get the accessories, but just 6 sponges and a 1 year warranty (extendable to 5 years for $99). The major advantage of the Fisher Wallace Stimulator® is the added ability to treat chronic pain, which Alpha Stim does not include in the AID (only in M). The device is also free to try for 30 days.

Fisher Wallace Stimulator®
Alpha-Stim® AID

 

Conclusion

Both these devices are FDA-Cleared and are well regarded for their effectiveness in Cranial Electrotherapy. Alpha Stim has had broader scientific evaluation, but Fisher Wallace also has well documented clinical trials. The AID is a more recent design and has more features in terms of options and stats, but does not include the ability to treat chronic pain. Both devices are easy to use and are portable, however the Fisher Wallace device is much more suited to indoor use. The side-effects of Alpha Stim can be nauseating to a small degree, whilst Fisher Wallace has minimal side-effects. The Fisher Wallace has higher replacement costs. The AID comes with a 5-year warranty, which is an extra $99 for the Fisher Wallace.

If you like modern, slimline design, stats, outdoor use and you are not concerned with treating pain, then the Alpha-Stim® AID is for you. However, if simplicity, functionality and reduced side-effects matter most, then the Fisher Wallace Stimulator® should have everything you need.

 

How to Purchase

If you wish to purchase the Fisher Wallace Stimulator®, you can obtain same-day authorization online at www.fisherwallace.com and have it shipped to you without needing to go to your doctor.

If you wish to purchase to the Alpha Stim, you can order it on the official website at www.alpha-stim.com. If you live in the US, there is no point in trying to go on Amazon or eBay to find either of these products, here is why.

 

 

 

 

 

*Moehringer J and Knabe MB. Transdermal electrical neurostimulation therapies in psychiatry: A review of the evidence. Psychiatric Annals, 46(10):589-593.