Made in the USA and designed by two former NASA engineers, the Herbalizer’s brains + looks combo is attracting glowing mainstream media coverage.
With good reason – the Herbalizer does everything the best vapes on the market can do and it does them better. This means vaportherapy and aromatherapy in one device, for balloon, whip with fan-assist, or freestyle clouds from dry herbs or concentrated extracts.
That it has been unusually well thought through is clear before the Herbalizer is even out of the box. This is Apple-quality packaging, and the device itself does not disappoint when it emerges (cue the dry ice…).
Elegant Egg with Smarts to Match
Closed, the Herbalizer is a study in symmetrical, egg-like simplicity that sits on your table like some Star Trek pleasure dome, poised and ready for action
Opening the clamshell lid, the white interior, simple interface and colour LCD screen transform the Herbalizer into a bona fide clinical device. Overall, its clean elegance brought to mind something out of an exclusive Swiss clinic.
If this makes the Herbie sound a little sterile, rest assured that the device is approachable and tactile, a lovely addition to any household. The 2-inch LCD screen delivers little motivational statements (“375 degrees is great for cleaning house”) and tips for use on starting up.
They come in peace
Prototyped with 3D printing, the hardware is packed inside with an efficiency and solidity you could only expect from satellite engineers, which Josh Young and Bob Pratt were before turning their talents to vape design (see our extended interview here).
It kind of makes sense: both industries wrestle with extremes of temperature, packing as much functionality into as small a space as possible, and creating a product they hope will be out of this world.
Unrivalled heat up
Snapping in the 8-foot power cable and flipping open the lid, you choose the vaportherapy option by clicking the button and setting the temperature required, displayed on a colour LCD screen but pressing + or -.
Blink and you’ll miss the heat up; No other home-vape can come close to the Herbalizer’s 10-second (or less) heat-up time, even at the maximum 445 F. The machine heats literally at the speed of light, delivering precise, immediate heat from a light bulb.
How many engineers to change a light bulb?
The AroMed is the only other device that has tried this as far as I know. However, Herbie’s is no everyday light bulb but a custom designed 300-watt halogen quartz lamp – the equivalent of packing a small grow light into your vaporizer.
Outside surface temperature of the lamp reaches 800 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s twice the temperature required for effective vaporization, so it’s crucial that the lamp turns on only when needed and for no longer than absolutely necessary.
Harnessing the beast within
To accurately control all that power, the Herbalizer relies on a heat sensor (thermocouple) situated between the bulb and the safety screen to get a precise temperature reading just before the hot air flows into the magnetically attached bowl.
The custom-built thermocouple has a rated accuracy of 0.1% and drift of less than 0.1F per year. Located directly underneath the bowl area in the direct air path, it detects temperature changes in a fraction of a second.
Steady as she goes
To make sure the machine sticks to your chosen temperature (between 290 and 445 degrees Fahrenheit), it uses proprietary software to rapidly toggle the lamp on and off the split second more heat is required, plus a dedicated fan.
Together, they enable extraction levels and intensity of experience to be accurately calibrated and repeated like no other vape has managed previously. The Herbalizer vs the Volcano is an interesting comparison. In our review and opinion it beats even the Volcano in any metric you care to measure.
High performance components are all very well, but the system must be calibrated properly for them to work in concert. Each Herbalizer unit is calibrated individually before leaving the USA factory in San Diego, CA.
The fan is not obtrusive; I actually found it restful with its background white noise hum, and it has a quiet mode when aromatherapizing if you want to get really serious and add some meditation to the mix.
Actually, I find out later there are 3 fans in the device: a dedicated bag-filling fan for the balloon and as whip assist, a system cooling fan to keep the temperature of the airflow constant, and a fan for the aromatherapy function, which has its own air pathway. Just another example of the ingenious rocket science that has gone into the Herbalizer.
Full on, the Herbalizer delivers 9 litres per minute for assisted whip inhalation, balloon filling or for aromatherapy oil diffusion.
The Balloon: Up, Up and Away
The bowl’s nozzle connects to the one-piece balloons with a soft rubber mouthpiece that is squeezed to open. It does not have any pieces to break or pull off, making it lighter and simpler than the Volcano. The vapor was fresh, untainted and cool.
Whip it real good
The whip is 3-feet long, meaning you’re not forced to hunch over the device as with most other whip vapes. Its mouthpiece sits in place like a comforting hookah pipe, yet is made from opaque, white silicone tubing. It is housed when not in use in the rim around the open device.
I found initially that it tends to flip itself out and hinder closing the lid. There’s a certain knack to it, and I am assured by the makers that with use it gets easier. But that’s my only criticism of an otherwise exceptional product.
Smells like: aromatherapy
More than satisfied, I dripped a few drops of rosemary oil on one of the wire pads and popped it in the herb chamber, switched to aromatherapy mode and not only was the room de-fugged in minutes, I got to enjoy the synergistic effects of essential oils with dried herb medication.
Though not an initial goal, this has over the course of the Herbalizer’s development become a key research direction for the makers. The device’s precision promises a whole new era of non-cannabinoid herb use.
Wealth of Hidden Peripherals
Inside the lid, a hidden mezzanine compartment contains a generous stash box, ingenious ‘credit card’ herb grater, a small bottle of herbal essential oil, a cleaning brush and a couple of small wire pads onto which the essential oils (or cannabis concentrates like wax and shatter) are introduced to the heat chamber.
Besides their utility, these peripherals add to the overall desire to play and interact with the Herbalizer. I’m sure once it’s part of your home you’ll find it becomes a centrepiece and conversation starter. I certainly missed my Herbie when it was taken away for its photo shoot.
Herb Chamber: Good On-Off-ability
The two-part herb chamber consists of a magnetic base that snaps onto the hot air supply and holds the herb or oil pad, plus a screw on nozzle top. Both elements are insulated with a rubber ring, so no singed fingers.
The nozzle screws on with a quarter turn easily, even with restricted hand dexterity. Filling (fine to medium grind) and removal are easy, as is cleaning.
Efficient & Clean Machine
And indeed, all materials are of medical grade; I experienced absolutely no out-gassing, even right out the box. The vapor was of the highest quality whether from whip or balloon.
The precision and constancy of the Herbalizer’s heat makes herb and concentrate use super efficient, which will not only save you money, it promises to change the way you think of vaporization.
Controlled by a 32MHz 16-bit processor – enough to run a PC in the early 90s! – the Herbalizer is the world’s first genuinely smartvape. Smart extras include a 3-axis tilt sensor (a message on the LCD asks to you put it back level when it’s tilted over 30 degrees, while shutting off heat and fans)? A light sensor that automatically adjusts the brightness of the screen depending on ambient light in the room?
An Evolutionary Leap
In conclusion, the Herbalizer is the most daring fusion of form and function yet seen in any vaporizer. It’s a true evolutionary leap that underwent nearly four years of thinking, tinkering and testing before release.
Offering utmost versatility and unparalleled vapor quality, the Herbalizer is not cheap but it is fairly priced at $729. It comes with a 2-year limited warranty and 5-year quality guarantee, while NASA-standard stress testing suggests the bulb will last at least 20 years!
Currently only available running off 120V (US and Canada), the boffins are working on a 240V version for release in early 2015 (or sooner). If you can’t wait, you’ll need (to be safe) a 500W transformer to run it in Europe.