If you've ever wanted to convert your sofa into a giant subwoofer, Crowson Technology's TES 100 is for you. These simple bass plates--Crowson calls them tactile transducers--take your home-theater system's low frequency output and converts it to a rumble sensation that you can feel. The $649 TES 100 Couch Kit includes two bass plates and two vibration isolators. A chair kit with one plate is also available for $300 less.
Setting up the TES 100 is a simple affair, assuming you have an extra amp handy to drive the plates; fortunately, almost any old stereo receiver will suffice. We chose the scenario from the TES 100's short, printed installation guide that best suited the gear we had on hand: an old Pioneer Elite A-35R stereo amplifier. We used a splitter cable (not included) to connect our Rotel RSX-965 A/V receiver's subwoofer output to the line inputs on the Pioneer amp. Next, we used standard bare-wire speaker cable (also not included) to connect the Pioneer amp's speaker terminals to the left and right TES 100 bass plates. Lastly, in accordance with the instructions, we pumped up the Rotel's LFE output level. We should note that virtually every TES 100 installation scenario requires the use of at least one simple, inexpensive audio adapter that isn't included--in addition to the spare amplifier.
Each TES 100 bass plate is a 1.1-inch high and 4.8-inches square, weighing in at 3.5 pounds. There are two sturdy metal, spring-loaded binding posts that accept only bare wire ends. The aforementioned vibration isolators--rubber feet--are supplied to level the sofa legs that aren't sitting on bass plates. The plates operate at 6 ohms and can accept 50 to 500 watts of power. Our Pioneer amp was on the low end of the range, but output amplitude was still quite plentiful. However, using a more powerful amplifier might slightly enhance the definition.
We tested the TES 100 both with and without a powered subwoofer (an NHT S-00) in the mix. While the TES 100 emanated considerable audible bass without the help of a sub, adding the S-00 helped clarify the low range, strengthened the connection between the front and back of the soundfield, and generally drew us into the action better. Bottom line, the TES 100 system should be used for tactile augmentation of low bass frequencies rather than as a replacement for conventional subwoofers.
To test the TES 100, we fired up the Jet Li/DMX action vehicle Cradle 2 the Grave. The flick proved that TES 100 is ideally suited to ratchet up the visceral, adrenaline-laden action-movie experience. When the rocket slammed into the bank vault door, we felt as though we were sitting directly on top of a subwoofer; that's a hands-on feeling you don't even get at most movie theaters. The plates bounced along to the pulsing soundtrack that runs throughout the movie, keeping the intensity level high virtually the whole time.
While the TES 100 is best suited to home-theater applications, it does add extra edge to bass-intensive music such as hip-hop and electronica. When we played T. Raumschmiere/Miss Kittin's electronic dance track "The Game is Over," the low, drone-like kick drum's continuous vibration of the sofa conjured remembrances of evenings spent in trance nightclubs. In contrast, when we played Tom Petty's rock track "Need to Know," only the kick drum was low and pronounced enough to substantially vibrate the bass plates; an odd, somewhat disjointed sound resulted from feeling the bass drum under our butts and hearing the rest of the mix up front.
Overall, the TES 100 didn't deliver tight, agile bass the way a high-end subwoofer does, but it did apply serious rumble to the sofa. As a result of the TES 100's thunderous qualities, you get an in-the-middle-of-the-action experience that can't be had solely from a subwoofer located across the room from your listening position. At $649, it's more considerably expensive than its crosstown rival, the Buttkicker LFE, but it also requires far less power and is easier to install. These tactile transducers aren't for everyone, but with its relative ease of installation and works-as-advertised bass-shaking abilities, the TES 100 is a novel system addition for hard-core home-theater buffs and anyone who wants to create a dance club-like environment at home.