Carl Tatz Design Phantom Focus eChair Review

As someone who works at a desk all day, the place I plant my posterior is a pretty big deal. When I moved into my new place, I didn’t have a studio chair of any kind. I was sitting on a wooden chair for like 5 days until I found a beat-to-shit office chair abandoned in the hallway of my apartment building (that poverty life!). I learned several things from this experience: that sitting on a wooden chair for 7 hours a day will absolutely destroy your life so don’t fucking do it, and that a good chair is a make/break accessory for the desk life.

As much as the discarded office chair was an infinite improvement over the body-destroying wooden one, the chair that I wound up replacing it with was nearly as much of an improvement over that. The Carl Tatz Design Phantom Focus eChair is a chair that is nearly infinitely adjustable in a number of very useful ways. The height adjustment – possibly the most important basic adjustment in my estimation – has a large range that puts you in the ideal spot to type and work. That’s something that any old office chair has, though – it’s the other controls that make this chair worth the price of admission. The powerful seat tilt, lumbar support adjustment, arm rest height and angle, and seat back angle control allow you to customize your sitting experience to a very high level.

I’ve had to take the arms off of just about every office chair I’ve ever owned in order to play guitar comfortably while seated. This is a fine solution, unless you want to do other things at the desk (like, I dunno, typing?) then you’re perpetually detaching and reattaching arms like some kind of demented surgeon. Seems like a simple solution, but most office chair makers aren’t considering musicians during the design process – but the eChair has arm rests that drop incredibly low, taking them out of the equation enough that detaching them is usually unnecessary – although that’s also still an option. The rests also tilt inward and outward at 45 degrees which I find incredibly useful for typing for long stretches of time.

I have come to prefer the mesh seat and backrest over cushions for a single, simple reason – cushions compress, and underneath them is usually something flat and hard. It’s pretty rare that a chair has enough cushion material to prevent this, and the mesh gives you a dynamic relationship that can’t bottom out because there’s nothing underneath it but air. The seat is also on a spring that tilts with you when you move, lean, or reach, without having to make any adjustments.

Most of these features are ones that you could probably find on other chairs – they’re not completely revolutionary on their own. But there’s one feature that I haven’t personally seen on others – the backrest freestyle mode. For engineers who are perpetually leaning in to adjust parameters on various pieces of equipment on their consoles, having a backrest that moves with you and is constantly giving you some support at all times is a breath of fresh air. The tilt adjustment for the entire seat is also something I have not encountered.

The name of the game here is flexibility. The ultimate ergonomic shape is the one that fits your body and your needs, and therefore a choose-your-own-adventure format is the only truly universal ergonomic structure. This chair allowed me to set my perfect comfort spot and keep it, which is vital for me since I’m sitting on my ass all day long writing things like this review.

So, you may look at the price ($550 direct) and balk a bit – until you look at other chairs to compare. The Embody task chair is twice the price with half the features, the top-of-the-line Leap WorkLounge at $3k advertises “fixed, non-adjustable arms”, and the Herman Miller Aeron (to which the PFeC is most commonly compared) is $200 more base price, with many of the features standard to the eChair available as paid upgrades.

The only improvements I could see being made on the eChair are a high backrest/headrest kind of addition that could work with the lumbar support, and some more cushioning in the arm rests. Possibly some kind of gel cushion?

The eChair doesn’t look like much at first glance, and it’s probably a bit pricier than what you’re sitting in now. But when you consider the price vs. the features and stack that against the competition, the price tag suddenly doesn’t seem that hefty.

The Phantom Focus eChair from Carl Tatz Design is part of an integrative monitor optimization system (The Phantom Focus System) where, according to the description from the website, “full and accurate frequency response is achieved by incorporating several elements that can include: speaker/listener position calculations; proper speakers stands; damping and isolation devices; subwoofer systems; laser alignment; 360 degree phase control (all-pass filter); crossovers; and corrective equalization.” I think that might be overkill for my studio apartment studio that also doubles as my bedroom – but this chair is perfect for what I do, and could be a good fit for you as well.

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As Editor-in-Chief of Gear Gods, I've been feeding your sick instrument fetishism and trying unsuccessfully to hide my own since 2013. I studied music on both coasts (Berklee and SSU) and now I'm just trying to put my degree to some use. That's a music degree, not an English one. I'm sure you noticed.