2013/03/31

The buttkicker gamer 2: get your ass kicked for fun like never before

Its been a month since my last post, so its about time I do write about something. Today I'll be talking about something REALLY fun: the Buttkicker Gamer 2. Most of you probably never heard about it, but simply put. It is vibration device...now before you rate my blog as +18, let me explain: the buttkicker simply converts audio signal in the range of 40Hz to 150Hz to vibrations. That range is normally used for bass sounds, like explosions, fire shots, engine rums...see where this goes to? This is the perfect haptic gaming device. See how it works!

These ladies don't know what they've been missing

Unpacking


First thing that comes to my mind when I recall purchasing the buttkicker was its price, to be honest. At a price of 200$ in most US websites and 180€ in european ones, you think more than twice about getting one or not, specially when we are talking about a vibrating device after all. I finally made up my mind and got one. The moment the package arrives, you start thinking that this might be worth the money spent.

Tiny little box

Keeps looking better and better

Now the contents in the package are well placed and ordered. You can see that some thinking has been used on this. There is a quick reference guide along a more in-depth manual.

Quick guide

PC instalation

You problably won't need anything else besides the quick start guide. To be honest, I haven't even looked the manual yet. The quick guide is easy to understand and provides nice graphics to help you along the process. The buttkicker is conformed of mainly two things: the amplifier and the vibrating device. Also, you get all the wires you'll probably need to hook it up and as a plus, a "funny" remote controler. I mean funny because the controler is not "wireless", it is attached to the buttkicker with a cable, pretty much like the first TV remote controlers. To be honest, I haven't used it yet, can't see the point unless your play seat is far away from the amplifier.

The amplifier, front view
Back
The "remote" controler

Wiring
The real thingy, the vibration device
Overall the quality of the components is not bad, the vibrating device is heavy as hell and looks sturdy. The amplifier is not bad, altough it has a "cheaper" look than the rest. Luckily, the buttkicker gamer version 2 (this one) comes with a fanless amplifier. It seems that version 1 had a noisy fan that caused lots of troubles and complaints from users. As you many already know, I'm a big fan of noisy fans, always been, so I'm thankful this one comes with no fans.

Installation

The buttkicker vibrating device is meant to be attached mainly to a typical office chair, where a main central pivot is the perfect place to transfer the vibrations from the chair to well...your butt. Although this is the typical setup, you can basically attach it anywhere you want. Attaching to a typical office chair is quite easy, just unscrew the device and pair it with the main pivot. There is some suggestion to use a rubber cable that I tried but really looks useless to me...besides, there is no explanation why this is needed anyway, I guess you can skip it after all.

Chair attachement
Wire attachment with velcro
Next step is hooking up the amplifier. The wire from the chair is plugged into the red & black slots in the back of the amplifier. The buttkicker only needs an input audio signal, so just using an RCA  connector plugged in any of the Line Level slots should suffice.

Amplifier
Wiring finished
Now it comes the fun part: attaching the amplifier to whatever sound system you have. Depending on this, it can be extremely simple or quite a nightmare. Thus, if you have a 5.1 sound card, just plug the "Y" connector provided to the orange output from your soundcard (the orange one, the one that goes to the Sub-woofer) and divide the signal to your sub-woofer and to the buttkicker amplifier.

Use the orange pill, Neo
This is the most common setup, even if you're using an integrated sound card, you'll probably have this kind of setup. Once plugged, just power on the amplifier and start your testing.

In my case, I have a Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Professional besides the internal Realtek sound card. I used the Creative a lot before when I had my surround system plugged to it (along the 5.1 speakers), but since I've moved that one to the living room to watch movies, I've been using a set of Trust USB 5.1 headphones lastly. I must say that I'm quite happy with those, they really help in the inmersion and you don't bother anyone while playing.

That said, unfortunately, there is no way (at least physical way) to use a USB headphones and the buttkicker. The reason for this is that USB headphones come with an "integrated" sound card, to put it that way, that once you plug them in, overrides any other sound card in your system and uses its own. The problem is clear, if I were still using my Creative sound card, just plugging the orange output to the buttkicker should work, but the headphones don't have any output signal, let alone a sub-woofer one.

After some Internet digging, I found someone suggesting to use a program called Virtual Audio Cable. To put it simple, its a program that allows splitting a incoming audio signal to whatever number of output devices you want. At first that looked promising, so I went and downloaded the trial version. Been playing with the tool and I can say that while it looks possible to send the audio signal of my USB headphones to my Creative subwoofer output plug, I never got it working, no matter how hard I tried. Even contacted the owner of Virtual Audio Cable asking for support, and while he answers quickly, we could not make it. I'm no audio expert at all, so probably there is something I'm missing here. If anyone is willing to try, just donwload the Trial version and give it a go. I'll be more than happy to try others results.

I'm considering purchasing this set of headphones, which allow you to quickly switch between USB and mini jack connection, thanks to its USB to mini jack converter. It will save me the annoyance of having two set of headphones laying around, but I'm not sure since I really like my current Trust headphones.

Testing

To test this thingy I had to do a little "hack", since I don't have a 5.1 set of speakers in my play room any longer. So what I did was use the orange plug from my Creative to feed the buttkicker amplifier and plug a typical set of analog headphones to the green plug. In the control panel of my Creative sound card then I selected 5.1 and not headphones. This way, your sound card is outputting to all the typical 5.1 plugs hence you get audio out for the buttkicker and for your headphones. While this is not perfect, mostly because you're only getting 2 channels in your headphones and can't hear in-game voices clearly (they come from the central channel if you select 5.1), at least I could test the buttkicker, hehe.

Most of you don't know I'm a big fan of racing simulation games, so my first test was on my set of typical racing games: rFactor 1 & 2, RACE, C.A.R.S., etc. First impressions were not good at all, I could barely feel anything on the chair, only at lower RPM and when passing over curbs. The reason for this was basically that I didn't switched the volume high enough, hehe. Turning up the volume knob will literally kick your ass like nothing you've experienced before. The first time you feel the vibrating power is absolutely awesome.

Later I tried FPS games, like Counter-Strike Source, Crysis 3 and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. This is where the buttkicker truly excels, you can feel every shot and explosion as if you were really shooting that assault rifle. At some points you can even slightly feel your steps depending on the surface, simply amazing. 

The provided quick-guide provides the following table regarding the cut-off and frequency ranges in the amplifier depending on the application you want to use:



The cut-off buttons simply allow you to enable/disable low and high frequencies. After some testing I found that for Games, I prefer a higher frequency than 40Hz, mostly 80Hz-90Hz. Besides, I've also setup my Creative sound card to boost bass on that frequency, to get even a more powerful effect. You might have to tune a bit more depending on the game you're playing, but overall, the experience is quite good even with default settings. Only drawback is that if you use a chat service like Teamspeak, you might have to disable or modify some settings, since some of your buddies voice can activate the buttkicker, which is funny at first, but quickly becomes an issue.

Another issue you might run into is your neighbour's moaning about the noise the buttkicker may cause. Amazing as it may sound, your chair vibrations can easily convey to the building structure, that quickly becomes a problem if you live in an apartment block. 

Scary enough

A simple and cheap solution for this is to pad your chair with a noise reduction mat like this one. They are not expensive and will help get along with your neighbors, hehe.


Conclusions

Going back to my original question regarding if this device was worth the price, after been using it for a couple weeks I'd say that yes, absolutely yes. Is not only usable for games, you can attach it to your favorite couch so you can also feel a kick watching movies, series, etc.

Go get one now or Chuck will stalk you in your nightmares
If you enjoy playing games and want to spend some bucks in a device that will definitely help you in the inmsersion, then this is a win decision for sure. It takes some time to find the perfect setting combination but once you do, you just don't want to play without it any longer.


8 comments:

  1. So does it work wit a 3,5 mm audio headset + mic plug?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey,

    It does, I bought this headset (http://us.creative.com/p/gaming-headsets/sound-blaster-tactic3d-fury) and I manage use the Buttkicker, listen to my headphones and use the mic. Note that I'm not using the provided USB adapter, just using the jack which I connect to my stereo out in my SoundBlaster PCI. I also a splitter on that very same plug-in, one end goes to the headphone and the other to the Buttkicker. You'll also have to change from 5.1 to stereo in your sound card configuration, otherwise you won't listen to voices in your headphones, since it goes on a different channel if you use 5.1. Overall, buttkicker is designed to work with a 5.1 sound card, so this is all just a hack, it works, but its not the best for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I see. As far as I can tell (not a pc nerd at all) my cars is set up on "2 chanal. 16 bit. 48000 Hz and not DS 5.1
    What if I use a second soundcard? One for the Buttkicker an the onboard soundcard for a 3.5 jack headset?
    Thanks for your feedback !

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hmmm, why would you do that? Using the provided jack splitter is more that enough....I don't get it. The optimal setup is to plug the buttkicker to the orange plug, the one the subwoofer uses, since you'll get all the punch from the low-frequency output to your buttckicker, but using a standard plug will also do the trick. You'll have to switch up the volume a bit, but it works. I don't think you can use dual soundcards in Windows. Actually that was my problem, I was using a set of headphones that had an embedded 5.1 soundcard that was "disabling" my SoundBlaster PCI card...that's why I bought the Creative "jack-style" phones (harder to find nowadays)

    ReplyDelete
  5. To use sim vibe for example you need 2 soundcards, so it works.
    But your right, I don't need that. If it just a matter of connecting a few jacks.
    Pleased about the Creative? I was looking at the Razor headset..
    http://www.razerzone.com/gaming-audio/razer-blackshark

    ReplyDelete
  6. I don't know why you say you need 2 soundcards, I use my buttkicker for racing simulation games and there is no need for dual soundcard at all...regarding your Razor headset, should do the trick. I don't recommend the Creative ones, they feel uncomfortable after a long usage period.

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