• Gift Guide: ButtKicker Gamer

    ButtKicker Gamer

    By Cap Mason

    For those readers with short attention spans...

    I don't usually shortcut reviews this way but for those readers with short attention spans, I have just four words, "Go buy it, now!" And be sure to get your ButtKicker at the FlightSim.Com Pilot Shop.

    For the rest of you with more patience and curiosity, please read on. You'll discover the "must-have" game hardware device of the year.

    An exciting new way to get real with flightsimming, and much more.

    My initial reaction to this force feedback gaming device was, "Well, ain't that one helluva kick in the pants!"

    Things just got better from there. Simply put, ButtKicker, made by  the Guitammer Company, is exactly what its name implies. It is a 100 watt subwoofer amplifier that ingeniously translates bass sound pressure into kinetic motion and applies it liberally to your rear end through the ButtKicker Gamer shaker device that attaches to your office chair. ButtKicker wowed the reviewers at the Consumer Electronics Show when it was introduced. That's why it won the Innovation Award at CES 2005.

    Before I dive into the guts of ButtKicker and how I experienced it in FS2004 and FSX, let me start by saying that it added a powerful immersion factor that was missing from flightsimming, until now. You could spend around $20,000 for a full motion platform or you could spend less than $50 for ButtKicker and get a spectacular ride.

    What is a ButtKicker?

    The ButtKicker Gamer is a small, linear motor, which reacts to an audio signal sent by an 100 watt amplifier. The unit comes as a complete kit with amplifier, shaker, cables and all the accessories you need to connect it to either your PC or game console.

    The shaker is similar to a loudspeaker, but instead of moving a cone, and transferring sound waves through the air, it attaches to your seat column and sends low frequency sound directly into your body. The effect is amazing and extremely powerful.

    A different application of sound pressure.

    It takes two senses to perceive full range sound. We hear sound, but we also feel sound, especially low frequency. That's why Ludwig Von Beethoven could write magnificent symphonies even when he was stone deaf. He felt the music through his body.

    Under normal circumstances,  it takes huge speakers, moving tremendous amounts of air, to feel the low frequency of sound. I went to the recent Rolling Stones concert here at San Francisco's SBC Park and the huge blast of sound from that venerable group's performance surged through my body like a freight train. I wear hearing protectors at rock concerts, as everyone should, so as to not wind up like Maestro Beethoven, stone deaf.

    Of course, sound levels like the Stones produce also triggered noise complaints from San Francisco's citizens for miles around the stadium. I think jets lifting off from SFO felt that noise. So, that's one way to rock your body, just crank up the volume. It's also why people love rock concerts because they want to feel the sound pressure in their bodies. As flightsimmers, we want to achieve something similar. We want to feel the airplane, sense the vibrations and feel what it is like to sit in the left-hand seat on the flight deck. One way is to crank the speaker volume so loud as to achieve body-slamming sound pressure. Of course, in addition to rattling the windows, you would be damaging your hearing and inviting noise complaints from neighbors. Sound at levels high enough to produce the body-slam effect needs to be cranked to over 100 decibels (dBA). Rock concerts blast away at 110-120 decibels. Airplanes taking off generate 140 dBA of noise and jets do 150 dBA. That's far above the damage level for human hearing. Noise levels above 85 dBA will harm hearing over time. Noise levels above 140dBA can cause damage to hearing after just one exposure.

    Silent, but impressive

    ButtKicker creates the body-slamming force feedback effect in complete silence. A person standing next to you when you use ButtKicker with a headset instead of your PC speakers – won't hear a thing. You, on the other hand, will feel every nuance of the flightsimming sound action. The best part is that the ButtKicker effect applies to any other sounds coming through your PC from other games, music, or DVDs. Try watching the attack scenes from Pearl Harbor with ButtKicker and you'll feel what it was like to be blown up by a Japanese bomb aboard the USS Arizona, and much more.

    ButtKicker reproduces the feeling range of audio in a more direct way than through the air from sound waves at high decibel levels. The perception is actually better with ButtKicker and you eliminate any risk of damaging your ears. When using headphones, for example, with a ButtKicker, you perceive powerful,  acoustically accurate, live-action audio, but no one else hears anything. The sound is completely isolated to the listener and you can listen at safe sound levels while still rocking your body from the vibration effects.

    The perfect companion to Voice Buddy
    and the Audio FX headset

    My first impressions was that I have never been so thoroughly immersed in flightsim action ever before. I tested ButtKicker using Voice Buddy 3, the Audio FX headset, and simming with FS2004 and FSX. They all worked flawlessly together. I tried using ButtKicker alone with my speakers but found the effect much less satisfying and much less immersive than when I slapped on the Audio FX headset. I also experienced perfect integration between ButtKicker and Voice Buddy without any interference. I could whisper my voice commands or speak in a normal voice and there was perfect recognition by Voice Buddy since ButtKicker does not interfere at all with what you hear through the Audio FX headphones or say through the microphone. I have customized my Voice Buddy command set for FS2004 to use natural language dialogs with ATC. So, this was truly the very next best thing to actually sitting in the left-hand seat and flying in the real world.

    1. Star56's Avatar
      Star56 -
      Flying with the buttkicker is an amazing experience. I also use headphones and the feeling of the engine and plane rumbling and shaking is incredible. Highly recommended.
    1. ftldave's Avatar
      ftldave -
      An interesting product that badly needs a better name. BUT (pun intended), the reviewer lost me at "Try watching the attack scenes from Pearl Harbor with ButtKicker ..." No one in his right mind could watch that truly awful movie.
    1. RaysAviation's Avatar
      RaysAviation -
      Great review! - I have tried the bass shaker for the home cinema and I can easily imagine the effect the buttkicker would have for flightsimulation.

      I think I'll have to invest in it ;-)

      Rays Aviation
    1. Rossangie's Avatar
      Rossangie -
      Quote Originally Posted by RaysAviation View Post
      Great review! - I have tried the bass shaker for the home cinema and I can easily imagine the effect the buttkicker would have for flightsimulation.

      I think I'll have to invest in it ;-)

      Rays Aviation
      Shame its 120volt. No use for us in UK. Sounds awesome.
    1. Airmail's Avatar
      Airmail -
      Don’t tell me that people in the UK are such troglodytes that you’ve never heard of 220 to 110 convertrers?

      Try this link
      -> Step down voltage converter 240V - 120V 100W
      -> http://www.amazon.co.uk/Step-down-vo...0383066&sr=8-3
    1. Airmail's Avatar
      Airmail -
      OK, you sold me, I bought one.

      I think that it’s just "OK" though. If it were only for a flight sim I would have a hard time recommending it. The TrackIR adds far more enjoyment to FSX than the ButtKicker for the same amount of money.

      On the other hand. The ButtKicker makes watching movies or listening to music much more enjoyable. Try the Blue Danube with the BK on. http://youtu.be/IDaJ7rFg66A

      One thing that you should absolutely buy if you want to use it for FSX is Accu-Feel from A2A Simulations. The level of rumble, wind, bumps, etc. is not the same in all aircraft, or from all aircraft creators. When you have it adjusted right in Accu-Feel you can save the settings with the click of a button, and they'll be saved for that specific airplane. The next time you start using that plane again it will automaticaly be setup. Best of all, those settings are in Accu-Feel, not in FSX.

      Another thing is that you really do need to have good speakers with a good bass speaker. If not then all you have is a butt buzzer. The speakers and the BK should be tuned to give it that just right sound/feeling. I don’t have really good headphones, so I can’t comment there. Remember this – There is no “best setting”. There are, of course, plenty of bad settings. Just keep the red light from lighting up too much.

      If you just plug it in and turn it on you will have a butt buzzer with a hell of a lot of chair rattle. It might be best to move your chair to an area where you can track down all of the rattling first.

      Speaking of plugging it in: almost all desktop motherboards come with multiple audio connections. One of these will be for a base speaker. Unless you don’t have a bass connector, do not use the Y connector.

      And if you have to crawl under a desk to get to the back of your computer don’t be suppressed if it doesn’t work, it’s probably in the wrong hole. And if it is in the right hole and doesn’t work, you may have to tell your computer to use that connection.

      Those are some of the problems that I ran into. And judging by some of the blistering negative 1 star reviews on amazon, I’d say that they’re some of the problems others ran into too. Me? I'll give it 4 out of 5 stars.

      My bass connector needed to be cleaned with some contact cleaner because it had dead spots inside the jack hole, and a lot of static. After spraying some contact cleaner in, it worked perfectly.

      I started off listening to YouTube bass videos. From there I listened to classical music such as Also Sprach Zarathustra, Blue Danube, etc. You can’t just plug it in and crank it up. You have to adjust it for whatever you want to play/watch/listen to.

      The ButtKicker and Accu-Feel together is a winner, but do expect to spend some time learning how to adjust the settings right. Oh yeah. Don’t forget - you’ll need to track down all those rattlings on your chair too.
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