You would have come across this tactile transducer in forums or on websites. You know it is something to do with the low frequency. But, what exactly it is? Why is it being used? I have done a detailed article below. Keep reading.
Related post: What is the use of a subwoofer?
The tactile transducer is a device that produces tangible bass on a chair or couch you are seated. They take the input from the LFE channel and it is fed through the amplifier and then to the tactile transducer. The tactile transducer will improve the movie-watching experience by several folds. I have written much more about it. First, let us cover the basics one by one.
What is the bass?
You would have heard it and about it. Bass is the low-frequency information found in an audio track or sound in general. The bass is the primary requirement for many of the people listening to music and movies. In traditional cinema and audio, the woofer and subwoofer produce bass. The woofer is also responsible for mid-range and mid-bass. The subwoofer deals only with bass and mid-bass. Wait! What is mid bass?
Mid-bass is the audio information between the midrange and the bass. The mid-bass usually ranges between 50 Hz and 200 Hz in the audible spectrum of sound. You would have certainly heard it before. But a powerful subwoofer is necessary to produce a good mid-bass.
You would have listened to the bass from a big subwoofer or professional setup like in theatres. You would have loved that chest-thumping, slamming, and hitting right on to your face kind of bass in theatres, open-air concerts, or auditoriums. That is mid-bass in action. We will talk about it later in the article.
The market for bass is so huge that the subwoofer sales are at an all-time high. Normal home theatres come with small subwoofers. They produce nice music. Then imagine what a bigger subwoofer is capable of doing. People are addicted to bass and therefore there is n number of companies who claim that they have better bass. A subwoofer alone cannot produce better bass. The placement is important too.
With wrong placement and without any acoustical compensation, the bass loses its texture, clarity, and enjoyment factor. Hence placement is very important. A small subwoofer that is properly placed and necessary acoustic treatment is made will sound far far better than a big subwoofer improperly placed in a room with poor acoustics. To get good bass, you need a subwoofer and a tactile transducer perhaps to give the feel.
What is a tactile bass? The bass that we can feel rather than heard. Any sound under 80 Hz can not only be heard but also felt in the body. As the frequency goes down the chart, the hearing characterizes of the bass lessens, and the feel factor increases. You don’t even need to be below 80 Hz for this effect. The mid-bass when properly executed is a tactile bass. You feel that chest slam, that is a form of tactile bass. The punch on the face is a tactile bass. But generally, a typical subwoofer works below 80 Hz and people correlate the bass below 80 hertz is tactile bass.
When the subwoofer punches, the air is pushed and then pulled back. This causes compression and refraction and that is how sound travels. Along with the compression and refraction, the bass driver also makes a new wave in front of it. This wave is typically responsible for the tactile feel. The subwoofer has to be good at transient response and this is why not all the subwoofers can produce tactile bass.
As you go down the spectrum, the bass transfers from the hearing range to the infrasonic range. Now, the subwoofer need not have the world’s best transient response. All it needs is a big driver and amplifier power to power the woofer to good levels. At 20 Hz, human hearing stops but you can still feel the bass until 0Hz. 0Hz is the pressurized room.
So, when the subwoofer digs below 20 Hz, the subwoofer is actually producing waves that have physical power so that it can shake the building, peel the paint and slam your body. This is tactile bass. Going by the definition, a tactile bass is a kind of bass that we can feel on the body or on an object. The tactile transducer is a king of tactile bass. We will cover this topic soon.
You have heard of bone conduction headphones? That is a form of tactile sound. Sound need not travel only through your ears. It can be traveled through the objects too. Objects can also transmit sound waves. The best example can be done in your home too. All you need is a wooden bench and some cotton. Put the cotton onto your right ear and close it.
Now keep the other ear flat on the bench. Ask someone to speak from the other end of the bench. You can clearly hear the sound passing through the bench. This way, the sound becomes tactile. The bone conduction headphone works in a similar principle too. The sound emitted is transferred to the bone on the face. The bone bypasses the eardrum and brings the sound vibration to the cochlea and therefore we hear the sound.
This is exactly how the tactile transducers work too. The tactile transducer is fitted onto your couch. The coach transfers the vibration to our body. The bones in our body receive the vibration and take it to the cochlea and there we listen to high frequencies. As far as the low frequency goes, it is directly felt on our body.
You would have known a lot about tactile transducers by now. Yes, they are fitted to the couch. This gives the energy straight to our butt area and from there it is transferred to other parts of the body. Some have a wooden platform where the couch is placed. In this case, the tactile transducer can be fitted to the platform. The effect might get muffled a bit but this ensures that every part of the body gets the effect at the same time and it is more natural.
The tactile transducer works just like any speaker’s work. The difference is that instead of the speaker cone, the tactile transducer has a weighted metal structure that creates the vibration. There will be an armature inside which the metal rod is placed. When the current is passed, it just vibrates like a speaker. When the audio current is passed, the rod vibrates with respect to the audio information. This creates music-like vibrations. This vibration once fed to the couch, information is transferred to the human body just like the sound. That’s how the tactile transducers work.
Using it along with a subwoofer
In my opinion, tactile transducers cannot replace the traditional subwoofer. Subwoofers still have plenty of details that tactile transducers miss. Hence it is advisable to use the tactile transducers along with the subwoofer. Generally, the cross-over point of the subwoofer is set at 80 Hz. The subwoofer can comfortably play anything below 80 Hz. But the tactile transducer playing 80 Hz is a bit annoying. Ideally, the tactile transducer should be set at 50 hertz or below, This way, the tactile transducer is close to the spectrum of the sound that has more feel than auditory benefits. This way, both the subwoofer and the tactile transducer work together to bring a fantastic movie performance.
Using it at night
With a traditional setup of a home theatre with a subwoofer, you won’t let your neighbor sleep. Let alone your family members. This is where the tactile transducers come to the rescue. You can have a movie session without a subwoofer but with a tactile transducer. This makes you to enjoy the movie without a subwoofer. Of course, tactile transducers cannot function well without a subwoofer but using a tactile transducer alone is way better than not using a subwoofer. Hence, a tactile transducer is a godsend during movie nights without disturbing others.
Sim games are simulator games that simulate the real-world experience. A few of such games are the euro truck simulator, Forza Motorsport, Dirt 3, etc. These games are played with a simulator steering wheel and other accessories in hand. The tactile transducer makes a good addition. The main use of tactile transducer is not the bass alone but other functions too. Like, if the simulator car runs over a puddle, the signal will be sent to the simulator and it shakes emulating that the car was driven over the puddle. There are several use cases like this. All in all, the tactile transducer plays a good part in simulator games.
Replacement for a subwoofer
As said earlier, the tactile transducer cannot be a replacement for the sub-woofer. They work in conjunction with the subwoofer to produce LFE a good effect. The tactile transducer works best below 50 Hz and the subwoofer works best below 80 Hz. If the subwoofer is removed from the system, there will be a gap between 80 Hz and 50 Hz. This gap is very important. Many of the bass information, kick, slam and other sounds are present between 80 and 50.
Not using a subwoofer means leaving all those details in the trash can. Again, the tactile transducer works best pairing up with the subwoofer. The audible sound and the tactile feel from the tactile transducer combine together to give the best LFE feel. Leaving the subwoofer off means, leaving a hole in the LFE. The tactile transducer may feel unnatural without the sound from the sub. So, it is always best to pair a subwoofer with a tactile transducer for better results.
This is all about the tactile transducer. They work great for movies and music. But it cannot be a replacement for a subwoofer. It is always nice to use it along with the subwoofer. This way, it can produce nice tactile bass combine with the audible bass from the subwoofer. SO you will get a life-like sim experience and cinema experience. Thanks for reading.
Aju Vignesh Sathiaraj Padma is a mechanical and audio engineer. He is a person who loves technology and things. He is also an audiophile and loves to listen to audio gears. He is an avid writer and loves to blog.