HometheaterSound! - Review by Vince Hanada 

HOME THEATER & SOUND -- www.hometheatersound.com
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November
2004

Reviewed by
Vince Hanada

 

Crowson Technology
TES 100 Tactile Transducer
Couch Kit

Features SnapShot!

Description

Model: TES 100 Couch Kit
Price: $649 USD
Dimensions: 4.8"W x 1.1"H x 5.7"D
Weight: 3.5 pounds each

Warranty: Two years parts and labor; 30-day audition period


Features
  • Includes two transducers and two isolators
  • Anodized-aluminum cover
  • Rare-earth magnet actuator
  • Isolators made from mark-free rubber
  • Compatible with standard speaker wire

The Crowson Technology TES 100 Tactile Transducer is one of the more unusual products to come my way. It is a linear transducer, which basically means that it creates motion in one direction. This linear transducer sits under your chair (the Chair Kit) or under your couch (the Couch Kit). The Tactile Transducer essentially shakes your chair or couch in response to low-frequency effects encoded on your DVDs, much as a subwoofer does. The experience was . . . bone-jarring.

Construction and setup

The TES 100 Tactile Transducer ($649 USD) exudes quality construction. At 3.5 pounds, it feels heavy for its size. The top plate, on which your chair leg rests, is made of stainless steel. The rest of the casing is aluminum for good heat dissipation. The binding posts are a new style that I’ve been seeing a lot of lately -- gold posts that you push in, then insert a wire or banana plug in the hole revealed in the side of the post.

Crowson sent me the Couch Kit, which includes two transducers and two vibration isolators -- essentially, rubber discs. To set up the TES 100, you put two transducers under two legs of your couch and two vibration isolators under the other legs, so that the couch sits level on the floor. I tried the transducers in various positions: the two front legs, the two rear legs, one front and one rear leg. All positions had the same effect.

Like loudspeakers, the TES 100s need to be driven by a power amplifier -- Crowson recommends one rated at 50-500Wpc. Thankfully, I had an old two-channel amp sitting around, a Kenwood KMX-1000, rated at 135Wpc.

From your surround-sound processor or receiver, you run an RCA cable from the subwoofer or low-frequency effects (LFE) channel to your amplifier. My receiver has two subwoofer channels, so I was able to play both my subwoofer and the TES 100 without additional wiring. If, like most receivers, yours has only one subwoofer output, you can get a female-to-two-male-splitter from your local RadioShack. You can then split the LFE information to both your subwoofer and the TES 100. If you use two TES 100s, you’ll need another RCA splitter to feed both channels of your two-channel amplifier to the Transducers.

Once the subwoofer out is connected to the amplifier, you run speaker wire from your amplifier to each TES 100. That’s pretty much it. Setup time for me was about 15 minutes.

Performance

I had a lot of preconceived notions about what to expect from the Tactile Transducers. I thought it would be a gimmicky experience, like watching a movie in a boom car done up as in the TV show Pimp My Ride. "Amusing, but not for serious videophiles," I thought.

Boy, was I wrong. The TES 100s provided a more involving movie-watching experience. I felt more connected to what was happening in the films I watched. They made me feel like a participant in the onscreen action rather than a detached observer.

To see what the TES 100s could do, I played a DVD with a lot of LFE information -- Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. In the first battle scene of chapter 4, I could physically feel every cannon shot. This was not the distraction I’d thought it would be -- the TES 100s gave me a greater sense of being in the scene. Watching Pearl Harbor was equally engrossing. Chapters 21 and 22 were particularly gut-wrenching -- I was able to feel every explosion, and the roar from the airplanes.

The TES 100s enhanced not only cannon blasts and bombs, but other special effects as well. Chapter 14 of Cast Away was particularly revealing. In this chapter, Tom Hanks sees a ship in the distance and makes a futile attempt to paddle to it in a dinghy. With the TES 100s, I could feel each wave and anticipate, along with Hanks, the waves getting bigger as the LFE signal got stronger and the transducers shook my body more. I felt his failure all the more poignantly than when I watched with only a subwoofer hooked up.

To feel how the TES 100s would work with music, I put in the DVD Drumline. The Transducers’ performance was not as effective with this particular DVD. I found the LFE effects too weak in chapter 34; the heavy drumming was not powerful enough through the TES 100s to provide the same emotional effect as with the action films. In this case, the TES 100s were more distraction than enhancement.

I also listened to two-channel music. In my setup, I’m able to run the front speakers in a sub-sat configuration, with the main speakers crossed over to a subwoofer. I used the very powerful Paradigm Seismic 12 subwoofer. With the subwoofer channel active, the TES 100s were active as well. I played Jean Guillou’s transcription for pipe organ of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition [CD, Dorian DOR-90117]. The TES 100s were able to shake my couch with every deep note from the organ, but it didn’t enhance my listening experience -- I was more impressed by the wall-flexing ability of the Paradigm subwoofer in my room. In this case, turning off the amp to the TES 100s was the better solution.

Comparison

Because this was my first experience with a Tactile Transducer system, I had no other similar product with which to compare it. I thought an interesting comparison would be with a comparably priced subwoofer, the Outlaw LFM-1 ($579). I wondered if I could get by without a subwoofer and use only Crowson Tactile Transducers.

The answer was no. For all the movies that I tried in my home theater, the TES 100s worked best in a supporting rather than a starring role. I still needed a subwoofer to provide the foundation of bass that the Crowsons could only enhance. When watching chapter 3 of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, I usually jump out of my seat when the young boy shoots at the trio of escapees. That gunshot can be absolutely startling, and was certainly so through the Outlaw LFM-1. With the TES 100s alone, the scene lost its impact. However, with the TES 100s and the Outlaw LFM-1 playing together, the gunshot effect was the best that I’ve ever experienced. I not only heard the gunshot, I felt it.

Conclusion

The Crowson Technology TES 100 Tactile Transducers worked especially well with films heavy in special effects. With dramatic movies that had little LFE information, their enhancement was minimal and could be distracting. And remember, you’ll need an extra mono or stereo amplifier to make these devices work.

The TES 100s should appeal to two groups. One group would include those who have fairly high-end systems with large subwoofers who are looking for that something extra to put their systems over the top. A set of TES 100s may well provide that extra bit of realism they seek. The other group is those who lack the space for a large subwoofer. The Tactile Transducers should help to emulate some of the effects of a larger subwoofer without the size penalty. If either of these groups describes you and you’re an action-movie fan, I encourage you to give the Crowson Tactile Transducers a try.

Review System
Receivers - Outlaw Model 1050, Sony STR-DA5ES
Speakers - Paradigm Reference Studio 60 v.3 (mains), Reference Studio CC-570 v.3 (center), Reference Studio ADP-470 v.3 (surrounds), Seismic 12 subwoofer
Sources - JVC XV-721 DVD player, Pioneer Elite PD-65 CD player, Sony DVP-NS650V SACD player
Cables - Sonic Horizons, TARA Labs
Monitor - JVC 32" direct-view TV, InFocus X1 front projector
 

Manufacturer contact information:

Crowson Technology LLC
1121 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: (805) 962-9004

E-mail: info@crowsontech.com
Website: www.crowsontech.com

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