Arcwave Ion review: every bit the revelation it promises to be

Arcwave's technological toy blasts you with air for a feeling like no other; it's not perfect, but it is amazing

Arcwave Ion
(Image credit: Alex Cox / T3)
T3 Verdict

It's hard to describe how well the Ion works without getting too lurid for T3. Safe to say, it's effective. While some of its peripheral functions aren't quite perfect, there's nothing else quite like this – if you've tried other toys and are looking for something heftier, or even if you're buying your first toy, this is a great choice.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Unique stimulation

  • +

    Excellent storage

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Incredibly noisy

  • -

    Automation is iffy

  • -

    Awkward buttons

There are, it's fair to say, a whole lot of options when you're selecting from the best sex toys for men (opens in new tab). Even amongst those, the Arcwave Ion is a bit of an enigma. Not only because it's a battery-powered toy in a sea of manual options, but because it does something completely different, borrowing incredibly successful technology from the female market – specifically the Pleasure Air tech which has made Womanizer's innovative vibrators such a hit - and applying it to a different organ. 

It sounds like a gamble, and frankly it is: for all of Arcwave's marketing bluster and high-end packaging, an expensive toy which switches things up to this extent might be a bit hard to swallow for some. And vibration directly on the head of the penis? That might be the hardest sell of all.

Luckily, the Ion mostly pulls it off. Let's find out what it does right, and what's not so hot.

Arcwave Ion review: design & features

It's obvious just looking at the Arcwave Ion that it's a different kind of toy. It's not some standard pillowy cylindrical stroker. It's actually a device of three parts: the sleeve, made of the same pliable-but-not-squidgy CleanTech silicone as the inner of the Arcwave Ion; the motorised section, which contains the Pleasure Air actuator, the controls, and the batteries; and the charging case, which is just about the most discrete sex toy storage medium we've ever seen, and which helps position the Ion for optimal drying.

The sleeve is, as we've said, not exactly a luxurious cushion. It's a fairly short open-ended canal which extends slightly further on the case side to add a little padding against the mechanical section. The two halves twist apart for cleaning, revealing that the sleeve has a stiff back to it, and showing off the hole that allows the Pleasure Air effect through. None of this is to say that it's at all rough, of course – like the Arcwave Voy, it feels pretty damn great on its own - but any variations in pressure and tightness will have to come at your own hand.

The smart side is where most of the considerable weight of the Ion lies. It's textured on the outside which helps it stay grippy if there's lube or water (the whole unit is completely waterproof) involved. There are three buttons, positioned so they're easy to actuate when you're holding this in its intended position: one which switches the Pleasure Air zone in and out of smart sensing mode - more on that later – and two which adjust the intensity and double as power buttons.

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Arcwave Ion review: does it work?

Read user feedback online and you'll hear a lot of people, even those quoted on Arcwave's own website, say it takes a while to get used to the Arcwave Ion's peculiar method of getting things done. That wasn't our experience at all. While you might argue that this particular reviewer lacks the necessary body hardware to make this statement conclusively, here it comes anyway: Pleasure Air is just as effective for guys as it is for girls.

The idea is that instead of applying direct vibrations to your glans like you would with the best vibrators (opens in new tab), the Ion's tech moves a diaphragm back and forth in order to vibrate the air instead. In practice this means you get the vibrations without the direct contact that can make such things a little too much. Arcwave sells this as stimulating the "Pacinian pleasure receptors in the frenulum" and, whatever's really going on, it works to create a very different, not unpleasant and exceedingly strong feeling – and one which doesn't wear down one's sensitivity like contact-based toys can.

Certain things don't work so well, however. The automated actuation, which seems to work fine when blocked directly with a finger, only sporadically works in real-world applications even after a lot of squeezing and careful positioning. Luckily you can just switch the Pleasure Air function on full-time, which helps with finding the right spot.

The buttons, however well-positioned they might be, aren't the best, particularly as you have to hold them for a fairly precise interval to actually switch the Arcwave Ion on and off, but we'll give them a pass.

And then there's the noise. We had similar complaints in our Arcwave Voy review (opens in new tab), so it's clear that Arcwave's mission is to make great-feeling toys, not great-sounding ones. This sounds like a growling dog playing tug with a pneumatic drill. Deeply unsexy.

Arcwave Ion review: Verdict

There's meat to Arcwave's claims that this works towards a completely unique experience. It does. It's quite bananas, and we've never tried anything quite like it. We can't fault the presentation, either – the case is a very nice touch, and the engineering of the Ion itself (particularly the twist-apart construction, which really does make cleaning easy) is well-considered and effective.

But it's not perfect: there's really no way to use this stealthily unless it's switched off altogether, given that it sounds like a motorbike that's been rebuilt by a maniac, the buttons aren't the best, and its penis detection algorithms aren't quite on point. For something so expensive, that might make it feel disappointing – or, at least, it will until you've used it. Then all will be forgiven.

Arcwave Ion review: Alternatives to consider

We've already mentioned it a few times in this review, but Arcwave's excellent Voy is a great choice if you're after a toy of the more manual persuasion. The sleeve material is the same (and it's excellent on both counts) and the quality's there too.

You could try the Blowmotion Real Feel Rechargable Vibrating Male Masturbator (opens in new tab), which cushions twin vibrators at either side of its extremely soft sleeve. The outcome is similar, with its vibrations spicing up otherwise standard movements in an interesting way, though we found the sensations here a little stronger and quite different.

We're also hoping to get our hands on Kiiroo's Keon soon, which automates things in a very different up-and-down way; stay tuned for a review, fingers crossed.

T3 magazine's own Gadget Guru is a 25-year veteran of the tech writing wars, and has the scars to prove it. He's written for the UK's biggest technology publications, and knows everything from smart doorbell voltage needs to how to bend Windows to his every whim.