BodySound Claims to Keep Home Theater Sound inside the Home Theater
By Jim Bray
What's a home theater without the type of big, rumbling bass and powerful main speakers that can shake your room with the sound of exploding planets, screeching tires, zooming aircraft or ricocheting bullets?
Not much, and that's the kind of home theater I love, and which thanks to folks such as Rotel, Epson and JBL, I enjoy every day. But I live in a single family dwelling – a typical suburban four level split – with a dedicated home theater room in the basement that lets me exploit the 500 watts per channel without annoying the neighbors. Well, not too much, anyway.
What, however, if you live in a condo like my best friend does, a place where the room might be suitable for such a home theater setup, but the walls aren't, and any volume over a particular level goes right through them to rattle the neighbors' cages and cause neighborhood angst?
That's the idea behind BodySound, a series of comfortable-appearing home theater furniture pieces that comes with the surround sound system built right in, supposedly creating an island of audio delight that won't bother Mrs. Grundy and her ilk even if they're standing on the other side of your wall with a champagne glass pressed up against it.
Billed as "home theater without speakers", which isn't really true, the company says its products are the "fusion of ultra-comfortable home entertainment seating with innovative audio technology." And since it's basically just you and the chair (or couch or whatever), a rich-sounding home theater no longer takes a dedicated room such as I have; you can set it up in a small study, your office or even in the corner of a larger room. Heck, you could set it up in the doghouse, if it's big enough, for the times you're relegated there.
Of course the smaller the area the smaller your video screen will be, all things being equal, so there's that to consider. A 106 screen isn't going to fit in many dog houses, for example, though that doesn't mean BodySound equipment won't be appropriate for a larger home theater environment; on the contrary, if the concept works as advertised – and I haven't heard it and so can't comment on that aspect of it – it should give a big home theater the proper audio oomph as well. The idea sounds, well, sound.
According to BodySound, each seat has its own 7-speaker personalized surround sound system. Each user has the ability to fine tune the audio characteristics of his seat to his individual preference – which could be good if you and your theater-cohabitant can never agree on proper balance, etc.. Once you've done that, the BodySound technology will supposedly adjust the volume to match the users’ settings automatically.
The speaker system is coupled to the steel framing construction of the furniture to produce "pleasant, full-spectrum vibrations throughout the user’s personal environment. Users can customize how much or how little they wish to feel."
The company claims its BodySound technology is the culmination of 12 years of development that began as medical research on sound and vibration's effect on relaxation. Along the way, the folk behind BodySound supposedly recognized how much fun and enjoyment they were getting from watching TV and movies in their relaxation chairs, though they could have asked me and saved a few years of research! Once that epiphany hit them, they upped the comfort ante on the furniture part of the equation to produce what they call "the most comfortable, innovative, home entertainment seating available today."
The furniture is finished in 100% Italian leather and can be ordered as recliners, connected rows or curves of seats, love seats, couches, or custom configurations limited undoubtedly only by the thickness of your wallet.
According to the pictures I've seen of a beautiful loveseat recliner, as is at the left here, the main left and right speakers come up out of the furniture's arms (retracting into them when not in use), which could raise sweet spot issues since each person in the loveseat will be closer to one speaker than the other. The BodySound people may have figured that out, however, with the fine tuning mentioned above.
Speakers are arranged thusly: two head speakers, two spine speakers, two arm speakers, and a seat driver. The continuous steel frame also transmits vibration.
The furniture comes with a 7 channel amplifier that claims 200 MIPS of processing power. Each channel gets its own speaker, and the system includes a Control Link with a touch screen or a Mini Link controller.
The amplifier blends linear and "class D" technology and the company says it lets you select left and right front channels, center channel and even left and right surround channels in any proportion for any of the speakers. This can be good if you want to move the dialogue closer to your ears or to enhance the surround channels. I still wonder how the two sitting in the love seat will come to terms with the spread out left and right front channels, though to be fair they're close enough that it might not be that big a deal.
If nothing else, it could help you work on your negotiation skills, which could serve you well in life outside the home theater…
You can also add "the generated subset of lower frequencies" into the mix for the spine speakers and seat driver, to keep that butt of yours moving. And, if that isn’t enough, massage generators can mix more sound and vibration into the speakers. Talk about having the music really move you!
The closest I've come to experiencing something like BodySound is pitching was my friend's 1984 Pontiac Fiero, which had the stereo speakers mounted in the headrests and the woofers just below the windshield, the angle of which acted to help spread the sound throughout the admittedly tiny cabin of that two seat roadster. The speakers were small, but that car audio system worked very well and was, in fact, one of the best standard equipment car stereos I'd heard back in that day. So I don't pooh-pooh the BodySound concept and look forward to them sending me a unit to review. I'm sure my wife would be pleased about less volume in the house.
Seats range in price from approximately $5,000 to $6,000 each depending upon the type of arrangement and options. That sounds like a lot of money, but when you consider what you can spend on a separate audio system (heck, my amps alone are worth more than that, not even counting the speakers and the preamp, let alone a chair in which to sit), it may not seem quite so dear.
And of course if the BodySound works as advertised, you shouldn't have to expend any more cash on sound proofing the room you've chosen for your home theater. Not only that, but if you decide to move, you can take the BodySound seating with you and not have to abandon your renovations.
Sounds like a pretty neat concept.
Copyright 2009 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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