Friday, November 23, 2012

Buttkicker! It's time you felt it!

[HARDWARE] Hey, I did say we had some good things after Thanksgiving right? So when track IR first came out a few years back, I completely failed to see the point of having it. In fact, I disregarded it so much, I didn't bother to even think of having it until about a year ago. The thing is, I have spent so much on software over the years, I never really bothered to search for hardware (other than the rig and the flight controls). Well now, external hardware is becoming so advanced, it's damn near imperative that we start making more of a concerted effort to look into what's being developed for our flight simulators. Thus, for the very first time, ADX offers you our first hardware review, the Buttkicker! Your butt is going to experience arm-chair flying like never before!

So as I just stated, when Track IR first debuted, it was quite difficult to see why I needed it. Of course, back then, I was all about 2D panels. It's wasn't till I purchased the CaptainSim 757, did I truly realize the joys and added realism of 3D-VC's. But even then, my hat switch was the master of panning around and the only real reason I even considered Track IR was because my wife was nudging me to get it. And when I still didn't, she bought it for my birthday. The first week or so, it was so damn hard to get used to. But from my very first flight with T-IR, I knew just how much this would change my flight simulation lifestyle.

Not only was flying so much more realistic and fun, but my skill increased over 40%. This was due to gaining the ability to freely look around a lot faster than the hat switch could accommodate and being to use the mouse with my right hand instead. For example, I can easily see the runway off to my left or right, perform a 15 degree bank turn at 1,000 feet, and line up perfectly just being a few hundred meters from the threshold. 

The bottom line here is, Track IR changed my life. And not only do I hate myself for not purchasing it earlier on, but because I was so closed minded to it in the first place.

Now the purpose of this review is for those of you who may have similar feelings about the Buttkicker. You may be saying: "whats the point?" and "all it will do is vibrate my ass and likely bring better flying pleasure to girls ..."

Well you'd be wrong. Well at least that first thought would be.

Here is an example flight. With the TSS 777 sounds, imagine your Emirates CaptainSim or Posky 777 at Dubai. As you start your engines you feel the engines spooling up under you as you would if you were really on-board. Now with both engines running you can hear and feel the continuous vibrating of the engines. As you push the throttle forward, you actually feel the aircraft start to move!
As you turn onto the runway (if you have runway bump sounds or AES) you feel the bumps. As you complete final checks, you push the throttle to 10%. You really start to hear those GE90's reving! As you advance the throttle to full power, you are actually feeling the increasing speed and bumps on the runway. It really feels like you are on an accelerating aircraft! It's amazing!! 
As you rotate outward, and the main gear becomes airborne, all that vibrating settles down and there is only the soft movement caused by the humming engines and the wind.... 
Until you raise the gear! It almost feels like the gear is folding right into my ass. Holy crap! Every time it still catches me off guard. 
As you start your final approach, (this is the fun part) you really feel the gear touch down but what is even better is the resistance you feel as you deploy the thrust reversers.

The Buttkicker is the most realistic addon since Track IR and the closest you will ever get to a full motion simulator in your home.

As the Buttkicker rely's on sound output, it is extremely accurate in matching what you feel to what you are hearing.

Let's get to the hardware.
Now the guys at Buttkicker will claim it's extremely easy to set up. And for many, it will be. But for me, it was anything but. We will get into that.

Now you have a very simple machine and setup, the quick start guide will have you fully experience all the buttkicking fun in about 15 minutes.
As you go further into the unpacking process, you will find many more boxes containing the Buttkicker LFE, the power amp, stand, all the wires, and the remote.
 In this box we see the amp and stand is very neatly packed.
 Skipping all the ripping and tearing of plastic. We see everything that is included in the box.
Here we have the AMP complete with low filter high cutoff, volume, and the frequency range selector. There are recommended settings for movies, music, and games. But ultimately  it's up to you on what settings fit you most and you will need to take some time playing around to get your right fit. Personally, I just like to crank it up. But most may find that a bit uncomfortable.
 From the back we see all the main inputs.
Now, meet your butt's new best friend: the kicker! (Your butt doesn't have any other best friends does it? Nevermind. That's none of my business.
Installing to the chair was very easy and the buttkicker LFE (low frequenbcy emmisions) is adaptable to many types of chairs. Here, you see it is on the left side of the seat. I moved it directly behind my seat instead of being on the side. This ensures an even flow of the movement throughout the chair.
Here we have the main plug that runs from the LFE to the AMP. It's quite long and mostly can be tied and hidden behind your rig.
So here is where I encountered my first problem. The buttkicker amp is designed to work with either a simple headphones output or sound card. With my rig, I have a Realtek HD 5.1 surround sound card. The orange square is supposed to be the LFE output. But for some reason, it simply refused to acknowledge the buttkicker AMP. I then realized that maybe the issue was due to the fact that I use an exterior home theater amp ran through an optical cable directly from the rig.

And yes. I know my setup is a freaking mess with the cords everywhere!
No matter what I did, including completely disabling the Sony amp. Realtek simply refused to acknowledge my Buttkicker amp.

So I disabled the optical output, and ran the main output from the rig into the mic-in on the Sony AMP. Now if you have a similar setup ran via optical, first check if your external amp has a LFE output in the back. If so, use that output. Mine had a funny stupid shape output so thus, my setup is ran from my rig's headphone output jack into the mic in on the Sony amp seen in the below picture. It's a bit ugly to see and I would prefer all this to be hidden behind my rig but for now, this will have to do. Every cord you need for all this crap is actually included in the box. The only cord I needed that's not supplied was a double sided mic jack. Luckly I had one laying around.
To further explain the above picture, you see the headphone out is split between the external Sony amp and the Buttkicker amp. With this type of setup, you have to separately adjust the volume on your computer, your external amp, and your Buttkicker amp.
If you don't use an external amp. Your life is much easier as all you need do is plug to your rig and fly!
Here we see the detachable cord running from my chair to the amp. There is also a supplied rubber binding connected to the wire to give you slack and keep you from pulling it.
Okay. Here we have frankensteinchair. I call it this because, I had to do all kinds of crap to my seat to keep out the excess noise vibrating off the handles and such. Doing this also stabilized my already undesired rocking my chair does.
When people see this sticking out of the chair, they all ask "what the hell is that??" To which I respond, "sit down and find out!" Also note the styrofoam, this also absorbs excess vibration noise. If you have beanbags, this will also work by hanging them on the various crank arms on your chair.

In the above shot, we see the amp fits perfectly on top of my rig. But I plan to move it on top of my desk. As it's easier to touch without needing the remote and I can keep a look at the peak to ensure I am not overpunching the buttkicker magnet. If you do over heat it, which I have already done a handful of times, the buttkicker LFE will cut itself off while the amp will remain on. When it cools enough (usually like 5 minutes) it will come back online automatically. If you have little kids around, it's important that they do not touch the unit while it's in use. It could burn the skin when hot.
Now my next and last point is regarding the sound the buttkicker makes. The harder you punch it, the louder it gets. Yes, the buttkicker itself makes a lot of noise. How I get around this is I prefer to fly with headphones. And I have a very lovely highend set of headphones. The best Sony makes. This way, all I actually hear is the environment created by the simulator while feeling all of it as well.

Another thing you must keep in mind, this unit works best is when connected to a subwoofer output as it works best when only receiving low frequency output. In my case, as my system is too stupid to properly work with me, it is connected to the headphones output which means the buttkicker picks more sound and reacts to it. It's not annoying as I fly with headphones, but without the headphones, you can hear some of this sound emanating from the unit.

As the buttkicker is not a force feedback unit, it relies solely on sound. You are going to need TSS (Trubine Sound Studios) payware soundpacks to get the most out of this thing. And given the fact that force feedback flight controls seem to be a thing of the past, it's really nice to feel the simulator again.

You will also need to adjust your sound within the simulator. If it's raining, you will feel every drop. So in my case, I turned down the environment a bit and raised the sound of the engines more.

You will also enjoy movies but mostly, it's fun to listen to music too.

Overall, I highly recommend this to anyone who is looking to increase the environment outside of the screen. The first time you try it, it's sure to put a smile on your face and a unusual welcome feeling to your...



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Anonymous said...

Your review convinced me too buy this nice piece of hardware. It should arrive tomorrow and I'm quite excited about getting my ass kicked :D
I'll comment on my experience in a few days.
Tahnks for the review by the way!

DAndre Newman said...

You are very welcome! Always here to help! Enjoy the Buttkicker!

Anonymous said...

So the ButtKicker arrived and as far as I could test it last evening, I can say it's a nice feature that adds an extra touch to the flightsimming experience. Not a "Must Have" item like TrackIR, but man is it fun to feel the engines roar on a DC-4 when you push the throttles to max or the rumble of the reverses on a jet. Only thing I can't say is the landing gear folding up in my ass :D What plane gave you that 'special' feeling?
Greetings, Uli

DAndre Newman said...

The TSS 777 GE-90's trust me!

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