Shakers (devices you put inside or under the chair, inside or under the couch, that shake you with low frequencies from movies and music) are something that, a long time ago, we just associated with rides at amusement parks. In the past few years, however, shakers have made their way into home theaters. For between $200 to $700, not including the power amplifier, you can get much the same feeling of having your body shaken when there is corresponding action on the screen as you might feel if you were in the action yourself. If you have not experienced shakers, you really should take the opportunity the next time one arises.
Crowson Technology is a newcomer to the shaker world. This is nice, because their product, the TES-100, is different than the other two major players in this arena, and those other two are different from each other as well. This means you not only have three different companies to choose from, you have three different designs and implementations.
While the ButtKicker is oval-shaped, and the Clark Synthesis is dish-shaped, the Crowson TES-100 is flat and square. You can see from the photo above, that it is about the same size as my hand. It is sealed on all sides and has solid binding posts at one end. It is about 1" thick.
I received Crowson's "Couch Kit", which includes two TES-100s and a pair of vibration isolators of the same thickness as the TES-100 and a few inches in diameter. You place one TES-100 under each of two legs on a couch (you could put two under a chair if you wanted to), and the vibration isolators under the other two legs.
For amplification, you need a minimum of 50 watts RMS for each TES-100. Crowson supplied their optional A200 stereo amplifier for the review, which has 100 watts per channel into 4 Ohms (about 80 watts into the 6 Ohm TES-100). Since the TES-100 will handle 500 watts, I assumed the A200 might not really be enough, but as it turned out, it was plenty, which means the TES-100 is reasonably efficient.
The A200 is 3.5" H x 19" W x 7.5" D and weighs 12 Pounds. If you get the couch kit, this little amplifier should be on your short list to drive it. The amp is available from Crowson for $349.
For inputs, you use the supplied Y connectors to continue driving your subwoofer and also input to the power amplifier. In my case, I used the stereo subwoofer outputs from my Theta Casablanca III, but you can drive it with a mono sub output too. You would need to input both the left and right channels for the A200 in this case, using one subwoofer pre-out that also supplies your subwoofer. Some other power amplifiers let you use a switch to input one jack to both channels. The A200 can be bridged, using the two + terminals, but this reduces the ability to drive low impedances, so I suggest not doing that.
So, then, you turn on your system, make sure the volume controls on the TES-100 amplifier are turned all the way down, put on a movie, and adjust the TES-100 power level to your liking.
The TES-100 was very, very easy to set up. No mounting hardware is required. Your chair or couch just sits on it (them).
What really surprised me was the amount of shaking I got with the TES-100. It is not very big, but it really shakes! Having one under the left and right front couch legs was also very cool, because it produces shaking for the entire length of the couch. Frankly, I would also consider using the two TES-100s under two legs of my easy chair rather than just the one that is supplied in the "Chair Kit".
My favorite test DVDs for subwoofers and shakers include True Lies and Pearl Harbor. With both of these films, the TES-100s added an incredible sensation of "You are There". I could get the clipping LEDs on the A200 to come on with these movies, but even adjusting the volume down so only the green LEDs came on still gave me plenty of physical sensations.
I did not try one of my much more powerful amplifiers, because frankly, it was not necessary. The A200 was perfect. Since the TES-100 is a 6 Ohm load, it is possible to use an old receiver to drive it, since mass market receivers are usually rated into 6 Ohms.
For music, the TES-100 was interesting, but not as much fun as with movies, except when playing pipe organ CDs. It produces the same effect as being in an organ recital. Crowson supplies optional low-pass connectors to limit high frequencies.
The Crowson TES-100 is an exciting new addition to the world of shakers. Although the ButtKicker still wins in ultimate shaking power, and the Clark Synthesis will respond to higher frequencies, the TES-100 wins in the area of being absolutely simple to set up, with no holes needing to be drilled in the chair or couch, or a platform for that matter. It is also a little higher in impedance than other shakers, so it is easier on the power amplifier that drives it.
The TES-100 is priced about the same as other shakers, and is an easy choice to make when setup simplicity is the main issue.
- John E. Johnson, Jr. -