Herman Miller Fabric Comparison – Balance vs Rhythm

I recently received the opportunity to work from home for a couple of months. As a result, I’ve been spending a lot more time in my office chair at home, which was already in need of replacing (something I gauge by the amount of duct tape on the chair).

After being unable to find any chairs designed for a human being at the local “big box” office supply stores (i.e. Staples), I decided that maybe it was time to invest in a real office chair. So, I looked up some more professional, dedicated office furniture stores and tried out some higher-end chairs.

I was very impressed with how I was treated by every place I went, especially by Jason Mills at COI Smart Furniture on King Edward St. I went to COI Smart Furniture to check out their selection of Herman Miller chairs, the best of which, IMHO, ended up being the SAYL and the Embody chairs.

Herman Miller Embody chair

Herman Miller Embody chair

I had an Embody chair delivered to my house — for free — to try out for a week or so, to see if it suited my needs. After sitting in it for a few minutes at home (after having spent a few hours in my existing chair), I could literally feel the relief in my back. It was great. The Herman Miller Embody chair has improved my posture, and I have yet to feel any aches or pains after sitting in it for an extended period of time. Contrast that to my current office chair (a $200 generic chair from Staples) in which I am constantly adjusting my sitting position and feeling aches and pains here and there.

In doing some research on the chair before officially ordering one (I’ll not mention the exact price, but I will say it was in the four-digit range) I learned that there are two fabric options for the Herman Miller Embody chair. What little information I could find on the differences in fabrics, besides price, was either unclear or contradictory.

Thankfully, Jason Mills from COI Smart Furniture dropped off some fabric samples at my house while I was out doing some other business in the middle of the day. For the benefit of anyone else who might care, here are some comparative photos of the two fabric types: Balance and Rhythm:

A brief comparison:

Balance fabric

  • two layers of very thin fabric with a thicker, cushiony fabric in between. Approximately three times thicker, in total, than the Rhythm Fabric
  • the cushiony layer in between has holes through it to allow air to breath through the very thin top and bottom layers of fabric.
  • softer of the two fabrics

Rhythm fabric

  • single-layer of thicker fabric (but still much thinner than the combined layers of the Balance fabric)
  • stronger of the two fabrics

There’s not really much of a different feel between the two fabrics, that is, one doesn’t provide noticeably more friction than the other. The only reasons, IMO, to go with the rhythm fabric would be a) to save $150, and b) cosmetic preference.

For me, it’s really the extra padding that comes with the Balance fabric that does it; because of the fantastic level of support the chair provides, there is less softness in the seat and back, and the extra padding that comes with the Balance fabric is nice.

So, there you have it: a proper comparison between the Balance and Rhythm fabrics for the Hermal Miller Embody chair.  Why HM can’t put a simple photo on their website showing the differences between the two I don’t understand.

18 thoughts on “Herman Miller Fabric Comparison – Balance vs Rhythm

  1. Appreciated. Been trying to figure out the difference. Sounds like it’s worth it to go with the expensive fabric for the softness on your back.

  2. Super good fabric explanation. THANKS!!
    I went with the Rhythm due to cost but added the translucent casters… gives it a nice race feel.
    Thanks for posting this..

  3. More than a year after your post, HM still doesn’t have the info about the fabrics on their site. Thanks for putting this article up. It’s kick-ass! :-)

  4. This is very unclear and I will try to clarify. The Rhythm fabric is thinner than the Balance fabric. However, additional foam is heat bonded to the Rhythm fabric particularly for the Embody chair. You do not see this in the swatch samples because Rhythm is used for other products and does not always have the extra foam. The Balance fabric does not have additional foam. For the Embody chair, Rhythm fabric + heat bonded foam is thicker than Balance fabric + no foam. I got this information from Herman Miller reps after investigating this matter in greater detail after reading your blog. However, for the ultimate test, I went to the showroom to compare the Balance vs Rhythm / foam. Putting all theory aside, I felt the Balance fabric offered more cushion probably because of its intrinsic qualities since more thickness alone does not mean more cushion. The best way to check is to go to the showroom and try one chair with Balance and another chair with Rhythm side by side. Especially inspect the lumbar support square region in the spine – that is the area that tends to poke and leave people wanting for more cushion. I felt the spine was more pokey in the Rhythm than the Balance so I went with the Balance even though the Rhythm is thicker.

  5. I’m shopping for an embody now and this fabrics review was just what I was looking for. Will I justify an extra $200 for the balance fabric? Probably not. Thanks for the review!

  6. Can anyone comment on the durability of both of these fabrics long term, for wear and tear, which is not covered under HM’s warranty?

  7. Hey Thanks!!! I was out looking for the same answers as everyone else and came across your wordpress site. Then after I found yours, I can across a website called ‘SmartFuniture’ that was selling the Embody chairs and they had a write up for each of the fabric types. I will copy and paste below and if want, add this to your post.

    Rhythm is a 2D knit (the fabric resembles that of a pair of gym shorts) and is very durable at 200,000 double rubs. The Rhythm fabric is soft to the touch and can be a little slippery if you frequently wear rayon or silk.

    Mercer is also a 2D knit and is super durable at 180,000 double rubs. It is 50% solution dyed recycled nylon and 50% solution dyed nylon (100% Nylon) and has a coating on it called BLOCKaide which is a soil and stain repellent. It provides excellent repellency to oil and water and helps repel spills to make clean up easier. If you’re a science nerd it utilizes C6 chemistry.

    Balance is a fabric made especially for the Embody, whereas Rhythm and MERCER used on several existing chairs. Both have the same abrasion rating and are therefore equally durable. The balance fabric provides two added benefits over aesthetics alone, (I mention aesthetics as many people think the balance looks cooler) cushioning and breathability. Balance is a 3D knit (3 layers fused together- 2 outers that resemble women’s nylons, and an inside that is cushy at 1/8″ thick with big holes). Balance has loft to it and breathes better with the larger holes in the knit.

  8. Hi Don,

    I’m heaving really hard time deciding between choosing the fabric for Embody. I did some searching and there are images of Embody with Balance fabric showing quite nasty wear and tear. Seem like the holes parts the threads are very fragile. I have two cast and I don;t let them near the chair but I would like to be on safe side if their paws got in contact with the chair somehow :) And Rhythm seems like it might have much better durability. How is your Balance holding up for all those years? Really would appreciate your help.

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