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®.
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.
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 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.
Ease of Use
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.
Comfort and Side-effects
The Alpha Stim’s earclips are barely noticeable if you have the current low enough. If you have the current too high, you may feel a bit of dizziness and should adjust the current down to prevent this. The feeling can be somewhat similar to being on a Ferry, which most people don’t mind too much. The clips use a saline conducting fluid, which is usually supplied with the pack. Be careful if you try to create the saline yourself, as too much salt can cause hot spots on the pads which can be painful.
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. The downside of the Fisher Wallace device, is that the sponges can release too much water if saturated. This can be avoided by squeezing out excess fluid before attachment.
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.
|Device||Fisher Wallace Stimulator®||Alpha-Stim® AID|
|Occasionally replaced||Sponge Receptacles||$32||Earclip Electrodes||$36|
|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|
The main accessory you will be replacing for the Fisher Wallace Stimulator® are the sponges and these are priced at $72 for a year supply. This not cheap at all, but they are good quality sponges and should last a while depending on use.
On the other hand, Alpha Stim charges $15 for 256 small felt pads, which is a far cheaper option. Alpha Stim does require that you use conducting solution on the pads, at $24 per refill bottle, although this is really just saline solution that you can potentially make yourself.
|Device||Fisher Wallace Stimulator®||Alpha-Stim® AID|
|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. The restocking fee does mean that you can’t try it for free unfortunately.
The Fisher Wallace Stimulator® is a bit cheaper at $699 and at this price you get the ability to treat chronic pain, but only 6 sponges and a 1 year warranty (extendable to 5 years for $99). Although there is less risk if you are dissatisfied – its free to try for 30 days.
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. Both devices have minimal side-effects and are relatively comfortable, but the major difference is whether you would prefer ear clips or sponges. The Fisher Wallace device is slightly cheaper and free to try, but you don’t have the extended guarantee that comes with the Alpha Stim. It is a complicated choice, but hopefully this has shed some light on the matter. Either way they are both great devices that are certainly worth a try if you are suffering from anxiety, depression or insomnia.
How to Purchase
All CES devices are currently FDA class III and therefore require authorization from a Medical Professional to be purchased.
If you wish to purchase the Fisher Wallace Device, you can order it on their official website at www.fisherwallace.com. Follow the same-day authorization system for purchase approval.
If you wish to purchase to the Alpha Stim, you can order it on their 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.
About the Reviewer
This review is my own personal critique of the Alpha Stim and Fisher Wallace devices. As a sufferer of anxiety and insomnia, I use CES frequently to manage the symptoms and have created this website to share my knowledge with others, given the lack of information found online. I hope you found this information useful and if you choose to make a purchase, you can support the upkeep of this website by using the affiliate links in the blog.
*Moehringer J and Knabe MB. Transdermal electrical neurostimulation therapies in psychiatry: A review of the evidence. Psychiatric Annals, 46(10):589-593.