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Cove review: A great concept with some flaws

Cove Hero
(Image: © Nicolette Roux / iMore)

Our Verdict

Bottom line: Cove is a wearable designed to help its user improve focus, stress less, and sleep better. It uses a gentle vibration behind the ears to activate the part of your brain that regulates anxiety. It's pricey and the software can be buggy, but a positive experience nevertheless.

For

  • Stress and anxiety relief
  • Improved focus
  • Improved sleep and vivid dreams
  • Fully adjustable
  • Easy to use app

Against

  • Very pricey
  • Does not always operate as intended
  • Short battery life
  • Not comfortable to wear with glasses

Cove

Cove (Image credit: Nicolette Roux / iMore)

Life can get hectic and stressful, and navigating existence throughout the pandemic has proven itself to be particularly anxiety-provoking. I think it's safe to say that we're all interested in stressing less and sleeping more. That's the promise Cove — a wellness headset — makes, encouraging users to wear it for two short 20-minute sessions per day. I've been testing Cove for the past two months and have noticed some positive changes in my mental health and sleep. There are some design and software issues, but overall, if you can expense it, this device is worth checking out.

Cove: Price and availability

Cove

Cove (Image credit: Nicolette Roux / iMore)

Cove is currently available for purchase on Amazon and Cove's site for $349. It's typically $490, but the sale price of $349 is valid through March 31, 2022. Your purchase comes with the Cove wearable, protective case, and charging cable.

Cove: Less anxiety, more focus, better sleep

Cove

Cove (Image credit: Nicolette Roux / imore)

I struggle with intense anxiety and have a lot of issues falling asleep at night because of my racing mind. Everything on my never-ending to-do list seems to hit me hardest right before I go to bed. That said — I was eager to give Cove a try because who doesn't want to stress less and sleep better? I was skeptical at first, but after a few months of consistent use, I'm a fan. Aside from a few design flaws that would be an easy fix in a second-generation device, I'm happy with my results.

Cove is simple to use and wear. It wraps behind the head and hooks over the ears. Pro tip: be sure to clear all hair and other obstructions out of the way, so the pads behind the ears can rest directly on your skin and Cove can work its magic. The band behind the head is easily adjustable to fit all head sizes. You want the device to fit snugly.

Cove activates the part of your brain that regulates anxiety, thus creating a deeper sense of calm, which leads to less stress and better sleep.

How does it work? Cove activates the part of your brain that regulates anxiety. It uses gentle vibrations to trigger your body's response to affective touch — one of the many sensations your skin naturally identifies. Through certain nerve fibers, your skin then sends signals to the insular cortex, a part of your brain that processes emotion. Supposedly, your brain responds by making you feel a deep sense of calm, which leads to reduced stress and better sleep.

Cove is intuitive to use and easy to pair. The app is free, simple, and straightforward. It logs all your data and sessions so you can view trends over time and get a full dated history of your session notes. When you set up your user profile, you can schedule session reminders, as well as stress and sleep check-ins. To make the most out of purchasing this device, I highly recommend doing both daily check-ins and taking notes on your emotional state after each session. The app will prompt you to do this. This really helps you to see if, when, and how Cove has made a difference in your day-to-day.

You can control the intensity of Cove's vibration via the app or on the device itself. You're supposed to start with a low vibration and increase intensity as needed (if at all). Remember that stronger isn't better and that vibrations should be barely perceptible. I keep mine at level three or four. Turning it up higher starts to make a very audible, annoying buzzing sound. My advice: keep it low.

You can wear Cove while doing pretty much anything.

While you're in a session, you can do pretty much whatever you want. In the morning, I typically wear mine while I'm sipping my coffee gearing up for the day, walking my dog, or working on my laptop. In the evenings, I'll wear it while I'm relaxing, watching television, or reading a book. I recommend throwing in a screen-free, activity-free session every now and then for ultimate relaxation and focus.

Cove recommends two 20-minute sessions a day for best results. The app says some users notice a difference after their first session, but that it typically takes two solid weeks of consistent use to start noticing a change. This was the case for me as I didn't notice anything for about two weeks. My initial results were subtle. After two weeks, I started to sleep longer and have extremely vivid dreams. After a month, I felt sharper and more focused, had less stress and anxiety, and it was easier for me to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

This isn't a cure-all. I still struggle with anxiety, but Cove has made a substantial difference. My anxiety can get crippling. Having Cove help mitigate that has been a total game-changer.

Cove: Buggy, short battery, not cozy

Cove Lifestyle

Cove Lifestyle (Image credit: Cove)

Cove is extremely pricey. Even with the sale promotion going on right now, it's going to cost you. I have found the device to be helpful but feel the $100 to $200 range would be more appropriate for what it is. It would certainly make it more accessible to a larger audience. I should note that Cove does offer free returns within 45 days of delivery for a full refund or replacement.

There are some major design and software flaws that could use addressing.

This is the first-generation model of Cove, and I'm hoping they come out with a second because there are some serious design flaws. For starters, for a de-stressing device, it's not very comfortable to wear. Having a cushioned back band and softer ear hooks would be nice and would make the experience feel more relaxing. Also, forget about wearing it with glasses. It does not work — I have tried. The combination is extremely uncomfortable.

The battery life on Cove is horrible. There are no other words to describe it. I can get away with two 20-minute sessions max on a full charge. Therefore, I must constantly charge it, which I am not a fan of. Improved battery life would be a major upgrade.

Cove does not always operate as intended.

Lastly but most importantly, my Cove does not always operate as intended. Sometimes it disconnects itself from the app randomly. It occasionally makes sporadic, harsh buzzing sounds that I find anxiety-provoking. It often starts a session normally where the vibrations are barely perceptible, then finishes with louder, more aggressive vibrations, even though I have not adjusted the levels personally. One time, it started making a loud screaming sound and would not stop, even when I powered it off. I had to turn it off, then back on, then off again to get it to stop. In a nutshell — the software seems buggy and could use some major improvements.

Cove: Competition

Muse S

Muse S (Image credit: Nicolette Roux / iMore)

Muse S

Muse S is a personal meditation and sleep assistant. It makes meditation easy by giving the wearer real-time feedback on your mind and body to help you recognize calm and stay in the zone. Meditation with Muse helps relieve stress, as well as improve sleep and mental performance. The objective of these wearables is similar, but they function differently. Wearing Cove is a more passive experience while using Muse S is more interactive.

Urgonight Headband

Urgonight Headband (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

URGOnight

URGOnight is a headband that claims more restful sleep after 20-minute sessions, three times a week. You will be guided step by step through personalized experiences, adapting the difficulty levels in real-time depending on your progress. Its companion app helps you view trends and track progress over time. Sleep is the main priority with this sleep training headband, rather than the improved focus, less stress and anxiety, and better sleep objectives of Cove.

Cove: Should you buy it?

Cove

Cove (Image credit: Nicolette Roux / iMore)

You should buy this if ...

  • You suffer from anxiety
  • You have trouble focusing
  • You have issues falling and staying asleep

You shouldn't buy this if...

  • You're on a budget
  • You're looking for a health and fitness tracker
  • You want perfect performance

You should buy this if you suffer from anxiety, have trouble focusing, and have issues with falling and staying asleep. In trial studies, 90% of subjects reported reduced stress and improved sleep after using Cove. EEG and MRI studies performed by Feelmore Labs and validated by neuroscientists have demonstrated that Cove is able to modulate a deep part of the brain controlling emotional response: the insula. This leads to a greater sense of calm and well-being, and less stress and anxiety, which in turn leads to better sleep.

You should not buy this if you're on a budget, you're looking for a health and fitness tracker, or you want perfect performance. Cove sessions help mitigate anxiety and improve sleep, that's it. It does not function as one of your best fitness trackers would. Cove is brand new, and there are definitely software issues that could use major improvements. Do not expect perfect performance every time you use this device.

Cove is a wearable I have found helpful with mitigating my anxiety and improving sleep quality. I feel calmer, more focused, and less stressed overall. I can fall asleep faster, and stay asleep longer when I consistently use this device. There are some design and software issues that could use major improvements. I look forward to seeing what's next from this company. If Cove is within budget, it's worth checking out to see if it works for you.

Nicolette Roux
Nicolette Roux

Nicolette is a freelance writer for iMore. With over a decade of high-level experience as a health and fitness professional, Nicolette has become an expert in the industry. As a writer, quadruple-certified master fitness instructor, DJ/MC, and mom; she’s had the pleasure of working with some of the top websites, studios, and brands in the world throughout her career. A dedicated creative, Nicolette enjoys writing about all things: health, fitness, audio, and home. If she’s not working, you can find her sipping a glass of wine, enjoying a concert, or hanging with her family.