Glowforge and Muse are two of the most recognized names in prosumer laser engraving – with Glowforge best known for the Glowforge Pro, and Full Spectrum hailed for the Muse Core laser cutter.
Having tested the best laser cutters and engravers over the years, and reviewed a number of them on our site, we compare the Glowforge Pro vs Muse Core to help you pick which is the best desktop laser for your particular needs.
TL;DR: Here are our recommendations based on:
- Best value: Muse Core
- Best for large projects: Glowforge Pro
- Best support: Glowforge
- For rotary engraving curved objects: Muse Core
- For offline laser cutting: Muse Core
- Best for small businesses: Glowforge Pro
Muse vs Glowforge: The Specs
Working area: 20″ x unlimited length
Cooling system: internal cooling system
Software: Glowforge Print
Offline or online: Online
Materials it can cut: wood, fabric, leather, acrylic, Delrin, rubber, mylar
Materials it can engrave: the above, plus glass, coated metals, marble, anodized aluminum, titanium
FSL Muse Core
Working area: 20″ x 12″ (508 x 305 mm)
Power: 40W by default, 45W upgrade costs an extra $250
Cooling system: external cooling system
Software: RetinaEngrave software
Offline or online: Offline
Materials it can cut: acrylic, fabric, leather, paper, rubber, wood
Materials it can engrave: acrylic, coated metals, glass, leather, paper, rubber, stone, wood
Muse vs Glowforge: The Similarities
Before we compare the Glowforge and Muse, let’s talk about what’s similar.
They’re both CO2 lasers, both two popular laser cutters, and both carry similar power. While the default Glowforge Pro packs 5W more than the 40W Muse Core Desktop Laser, you can buy the Muse with an upgraded 45W tube type for an extra $250 and draw level with the Glowforge’s power.
They engrave and cut mostly the same materials – woods, acrylic, and engraving metals are what you’d really expect in this price range. Neither can cut metal – you’ll need a far more industrial laser cutter for these uses.
Glowforge vs Muse Compared: The Main Differences
Cutting and Engraving
While we’ve discussed their similar power outputs, there are subtle differences. Glowforge Pro’s larger 20″ x unlimited length engraving and cutting area really adds to the range of laser projects you can create.
By contrast, the Laser Spectrum Muse doesn’t have the same length, at 12″. So if you’re planning on cutting out large pieces of wood for your Etsy shop – such as signs, or topographic maps – the Muse might not fit your needs.
The FSL Muse offers 1000 dpi – fairly standard for prosumer laser cutting. Glowforge say their machines engrave at up to 1355 dpi, slightly better, with a positioning precision of up to 0.001″.
Powerful Co2 lasers get hot when used, and need cooling systems to prevent any dangers or errors during your job. Both the Glowforge and Muse have systems to keep their device cool, with the Glowforge Pro having a Peltier cooler, involving pumping liquid through the laser to soak up heat.
The Glowforge’s cooling pump is a closed-loop internal system, saving space on your desk and generally keeping your small business workshop or home studio clearer.
The Full Spectrum Muse has an external cooling system – it sits outside the laser, and requires extra space to store on your workshop. While not ideal, an external water cooling unit is not exactly a deal-breaker on its own.
- Overall: Glowforge’s internal cooling system makes it easier to store.
Muse – RetinaEngrave 3
Full Spectrum lasers use a software called RetinaEngrave (RE3). RetinaEngrave works offline, so you can still access your laser if your workshop or home studio isn’t near your WiFi router. Your Muse laser runs its own web server that hosts the software, opening a LAN connection pointing your browser to its IP to access it. It’s all offline still – you can read more info on the setup here.
It’s also included free with the Muse – you can view it here.
Glowforge – Glowforge Print
Glowforge laser printers use a cloud-based software that requires perennial internet access, or you’re stuck. This is perhaps the most frustrating part of the Glowforge. There’s no downloadable app for offline use, so you have to have internet access wherever you’re planning on using your Glowforge machine.
What’s more, Glowforge users reported slow lead times from submitting their models to the cloud, with long wait times for the job to execute.
Glowforge did take on this feedback, but not in the way the community wanted. To get priority in the cloud to submit your projects, you’ll need to fork out $50/month for Glowforge Premium cloud-based software, though it does also come with a range of other useful and handy features like a wide font and image library, and some custom shape tools and free laser designs.
Nevertheless, many other Glowforge users feel this is excessive, and you should factor in this extra price if you are planning to purchase a Glowforge Pro, Plus or Basic.
Risks in the future
This is a very small chance, but worth mentioning still. While Glowforge machines are super popular and the company looks to be thriving – and they deserve it, they’re amazing laser cutters! – a lack of downloadable software is a potentially hazardous issue if the company goes out of business.
For users who have spent $6,000 on a laser engraver to engrave hard materials, cut wood or metal, and more for their business, if Glowforge was to disappear, and the software cease to be supported, Glowforge owners could be left with a $6,000 brick.
This is almost impossible and undoubtedly a new open-source laser software would be created/released by Glowforge, but generally, I consider offline access and app downloadability to be a plus – especially if you’re risk-averse.
- Overall: Muse offers better laser cutter software versatility, though Glowforge’s interface is great.
Both the Muse and Glowforge are compatible with all major operating systems: Windows, MacOS, Linux.
You should have no issue connecting and interacting with either of the two laser cutters.
Muse Core Price
If we’re comparing the highest-end Glowforge vs Muse Core, the Muse wins on price.
FSL Muse Core costs $3,499 for the base laser cutter and engraver. But you can end up spending a fair bit more than that if you want to upgrade and customize your machine.
Muse upgrades include:
- $250 for the 45W upgrade
- Optional extra lenses ranging from $150-$250
- Muse Coolbox: $750
- Radiator water chiller upgrade: $600
- Various exhaust fans, ranging from $250 to $3,000
- Rotary engraver option: $1,395
So if you’re going for the barebones version, you can save $3,000 as compared with the Glowforge. However, if you’re souping up your laser cutting experience, be prepared for the costs to stack up.
Glowforge Pro Price
The Glowforge Pro costs $5,995, a big dent in any hobbyist or small business’ pockets.
But that’s mostly all you’ll end up paying, as Glowforge pricing basically stops there – they don’t offer a wide range of extras, and their laser cutters aren’t that upgradable (they do offer their own Proofgrade materials, though).
There are a few 3D printable parts that’ll help with your exhaust hose being a bit short (check this here), but these aren’t going to add to your costs.
- Overall: Glowforge vs Muse price: Muse starts out cheaper, but can increase based on your extra features.
Glowforge laser cutters are known for being some of the most intuitive, sleek, and wonderful lasers to use. To me, they draw comparisons to Apple’s user experience. Their interface is user friendly, the machine itself ships assembled and ready to start, and their software, while cloud-based, is easy to navigate.
However, the Glowforge doesn’t feature an LCD screen, which some users will find annoying.
On the other hand, the Muse Core features a 7″ LCD touch screen for easy navigation, speeding up your workflow and efficiency – key if you’re running a laser business. It also features a 3D camera system, like Glowforge, that’s easy to master.
RetinaEngrave is intuitive and well-designed – you’ll have no issue using it if you’ve got previous experience with laser software tools like LightBurn.
- Muse vs Glowforge usability: both are easy to use and intuitive.
If you’re planning to engrave curved objects, such as tumblers, figurines with round bases, or any other circular or rounded piece, your only option is the Muse laser cutter.
The rotary engraver add-on costs $1,355, but gives you access to an entirely new dimension.
Glowforge don’t offer rotary attachments by standard, or as an upgrade option.
- Overall: Muse laser cutter is best for rotary engraving.
Glowforge has live chat and message options if you run into any issues, and a useful support section on their site for common issues and troubleshooting. You can call, email, or contact them via social media if that’s your preferred contact method.
Glowforge’s big user community forum also comes into play here, with scores of helpful owners coming to each other’s rescue if you have any issues.
Muse doesn’t seem to have the same level of support options – with fairly basic support. You’re mostly limited to their video tutorials and guides, though you can also contact their support team.
- Overall: Glowforge has more active support
Weight / Size
FS Muse Core weighs 24.5kg (54lbs). That’s almost identical to the Glowforge Pro, which weighs in at 25kg (55lbs). They’re relatively heavy, and don’t expect either to be portable.
Muse’s machine dimensions are 820 x 515 x 215 mm, so you’ll need a fair-sized desktop. This also doesn’t factor in the external water pump cooling unit, which adds to the space it takes up.
The Glowforge Pro encompasses 965 x 527 x 210 mm, slightly larger than the Muse. But, the internal cooling system means this is mostly all the room it takes up.
Muse vs Glowforge: Warranty
Glowforge US customers get 12-month warranties on their Glowforge Pro and Glowforge Plus machines – though this drops to 6 months if you’re planning on buying the Glowforge Basic.
If you’re based in the UK, you get a 12-month warranty on the Basic, and 2 years for the Plus and Pro.
The FSL Muse comes with a 1-year warranty completely free. For a 2 year extended warranty, it costs $300 extra.
Muse Pros and Cons
- Offline software that’s free with the machine
- LCD screen for an efficient workflow
- Very upgradable and versatile
- Sleek metal frame
- Good 40/45W power for the price
- Some will prefer cloud-based software
- External water cooling system takes up extra space
- Only basic support via Muse’s contact forms
Glowforge Pros and Cons
- Your entire small business workflow in one intuitive machine
- User-friendly UI
- In-house Proofgrade materials you can buy (also compatible with third-party materials)
- Internal cooling system
- Useful community forum where you can hang out with fellow owners
- Native software comes with free laser designs you can start making money from
- Cloud software requires an internet connection, and slows down workflow
- No rotary engraver option (or any upgrade options, really)
- High upfront cost
FSL Muse Core
Our Verdict: Muse vs Glowforge
Overall, these two laser cutters are two of the top machines around, with great power, ease of use, and wide material compatibility for all your favorite designs.
If you prioritize offline use and don’t want to pay monthly extras for premium software, the Muse will be your choice.
If you want to laser rounded parts, the Muse is the only option for rotary engraving.
If you want to cut and engrave large furniture-sized pieces, the Glowforge Pro laser printer is your best option.
And depending on how much you want to upgrade your laser, you may want to pay more upfront for the Glowforge Pro, or go with the Laser Spectrum Muse and upgrade as you need.
What is Glowforge?
Glowforge is a 3D laser printer company founded by Dan Shapiro and Mark Gosselin – both with serious prior business experience. Gosselin sold Cequint for $112M before founding Glowforge, and Dan Shapiro launched the best-selling board game in Kickstarter’s history.
Glowforge has since received over $70M in investment funding to produce its current range of laser cutters and engravers for soft materials.
What is Muse?
FSL, or Full Spectrum Laser, manufacturers of the Muse laser cutter, was founded by Henry Liu, a Stanford PhD in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics. The company was founded in 2010 and has received $10M in total investment to launch and market their range of desktop lasers.
As well as the Muse Core, FSL offer a range of more industrial lasers, as well as the FSL Muse 3D for $6,499. They also produced a resin 3D printer, the FSL3D Pegasus Touch.
Some alternatives to the Glowforge Pro and Muse include:
Frequently Asked Questions about Muse and Glowforge
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