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By Doug Marks
Sanyo HEC-DR7700K Massage ChairYou may have read our first article in this Top 25 Massage Chairs series, which we wrote for the Omega Montage Premier massage chair with MP3. We ranked that chair number 2 in the $4,000 to $5,000 range. This article reviews our winner in this category, the Sanyo HEC-DR7700K Zero-Gravity massage chair.

As I prepared to write this article, I spoke with our customer service manager about the level of customer service we receive from Sanyo. Without hesitation, she said, "Very good. We've never had any problems with them." Knowing that she had also highly recommended Omega, I asked her, "Even better than Omega?" Again, her reply was unequivocal: "Yes. Omega is great, but sometimes they will call the customer directly instead of getting right back to us. With Sanyo we never have any problem at all." Her positive responses on Sanyo were enthusiastic and encouraging. And as you've read in our other articles, our philosophy is that no quality or feature in a chair can make up for poor customer service. In Sanyo we've found the hub of the rub, the lead knead, the best press--you get the point. Sanyo provides truly unexcelled customer service.

Having said that, we have a real concern with the relatively short warranty period (1 year labor and parts, 3 years on the roller mechanism, and 1 year in-home warranty. As always, check your actual warranty for specific limitations and consider the extended warranty.) We can't understand the short warranty, since the chairs are well-manufactured and solid. The company does offer a service hotline that is open 24/7 and an extended service warranty, but both require an extra fee for non-warranty items. So that's our one caveat about this chair.

Let's talk about the features of the Zero-Gravity massage chair. First, what does "Zero-Gravity" mean? Quite simply, it is the position developed by NASA for astronauts in a zero-gravity environment. It is the position the human body naturally assumes when there is no gravity, and Sanyo implies that this is the most relaxing position in the world (or out of the world, as the case may be). The Zero-Gravity chair easily puts you in this position with the touch of a button.

Does it work? Is the chair truly more comfortable because of this available position? It depends on whom you ask, but our opinion is that the position really is a fantastic innovation. All massages can be delivered from the Zero-Gravity position. Of course, the same position can be assumed by some other chairs, but the convenience of the one-touch position is great. Furthermore, the Zero-Gravity can tip you further back and again give you the same position in a feet-elevated position. Try programming that into any other chair 20 times fast!

So what about the other features? As always, there are too many features to discuss everything, but let me outline some of the unique features we haven't found in any other chair. First is the Exclusive Stiffness Detection Sensor. Many chairs offer some kind of position and stiffness sensor, and some are quite good (Omega's infrared sensor is excellent), but the Zero-Gravity sensor actually uses photo sensory and galvanic skin response to measure your pulse and perspiration and deliver a highly-customized massage to areas of stiffness and tension. Have you ever had a personal massage from someone who truly adapted to your mood and your physical condition? If you did, you had an almost-emotional experience. That's the direction this Zero-Gravity chair is headed. Obviously, it's not there yet, but unless you can afford a 24-hour masseuse who never gets tired who reads your mood and condition, your best substitute is the Sanyo Zero-Gravity.

And that is true, not only because of the sensors, but because of the chair's ability to deliver the massage the sensors indicate you need. The new Exclusive GK (grasping and kneading) rollers are thumb-shaped and successfully reach out and comfortably squeeze the neck and tops of the shoulders. and the air bags deliver shiatsu massage, heat and relaxation to multiple points in the feet, ankles, calves, and legs. We've discussed at length the limitations and benefits of air bags in our article about the Omega Montage Premier, so we won't repeat those comments here, but in summary, we feel that air bags are definitely the future of technology in the massage chair world.

Now, what about the roller system? The roller mechanism comes with a three-year warranty, so Sanyo is showing some confidence in that system, which (if you'll forgive the expression) is the backbone of the Zero-Gravity chair. It is unexcelled in length with the 31" back massage length (greater by one inch than the Omega Montage). The chair width is adjustable for those of us who need less of it. And the leg extension can accommodate those of us with longer legs, up to a standing height of 6'5".

Other features include a control panel that can be attached to either side of the chair and a mouse-shaped sub-controller, which contains the stiffness detection sensor and lets you fine-tune your massage. If you want to repeat a massage on a targeted area, the Zero-Gravity has a repeat feature that allows you to continually massage that area.

As with some of the other chairs in this class, the Zero-Gravity is made with a high-quality synthetic leather that feels like leather but isn't subject to cracking and breakage that plagues real leather chairs.

Finally, the Zero-Gravity offers five automatic massage courses and 83 combination manual massage courses, including grip, shiatsu, kneading, tapping, kneading and tapping, and various stretches. The selection is enormous!

The chair is made in Japan. This gives you a good deal of confidence that the chair is well-made. It also means the chair will be expensive. In our opinion, however, a person making a purchase of this magnitude would be well-advised to get a chair that will live up to expectations, even if the expense is significant. In our experience, and judging from the lack of returns of this chair, your expectations will be met if you purchase a Sanyo Zero-Gravity HEC-DR7700K massage chair.

And that is why, overall, we rank this chair number one in the $4,000 to $5,000 class. The decision between this chair and the Omega Montage is a difficult one. Omega has apparently been able to pass through some savings by manufacturing their chairs in China with Japanese parts, so you will pay a little less for the Omega. Furthermore, the Omega has a raft of excellent features and offers a longer warranty. But Sanyo stands out in its technological ability to scan for your body's needs, and that ability, coupled with Sanyo's excellent customer service, allow the Zero-Gravity to float into top position.

Copyright 2010 ClickShops Inc.

(This article was written by Doug Marks and is copyrighted by ClickShops Inc. It may not be copied or distributed in whole or in part without the written consent of ClickShops. ClickShops monitors its intellectual property and will pursue all legal remedies against individuals and companies using this review in violation of ClickShops’ rights.)