Expensive office chairs: Alya vs Humanscale Liberty

Comparing the Humanscale’s Liberty and Alya Task chair. Which is best?

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I am excited to have the opportunity to compare the iconic Humanscale Liberty office chair to Karo’s Alya Task chair.  While few chairs are as recognisable as the Humanscale Liberty chair, many other office chair manufacturers are developing competing products. Although they are not the most expensive office chairs on offer, they are not cheap chairs either. Some of these are of a sufficiently high standard to motivate a direct comparison with the Liberty chair. Here at Karo we are sometimes asked: ”Do you have a chair that can compete with Humanscale? Is the Alya task chair better than the Humanscale Liberty?” 

What follows is a comparison between two of the most expensive office chairs available in South Africa – Humanscale’s Liberty and Karo’s Alya (Alya meaning to ascend).

Although the Alya and the Liberty look different to each other, they share a number of characteristics.  In this comparison, we will take a closer look at each of the following topics to help you decide.

Discussion topics for comparing two expensive office chairs

  • Specifications
  • Pricing
  • Return Policy and Warranty
  • Shipping and Assembly
  • Build Quality
  • Seat Comfort
  • Backrest Comfort
  • Armrest Comfort
  • Ergonomic adjustments
Is the Alya task chair better than the Humanscale Liberty?

1. Specifications

Alya Task Liberty Task
Manufacturer GT Chairs Humanscale
Country of Origin China Mexico
Overall dimensions 65 x 61 x 102-112cm 68 x 66 x 122-134cm
Seat Height 45-55cm 40-53cm
Base Diameter 70cm 66cm
Seat dimensions (w x d) 51 x 43-48cm 50 x 45-50cm
Backrest dimensions (w x h) 49 x 56cm 46 x 53cm
Distance between armrests 48cm 48cm(std) adj. option
Armrest height from seat 17 - 23cm 16 - 22cm (adj. option)
Weight rating 150kg 136kg
Chair weight 20kg 17.5kg
Pricing from R13718 from R16739

2. Return Policy for expensive office chairs

The Humanscale Liberty chair is offered as a standard configuration with a black frame and black (Inhale) fabric. No information is available regarding a Return Policy in South Africa. In the USA, the Humanscale standard policy is that these expensive office chairs cannot be returned as they are all made-to-order.

The Alya has a 14 day return policy.

3. Warranty

Humanscale has a 15 year 24/7 use guarantee on all structural moving parts, a 10 year warranty on the gas lift and a 5 year warranty (single 8 hour shift) on upholstery and high-wear parts.

The Alya Task chair comes with a straight forward 10 year warranty based on an 8 hour daily usage.

4. Shipping and Assembly

The Liberty chair is shipped partially assembled and shipping is free in South Africa. The upper half of the chair fully assembled, so you only need to drop the gas lifter into the base and locate the upper half of the chair onto the gas lifter.

Karo offers free shipping for the Alya throughout South Africa. The chair is either boxed (which requires some simple assembly), or fully assembled. For regional deliveries we recommend that the chair is boxed as this provides additional protection from damage during transport.

5. Expensive office chairs and build quality

The attention to detail on the Liberty is obvious with excellent fit and finish throughout the entire chair. Aluminium is used throughout the frame structure which helps to keep the weight down and adds to the aesthetic appeal of the chair. The plastic components on both these expensive office chairs are well finished with no sharp edges.

the expensive humanscale office Chair
Humanscale Liberty
as far a expensive office chairs go, is the Alya better than the Humanscale Liberty?

The Alya bears testimony that manufacturers from the Far East are increasingly capable of manufacturing aesthetically pleasing chairs of the highest build quality. In the Alya’s case, the highly polished aluminium frame presents a most striking feature.  The chair’s structure is more bulky and heavier than the Liberty’s. The attention to detail of the plastic finishes are on par with the best available.

6. Seat Comfort

Although comfort is very subjective, I found that both seats offered a similar level of comfort. The seat slider on both chairs ensures that the chair can be set up for different body sizes. High density moulded foam is used both on the Humanscale and Alya office chairs. In both cases, the buttocks are sufficiently well supported without any uncomfortable pressure points.

7. Backrest Comfort

The Liberty has a fixed tri-panel non-stretch mesh backrest which has become quite iconic. It is however not height adjustable and relies on its contour design to support your back.  This generally works well in an environment where different people will make use of the same chair without having to adjust the backrest to suit each individual, for e.g. in meeting rooms. Having sat on the Liberty, I personally enjoyed the level of comfort the backrest offered.

In contrast, the Alya’s backrest does provide adjustments so that individual requirements in terms of lumbar support can be met. The angle of the backrest can be adjusted and the lumbar support can be altered both vertically (3cm range) as well as horizontally (into the lumbar area).  If you are the principle user of this chair, you will appreciate these adjustments as they allow you to set up the chair to suit your personal preferences.

8. Armrest Comfort on the most expensive office chairs available in South Africa

The standard Liberty has fixed armrests and optional height adjustable armrests. The arms are attached to the backrest frame so your arms move back with your body as you recline backwards in the chair.

Alya multi-adjustable armrest
Is the Alya task chair better than the Humanscale Liberty?
Liberty fixed armrest

The Alya’s adjustable arms are attached to the seat and will therefore move in unison with the seat. The 7cm height adjustment range accommodates most body sizes, while the inward swivel adjustment of the soft arm pads provides additional comfort.

The arm pads on both these expensive office chairs provide good support and are made from soft-touch polyurethane.

9. Ergonomic Adjustments on these two Expensive Office Chairs

The Humanscale Liberty and the Alya both provide the adjustability that you would expect from an expensive office chair. However, the Alya allows for more individual adjustment.

  • Both chairs have seat sliders that allow you to adjust the depth of the seat by 5cm.
  • Multi-adjustable armrests are standard on the Alya. The Liberty is supplied with fixed armrests, while adjustable armrests are optional.
  • The additional adjustability of the Alya’s backrest is a real advantage when you want to setup the chair specifically for you.
  • The big difference between the two chairs is in their tilting or reclining movements.
      • Although the Liberty chair has, what Humanscale refers to as a minimalistic, mechanism-free recline, there are still mechanical linkages between the seat and backrest. The tension of the reclining resistance is automatically determined by your weight and cannot be adjusted. As you recline, the back of the seat moves up, resulting in a rapid opening of the pelvis (sometimes referred to as a pelvic thrust action). Ergonomically this is good as it releases pressure on the lower spine. I found that as I reclined further in the chair, the lower part of the backrest pushed uncomfortably into my lower back. The Liberty chair has no backrest tension adjustment so I could not change the tilting resistance to my liking.  
      • The Alya’s mechanism action is quite different. The synchronised movement between the backrest and the seat is gentler whilst still opening the pelvis as you recline. Because you are able to adjust the backrest tension resistance, you can personalise the chair to your needs. The backrest position can also be locked in numerous positions.
  • Because there are so many adjustment possibilities, it is important to adjust the chair correctly. How do I adjust my office chair.


So…which of the most expensive office chairs in South Africa is better? Is the Alya better than the Humanscale Liberty?

If you are in the market for an expensive chair that is not dedicated to a specific individual, for example in a meeting room, then the Liberty office chair might be a good choice. If however you require a high-quality chair that you can adjust exactly to your own ergonomic requirements, then the Alya will be a better fit for you.

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