The Case for Tactile Sound as an Essential Audio Element
Tactile Sound Transducers
The case for Tactile Sound being an essential audio reproduction element is, for me, fairly simple. As loudspeakers launch sound waves into a room, the seating “picks up” this airborne energy and transmits it into the body. Though a simplified explanation, this is Tactile Sound and people have experienced it in every audio system they have ever used (headphone systems excluded). At live concerts, people experience Tactile Sound transmitted through the seating, or through the floor, as they are standing, or dancing on it. It is essential to have exact control of Tactile Sound quality in a home audio system, in order to more faithfully recreate the live music experience, as well as to experience soundtracks the way the movie’s director intends.
From my own experience, there are two most important ingredients in creating a more perfect audio experience with Tactile Sound technology. While the sound quality of the source signal and the current output and speed of the tactile amplifier impact the overall performance, two other factors are much more important to creating the ideal Tactile Sound experience. The first element is the quality of the seating product, while the second factor is the performance quality of the Tactile Sound Transducer device. The better each of these two components function, the more natural the audio reproduction will be, the greater the impact the performance will have and the more “invisible” the tactile experience will become.
When it comes to quality seating for audio systems, I look for 3 main ingredients in a great seat – comfort, integrity and accuracy.
- First on the list is comfort, as I need to be relaxed in order to get the most out of my listening experience. If I don’t feel great sitting in my seat, it will keep me from experiencing what the artist intended.
- Second is seating integrity, as a seat must be made from high quality materials using superb construction techniques, in order to avoid vibration resonance (various rattling and buzzing) that poor quality seats create from both airborne Tactile Sound, as well as from Tactile Transducers.
- Lastly, the seat has to have the ability to transmit accurate tactile frequency response into the human body, without emphasizing, or dampening, any specific frequency range. Without this, the tactile experience loses some of its transparency and one starts noticing the technology, which pulls one out of the “suspension of disbelief.”
Before I break down the second main ingredient (the Tactile Transducer), I need to make a distinction between two different types of products that get lumped into the same category. The first are Low Frequency Effect Devices (commonly called "Bass Shakers”) and these are products that attempt to only reproduce a narrow range of bass frequencies - or are fuller frequency response range Tactile Transducers hooked up from the Subwoofer (LFE) output of a pre-amp or receiver.
While these products add a kick to home theaters and give one that “kidney punch” impact on video games, they do not blend in as easily to a high fidelity audio system, or a high quality home theater setting. As normal tactile sound from a loudspeaker involves a fuller frequency spectrum, the body can localize the fact that a LFE Devices (or transducer hooked up to a subwoofer/LFE output) are only reproducing a narrow band of bass frequencies – it’s just not as natural a phenomenon as a fuller frequency Tactile Sound experience. While “Bass Shakers” can be fun, they don't “disappear” into a very carefully crafted audio soundstage as much as a high quality and fuller frequency Tactile Transducer will.
Regarding true audiophile quality Tactile Transducers, there are 3 very important characteristics that I look for in the highest quality products - highly sensitive products with flat frequency response and very low airborne transmission output.
- First, I need sensitive transducers that have the speed and therefore the accuracy to more exactly reproduce the natural tactile sound that already exists in my seat, without adding any additional distortion.
- Second, flat frequency response is required so that the Tactile Transducer’s effect becomes “transparent”, or disappears into the natural sound stage that audiophiles work so hard to create - they blend in with the main speakers.
- Lastly, an ideal Tactile Transducer should emit as little airborne sound as possible (other than what the seat emanates), so it won’t interfere with the performance and imaging of the main loudspeakers airborne sound.
When all the above criteria have been met, the result is a sound system with the accuracy that audiophiles demand, plus the emotional impact of a live musical performance – or of a more powerful movie theater experience. Since Tactile Sound is already present in every "airborne" audio system, to me it is essential to have total control over this under appreciated phenomenon. Everyone that I have ever set up with great Tactile Sound can no longer be without it in their systems. For me, Tactile Sound has added more enjoyment and emotional impact to my audio/home theater system than anything that I’ve ever done and I choose to always use it.
About the Author
My name is Lance Fletcher and I am the President and founder of ElectroShops™, LLC – doing business as the CinemaShop™ - CinemaShop.com™ and our older ElectroShops.com™. I have been in the consumer electronics field for over 30 years and I’ve been a salesperson/system designer, corporate sales trainer, custom home install manager for a chain of mid-western electronic stores and founding member of a successful Minneapolis custom installation showroom - before founding ElectroShops, LLC over 13 years ago.
I consider myself an audiophile and still utilize a “2-channel” setup for my primary sound reproduction system with B&W™ loudspeakers and Velodyne™ subwoofer products, combined with various high end electronic equipment combinations. I have been experimenting with Tactile Sound for many years and have tried everything from tactile backpacks, cushions, beds and headphones, to seating products specifically designed for tactile sound performance. As I am not a scientist, or engineer, I speak of only my own tactile experiences and perceptions, while leaving the technical details of the different Tactile Sound products to each respective manufacturer.
Copyright © 2009 Lance Fletcher - All Rights Reserved