As a fan of both VR and comfort, I’m always on the lookout for comfort-related VR accessories. Since the Valve Index came out last year, we’ve not seen many comfort-based accessories, just user-modded solutions. So, I was quite excited when I found Studioform Creative and their two new comfort-focused Index accessories now available.
A Balancing Act
I was most excited for — and was actually seeking out — a counterweight or cable management attachment. Theirs is quite an elegantly simple design, a 7-ounce (200-gram) metal counterweight, which is stitched inside of a padded material, with a velcro strip that wraps around the very back of the headset. This counterweight has a secondary function in which you can run the Index cable through it, allowing you to center the cable so it falls straight down from the center of the headset, versus off to the side as the Index does natively.
I’ve seen mixed opinions on counterweights. On one hand, it helps distribute the weight of the headset better, but on the other, you’re still adding weight to the HMD. However, I believe it truly does improve comfort and decrease perceived weight. The counterweight does help relieve pressure off the front of the face, specifically the cheek area, by helping balance and better disperse the weight across the top of your head.
Further, the metal counterweight insert is curved, so it rests perfectly against the curve of the back of the headset. Using it for cable management is entirely optional, though you can easily route the cable through it, and have it fall down the middle of your back, without having to bend the cable. It’s more of a gentle redirection which will help keep your cable last longer than if it was outrightly bent.
The counterweight itself is a simple velcro attachment that you can quickly and easily strap to the back of the headset.
After a little over two weeks of testing, I can “comfortably” say I recommend the counterweight. You can pick up the Index Pro Balance for $23.95 on Studioform Creative’s website here.
The other item currently available by Studioform Creative is an “Index Apache Strap.” Essentially, it’s extra padding that goes under the top strap which adds an additional foam layer between the headset’s strap and the top of your head. I was torn about this at first. While I welcome additional padding, I was a bit concerned about heat. I play a ton of active games like Beat Saber and Pistol Whip, so feeling hot fast is a real concern.
I do think the strap can add to heat generation, but only during intense or more active VR sessions, so it’s not much of a problem (I keep a fan on during my sessions to help with this, even before getting the Apache strap). Regarding fit, at first, I thought the extra padding was throwing off my “sweet spot,” but after taking it off a few times–going back and forth (which is quick and easy as it’s only 4 velcro straps), on and off, adjusting the head strap and Apache strap–I now feel that I’m right in the sweet spot and found a few other pros of the Apache strap.
The Sweet Spot
I can confirm that the counterweight relieves face pressure with the added weight, but, along with gravity, it also pushes the headset down slightly more. The extra padding from the Apache strap then helps pull the headset back up, and balances the counterweight vertically. The two work together very well to improve the overall comfort of the headset, while allowing you to zero in on the sweet spot.
Another benefit of this accessory combo is for headset use between people with different face shapes or bone structures and especially children. If you share your headset with friends or family, the Apache strap is a great tool for helping people that feel the headset doesn’t fit them well, as it allows you to bump up the lenses a bit and hold the lens in the correct place. It generally allows for more versatility.
Pick up the Apache Strap for $19.95 from Studioform Creative.
Initially, I was sure about recommending only the counterweight, with the Apache strap optional. After weeks of testing different setups, I do feel that both the counterweight and Apache strap actually help each other work better. If you’re “strapped” for cash, I’d go with the counterweight first. It’s important to note, both products can be installed in minutes, so swapping them out, if needed, is a breeze.
The awesome news is that both items come in a package, “Index Pro Balance Enthusiast Kit” at a total cost $37.95, saving you $5.95.
It’s worth noting that these products ship from New Zealand. So, if you’re interested, order soon. You’ll have them before you know it. I received mine during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, and got the items around two weeks after the shipment was picked up. In fact, Studioform just informed me average shipping time is down to 10 days, as of June 12, 2020. Another bonus, they also added a DHL Express 2-3 day shipping option, US only, so you can get your comfort on even quicker.
For VR Cover Memory Foam faceplate users, these products do not interfere at all. I have the memory foam faceplate on my Index, and can confirm all products fit and work well together.
Major props to Studioform creative for making these accessories at all. I’ve been waiting for this since the Index first came out. Both items are very high quality. Their customer support has been superb and they included extra velcro straps with guides for best use. Like most things VR, you can use these whatever way works best for you and your rig.