What Is Tactile Sound?

Tactile sound means you actually feel the sound of a game, movie, simulator, or song.

Here at Clark Synthesis, we sell a wide range of products that allow you to both feel and experience the sounds you normally only hear.  Is the concept of feeling sound, confusing?  To be honest, the technical jargon used to explain it can get pretty complicated, especially if you, like me, are not a sound engineer or technology expert.  Somewhere between the frequency ranges and levels of fidelity, it’s easy to get lost… but that’s why I want to write this blog.  Because understanding how you feel sound is actually pretty easy and, once understood, pretty darn cool.

First of all, it is important to note that Clark Synthesis products are different than what are commonly called “shakers.”  Shakers quite literally “shake” things and have no ability to accurately reproduce audio.  Our products accurately reproduce the full range of sound into vibrations that are both felt and heard through the body.

With that in mind, I’ll begin by letting you in on a little known fact (at least it was little known to me).  There are actually 4 additional ways a person can experience sound.  These different methods involve feeling or perceiving vibrations in the body through deep tissue, skeletal joints, bone conduction or nerve endings.  And it’s this experience of sound through the other senses that is commonly referred to as tactile (touch) sound.

I know this might seem a little strange, since our five senses don’t usually overlap (have you ever smelled a sound or tasted a feeling?), but there are situations in which sound can be both heard and felt.  For example, when someone is playing the violin, they are feeling the movements of the bow across the strings as well as hearing the sound it makes.  The violinist’s body is in contact with the instrument and can both feel and hear the vibrations being produced.  This is a totally different experience than what the audience can only hear, many feet away, through only their ears.  Another example of tactile sound is something we all experience every day – our own voice.  When we speak, we can feel the vibrations of our voice as well as hear the sound it produces, and this is a different experience than what other people hear when we speak.  (Side note: This is part of the reason why many people think they sound differently on recordings than when they hear themselves speak.  Recordings cannot include the tactile stimulation a person feels while they talk.)

These are two natural examples of tactile sound we experience every day, but tactile sound can also be reproduced by mechanisms called transducers.  To put it simply, transducers are pieces of equipment that transform (transduce) sound into vibrations that can be both felt and heard through the body.  This is the technology used in simulation and gaming devices that allow you to feel like you’re flying through the air or driving a race car.  Transducers are also used in home theaters to allow movie watchers to feel like they’re “inside” the movie, instead of just watching it.  Another application for transducers is for drummers who wish to feel the music through their seats rather than have the music blasting through their in-ear monitors.  Basically, this technology can be used in any place where the senses of hearing and feeling combine to create a more realistic experience.

For a more in-depth look at tactile sound, please read Tactile Sound 101.



To view this blog in PDF, click here.

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