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As a reformed heathen former console gamer, one of the biggest console experiences I miss while PC gaming is the rumble feedback. Sure, I could use a controller for all my games, but as any PC gamer will tell you, a mouse and keyboard is way more precise than a controller thumb stick. As a dedicated headphone user, finding great sound and bass strong enough to rattle your skull in one set of headphones is like trying to find the perfect lover, nearly impossible. So enter the Buttkicker Gamer 2, a tactile transducer system designed for the common office chair that might just solve both these problems.
Tactile transducers or bass shakers have been around for quite some time. These nifty little gadgets take a sound signal and turn them into a vibration. These devices have been used by drummers during performances to help “hear” their performance, by the military for vehicle simulators, and by some amusement park theatre shows. Although it is perfectly possible for someone to put together a tactile transducer system themselves, not everyone may have the know-how to do so. This is where the Buttkicker Gamer 2 comes in.
The Buttkicker Gamer 2 is a tactile transducer, amplifier, and cable system that is designed to be installed on an office chair by anyone and everyone. The package itself is hefty 12 pounds due to the weight of the tactile transducer unit and the amplifier. The kit comes with the Buttkicker Gamer 2 tactile transducer, a 90 watt amplifier, and a slew of cables to connect everything together.
The transducer is a metal device about a foot in length that securely clamps onto the vertical pole that connects the office chair to the wheel base. The device can also be fitted on a Playseat chairs with either a kit from Guitammer or some DIY modifications. A short cable leads from the tactile transducer and plugs into a longer cable that connects to the amplifier. The short cable allows users to disconnect and move the chair around without having to remove the entire unit from the chair. The amplifier accepts any old analog audio signal through an RCA cable. The kit comes several audio cables that can connect with any 3.5mm or RCA source. Installing the Buttkicker Gamer 2 took less than five minutes and most of that time was spent trying to run the cables around my desk in a neat manner.
The generalized inputs makes the Buttkicker Gamer 2 compatible with almost all consoles and computers with a little bit of tweaking. The only thing the Buttkicker will not work with is a set of USB headphones. I did figure out a bit of a work around for Windows. Some sound cards have a “What U Hear” (Creative sound cards) or a “Stereo Mix” input in the Recording tab in Window’s sound options. Set Window’s default output to the sound card or the motherboard’s on-board sound under “Playback”. Then go into the “Recording” tab, right click “What U Hear” or “Stereo Mix,” and get into the device properties. Here, under the “Listen” tab, check off “Listen to this Device,” set the playback to the USB headset and hit ok. With the Buttkicker Gamer 2 plugged into the motherboard/sound card, the USB headset should be getting the same output as the Buttkicker Gamer 2, allowing both devices to be used at the same time. I found this trick worked under Windows 8.1 and it should work older versions of Windows.
Ideally, the Buttkicker Gamer 2 should be connected to the subwoofer out of your sound set up, but the system will happily accept signals from your headphone jack. Not using a subwoofer out jack may cause the tactile transducer to rumble during very low voices or in-game music. The amplifier comes with a few cut off features that will help cut down on rumbling at certain frequencies. The high cut off will lower the frequency that the tactile transducer will respond at, based on a dial on the amplifier. The low filter cut off drops the response in the lowest frequency by 12 dB. The manual comes with some recommended settings for music, games, and movies, but I ended up happiest with the low filter cut off disabled and the high cut off set to 40 Hz.
The amp comes with a wired remote that can turn off and on the amp and control the intensity. On the amp, the intensity controls is actually labelled volume. There are three LEDs on the amp. One represents power, while the other two represent signal and clipping. The green signal LED will light up whenever the amp receives a signal strong enough to trigger the transducer. The clip light will flash red every time the input volume is so high, it begins to clip and overdrive the tactile transducer. The occasional clipping should not cause too much issue, but if too much clipping occurs for too long, the amp may overheat from overdriving.
The amp is a pretty large unit. Thankfully, it can be positioned vertically with the included stand. This cuts down the amount of desk space the amp takes up. It is important to note that the amp needs some airspace as almost half of the amp’s body is covered in holes to allow it to cool.
In practice, the Buttkicker delivers on its promise. My first real test was Titanfall, as I figured the Buttkicker Gamer 2 would thrive with the game’s heavy footed mechas. I was right. Each footstep hit my chair with a satisfying thud and letting the XOTBR-16 chaingun rip rattled the chair. When I landed hard on my feet in Dying Light, my chair thumped from the impact of the landing. The Buttkicker Gamer 2 provides an awesome feeling immersion, that sim nuts will eat up.
The Buttkicker can get a bit noisy in operation, especially when there are loose parts on the chair. I ended up having to tie down the height adjustment handle to cut down on the noise. Open headphones should be aware that the headphones will allow some of the tactile transducer’s noise to leak in. Due the nature of vibrations, the Buttkicker may not be ideal for those on the top floor of a house or in an apartment building.
Guitammer has created a system that makes tactile transducers accessible to everyone. The device is a must have for the gaming enthusiast who is looking for a way to feel fully immersed game. The idea of a chair rumbling while a space ship makes its landing through the atmosphere may sound a little gimmicky, but the Buttkicker Gamer 2 is possibly one of the coolest experiences I have had in my years of PC gaming.
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