In a Nutshell:
The Kahuna EM-Arete is a strong design from a company known for its strong designs. It offers a little bit of everything and has relatively few weak points in its design. It is recommended for anyone weighing up to 280 pounds looking for a solid, well-rounded massage chair.
Overall Massage Quality
Ease of Use
Value for the Money
Does your back hurt all the time? Do you get home from the end of a long day with aching feet? Do you spend more time and money than you care to admit in your local chiropractor’s office?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you’re going to like what you read in this—our Kahuna EM-Arete review.
Kahuna is one of the biggest and most respected brands in the massage chair industry. They have a reputation for stellar post-sales support and consistently making great products. While it’s possible to find the occasional weak Kahuna model, they are few and far between. The company knows its business, and its products absolutely reflect that.
The Arete is one of the company’s newer models. And in the sections that follow, we’ll step you through everything this design has to offer, highlighting the many, many strong elements in the model and not pulling any punches or making excuses when the company occasionally comes up short.
That way, you’ll have all the information you need to decide for yourself whether this is the model you’ve been looking for or if your search must continue. If that sounds good to you, let’s dive in and look closer.
An Overview of the Em-Arete Massage Chair
We should start by saying that this is the slightly less expensive cousin to the EM8500 massage chair offered by Kahuna. While the design team for the more expensive model took a few chances when it came to the overall look and feel of the chair, the Arete’s designers took no chances, sticking to a purely conventional aesthetic.
The Arete is, by no means, an ugly chair. But like most of the massage chairs sold today, it’s got a vaguely futuristic look, and unless your house is decorated with a sci-fi theme, it’s probably going to stand out in whatever room you decide to put it in.
That’s not a problem for most people because most of the folks who are in the market for a massage chair are looking for something that will help make them feel better.
Aesthetics might matter some, but function almost always matters more than form. If that’s where you are, then you won’t have an issue with the look of the Arete at all.
If you want something that will blend in more seamlessly with your existing home décor scheme, then we’ll save you some reading time and say that this one probably isn’t the chair you’re looking for (but Human Touch makes a number of great massage chairs that blend in easily with other furniture).
If you decide you’ve got to have one of these, Kahuna makes this model available in three color options.
You can order yours in basic black, brown and black, or ivory and brown. That’s not exactly a dizzying color selection, but it’s more than a lot of other companies offer. And they’re all neutral colors, which make color blending a bit easier, so that’s a nice touch.
And assuming you’re okay with the looks, the next thing to comment on is the size of the chair.
Massage chairs tend to be big, burly pieces of furniture as a rule and the Arete is no exception, with a footprint of 59” L x 32.3” W x 46.5” H and weighing in at a healthy 227 pounds. This isn’t a chair you’re just going to be able to throw over your shoulder and put it in whatever room you want it to go in.
No, if you decide you want one of these, you’ll probably require at least one extra pair of hands to get it situated, and you and your helper may want a relaxing massage by the time you’re done!
Given the footprint described above, you may struggle to find room for the chair if you live in a smaller home or apartment. One thing Kahuna did to help with that was to incorporate space-saving technology into their design.
Where most recliners require you to have a foot or more of space between the seatback and whatever wall you place the chair near, you’ll only need about 3” of clearance here, which will make finding a permanent home for it a little easier.
Despite its size, the Arete has one shortcoming we need to mention before leaving this section. It’s only capable of supporting 280 pounds of user weight.
If you weigh less than that, you won’t see it as a shortcoming, but if you happen to weigh more or are taller than the 6’3” maximum recommended height, this model will be a nonstarter for you.
That’s a pity because, as you’ll see as we get deeper into this review, it is a great chair, but the weight limit is a genuine disappointment for us.
It would not have been difficult, nor would it have dramatically increased the price to ruggedize the chair and make it capable of supporting significantly more weight, which would have made it a good fit for a broader swath of the market.
Sadly, the company opted not to do that, but perhaps they’d offer a more generous weight limit on some future model updates. Here’s hoping!
One final thing to mention before we leave this section is the remote. This chair doesn’t have one, or at least, it doesn’t have a conventional remote.
Most massage chairs offer a remote that looks like a slightly wider remote than the one that came with your TV. This chair comes with a 7” flat-panel touchscreen mounted to the chair on a swivel mount.
It’s pretty cool, and the big advantage is that the 7” screen is much easier to read than the tiny LCD screens other companies build into their handheld remotes!
The Arete Massage Chair Has Good Bones
Specifically, what we mean by this is that this design incorporates all the current best practices and standard technology into its design.
Here, you’ll find a delightfully long “SL” massage track that starts at your neck and extends down the length of the seatback and then turns to go under the seat, too, allowing the built-in quad rollers to massage you from your neck and shoulders to the backs of your thighs.
Note, too, that this is a 3D massage chair, which means the track is built to allow the rollers to move along the X-, Y-, and Z-axis. What that means to someone sitting in the chair and getting a massage is that this chair is capable of a deep tissue massage, which may be exactly what you’re looking for if you suffer from chronic pain.
The track design and the strength of the massage motors, paired with some other features we’ll talk about a bit later on, make this chair capable of giving a really satisfying deep tissue massage with genuine therapeutic benefits.
While casual users may appreciate that, chronic pain sufferers will get the most out of it. In fact, on the chair’s maximum intensity settings, it may prove to be a bit too aggressive for you, so you’ll want to experiment to find your massage sweet spot.
In addition to that, this model offers auto body scanning tech, so before your massage begins, the chair will take a quick scan of your back and quietly adjust the position of the rollers so that they hit your pressure points precisely.
This works more than 95% of the time, and on those rare occasions where the body scanning tech gets it wrong, you’ll find controls on the control panel that will allow you to fine-tune the roller positions, so you’ll always get the best massage this chair is capable of delivering.
That’s exactly what we expect to see from one of the best companies in the industry, and Kahuna doesn’t disappoint!
The Kahuna EM-Arete Has Lots of Massage Options and One Curious Weakness
This is, on balance, a very strong component of our Kahuna EM-Arete review, and one thing we really like is the fact that this less expensive chair offers all the same massage options as its more expensive cousin—the EM8500.
Unfortunately, it has the same curious weakness as that more expensive chair. Take a look. Here are the massage techniques on offer:
The strange thing about this chair and the 8500 is the fact that it only offers basic massage techniques. There are no advanced massage options at all.
Most of the chairs on the market today offer at least one advanced technique, with the most commonly offered one being Shiatsu.
In fact, most of Kahuna’s other chairs offer Shiatsu, so we’re not sure why it was left off here, and we do regard that omission as a design weakness and deducted points from the chair’s score accordingly.
As you’ll see, though, this model makes up for the absence of an advanced technique and then some by offering tons of great customization options and a dizzying array of pre-programmed massage options.
Kahuna breaks them up into three broad categories where the massage options are concerned, with eight massages available in each category. Here’s what this chair has to offer:
Partial Massage Routines
This is an impressive list that offers something for everyone. You’ll definitely want to spend some serious time exploring the various options to find the ones that serve your needs best and save those to your favorites (a feature we’ll have more to say about a little later in this review).
Kahuna has, in our view, the best body stretch in the industry. Suppose your favorite part of a trip to the chiropractor is the chiropractic adjustment. In that case, this is likely to be your favorite feature of the chair, and it represents a second feature with powerful therapeutic benefits (the first being the aforementioned deep tissue massage). Simply outstanding!
In addition to offering tons of great massage options, the Arete allows you to customize the speed and intensity of the rollers, choosing from between five levels for each category. And you’ll find spot and partial massage modes available on the control panel, which allows you to guide and direct the rollers to focus them on the parts of your body that hurt the most.
That’s fantastic, and it gives you all sorts of ways to customize exactly the kind of massage you’re looking for.
Three Zero-G Seating Options!
Most of the massage chairs offered in this price range have a Zero-G seating option, so we weren’t at all surprised to see one included here. But of course, being Kahuna, the company over-delivered—offering not one but three different Zero-G options—which is fantastic.
Zero-G seating was inspired by the fine folks at NASA, and it really does leave you feeling weightless.
Its therapeutic value, however, lies in the fact that studies have shown that Zero-G seating positions help lower blood pressure, improve circulation and facilitate faster healing, which is of particular interest to anyone who has recently been hurt or is recovering from a recent surgery.
Kudos to the Arete’s design team for really going the extra mile here!
Amazing Heat Too
This is an incredibly strong component of our Kahuna EM-Arete review. Unlike most chairs that offer lumbar heat only, here, you’ll find that the Arete’s twin heating coils extend well into the mid-back. And with the heat radiating out from there, in practice, most of your back winds up getting the benefit of the offered heat.
We count the trio of Zero-G seating options as being the third therapeutic feature this chair brings to the table, and the generous back heat is most definitely a fourth. It’s amazing, and we think you’ll love it.
A Very Good Air Massage Too!
While we won’t describe the Arete’s airbag massage as its signature feature, it is still quite good.
The chair sports 36 strategically placed airbags, and like the roller-based massage, you can customize the intensity of your air massage via the control panel by selecting your choice of five different intensity levels.
In addition to that, you can selectively activate airbags, so if you don’t want the full body treatment, you can just turn them on to focus on your shoulders, hands, waist & hips, or calves and feet as it suits you.
Again, it’s not the most impressive thing about the chair, but the air massage is expertly implemented and a very nice feature addition to be included in the design.
An Out-Of-This-World Calf And Foot Massage
Most companies render their calf massage (when offered) via airbags only and apply rollers to the soles of the user’s feet.
Once again, Kahuna goes above and beyond. And in our view, this is the signature feature of the model and the strongest single component of our Kahuna EM-Arete review.
When you activate the calf and foot massage, your calves will be tended to by a combination of rollers and airbags. A combination of rollers and airbags will also tend to your feet.
That is amazing by itself, but the Arete also sports our favorite feature—heated footwells!
So, in addition to enjoying the most amazing calf and foot massage you’ve ever experienced, you get to enjoy it with heat! That’s amazing.
If you spend several hours of each day on your feet, and they’re aching in protest by the time you get home every evening, this is likely to be your favorite aspect of the design.
In our view, the chair is worth its purchase price on the strength of this feature alone. It’s that good!
Kahuna Didn’t Skimp on Extras, Either!
A lot of companies take a pragmatic approach to their designs, focusing almost exclusively on core functionality and paying very little attention to extras, design flourishes, and finishing touches.
Kahuna is not one of those companies. This chair offers the following in terms of extras:
The USB port and speakers are fairly common in the massage chair world, but not all chairs offer massage timers, and very few offer memory slots. With the Arete, you get the full set, and that’s beyond outstanding.
Variants of Kahuna Em-Arete
Pros & Cons of Arete Massage Chair
Over the course of this review, we’ve mostly sung the praises of the Arete. It’s pricey, which counts as a negative, but in our book, it’s worth every penny.
Other than the hefty price tag the company has put on this model, the only real negatives are the fact that you won’t have access to an advanced massage technique, and it doesn’t support as much user weight as we like to see.
If you weigh 280 or less, the latter won’t be an issue, and honestly, given everything this chair does, you’ll barely miss the advanced technique. The chair is amazing.
Kahuna EM-Arete Review Conclusion
We love it, and we think you will too. We absolutely recommend this model for anyone who weighs less than 280 pounds, especially if you’re looking for a chair with lots of therapeutic features and are interested in that unicorn feature—heated footwells. The Arete won’t disappoint!
Other Options To Consider
If, for one reason or another, the Arete just isn’t a good fit for you, here are some other options you may also want to consider:
Given that the Arete doesn’t support as much weight as we’d like, we want to give a shout-out to the SM-7300, also offered by Kahuna. It’s a less expensive chair, and as such, you’ll lose some of the features this one brings to the table, but it will save you money and support more weight—both good things!
Anytime we talk about therapeutic massage chairs, we almost feel obligated to bring the Luraco i7 up. It really is the gold standard in therapeutic massage chairs, and even if you love the model we just talked about, you owe it to yourself to give this one a look. It’s an older model, but to this day, one of the best therapeutic massage chairs on the market.
References and Resources:
- Kahuna EM Arete, Official Brand Website.
- Kahuna EM Arete User Manual
- Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation, National Center for Biotechnology Information.
- 38 Soothing Massage Facts, Fact Retriever.
- Full Body Massages Have Amazing Effects On Your Body, Longevity Live.