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Laws of Motion

January 1, 2008 By Dennis Burger



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"An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an external force." That's Newton's First Law of Motion, of course. But it also describes my attitude to many of the latest trends in audio. I may cozy up to the latest video games and high-definition video formats quicker than many reviewers do, but when it comes to audio gadgetry, I tend to remain at rest.

So when John Yi of Crowson Technology contacts me about reviewing his company's Tactile Motion System, I'm skeptical. My first thoughts run to the "shakers" I've experienced in the past, which typically add a monotonous rumble. John bristles at the merest mention of the word shaker, though; if I were to quote him, I would have to use an exclamation point. Rather than attaching to the frame of a seat, the floor, or a platform, as most shaker systems do, Crowson's TES-100 actuators rest under the back legs of a couch or chair, transferring motion energy to the entire seat—not just its hard bits—for a more natural experience. He assures me that the system will work well even with the quasi-gold, quasi-green, 8-foot antique behemoth I call a sofa.

The A300 includes many improvements over the company's previous amp, the A200 (reviewed in "Strange Creatures from the Deep"), including twice as much power and a variable low-pass filter, which gives you more control over the range of frequencies translated into tactile motion—because let's face it, most of us love feeling the impact of a Death Star exploding, but not all of us want to sense James Earl Jones' every utterance in the seat of our pants.

Impressed by the simplicity of the setup but a bit weary from lifting my sofa, I settle down to test out the Tactile Motion System with one of my favorite bass demos: the climactic scenes from Contact. To my surprise, I don't feel as if my couch is being jostled. Instead, it feels as if I've turned my subwoofer up several notches, but it doesn't sound like I turned it up. In sheer defiance of Newton's Second Law, despite the amount of mass the system has to move and the relatively little electromotive force delivered by the A300, there's a substantial amount of acceleration. I feel like I'm right with Jodie Foster as her pod travels through the wormhole. During quieter passages, I simply feel embraced by the symphonic score, not molested by the kettle drums as I would have been with other tactile systems I've experienced.

Still, though, I get the sense that I'm not tapping into the full potential of the system. Maybe it's because something is lost as the vibrations make the epic trek across my sofa. Perhaps a smaller seat would fix that? To answer my question, John contacts Bobby Bala, CEO of Elite HTS in Surry, British Columbia, who agrees to send me one of the company's gorgeous custom silk leather home theater seats with Crowson's TES-100OEM actuators built in.

To fully express the difference between the Elite recliner with integrated Tactile Motion and my own sofa with the retrofit solution would require that I use exclamation points myself (perhaps as many as three), but I'll spare you that vulgarity. In addition to being the most comfortable home theater recliner to ever cradle my haunches—a Goldilocks mix of inviting and relaxing without being sleep-inducing as so many comfy recliners are—the Elite adds immeasurably to the impact of the Crowson system.

My notes include phrases like "expanded frequency range," and "increased dynamic range"—the seat's high-quality foam interior conducts subtleties that are too delicate for my sofa to deliver. It also delivers more forceful impacts, which my sofa's heavy frame and fluffy stuffing surely diluted. And the seat's top-notch construction ensures that the bass energy is delivered evenly and more naturally to my entire body—even to my calves via the motorized double footrest. When I accidentally knock the A300's power cord loose while cleaning, my split-second, gut reaction to the loss of the Tactile Motion System when I sit back in the Elite HTS chair isn't, "Where did the vibrations go?" but rather, "What happened to the sound?"

So when you audition Crowson's Tactile Motion System—and no matter your preconceived notions, you should definitely audition it—ask the dealer to demo both retrofit and integrated options. You might find that you prefer the subtlety of the former. Or the increased sensitivity of the latter may be more your speed. In my case, both give proof of Newton's Third Law: My positive reaction to the action of the TES-100 actuators and A300 amplifier combo is equal to, and the exact opposite of, the disdain I feel for the gimmicky shakers I've known and loathed before.

DESCRIPTION
Tactile motion system augments the perceived bass provided by conventional speakers. Basic system includes two TES-100 transducers and one A300 amplifier.

CONNECTIONS
TES-100: spring-loaded binding posts
A300: RCA jacks for stereo analog input and LFE input and output, two pairs of five-way binding posts, 3.5mm jack for IR control input

DIMENSIONS
TES-100: 4.8 x 4.8 by 1.1 inches (hwd)
A300: 3.75 x 16.5 x 15.5 inches (hwd)

PRICE/CONTACT
PRICE: TES-100 $650 per pair, A300 $800, Elite HTS chair with two integrated TES-100s start at $3,750
CONTACT: Crowson Technology 888.427.6976, www.crowsontech.com
Elite Home Theater Seating 604.575.8310, www.elitehts.com

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