ButtKicker LFE Kit Review 
Home Theater Accessories Furniture & Racks
Written by Augie Bettencourt   
Monday, 30 November 2009

Tactile transducers have been around for years, but to be honest, I’ve always been a bit skeptical about them.  The thought of adding something to my home theater to shake my seating seems gimmicky and artificial.  After all, my reference system already includes two Velodyne DD-18, eighteen inch woofers capable of creating low frequency extension and sound pressure levels, far exceeding what any reasonable person would want.  Why would someone like me need to augment bass, when I already have bass in abundance?  A friend purchased Berkline Home Theater Seating with factory installed ButtKickers and convinced me they are worth trying.  

Technology

A tactile transducer is an electro-mechanical device that will shake almost anything.  Most tactile transducers are very similar to a loudspeaker woofer driver minus the cone, driven by an oscillating force (the voice coil).  They can operate at higher frequencies, but people typically cross them over at subwoofer frequencies and use them to reproduce low frequency vibration to give the added sensation of movement.  The ButtKicker LFE is a tactile transducer that utilizes a patented magnetic suspension, which is different from any other speaker or shaker and can be used on couches, theater seating, platforms, or any type of structure.  Different from other shakers or tactile transducers that use voice coil technology, the ButtKicker LFE  is more powerful and offers infrasonic or low frequency response with their resonant frequency of 9 Hz and range of 5 - 200 Hz.

Features

Buttkicker Front ViewI contacted the Guitammer Corporation, the manufactures of ButtKicker products for a review sample.  I soon received the ButtKicker LFE Kit with ButtKicker-Link for review. At a street price of $399.99 the ButtKicker LFE Kit includes the BKA1000-4 amplifier, ButtKicker LFE shaker, mounting plate, 14AWG wire, "Y" splitter interconnect, single lead interconnect, mounting hardware, and installation instructions.  As I unboxed the ButtKicker LFE Kit, I was pleasantly surprised by overall build quality, amplifier construction and weight.  The ButtKicker LFE amplifier has a huge Toroidal-based power supply and the Class D amplifier delivers an amazing 1100 watts into a 4-ohm load and 2100 watts into a 2-ohm load!  I also opted for the ButtKicker-Link with a street price of only $69.99, which allows you to wirelessly install the amplifier in any location of your room.  The system consists of a sending unit, a DC wall-wart type power supply, a receiver unit, and its wall-wart power supply.  I connected a RCA cable from the subwoofer output of my A/V processor to the sending unit and a RCA cable from the receiver unit to the line-level input of the ButtKicker amplifier.   In less-than 20 minutes, I had installed both the ButtKicker LFE Kit and ButtKicker-Link.  

Settings

The ButtKicker amplifier provides adjustments that allow you to select the upper frequency limit of vibration, low frequency cutoff, as well as the adjustment of the amount of shaking (volume control).  After much experimentation, I found that my setting preferences were as follows:  Filters: Low Cutoff - Off, High Cutoff – On, High Cutoff Frequency: 50, and Volume: between 9-10:00 on the volume dial.  

Movies

I couldn’t wait to put the “Jurassic Park” DTS Collector’s Edition (Universal Studios Home Video) (fixed disc version PEMC-D2R2) DVD into my Denon DVD-3910 DVD player.  The ButtKicker LFE Kit made it feel like the T-Rex was stomping in the room,   as my chair shook violently.  The combination of hearing low frequencies from my subwoofers with the shaking of my theater seating was incredible.  It made watching Jurassic Park the most fun ever.  

One of the greatest, extremely low frequency bass demos in movie history is the “U-571” (Universal Studios Home Video) DVD.   Chapter 15, “Depth Charge,” is the low frequency king.  The low frequency rumble never sounded strained or artificial and the visceral impact of depth charge explosions was astounding with the Buttkicker LFE Kit added.  

Next up was the “Black Hawk Down” (Columbia Pictures) DVD, which is a great, action packed movie with an amazing, sweeping soundtrack.  On Chapter 4, “Irene,” the whirring sound of the helicopter blades creates incredible, low frequency sound pressure levels.  The Buttkicker LFE Kit augmented my subwoofers by shaking my theater seating, without seeming gimmicky.  By setting the volume at moderate level, both the subwoofers and the Buttkicker LFE Kit worked together seamlessly to enhance the movie watching experience like never before.  

I experimented briefly with using the ButtKicker LFE Kit for music listening.  Some may prefer the shaking sensation while listening to music, but it certainly wasn’t something I enjoyed. 

Games

If you’re a serious gamer, let me just say that there’s nothing like playing video games on a reference, 7.1 home theater system, combined with a DLP projector viewed on a 120” screen.  Adding the Buttkicker LFE Kit while playing Call of Duty on the Xbox 360 is the ultimate gaming experience.  With the roar of planes as they fly overhead. The pounding of artillery explosions, the anti-air guns and firearms, all of them pound out realistically. Explosions were incredibly realistic and powerful, as my seats shook with authority.  The Buttkicker LFE Kit brought me into the full feel of war.  

Drawbacks

Buttkicker Rear ViewIt’s difficult to fault a product as excellent as the ButtKicker LFE Kit, but one thing I would watch-out for is that the shaker itself can be over-driven when the volume is set too high, which results in some undesirable sounds.  This is really the fault of the user, but is something to watch-out for.  A remote IR or RF remote on/off option would be a nice addition in case you don’t want to use the ButtKicker LFE Kit when listening to music or just want to adjust the volume without getting up from your seat.  Most receivers/processors have a setting that allows you to bypass the LFE output, but I’m sure many would welcome the remote option.  A Company spokesman did tell me that they are “hoping” to have out a new version of the ButtKicker Amplifier by the end of this year with a remote.  

Conclusion


I started as a skeptic, but must say the ButtKicker LFE Kit has made me a true believer in tactile transducers.  For only $399.99, this is a product that’s easy to install and set-up, is feature rich and will add more fun to the movie watching or game playing experience than anything else in its price range.  The ButtKicker accurately reproduces the "feeling" range of many sounds, such as thunderstorms, rocket launches, tidal waves, explosions or dinosaurs and there isn’t a consumer-level loudspeaker or subwoofer that I know of that can send low frequency sound directly into the listener's body like the ButtKicker LFE  can.  What started as a product that I dismissed as almost ridiculous, is actually something that adds more fun to a home theater than anything else that comes to mind.  Some people spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to hear minute differences in speakers and electronics, but as far as audio equipment goes, nothing else will have a greater impact, or add more excitement and realism to a home entertainment system than the ButtKicker LFE Kit.  



Reference Equipment List 

  • Marantz VP-12S3 Projector
  • Dalite 120 HDTV, High Power Screen
  • Definitive Technology BP7000SC Speakers
  • Definitive Technology C/L/R Center Speaker
  • 4 Definitive Technology BPVX Surround Speakers
  • Eminent Technology LFT-8a speakers
  • Eminent Technology LFT-12
  • 2 Velodyne DD-18 Subwoofers
  • ButtKicker LFE Kit
  • ButtKicker RF Link
  • Denon 3910 DVD Player
  • Sony NS999ES DVD Player
  • LG LST-4200A HDTV Tuner
  • Sunfire Theater Grand IV A/V Processor
  • Sunfire 400 Seven Amplifier
  • Cardas Golden Reference Audio Cables
  • Monster Cable Monster M Silver Video Cables
  • Acoustic Smart Murano Electric Theater Seating
  • Cable Organizer.com Cable Organizing Products





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