binaural beats vs isochronic tones

Binaural Beats Vs Isochronic Tones

Binaural beats and isochronic tones are two different methods of producing brainwave entrainment, with audio and repetitive beats.  They are both used to stimulate and influence your brain's electrical activity, and guide you to specific and more desired mental states.

In this post I'm going to highlight the key differences between the two methods, and which one has been proven scientifically to produce the stronger effects.

Before I get into that, I think it's important to address a very common misconception…

Are Isochronic Tones Just a Different Type of Binaural Beat?

One of the most common misconceptions I come across, is that isochronic tones are just a different a type of binaural beat.  But that's incorrect.  They are both different methods of creating audio brainwave entrainment.

Binaural beats have been around for much longer and can be traced back to 1839, when they were discovered by German scientist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove.   Isochronic tones are a much newer discovery and were first highlighted in a study by Arturo Manns  in 1981.

In his 1981 study, Manns was the first to report how isochronic tones produce a stronger brainwave entrainment effect when compared to binaural beats.

Stimulating and Influencing Your Brainwave Activity with Repetitive Beats

  • Both isochronic tones and binaural beats stimulate and influence your brainwaves, using the sound of repetitive beats.  This type of brainwave stimulation is known as ‘brainwave entrainment‘.
  • Both methods work by stimulating your brain with continuous repetitive beats of a specific frequency.  When your brain is stimulated with a repetitive beat, your dominant brainwaves start to fall in sync to the same speed of the beats.

The time it takes for your brainwaves to synchronise to the beats can vary.  But on average it's generally considered to happen after around 5 or 6 minutes of listening to the beats.

The big difference between isochronic tones and binaural beats is the way the beats are created.  Isochronic tones produce a much more distinctive sounding beat, which produces a stronger reaction in your brainwave electrical activity.  Which is what ultimately makes them more effective and a stronger method of brainwave stimulation.

Binaural beats

How Do Binaural Beats Work?

A binaural beat is created by sending tones of a slightly different frequency into each ear, which results in the listener hearing a ‘perceived' beat at the frequency equal to the difference between the two tone frequencies.  To put that more simply, here's an example:

A tone of 200Hz is sent to the left ear

A tone of 210Hz is sent to the right ear

The different between both frequencies is 10Hz, so the listener perceives a tone beating at a rate of 10 times per second, i.e. 10Hz.

Again using the above example, if the second tone in the right ear was increased to 220Hz, the difference would be 20Hz, so a 20Hz beat would be heard.

Why are Binaural Beats ‘Perceived' and Not Just Heard Like Normal Beats?

Good question.  With binaural beats the resulting beat you hear is a type of auditory illusion, created and heard inside your head.  No actual beat is sent into your ears, just two plain tones at different frequencies.  The brain recognises that the tones are different in each ear and somehow produces a resulting beat after processing them.

10Hz binaural beat waveform
A 10Hz binaural beat waveform before it goes inside your head

Looking at the snapshot above there isn't a visible beat, just 2 continuous waveforms for each left and right channel/ear.  After the 2 tones are sent to each ear, your brain naturally converts the two different tones into a single beat, known as a binaural beat.

Here's a sample of what a 10Hz binaural beat sounds like:

10Hz binaural beat

Binaural beat waveform
Example waveform of what a binaural beat would look like inside your head – Image credit: DPic via

The diagram above shows what a binaural beat waveform looks like when formed inside the brain.

When determining the strength of a beat, the waveform is measured from the highest point to the lowest part of the curve/wave.   As you can see from the diagram above, there isn't a very big distance between the highest and lowest points in the sound wave.  You could almost compare it to a calm sea.

In a research article by David Siever 2009, Entraining Tones and Binaural Beats, Siever noted that the modulation depth (difference between loud and quiet) is very small at just 3db, a 2 to 1 ratio.  Compared to isochronic tones that easily produce 50db, which is a 100,000 to 1 ratio.

In layman's terms, this means that isochronic tones produce a much more pronounced and distinct sounding beat.  When measured on an EEG, binaural beats only produce a small response in the brain, and little to no impact on brainwave driving.  So for brainwave entrainment purposes, isochronic tones are more effective and superior.

Key Binaural Beats Issues

  • You always need headphones to hear Binaural Beats tracks effectively.
  • They produce a very shallow sound waveform compared to isochronic tones, which results in a weaker brainwave entrainment effect.
  • They are not considered to be effective in the higher beta and gamma frequency ranges.
  • You can't target a specific side of the brain, just the whole brain.

Isochronic tones

How Isochronic Tones Work

Isochronic tones are consistent regular beats of a single tone.  To explain it in the simplest of terms, an isochronic tone is a tone being switched on and off very quickly.

The speed at which the tone is switched on and off is measured in terms of Hertz (Hz).   The image below shows the waveform of a 10Hz isochronic tone.

Example 10Hz Isochronic Tone

10Hz isochronic tone
10Hz isochronic tone – 10 beats per second

The example above shows a 1 second snapshot of a 10Hz isochronic tone.  If you count the waveforms you'll see they are repeated 10 times over this 1 second time period.

1 Minute demo of a 10Hz isochronic tone:

10Hz tones

Key Isochronic Tones Benefits

  • They produce a more distinct tone/beat, which results in a stronger ‘cortical evoked response' in the brain, making the stimulation more effective.
  • Standard sessions/tracks don't require headphones.
  • With advanced sessions that require headphones, you have the ability to stimulate each side of the brain with a different frequency of beat.  This enables you to lower or increase the activity in one side of the brain.  This process is known split hemisphere stimulation.

Further Reading

For a more in-depth explanation of how isochronic tones can influence your mental state, check out my article here: How Isochronic Tones Work – Includes links to research resources.

38 thoughts on “Binaural Beats Vs Isochronic Tones”

  1. is it safe for people who have epilepsy?
    i read that bunyral beats could be unsafe for such conditions? edpecially those affecting the brain. Os this true?

    1. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t honestly give you concrete advice that this technology is safe for any specific condition. My knowledge comes from using and studying the technology for around 10 years now, as an enthusiast. From my own personal perspective, I believe it is a safe technology to use. If I had any doubts about that, I wouldn’t post videos on YouTube that anyone can use, or allow my own children to use it.

      There is lots of conflicting information about this issue online, so it can be confusing to know what is true. The warnings in this area do appear to just be precautional in nature; because there hasn’t been sufficient research to confirm it’s safe. So a precautionary warning is often suggested, to be on the safe side. I haven’t come across any scientific research, suggesting that this technology isn’t safe for specific groups of people, like those with epilepsy. David Seiver is one of the pioneers in brainwave entrainment research from He is on record saying: “Auditory entrainment (AE) is a safe alternative for people who have a history of seizures, or believe that they might be susceptible to seizures using photic entrainment.”

      1. Perhaps you could begin with a file which features beta or maybe high theta. It is my personal experience that the files with delta are “more challenging” at least when you first try listening.

  2. Hi Jason, I’ve been using binaural beats for years but I am intrigued with isochronic beats now. Any way to find just the beats without any music with it? The reason I ask is that music is a personal experience with me and it gets me going with visualizations and such. I found that just listening to the binaural beats makes me much more focused compared to music embedded with beats.

    Hope this makes sense. Thanks.

    1. Hi Nicholas, yes you can get a version of all of my isochronic tones tracks without any music. If you go to any of the isochronic tones product pages, you will see a ‘Just Tones’ version in the background sounds options.

  3. Hi sir , can i have dream with 5 hz?
    I tried a time i had dream for 3 hours (i set it for 3 hours ) then i tried many times again but i didnt have dream. Why?

    1. There isn’t really an exact frequency that will guarantee to make everyone have more dreams. Most dreams tend to happen when we are experiencing periods of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep during the night. Depending on the person and how long they sleep, a typical person might experience 3-5 periods of REM sleep per night. It’s that stage where we are drifting between a state of sleep and being awake that our consciousness enters dream states. While we are asleep we usually produce mainly Delta wave activity in the 4Hz and below region. So I would expect many people to experience dreams while they are in and around the 4-5Hz region, but usually after they have already experienced some deeper sleep. It will vary from person to person. Even the same person will experience different sleep patterns and potentially hit the dream sweet spot at slightly different stages. Which might explain why the 5Hz track helped you dream once, but not on other occasions. Just listening to 5Hz or any frequency between 4-5Hz isn’t really going to guarantee more dreams on its own. You need to hit that sweet spot where you are drifting in and out of sleep and a fully awakened state, and that’s difficult to achieve listening to a single frequency. It’s also worth keeping a notebook by your bed and consciously telling yourself before sleeping, that you will write down any dreams you remember as soon as you wake up. That can be helpful because we dream a lot more than we think but usually just forget them, or don’t wake up fully enough to consciously make a note of them.

    2. Try the Wake back to sleep method. go to sleep w/ your binaural or isochronic tones. I like the ones that transition from Theta into delta. Set an alarm for about 1 & 1/2 to 2 hrs into sleep. Get up use the restroom(keep lights off or dim) grab some water. Lay back down eyes closed think about what you want to dream about(no body movement) Usually you will go right back into the dream state. Lucid dreamers practitioners say dreams are more vivid and easier to remember using this technique.

  4. I’m just getting into some of this so please forgive me if this is a silly question. I’ve been reading a lot about the solfeggio frequencies, which are below. Based on this would they be considered isochronic tones if both ears are set per say at 396 hz (just using one of the tones from below) at one-second increments?

    Or are isochronic tones set at different frequencies from the solfeggio scale?

    UT – 396 Hz – Liberating Guilt and Fear.
    RE – 417 Hz – Undoing Situations and Facilitating Change.
    MI – 528 Hz – Transformation and Miracles (DNA Repair)
    FA – 639 Hz – Connecting/Relationships.
    SOL – 741 Hz – Awakening Intuition.
    LA – 852 Hz – Returning to Spiritual Order.

    1. Hi Amber, an isochronic tone is just a single tone that is switched on and off at regular intervals. Doing that at a rate of 1-second increments would make it a 1Hz isochronic tone. So that describes the speed of an isochronic tone. The next thing is to choose what the tone/beat sounds like, which is where the pitch frequency and the solfeggio scale can come into play. You can have 1Hz isochronic tones with a pitch frequency of 396Hz, which would sound deeper in tone than 1Hz isochronic tones with a higher 852Hz pitch, at the other end of the scale.

      Most humans can’t hear pitch frequencies below 20Hz, so it always has to be higher than that. A lot of portable devices like mobiles/cell phones, tablets, laptops etc., don’t have very strong bass sounds, and you may struggle to hear pitch frequencies below 80Hz on many of them. So as long as it’s higher than that, up to about 20kHz, you can choose any pitch frequency you like for an isochronic tone, including everything on the solfeggio scale.

      I’ve only released a couple of videos using the solfeggio scale so far, but I will be releasing a lot more solfeggio related tracks soon.

  5. Hi Jason
    I’ve noticed that on many apps that use binaural beats the sound is very distinctive and not shallow at all. (See Binaural app) In fact the Brainwave app offers both isochronic tones and binaural beats for a particular session and they sound EXACTLY the same. Could you explain what the hell is going on here. It sounds to me that nobody really knows what’s going on in this field.

    1. Hi Mark,
      There is definitely a problem relating to this issue in the field. Firstly, there are probably audio creators that don’t really have a great deal of knowledge, who are mistakingly labelling their audios as binaural beats when they are not. Secondly, there are audio creators who are deliberately miss-labelling isochronic tones tracks as binaural beats because of the demand in the niche.

      Binaural beats were popularised first, so more people are aware of the term and this results in 10 times as many searches a month for binaural beats, compared to isochronic tones. Audio creators want their products to be seen by as many people as possible, so some people are deliberately saying they are providing binaural beats when they’re not, just so they can be found in more searches. This has resulted in a false demand being maintained for binaural beats. I see loads of end users of this technology refer to isochronic tones as binaural beats, thinking that the term binaural beats should be used to describe any type of brainwave entrainment audio, which is incorrect. Binaural beats are just one type of audio method used to create a brainwave entrainment effect.

  6. i have read somewhere on net that binaural beats have long term effects than isochronic tones, is it correct information or not? regards

    1. The effects of brainwave entrainment stimulation are strongest and mainly felt while you are listening to it. Once the audio stops your brainwave activity falls out of sync with the beats/tones. I have yet to see any conclusive research studies measuring the long-term effects of either binaural beats or isochronic tones. So at the moment, if anyone is telling you that binaural beats have better long-term effects, it’s based on their opinion, not on any research I’ve heard about. From a short-term perspective, it’s widely accepted among experts in the field that isochronic tones produce a stronger effect. If I thought binaural beats were better, that’s all I would use and sell, but instead, I just use isochronic tones.

  7. For hearing problems I use hearing aids which allows me to listen using BT. Using this I listen almost perfect. For my situation which of the sounds is binaural or isochronic?

    1. Good day, I saw you said you use hearing aids, is it effective for you when you listen to binaural beats with ur closed headphones with hearing aids on? I am deaf myself. Thanks

      1. I have a problem hearing in one ear, but it’s not that bad that I need to wear a hearing aid all the time. I tend to use it when watching certain TV programs when the dialogue is hard to hear and in some environments where there are lots of ambient sounds, making it hard to hear people speak etc. I prefer listening to isochronic tones over binaural beats and I don’t usually use my hearing aid when listening to either. I have tested it while listening to binaural beats with over-ear headphones and it works just fine. I just prefer listening without it because the hearing aid makes the beats sound tinny.

    1. I’ve read comments about that too. I have found isochronic tones to be effective at delta frequencies and have had loads of positive feedback over the years from people who’ve used my delta tracks. One of the things I did find was that I received better feedback if I softened the waveform of the tones. Beta isochronic tones usually have an optimized square waveform, which can sound quite abrupt. That works ok when you are trying to wake people up and get their attention. Because delta frequencies are mostly used for sleep and deep relaxation, the harsher sound of typical isochronic tones can be a bit disruptive. So for my lower frequency delta isochronic tones tracks, I use sine waves which are much softer and more pleasant to listen to.

  8. For the putative neuroprotective benefit, I just listened to a 40 Hz 30 min sequence on youtube and it gave me a headache. Is this common with isochronic tones? Also, I was wondering whether there have been studies addressing the pitch used for these tones. It seems like 40 Hz at varying pitches might have different effects. How did you choose your pitches? Thanks!

    1. Some people do report getting a headache from listening to isochronic tones. Often that can just be down to the person finding it irritating as a sound to listen to, especially if you are still getting used to the sound. Having the volume a bit too loud can also make it more intense than you need on occasion, so lowering the volume can help. The other most common reason is dehydration.

      The tones increase electrical activity and blood flow in your brain, so you are essentially using up your brain’s oxygen and resources which comes largely from water. So you need to keep yourself and your brain well-hydrated, especially when you are giving it a workout. That’s why it’s more common to get a headache after a long study session, than when you are just chilling on the sofa.

      I have also found, almost universally, that feedback about headaches comes from people using high beta or gamma tones. I believe it’s the intensity and possibly the extra energy that is required to process that in the brain, which uses up more oxygen. So it’s more important to be well-hydrated when using beta/gamma frequencies.

      It seems to be still up for debate how significant the pitch frequency is. Personally, I use different pitch frequencies for lots of different reasons and effects.

      For a high energy track, I will often use a steadily increasing pitch to mirror an increasing tone/beat frequency. I find it certainly makes the track feel more intense as it progresses. Likewise, I will use a gradually decreasing pitch on many of my sleep or relaxation tracks.

      I also sometimes match the pitch of the tones to that of the key the music is playing in. That can help to make the tones blend in more and sound less invasive. Other times I don’t do that if I want the tones to be more intense sounding. Other times I will make the pitch randomly switch every few minutes within a certain range, to help make the tones sound a little different, more interesting and to reduce habituation. Particularly on longer study tracks.

      There are also many frequency lists online where they claim certain frequencies are linked to specific things, like the vibration of the earth, the moon, or linked to parts of the body etc. It’s hard to verify much of that information though. I will sometimes use those frequencies as the pitch if their perceived potential benefit matches the intention of the track I create. So if some of the perceived benefits are true, they may help add some extra weight/effect to the track.

  9. Hi. For a newbie like me, can I start straight away from Isochronic beats or should I start with binaural beats and then slowly move to Isochronic?

    Also, I’ve read about Monaural beats as well. Where do Monaural beats fit into the effectiveness, would it have better or weaker effects than binaural beats?

    Also, there seems to be a lot of mixed information about the frequency ranges of the different waves (gamma, beta, alpha, theta, delta). Could you please send me the exact frequency range for example from xHz – yHz = Gamma

    Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Yousef,

      Even if you are just a beginner with these types of tracks you can just start straight off with any isochronic tones track. I’ve seen some other sellers trying to get people on some path of using binaural beats first or some kind of perceived weaker version and then graduate up to something more powerful when they are supposedly ‘ready’ or more experienced. Really, that’s just a marketing tactic to try and get you to buy more stuff and spend more money.

      In terms of a brainwave entrainment effect, binaural beats produce the weakest effect. Followed by monaural, with isochronic tones being the strongest. As I said before, even though they produce the strongest effect, even a beginner can start off with them. Monaural beats are very similar to isochronic tones with the main difference being the waveform. Isochronic tones have a small silent gap in between each beat/waveform, which makes the beats a bit more pronounced and clearer and produces a stronger effect.

      With regards to frequency ranges, there isn’t really a definitive range for beta, alpha etc., as there are lots of different views and opinions on exactly where each crossover is. When I first got started years ago I tried to find the best answer and just picked the range used by the most people and who I thought were the more reliable sources at the time. I’ve always used 0-4Hz Delta, 4-8Hz theta, 8-12Hz alpha, 12-40Hz beta, 40Hz+ gamma, although some say 30Hz+ is gamma. Where you see numbers like 8Hz being both in the alpha and theta range, I just consider that area as a theta/alpha crossover point. Some people refer to it as thalpha.

        1. Also, the Isochronic waves tend to be displayed in dBFS and not in Hz. So do you know the different ranges for Isochronic waves to be in the gamma, delta, alpha, theta and delta phases?

          1. Isochronic tones are not displayed as dBFS. The decibel of the tone doesn’t define the frequency range it’s in for brainwave entrainment purposes. If I present a 10Hz isochronic tone to you it means the tone will be switched on and off 10 times per second, which sounds like and could also be referred to as 10 beats per second. The gamma, delta, alpha, theta and delta frequency ranges are the same when considering using binaural beats or isochronic tones.

        2. I’m afraid I can’t say how reliable they are as I don’t use those apps or websites and don’t know exactly how they are producing the sounds they create. I have come across tracks in the past that are being advertised as binaural beats when they are actually monaural, so it can be difficult to tell sometimes.

          1. Thanks for your help. Where can I get the purest, most authentic Isochronic tones for all the ranges i.e. gamma, beta, alpha, theta and delta?

          2. I’ve been creating my own tracks since 2006, so I’ve never had a need to use other people’s tracks. I’ve tested out some tracks from competitors over the years but I don’t over-analyze what other people are producing. I mainly just focus on what I’m doing.

            I’ve already been working on producing a large library of isochronic tones tracks without any music or additional sounds. ‘Just Tones’ tracks as I call them. This will include different track lengths for each frequency, as well as the option to choose a softer or more abrupt sounding tone. I haven’t seen anyone else out there providing what I plan to produce but it will take some time to put it all together and make available. I will be starting off with delta and theta tracks towards the end of next week and plan to add to the library every week over the coming months.

  10. Thanks for that Jason,

    I am looking for pure isochronic tones without any music or additional sounds so all the frequency ranges. Would you be able to send me any of your links so I can have a look?

    1. What links are you referring to? Although my new ‘just tones’ library won’t start to become available until next week, I already have lots of pure isochronic tones tracks in my shop – If you go through each category you will find a just tones version without any music for most of my products.

  11. Thanks Jason.

    So the ‘just tones’ which you mentioned above that you will be launching next week, how different will they be compared to what you have already inside your online shop?

    Also, is it recommended to listen to the tones purely or mixed it with other sounds? I can see that there are different types of noise as well, I’m just curious what gets the best results?

    Sorry for asking too many questions, I’m a newbie and I want to learn these things from someone who is unbiased and experienced 🙂

  12. Thanks Jason.

    So the ‘just tones’ which you mentioned above that you will be launching next week, how different will they be compared to what you have already inside your online shop?

    Also, is it recommended to listen to the tones purely or mixed it with other sounds? I can see that there are different types of noise as well, I’m just curious what gets the best results?

    Sorry for asking too many questions, I’m a newbie and I want to learn these things from someone who is unbiased and experienced ?

    1. The strongest brainwave entrainment effect will always come from listening to the tones on their own, without any additional sound. However, listening to them that way is not for everyone, so most people tend to combine them with other sounds and music to make them more pleasant to listen to. Many purists though do like to listen to them on their own. It’s really down to each individual to choose what works best for them. Personally, I think it’s best to use the tracks with additional sounds first and then try just tones tracks once you get accustomed to the sound and how they make you feel.

      The white, brown, pink noise tracks I have don’t produce a brainwave entrainment effect on their own. They are mainly used as a relaxing sound to help block out external unwanted noise, as well as in combination with isochronic tones.

      The new just tones tracks I’m bringing out do have a new updated waveform, which I believe to be more effective. I will be writing a bit about that on my blog over the weekend. I advise you to check out the videos on my Youtube channel to sample the various types of tracks I have for free. That’s a good way to test lots of different tracks out to try and see what works best for you. We are all wired a little differently, so there isn’t a ‘best’ track that will work as well or the same for everyone. Sometimes it takes a little testing to see what works best; in a similar way to how some medication works better for some than others.

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