The Phaser E-stim Reference and Glossary
E-stim, or estim, stands for electrostimulation
and means a technique to pass an electric current from one electrode, through living tissue, to another electrode. Sensory perception depends on various variables such as the size and placement of the electrodes, the applied pulse waveform
of the stimulating current, the pulse repetition frequency, and the pulse amplitude.
E-stim is usually broken down into different categories such as electromedicine, electrotorture, electrosex, and electropleasure, the last two meaning pleasure through the erotic use of electrostimulation.
Besides the electrodes, e-stim requires an electrostimulation power source, a device that delivers a pulsed current to the electrodes. For electromedical applications TENS units are widely spread and are gaining in popularity with physiotherapists. Quite often, these same TENS units are rebranded, repackaged, and then sold as e-stim devices
But more and more the market gets dominated by devices specifically designed and manufactured for e-stim. Prices vary from $60 for a simple TENS-like machine to $600 for a more sophisticated multichannel e-stim device.
A popular approach is using specifically designed e-stim software
, a power amplifier, and a step-up transformer circuit, also referred to as a Phaser Circuit
. This setup allows for generating the stimulating pulses in a most flexible way, creating stimulation effects that are not achievable with off-the-shelf equipment. A still growing e-stim DIY community prefers such homemade devices, known as White Boxes
Electrostimulation with a Phaser Step-up Circuit
An electrostimulation device in the context of electro-play is a self-contained box that is designed specifically for e-stim. While the majority of these devices are battery powered, some have built-in rechargeable batteries or come with a mains adaptor that even boosts the maximum available output power when plugged in during operation.
Recent e-stim units now are digital devices, controlled by a microprocessor inside the box. Proprietary software running on a computer allows to design and upload new routines or improved firmware into the devices.
More enhanced devices process audio signals and audio files
that are fed to the units via an audio input jack. Our Phaser electrostimulation software
can directly drive commercially available e-stim devices through the audio input jack, vastly expanding the limited possibilities of the built-in routines and introducing completely new sensations. Phaser can even add Internet remote control features to the devices.
Microprocessor Controlled E-stim Device
Audio Control of E-stim Devices via the Audio Input Jack
DIY E-stim White Box
A White Box
, in the context of electro-play, denotes a homebrew DIY e-stim box that connects to a computer's sound card or to another computer interface. It typically consists of electronic parts that form a Phaser Circuit
, and optionally an audio power amplifier.
There are various reasons why people start building their own electrostimulation equipment. The first thing that comes to one's mind is saving money. Good e-stim equipment does have its price, but apparently not everyone is willing to pay such price. Another motivation is the ability to produce levels and sensations that are not achievable with off-the-shelf e-stim devices.
The photo shows a DIY Phaser Circuit that makes use of 6 transformers. This box connects to an audio power amplifier that is driven by e-stim audio signals from a computer.
Homebrew 6 Channel DIY E-stim White Box
The term E-stim software
applies to any software application that generates e-stim audio signals for the purpose of electrostimulation, and outputs these signals through the computer's sound card in real-time.
These e-stim audio signals are either fed through an amplifier to a Phaser Circuit
, or they directly drive an e-stim device
with audio input jack. E-stim software also reads and writes e-stim sound files
for use with other media players.
Recent software allows to choose between different pulse waveforms
, and to modulate the amplitude
of the signals. One also finds level meters, waveform viewers, features to measure frequency and pulse response, pulse enhancers, and Scalable Graphical User Interfaces
Electrostimulation software usually comes with a large set of ready-to-run templates
that can be tailored and then saved as shareable session files.
The first-ever e-stim software appeared in 1999. It was our Phaser software 1.0 for Windows 98.
The Phaser E-stim Software: Delivering Pleasure Since 1999
E-stim Session File
An E-stim Session File
basically is a plain text file containing detailed facts about all the wav files belonging to a session. The e-stim software
stores each session as a single physical session file, organizing the wav files as tracks in a playlist.
Only descriptions of the wav files are actually stored, which keeps the file size down. Instead of transferring megs of data to another computer, only a small session file needs to be copied to a remote location to have the wav files of a session immediately available.
Phaser session files are compressed to further reduce the file size. Opening such a file in a text editor displays only the file header correctly. Therefore, session files have to be edited by using the originating e-stim software.
Playlist with Tracks of a Phaser Session
An E-stim Templates
or e-stim routine typically is a single sound track that plays for a few minutes, starting at a low output level and gradually increasing to its maximum towards the end, by the use of a ramp-up function
, as well as most off-the shelf e-stim devices
, usually comes with a bunch of already built-in templates for immediate use or as a starting point to design new e-stim patterns and waveforms.
Selecting one of the templates loads the predefined routine that can be adapted to personal tastes. To permanently keep any changes made to a template, one or more templates can first be copied to a session
, then edited and finally stored in a session file.
While new session files for a specific device or a software application often are available for download, templates are part of the firmware and hence cannot be updated.
Drop-down List with Phaser's built-in E-stim Templates
It is commonly accepted that the most energy effective e-stim waveform is a low duty cycle pulse train, a LDC pulse
. In contrast, sinusoidal stimulation signals require a linear power amplifier and a low distortion step-up transformer circuit, and the average energy delivered to the tissue by sine waves is much higher than with optimized LDC pulses.
However, sine waves are particularly suitable for exploiting interference effects like the Phaser Effect
, and thus are commonly used with StereoStim setups and devices.
The Phaser bPulse
waveform is a bi-directional, balanced LDC pulse that has its interphase interval maximized. This delay between the charging and discharging pulse lowers the excitation threshold, and thus also lowers the total energy delivered to the tissue, making it our preferred pulse shape for electrostimulation.
The Phaser iPulse
waveform makes use of a fixed interphase interval, which is equal to the pulse width of the signal. This is the recommended e-stim waveform for repetition frequencies below 80 Hz.
Both the bPulse
and the iPulse
pulses are DC compensated, i.e., they do not have a DC offset, which is also true for the Sine
Bi-directional pulses, also referred to as biphasic or bipolar pulses, have less average power than sine waves. The average power depends on the pulse width and the pulse repetition rate of the electric stimulation signals.
Recommended energy-efficient e-stim waveforms are the two optimized LDC pulses that our Phaser software
The bPulse Waveform, Maximized Interphase Interval
The iPulse Waveform, Fixed Interphase Interval
ycle pulse waveforms reduce the tissue power dissipation at the skin-electrode interface, compared to a sinusoidal signal that induces the same sensory perception.
Minimizing the delivered energy to the tissue is of particular importance so as to reduce or eliminate e-stim side effects like tingling, numbness, or skin irritation.
Phaser's unique LDC e-stim waveform
optimizes the ratio of stimulus perception to delivered energy through insertion of an interphase interval td, a delay between the charging and the discharging pulse. This interphase interval separates the pulses slightly so that the discharging pulse does not reverse the physiological effect of the charging pulse.
Optimized LDC Pulse with Maximized Interphase Interval td
Optimal E-stim Waveform
The first step on the road to the perfect pulse is to choose an electrode-skin model that most closely reflects the e-stim specific environment, and to calculate the actual values of this model's circuit elements from measurements in the lab.
After doing the math it becomes obvious that the optimal electrostimulation waveform (LDC
) reduces the tissue power dissipation by more than 90%, compared to a sinusoidal stimulation inducing the same sensory perception. (For more details see our paper Signals
, accessible to customers.)
The pulse width should be chosen to be within the optimum operating range. Phaser's bPulse
is our implementation of the optimal e-stim pulse waveform.
Optimal Pulse: Tissue Power dissipation vs. Pulse Width
Amplitude ModulationAmplitude Modulation
means varying (modulating) the output amplitude of the basic frequency by another signal.
The modulation frequency determines how often per second the amplitude of the basic frequency is varied.
The term modulation depth is used to describe the ratio of maximum amplitude to minimum amplitude of the basic frequency. The modulation depth may vary between 100% (max. modulation) and 0% (no modulation).
Amplitude Modulation, Modulation Depth 90%
Frequency ModulationFrequency Modulation
means varying the instantaneous frequency of the basic frequency by the modulating signal.
The modulation frequency determines how often per second the basic frequency is varied. The maximum deviation from the basic frequency is called frequency deviation.
Some restrictions apply: the modulation frequency value must not exceed 50% of the basic frequency, and the frequency deviation value may not exceed the basic frequency.
The Phaser Effect is achieved by generating sine waves with slightly different frequencies for the two channels in a Three-Electrode Setup
. This is equal to a continuous and periodic change of the phase relationship between the two e-stim signals. Thus, the combined signal amplitude varies in time with the beat frequency, which is the difference between the two interfering signal frequencies.
Fig. 1 shows two sine waves L and R. R does have a slightly higher frequency than L, thus increasing the phase difference with time. The green line is the combined signal L + R, the electrical stimulation current through the corona electrode, which is slowly varying its amplitude with the differential beat frequency, if using this Phaser Circuit
Using LDC pulses
presents a new problem when it comes to exploiting the interference beats for e-stim purposes. In Fig. 2 two biphasic pulse trains with slightly different frequencies are shown, the blue pulse train having a slightly higher repetition rate. The thing with low energy pulses is that there is nothing, most of the time. That's why it's low energy. Combining both signals does not result in a nicely modulated signal, but in a more or less randomly looking pulse train with some rare peaks when the pulses L and R overlap (green peaks).
The solution here is to apply AM modulation
in combination with 180° phase shifts to one of the emitted pulse trains.
In Fig. 3 modulation and phase switching is applied to the pulse train R (blue), the black arrows marking the points of the 180° phase switches. The result is quite comparable to that of sinusoidal interference beats, but at a greatly reduced energy level.
Phaser can emit these LDC pulse patterns, and easily turns any computer into a versatile stimulation source, ready to be used in a three-electrode setup.
Fig. 1 Phaser Effect: Interference Beats
Fig. 2 LDC Pulses and Interference Beats
Fig. 3 Phaser Effect with LDC Pulses
A Phaser Circuit, also Phaser Step-up Transformer Circuit
, essentially is a combination of UL listed low cost mains transformers and a resistor network.
The circuit acts as a high impedance current source in order to maintain a constant stimulation current independent of the load impedance, given by the skin-electrode interface.
The output impedance should be at least ten times the load impedance to achieve current source characteristics, i.e., 10 kΩ or higher, way better than the typical 500 Ω of most off-the-shelf e-stim devices and TENS units.
Encapsulated and vacuum potted low cost mains transformers are usually used to convert the AC mains voltage to a rather lower voltage. Using them in reverse and outside the frequency range they are optimized for requires some extra research, as frequency response plots for the entire audio range are usually not available from the transformer manufacturers.
So we tested different samples from various makers for their usability in a Phaser e-stim step-up circuit.
Most transformers are designed for both the US and European market and hence come with two primary and two secondary windings. Connecting the two primary windings in series and the dual secondary windings in parallel gives the best turns ratio.
Our step-up circuit dissipates more than 90% of the supplied input power as heat in the resistors, the price to pay for such a passive current source. Exactly this high power dissipation is the reason why commercially available, battery-powered, lightweight e-stim devices do have a relatively low output impedance (300 to 500 Ω). Converting most of the power into heat would suck the battery dry pretty quick.
On the other hand, a Phaser Circuit is robust, short-circuit and open-circuit proof, and adds yet another layer of security to the setup if UL listed parts are used.
If power consumption is not a concern, a passive high impedance source is the absolute first choice for any high quality step-up circuit.
The transformer circuit forms a low-pass filter with a roll-off of -6 dB per octave. To improve the frequency response of the step-up circuit, this roll-off must be compensated for by applying a pre-emphasis filter function to the signals that boosts the high frequency components. DynaShape
is our implementation of such a digital filter optimized for e-stim.
Phaser E-stim Step-up Transformer Circuit (Simplified)
Tested Transformers for the Phaser Circuit
Typical Step-up Transformer Frequency Response
The Phaser DynaShape
pulse enhancer is an adjustable digital filter that compensates for the low-pass filtering effect of step-up transformer circuits.
To preserve the original e-stim pulse waveform, the necessary step-up transformer circuit, the Phaser Circuit
, must have a flat frequency response curve. Usually these transformer circuits have a low-pass characteristic. DynaShape
applies a pre-emphasis filter function to the e-stim signals that boosts the high frequency components, flattening the frequency response curve.
DynaShape Frequency Response Boost
A Ramp-up Function
gradually increases the output level of an e-stim device
or an e-stim software
application over time. The name ramp-up function is derived from the appearance of its graph or envelope plot.
Deliberately increasing the intensity of the stimulation over time is something that most people find highly pleasurable. In a BDSM scene, letting the person being stimulated see the slowly increasing levels can be especially arousing and challenging.
In a typical scenario, the stimulation level would be increased from 60% to 100% over a period of 15 minutes.
Phaser Software: Envelope Plot of a Ramping-up Signal
The Three-Electrode Setup, also Tri-Phase Setup
, combines two e-stim signals from two independent channels to drive three electrodes. If properly used with stimulation signals that exploit interference beats, a very pleasurable Phaser Effect
Most important is to maintain the correct phase relationship of the two signals throughout the circuitry by observing the transformer polarity markings of the Phaser Circuit
Most of Phaser's e-stim session
files and templates are designed for a three-electrode setup.
Three-Electrode Setup: Wiring of E-stim Electrodes, Simplified
E-stim Audio Files
E-stim audio files are specifically crafted sound files that are played through an amplifier and a step-up transformer circuit, a Phaser Circuit
, and deliver stimulation pulses to appropriate electrodes. Some commercially available e-stim devices
are also equipped with an audio input jack and can process e-stim sound files fed into the audio input.
Electrostimulation audio files are either played from a digital player, a CD player, or from a computer.
E-stim audio files tend to be large and often are digitally compressed to save disk space and hence transmission time over the Internet. Lossy compression methods like the very popular MP3 algorithm alter the digital data in an irreversible way and thus should not be applied to any e-stim audio signals. However, such MP3 e-stim audio files are widely available on the Internet, or sold on CDs through retailers.
To create or edit electrostimulation audio files, audio editor software can be used. Tools like Expression Evaluators
allow sound to be generated from almost any equation. Some clever minds quickly adopted this to e-stim and published a wide variety of formulas to evaluate pleasurable sounds.
A major drawback of expression evaluation is the tedious process of generating the complete e-stim sound file over and over again for each change made. This is where e-stim software
kicks in, generating stimulation signals in real-time.
A Low Duty Cycle (LDC) E-stim Audio File Example
E-stim Signals Generated Using math. Expressions
A multi-platform version, also cross-platform version
, of an e-stim application
runs on a variety of operating systems, offering a platform-independent look-and-feel.
The Phaser standalone Java application makes use of the Java runtime environment, which is available free of charge for most operating systems.
Regardless whether Phaser runs on Windows, macOS, or Linux, the e-stim application will look and behave identically. So, even on a Mac, the close button is on the right edge of Phaser's title bar!
Another approach to multi-platform e-stim software is using a web application that runs in a web browser. Since most browsers now support real-time audio, Phaser has developed a fancy web application that serves as a demo on the website. It's a trimmed down version of the Phaser desktop application with only the bare necessities.
Phaser Multi-platform Version on macOS Sierra
Scalable Graphical User Interface
High-DPI displays have a larger number of pixels in the same screen area compared to traditional computer monitors. This enables the display to produce crisper text and graphics if the applications are high-DPI aware.
Phaser's true DPI scaling feature scales up fonts, buttons, icons, and input fields by the percentage specified. Fonts and UI elements are drawn with more pixels, resulting in a larger, higher fidelity, and sharper experience.
The Windows version of our Phaser e-stim software
is fully high-DPI aware and thus appropriately scales to your current Desktop DPI setting without any blurring. You can choose another scaling factor to meet your preferences.
The Java version of Phaser supports true scaling factors of 100, 150, and 200% on all platforms.
3 x Phaser on Mac OS X @ 100%, 150%, and 200%