Shootout: Theragun, TimTam, Percussive Massagers
article & images by Nick Salazar
Mar 26, 2019
We'll start this review the same place I started: trying to build a cheap DIY solution that I *thought* would be as good as any high-priced model. After all, if these massagers were modeled around the jigsaw, why wouldn't a jigsaw work just as well?
So I got a Black + Decker jigsaw. The tool is only about $50, but then annoyingly you have to buy the battery and the charger separately. All-in, it's about $100 for this side of things. You could buy a corded one for much less, but that eliminates a lot of the convenience. If I were doing this again though, I wouldn't buy the Black + Decker unit. It has a variable-speed trigger, which is not ideal for the massaging application. It's hard to keep a really consistent feel when also moving around the body with varying pressure. I'd stick to either a fixed-speed unit, or one whose speed is controlled by a separate dial/switch, rather than being integrated into the trigger.
Beyond the tool itself, of course, you have to find a good massage tip. I tried building my own from various jigsaw blades, but failed pretty miserably. I went the Amazon route, and found a pair of them, for $50. At the time of this writing, there are already more options available than when I purchased, and at varying price points from about $20 to $100. Unfortunately, nothing I have seen has really made me happy in terms of either shape or material. They're all a bit too hard, which is sometimes helpful but often not. Given the speed and strength with which these things operate, it's nice to have a bit softer material on the tip.
But regardless of material, jigsaw-based massagers all suffer the same primary drawback, which is that the tips (necessarily) terminate in the very thin jigsaw shank. That means if you want to use the tool off-axis against your body, it's going to bend the shank, potentially breaking over time. I do tend to find myself using the massager in that way; instead of pointing the massager into yourself, you keep it more or less parallel with your body, and then lean the massage head in. So instead of the jigsaw motion going in and out of you, it goes along your skin, like how an actual massage therapist works.
And, of course, it's loud. This is a shop tool at the end of the day, and not meant for casual indoor use.
Of the three options in this review, the DIY version is by far my least favorite. Not only do you have to make up to four separate purchases, but the whole isn't exactly greater than the sum of its parts. And you aren't really saving much money compared to option 2: the TimTam. Hit the jump and let's look at that one.
Theragun, TimTam, and the homemade variety, side by side.
The G3PRO is the latest and most refined massager from Theragun. It's incredibly slick, MUCH quieter than the competition, and comes complete with a spare battery, seven tips of different sizes/shapes/firmness, and a case. At $600, it's extremely pricey, but it is undeniably head and shoulders better than anything else in this review. Is it worth the extra cash? That's really a decision for the individual user. Personally, I did't want to see my review unit go back.
TimTam Power Massager
TimTam is kindof the budget version of Theragun. It works just fine, but it's no quieter than a shop jigsaw, and only has one tip. That tip is a very hard rubber ball, which offers you just one shape and one level of firmness. Honestly, it'll get the job done, but it's loud and not particularly refined.
The Homebrew (Black + Decker Jigsaw)
At about $100 complete, this is by far the cheapest setup, and comes with the added bonus of being useful as a shop tool. After all, it's just a jigsaw. It also features variable speeds, which is pretty nice, but you have to control that speed with the continuous trigger, which can be a bit tricky. And finding different tips is a pretty tricky situation, you basically scour Amazon or eBay to find something that will fit the jigsaw shank.