What makes a high-quality tDCS device stand out from the rest? Is it build quality, accurate current delivery, automatic current ramp up or down capability, a built-in timer, or a low battery indicator?. As it turns out, reliability is one of the most common drivers of sales through Caputron – customers want to know they can count on the systems they purchase. Reliability is also, therefore, one of the most fundamental features to consider as you shop for your device. If you are in the market for such equipment, there are a variety of products available to suit your needs.

Our goal at Caputron is to help you recognize which recommended features to look for in a Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation device, helping you make a more informed and satisfying purchase decision.

With that in mind, let’s break down the features and advantages of the different tDCS stimulators on the market. At the same time, we’ll spotlight the critical functions you should ensure your new device has. For a detailed side by side comparison, view our Comparison Table.

1. Activadose Device Starter Kit

Actvidose tDCS Device Starter Kit
  • Best Professional Grade device available for tDCS
  • Built-in session timer
  • Low battery indicator
  • Calibrated and accurate current delivery
  • Automatic current ramp-up / down
  • Automatic resistance monitoring and current adjustment
  • Recommended by professionals
  • Used in leading universities worldwide
  • 2 mA standard. 4 mA optional available.

2. Focus V3 tES Device

Focus V3 tES Device
  • Features many waveforms such as tDCS (Direct Current), tACS (Alternating Current), tPCS (Pulsed Current) and tRNS (Random Noise) stimulation
  • Includes new tRCS (Rippled Current Stimulation)
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Small and portable device
  • Blind/Double Blind Stim Capable
  • Built-in timer
  • Automatic current ramp-up / down
  • Accurate current delivery
  • CE marked in accordance with ISO/IEC 17050-1

3. Brain Premier Device

BrainPremier tDCS Device
  • Professional Grade
  • Easy to use
  • Low battery indicator
  • Rechargable Battery
  • Automatic current ramp-up / down
  • Built-in timer up to 40 min in 1 min increments
  • Current settings up to 2 mA in 0.1 mA increments

4. LIFTiD Headset

LIFTiD tDCS Headset
  • Professional Grade
  • Easiest device to use
  • Automatic 20 minutes timer
  • Automatic current ramp-up / down
  • Comfortable 1.2 mA current setting
  • Designed for gamers, students, working professionals and musicians

5. PlatoWork Brain Stimulator

PlatoWork tDCS Device
  • Easy to use
  • Automatic 30 minutes timer
  • Automatic current ramp-up / down
  • 4 stimulation modes - App controlled
  • Designed for concentration and productivity

The Essentials

Build Quality

When choosing any device, review the build quality and ensure it has been tested for safety and accuracy. There are many devices on the market, but only a select few have undergone extensive electrical safety testing from an independent body. This includes devices such as Activadose, Focus, Brain Premier, LIFTiD and PlatoWork. Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation devices that have undergone such testing do typically come with a higher price tag, but they also have a more durable and professional-grade build.

Accurate Current Delivery

A tDCS device is built with the goal of producing an accurate and stable direct current (DC) waveform. However, not all devices can reliably achieve this goal. Each user will have a different skin resistance (impedance). Therefore, you need to know whether your device of choice has enough power (voltage) to ensure a constant current delivery, regardless of skin resistance. At Caputron, we recommend a minimum of 20 volts. This ensures it has enough power to deliver a stable, consistent current at 2 mA. This value was calculated using Ohms law, which is V= I * R (voltage = current * resistance). tDCS modeling software uses a value of 10,000 Ohms for the average value of skin impedance. If we want to be able to reliably achieve 2 mA of stimulation, then our device should therefore be capable of providing at least 20 volts.

In addition, you should ensure your device can automatically adjust the amount of voltage needed to provide a constant electric current. As your skin becomes used to the sensation of stimulation, the resistance begins to drop. Your device should be able to automatically “read” that new resistance and adjust its voltage to administer a constant current. This is a feature that would be found in a digital system such as the Activadose or Focus, but not in analog alternatives such as Apex or Super Specific. For example, if you are using an Apex system, you will manually need to adjust the output current during the stimulation session.

Automatic Current Ramp Up/Down

When shopping for a device, also bear in mind that it needs to be capable of increasing and decreasing the current, over aproxiemtly 15-20 seconds, at the beginning and end of each session. This allows you to accommodate to the sensation of stimulation, preventing you from becoming light-headed. Analog devices will allow you to manually do this by rotating the current or intensity knob. This should be done slowly at the beginning and end of stimulation.

Built-in Timer

An automatic built-in timer will enable you to select your desired length of stimulation, and without worries of missing your end-of-session alarm reminder. Most devices have this setting, though not all allow you to choose your own time. Instead, some allow you to select from pre-set times of either 20 or 30 minutes.

Low Battery

A direct current stimulation tDCs device is battery-powered and designed for portability. Therefore, ensuring yours has an accurate and easy-to-read battery indicator is very important. The device needs a clear visual indicator that will inform the user when the device is running low. Otherwise, if you’re about to start a session, you may not get to complete it in time before the charge runs out.

Electrode Type

Most tDCS systems come with all the accessories you need for basic use, but you should ensure they are of equally high quality and designed for use with the specific device you order. We recommend never using accessories that utilize an alligator clip for tDCS. To ensure your safety and comfort, only use electrodes which include a protective covering that completely hides the metal of the lead cable. If your electrodes feature alligator clips, you risk serious burns and discomfort if the exposed metal of such a design comes into contact with your skin. We also recommend avoiding hydrogel electrodes for direct current stimulation tdcs purposes, as they are designed for AC stimulation. When hydrogel electrodes are used with DC stimulation, the hydrogel itself quickly wears down and leaves the bare electrode in contact with the skin, resulting in burns. Therefore, when shopping for such a device, be certain that it comes with sponge electrodes that are protectively covered

Devices We Recommend

There are many systems available on the market, but few of them have undergone as much testing and have as positive of a reputation as the Activadose device. This is why it is our top pick at Caputron if you are seeking a direct current stimulation tdcs solution.

When compared to other devices on the market, the Activadose is among the most durable and well-built, using a professional-grade design and assembly.. It is featured in numerous publications, not to mention used in clinics and prestigious universities around the world every day. The Activadose is IEC 606601 EMC compliant, a standard for electrical devices set by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

The Activadose Device Features:
  • Professional Grade build quality
  • Automatic current calibration
  • Automatic current ramp up and ramp down
  • An easy to read LCD display
  • Built-in session timer
  • Low battery indicator
  • Electrode contact quality indicator
  • Stimulation up to 4 mA
  • Safety testing and calibration

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation device?

They are special neurostimulation systems, which utilize a low-voltage electrical current to improve cognitive efficiency and wellness. In theory, they operate in a manner similar to giving a car a boost to help it perform at its peak; users equip themselves with the device, connected to special electrodes, to administer the current to provide brain stimulation into key areas.

How do these devices work?

tDCS is made possible by two types of electrodes, known as Anode and Cathode electrodes, which are either positive or negative. This enables the electrical current to enter the body, reach the appropriate areas of the brain, and then safely exit the body to ensure it isn’t overstimulated. As long as you target the right areas of the brain, you can benefit from the effects this technology provides.

How do I use a tDCS device?

The placement of electrodes directly influences the effectiveness of each individual session. By following the placement guidelines, key zones of the brain can be targeted to encourage different chemical reactions internally. This brain stimulation means everything from mood to mental state and even optimism can potentially be improved, with noticeable benefits possible over multiple short treatment sessions. Check our electrode mapping guide for more details.

Are these systems safe for me to use?

Absolutely. Not only is the current very low and completely controlled, but tDCS systems have failsafe protocols in place to protect against surges and overstimulation. Some are CE cleared and have passed meticulous safety testings. Caputron only sells high-quality tDCS devices with a reputation for dependability and safety, so you can be assured of peace of mind when you shop with us. In addition, we offer hassle-free 90-day returns if you end up deciding a particular device isn’t best suited to your needs.

What are the specific benefits?

In the United States, rigorous testing of tDCS systems is ongoing to determine official certification for the treatment of some conditions. Currently, tDCS is considered investigational and is not cleared for a medical indication. These devices are designed to focus on general wellness. In Europe, some Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation devices have received a medical CE clearance treating depression and fibromyalgia.

Are tDCS devices expensive?

Caputron is proud to offer a wide array of devices to suit every budget and preference. Whether you want something basic and to the point, or if you’re interested in higher-end units with more special features and design elements, we’re sure to have an ideal choice in stock. We also carry a steady supply of replacement electrodes, montage placement straps, and more. Typical device prices range between $100 and $500 US, though professional-grade variants are even costlier if necessary due to the special components and programming put into them.

Do I require special approval to use one?

No. There are alternative stimulation treatments that require extra steps for verification purposes or the services of a trained expert, but tDCS is relatively simple to set up and use. If you’re feeling unsure, reach out to our team and we’ll be happy to guide you through the purchase and setup process.

What are the different waveforms used?

tDCS or transcranial Direct Current stimulation get its name from the Direct Current (DC) waveform these systems output. There are however some system variations that offer different energy waveforms for unique effects. The most common are Alternating Current, Pulsed Current and Random Noise waveforms. However, it’s always best to check with the experts to verify the performance efficiency and quality of any tDCS device you’re considering. Our team is happy to help you make an informed, safer, and more cost-effective purchasing decision.

Disclaimer: Consumer tDCS is a non medical device. These type of products do not claim to diagnose, assist, treat, improve, cure, or prevent any medical condition or ailment whatsoever.